culture-shock-free weekend


I accomplished absolutely nothing, nada, zilch this weekend.  Put the laundry in the wash and forgot to take it out, didn’t fold up the bed and mop the floor like I’d intended, forgot to bring my school’s laptop home to work on M.S.’s manuscript like I’d intended, didn’t get to any TRACK work like I’d intended.  Did watch another episode of America’s Top Model (why?  why do I do that?) and an old movie with Natalie Wood before leaving late in the afternoon to meet my friend in Seoul.

We have this favorite haunt I happened on a while back, which is a live bar.  This is Konglish for a bar with live music.  I was drawn by the sign outside which said, scrawled across a board posted to a metal pole stuck in a tire, “free consette.”  Only this one’s live music is an aging one man band who loves Eric Clapton.  He wears a cowboy hat and sings along with pre-recorded rhythm tracks or accompanies them with his saxophone, (and that’s what drew in,  as hearing him playing his sax all I could think of was “Bleeding Gums Murphy” on the Simpsons – So of course I had to go in!) all the while images of himself performing play on a screen behind him.  The bar fills up with his contemporaries:  groups of old friends, laughing and singing along.  It’s awesome.  It always picks us both up.  We’re the youngest people there by ten years at least.  Like all bars in Korea, fried chicken is on the menu.  I had her order ahead of my arrival, since my train had been delayed by some major accident.  She was cracking up because she ordered chicken, but saw it arrive delivered – by a different restaurant.

It’s also nice to hang out with her because she actually laughs when I make a dry, sarcastic joke – and her laughing makes me laugh.  It’s nice to know that someone in the world can see my bitching and moaning is often droll.

Afterward, we went and shot pool and I taught them the rules to cutthroat.  Which I always forget one should never play with anyone almost as bad at pool as myself, as we were begging for someone to put us out of our misery and end the game before we turned gray.

In the morning we talked once again about the differences and similarities in our emigration and return.  Gyopos and adoptees get it.  We wish the rest of the world could appreciate not having access to what is assumed we already know.

The rest of my day was spent in search of a new pair of jeans.  I have several pair here, but because I didn’t try them on (didn’t think I could or thought it would be too horrible an experience – I got them at Dongdaemmun) they are all too big but one pair, and it’s embarrassing how much I wear the same pants day in and day out.   So I went to the Express Bus Terminal’s Gangnam Underground Shopping Mall.  Miwha told me it was the place to go for bargain clothes, and she wasn’t kidding.  The cheapest clothes in Korea  – the same cheap clothes sold everywhere, but for some reason a little cheaper there.  Only jeans are actually hard to find there.  I got waylaid at Vin Prime second-hand clothes store and bought three sweaters for about $10 each.  Got lost (three subway lines from two different rail companies converge there on three levels of platforms, so it’s huge) and stupidly exited and entered and exited again.  I love paying fare again and again…Anyway, the shops extend in a grid for what seems like forever.  I think I’ve told you about it before.  The bulk of it is clothing and shoes, but there’s also a huge home decorating and flower arrangement area.

Later I went to another level and found – ANOTHER Vin Prime – and found one more sweater, and a real wool flannel shirt and two scarves.  So much for the thin layers idea.  A fight broke out between a disgruntled customer and one of the storekeepers.  I am still enamored with the description of Koreans as the Latins of Asia – it was  loud – percussive – almost violent!  So much passion over such a minor thing!  Thankfully, by the time I checked out all was calm.  The saleslady at Vin Prime II was SO NICE to me.  “Did you try these on?  Do they fit good?”  I do so appreciate when people are nice to me.  It’s such a welcome contrast to the cold indifference I usually get or the nastiness I sometimes I get.

On the way home, I decided to check out Lotte Dept. Store, which is right at the Cheongyangni Bus Terminal.  It felt more like shopping in the states.  “Do you want a fitting room?  Can I do anything for you?”  It also had astronomical prices.  The clothes were very nice, but not THAT nice.  Bennetton, Bean Pole, DKNY, etc. are the kinds of goods and prices you’ll find there.  And I’m not sure, but I think the prices for those foreign-made brand names are higher here in Korea.   No purchases for me.  Shoulda gone to UNI QLO which is the Japanese equivalent of the GAP, back when it was transitioning from inexpensive jeans in all shapes and sizes in cubby-holes and wardrobe basics everyone should have to something more upscale.

On my way home, I waved to the fruit vendor as always.  He’s the single most happiest person I’ve ever met in my life.  Right now, the building his store was in has been stripped down to its metal frame and is totally gutted.  And for the last month he’s been selling fruit out the back of his truck, poor guy.  But still he stands and greets everybody with a smile, even though he’s cold and miserable outside all day.  I also saw Power Pizza holding hands with Super girl. They were both dressed up.  How cute is this, 10th and 11th graders out on a date with each other, all dressed up, holding hands walking home.  This is a new event – what a great couple!  She’s got a raspy loud voice, is vivacious and always smiling, is not a girly-girl and is really down-to-earth. What a score for Power Pizza, as Super girl is a year older than him.  What a score for Super girl, as Power Pizza is now the star of the school after his beat-box performance.  I imagine they’ll get married and be together happily ever after.

Stopped at the cow-head soup restaurant again and ordered kim chi chiggae.  It’s so spicy one can hardly stand it.  And all the banchan accompanying it is also really spicy.  Much spicier than in Seoul, I’d say, so I can’t order it very often.  I’d ordered it once before there and the cook had waitresses were all sitting and eating a treat of toasted rice scrapings from the bottom of a pot.  And they brought over a whole hunk of the crispy goodness to me.  The guy who took my order was saying something about the chiggae and it appeared I was out of luck, but then the cook saw me and nodded at me so I knew she was taking care of me even though there was some problem.  So I have three restaurants in town that take care of me now, and that’s nice.

2 thoughts on “culture-shock-free weekend

  1. I’m dying for some kimchi chiggae………no cowhead for me though!
    settling for conch ceviche and fritters for now but they don’t eat spicy here for some freaking strange reason..
    It’s nice to read about some fun days for you in k land.. The shopping there spins my head!

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