Out of the four major places I’ve lived throughout my life, each place has had a river that runs through it, which seems to be a major landmark for all four. The river(s) seem to give each city a slice of its personality. It acts as a compass, a place for recreational entertainment, and obviously a way to keep the city thriving in terms of bringing in goods and services.
I’m sure the lovely Fox and Illinois rivers that run through Ottawa are filled with interesting history that would be neat to explore. However, the casual river dweller like myself knows the waterways strictly from growing up next to them. They've been a place to hike along side of, play fetch with the dog, and go boating on. The community of Ottawa comes together around the rivers. People enjoy the hot summer days on the water, businesses and parks thrive because of them, and a colorful display of patriotism is shown during the month of July!
Most of the above could be said about the Quad Cities. The Iowa Illinois duo is split by the massive Mississippi. Davenport, Bettendorf, Rock Island, and Moline all center around the famous river. With these cities comes multiple colleges and high schools, museums, downtown nightlife, beautiful river walks, a baseball stadium, and loads more. It was an awesome place to attend university at, make friends, and live out those glory days everyone talks about after they are over. I still have plenty of friends who are now living, working, and raising their own families there.
When it comes to the Windy City, the Chicago River is something that every visitor or resident is aware of. The opportunities to explore the timeless architecture from ship, kayak, and everything in between is a fantastic way to see the city. Not to mention the breweries, restaurants, bars, and scenery littered throughout. They even dye it green for St. Patrick’s Day, which is something that should not be missed.
So as I’m listing off all of these perks about riverside living, it continues to boggle my mind why the Han River, which stretches throughout the entire Korea peninsula, is so sparse with attractions. Sure, there are plenty of convenient stores to grab drinks and snacks at, which is a staple in Korea. The bike trail/river walk that stretches from coast to coast on both sides is gorgeous and kept in pristine condition.
There are some art installations, mountains and scenic buildings that will grab your attention. Yet, something seems to be missing. There isn’t that sense of community or urgency of wanting to check out a new spot. There aren’t any lucrative outlook decks. There aren’t any breweries or restaurants overlooking the Namsan tower and backdrop of mountains.
I’m not sure if this concept hasn’t caught on, or if there are certain laws holding business owners back to lining the river with fresh ideas. It’s a gorgeous place with the craziest potential. I guess if teaching doesn’t pan out, starting a business riverside will do? Who’s willing to come over the pond and start something? It could be worth a shot.
KJ SCHULTZ, a Seoul resident and Ottawa native, teaches English as a foreign language in South Korea. He can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.