By Hook, By Crook, or From McDonald’s: Adventuress Gets Un-Adventurous With Breakfast

I’m not ashamed to say that the first meal I acquired without the help of a Korean-speaking colleague was from McDonald’s.

Actually, scratch that, I am a little ashamed of that. It seems to me that I lost a fair proportion of traveller/adventurer cred by taking a grand total of 14 hours since arrival in the city to find myself standing under the familiar, comforting golden arches.

I didn’t set out looking for McDonald’s, or even breakfast on that first morning. But as I wandered around the surprisingly quiet city not long after 9 am (apparently this has to do with the drinking culture: everything opens and closes late) I realized that I was hungry, and had been stoically insisting to myself (I even try to avoid inconveniencing myself with such trivialities as hunger, thirst, and exhaustion) that I wasn’t hungry since about 6:45 am, when I had first inexplicably woken up that morning.

I say I was wandering. I think that’s giving myself just a little too much credit. I hadn’t yet identified my apartment building in the skyline, and the school is in a distinctive, but squat little building of only 6 floors, so I can’t use that as a landmark unless I’m on the same street as it.

Lacking a map or any useful landmarks, I wasn’t so much wandering as taking tiny, calculated steps, pausing at every corner to remember my route, and trying to quell the realization that if I did get lost, I had none of my usual tools for getting found.

It was in this state that I found the Time World Galleria. A very large, very easily identifiable shopping complex on the order of Harrods in London. It wasn’t open yet, but as I walked around the perimeter I spotted the golden arches.

As the aroma of grease wafted over me, I realized that I was actually very hungry, regardless of what I’d been saying to myself all morning. And I was reasonably certain that even in South Korea, they wouldn’t put anything I was allergic to in a Sausage McMuffin.

Also, I was able to pick out the Sausage McMuffin by the picture, not to mention the microscopic English text under it. After a short exchange where the friendly clerk asked me a series of questions I didn’t understand, and I tried to give her the 2500 won (a little over 2 Canadian dollars) I owed for the sandwich every time she stopped talking, she handed me my prize, wrapped in a familiar brown paper bag.

Scuttling to the far corner of the restaurant, I couldn’t help but feel that delightful combination of success and failure that accompanies just about every interaction I’ve had since the plane left Canadian soil. On the plus side, I acquired food all by myself in South Korea. On the not-so-plus side, it was from McDonalds, that flagship of the ever-proceeding juggernaut of Western (mostly American) culture that crushes everything else under its might.

But this experience is about focusing on the pluses. And that includes giving myself that little bit of credit: I did manage to acquire breakfast, all by myself, on my first morning in Korea. I think I get a point for that.

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