Wet Napkins & Ice Cream Cones: Baby's No Longer In The Corner

Seoul Travel Blog

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I'm more interested in taking photos of people here than sites u know? I'd like to capture experiences expressed through their movements in life.
Having been in Seoul going on 4 weeks, it feels right to think back to those melancholy first impressions and first few days I had in Korea. Somethings are worth the memory and for those other thoughts, well, the thrill is gone. Having been to the Asia before and heard a rumor or two, I kept foreign eyes friendly and turned on my best Keanu Reeves impersonation since it's diplomatic at heart. So, as the Iron Chef David Bowie dude says: "Start cooking, bitches!"

I'll wind back and explain how I got to Korea. I was looking for work in San Francisco after living on the comforts of Jacksonville Beach. I found nutting in the Bay area that would not make me poor; however, the ole job board showed jobs for college graduates teaching English. Having heard of such movements, I applied just to see what happens next. What happened next was I got the job, jumped through hoops of paperwork, interviews, and waste of time visits to embassies to land a sweet teaching gig in Seoul. And then the ace of spades is played with, but not pulled...

To get to Seoul I took a flight out of the Dirty Dirty and prepared to be stuck in my own little flying Korea for the next 15 hours. Pure Magic the flight was. I listened to the same Radiohead, MGMT and Franz Ferdinand albums while avoiding the shouts of Morrissey and films I had already seen and had enough of on the in-flight boredom cure box. Fast track:
  • Oh the Yellow Sea is shining yellow
  • Korea Air food sucks (PBJ, please)
  • Are we landing on an island?
  • No shrooms, drugs or banned substances on me... I think
  • Bitch, does it look like I have swine flu?
Once on the ground, I visited the nearest toilet, did my first deed, and changed clothes to look more clean cut. I made it through customs without any delays. Onward from Incheon to City Bus Terminal in Seoul via 40-70 minute bus ride cuz Seoul traffic can be like a Maurey Povich baby daddy guest sometimes and just act up. From there, I shared a cab with a PhD dude who did computers and offered me a job after we talked for a bit about myself. Suprised, I took my BFF for 20 minutes' business card and headed to my hotel and home for a week.

The place I was staying at was in Gangnam and was one of those mixture skyrises that has restaurants, stores, condos and a hotel on different floors. The area and people were groovy. I quickly fell into loving Family Mart because of the top knotch selection of Lotte ice cream cones and cheap tallboys of Cass (I'll talk about Korean beer later). Restaurants, attractions, and the tube stations were nearby, so things were peachy.

Yeah, cool, but then I realized during my one week of unpaid training I would have to share a room with someone. After a few hours, the guy I would be couch surfing with showed up. Immediately the guy starts cursing and bitching about customs and everything; he was Irish if that makes sense. I got to know the guy and head around town with him a few times seeing some sites and eating different, challenging things. He wasn't keen on art, so I had to find a happy place on my own every now and then.

The biggest hurdles of the experience were listening to the Irish dude freak out and stress a lot of the time and our daily commute back and forth to central Seoul. In the mornings we'd go by bus and enjoy Seoul's fantastic traffic--which is like saying there are poisonous monkeys that hiss and glow in the dark here. After we'd have a busy day of stress, we'd be on our own to get back home via subway. Subways are my thing, and I like to mix it up by sitting down and standing up. However, sometimes when you sit down you become prey to the infamous "Korean Stance" where a Korean business dude will come up and stand right on top of you, crotch in face, legs spread, hands on straps with occasional mouth and lip licks; they're either imagining pissing on you or getting the full service package on their T Money card. Another subway highlight are the in-between station sales people who give their best infomercial presentation of junk in hopes one person buys to spread the buying virus to others. I think the strangest sales pitch I've seen was a guy selling knife sharpners by demonstrating with a plastic knife.

Back on track, my first week was crazy. I usually had no idea what was going on and didn't really sleep for like 8 days because the Irish either kept me up or I just couldn't get the brain to take a vacation. I got to see different parts of Seoul, eat the foods, and hit up a few museums, but once my first Friday hit I was on the run again.

Before I move onto happiness, I'll share my first experience at a Korean hospital. Fucking whacky! It's hilarious in my eyes because you see people in gowns smoking cigarettes and walking with their plasma on the way to eat or go to the store at the hospital. Inside isn't better, but the medical tests were A-OK in my book. Now, how much do I have to pay to be allowed to smoke and walk with plasma?

On Friday of my first week I completed training and was thereby free from weird, stressful situations. The kicker was that I had to kill 4 hours alone in the city until a ride would come pick me up at the other end of the city to take me to Seodaemun. Killing 4 hours isn't easy when you've got luggage one place, no help on what to do, and most of the shit that kills time is closed. So I walked around town wearing my nice suit. I would stop in quickie joints and grab a can of Cass, sit down for a bit and eat an ice cream cone, and think about deep thoughts like "if the moon were made of spare ribs." I killed the most time by lounging in Burger King, having my first taste of the King's whopper in Korea--as they say in New Jersey, "gorge-jiss."

After the time was killed, I met my ride headed for the road short of perdition. Once in Seodaemun, I met the bosses, co-workers, etc. The big boss (no, not Rick Ross) was a jewel of a lady who treated me to Korean BBQ (on the best f*cking thing ever list) and awesome conversation. Afterwards, my ass was cookie dough and thrown in different directions with information. Keep in mind I had no idea what was going on and hadn't slept in like 9 days, so I nodded and was calm as Hindu cows get. Once I got to my brand new villa, I crashed and reflected back on the memories of one week.

The week didn't end on Friday. Saturday turned into a Real World Duel Challenge thing with all the co-workers, staff and people from another school way north of Seoul. Viewed as a team building event, I got to get to know some of my new found amigos and chat up those I'd probably never see again. The games played were "eventful" and I think this one game where I had to find a candy in powder with a Korean lady on my back led to me looking like Tony Montana just took a fat fucking line! YES!... wisdom lost on that one, Shakespeare.

Back on track, after the events were done we had a tent party filled with more Korean BBQ, this green fish in a bronze dish that no one dared eat, lots of Cass and OB, and the lady with claws: Soju. Getting hammered and loving it was the perfect ending to a first week of Gary Busey chaos. Looking back, I loved that shit!

Going forward, the next three weeks were filled with me going out pretty much every night, seeing all the sites and art galleries, climbing a mountain, getting lost when I was already lost, having real moments with people, and for the first time absolutely loving my job! I'll go more into the flow with food, drinks, places been, the experiences on the job, and shit I've done like concerts and late night league soccer on other posts. Until next time, I currently have a week and a half off from work because of a swine flu scare. I love Korea!
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photo by: chiyeh