Last month another scratch was added to the tallies of my life. Twenty-six delivered me another year of highs and lows, and once again I found that on this birthday I was valuing very different things in my life than I did the year before. Another foreigner in our town, Marley, a fellow American, had quickly become our third musketeer, which was great for more reasons than the new witty and sarcastic commentary she supplies. I tend to go through life with loose plans and more or less floundering around based on impulse and emotion, learning and using the skills of organization occasionally like sticky notes. Marley…is a planner, and thanks to her, my latest birthday was filled with activities and mysteries. (No it really was, this isn’t one of my metaphors.)
Like last year, we spent my birthday in Seoul, or Hongdae to be more exact. Our first stop was to a famous art café called Mustoy where you decorate ceramic dolls. If you know much about Korea, (or Seoul specifically) you’ve heard it’s quite known for its outlandish cafes. (Just recently we became jungle gyms for meerkats in one, but that’s another story.) Besides being a set in a Korean drama, the café is well known as the figurines were designed by the creator of a famous Korean cartoon, Pororo. Marley had been there before with her sister and knew I would love to check it out. You pay around 15,000KRW (just under $15) and have a choice between a boy or girl doll, plus sizes or even a 3D frame. And as is usual with these cafes, the price includes a drink. Rachel and I chose the staple of peach tea, and the three of us got to work.
Next on the schedule was something I had been meaning to do since my last birthday, and thanks to the knowledgeable and ever planning Marley, we were about to embark on: an Escape room. The one we went to was called No Escape. If you haven’t heard of one, you are essentially locked in a room and have an hour to figure out how to get out. The scenarios are all different but generally you have to solve puzzles, find things, and do activities to figure out how to open the door. The room we entered was one of their easier levels. My hesitation was creeping in on me as we sat in the waiting room looking over their warm up puzzles. Numbers…so many numbers. I wondered how much help I’d be if the room turned out to be math problem after math problem.
Finally it was time for us to be locked in the haunted Victorian mansion room. Marley was a seasoned pro and began to tell us to find as many items as possible and put them on the desk. The room was dark, and we fumbled around with the lamp trying to figure out how to turn it on. Finally I felt along the cord and found a switch. To our right was a wall of lockers, each with a unique lock. Then we began the tasks of figuring out how to open them all. I’m happy to say they were not all math, many of them word based and I was able to help solve our way out of the room with 22 minutes to spare. We were on an adrenaline high and the owners said we did so well we could certainly solve their hardest rooms.
After that, we had dinner at a well-reviewed Mexican restaurant just outside of Hongdae called Gusto Taco.
Bellies full of tacos, burritos and margaritas; we met up with our Korean friend Ghost, at a noraebang (private karaoke room) and then hit up the bars. We danced, drank, and sang. For my birthday I got to be artsy, eat delicious food, test my puzzle solving skills, and celebrate all while being surrounded by friends. It really was a happy birthday to me.