Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Mountain Rabbit


Discovered the word 'Sandogi' which I'd been using for the last 5 months in class doesn't actually mean 'the same, identical' when pointing at 'spot the difference' pics. It actually means 'mountain rabbit'.


In 춘천 (Chuncheon) I saw a love castle/brothel. At the palace entrance a tall lady of sin in red waved with a smile for all passerby's, dirty old man on hunched knees by her side, surely her 아저씨 'ajoshi' pimp. They were situated by the popular waterfalls. Lovely day, cycling on mountain roads shared with Korean couples carting round in mini rover jeeps.


A unique version of Hangman, where every mistake earns you half a black heart below the hidden word on the board

His name was Mr. Shinh, asking if I could privately teach his high school daughter English, a business man on the bus. He took me and a fellow foreigner for some beer and seafood, and soju shots. As I ate a lovely boiled egg to temper the rank alcohol in me, our new associate kept talking about 'special places', how he'd help us find them. We were young men he said, we should know about the 'special places'. He wanted us to 'enjoy Korea' he kept repeating, drunk from an afterwork gathering in 죽전 (Jukjeon), getting drunker whilst we weren't. His angry wife kept interrupting our clandestine meeting on the phone.

The whole venture eventually fell through because of scheduling. Oh yes, and because it's illegal too.


But I have friends in the police force, at the busy station in our area, where the chief waved me in off the street after school, wordlessly took me to the canteen which I initially took to be the interrogation room, gulping, before a young male/female duo came in and promptly peeled and served me melons. Was a pleasant time, though I had to keep from laughing when they told me how dangerous their job was. And I discovered they carry guns too!


The zebra crossing outside the station yesterday - as I walked, a local coming from the opposite direction said something and stopped us both in our tracks to shake my hand. I thought he was reproaching me at first for walking a red light, sensing traffic coming our way from both sides. No idea what he was saying.


Paris Baguette. Where I met the inventor of the spoon chopsticks and the piggy bank accordion.


The Kodak place, where fellow male teacher had his passport photos taken before a screen. How they paid attention to his hair with a comb... How much they charged him in the end, oh wow

Tuesday, 26 May 2009


Midnight on a Saturday when walking back to my apartment I saw a young couple, the only other life around. The man wore a sharp suit, holding up his stumbling partner bent in 2, dressed smart also, drunk but where they'd been drinking I couldn't guess. There aren't any bars in the direction they were coming from that I know of, just a chicken place, a scooter shop, key shop, then a road leading out of the district to a bare highway, forking to squat apartments aside a temple. I'll always remember them.


The next morning was all about sound. I could hear from my room a medley of K-pop drowning out the little neighbourhood. 'Sorry Sorry' bled into 'SexyBack' and damn, I'd jumped back 2 days before to Friday night, hanging out in Shampoo. The music was then replaced by a loudspeaker rant. On foot I walked up the sleepy Sunday street and came seconds from the source before I put sound and speaker together atop a parked van outside the handyman store. Satisfied I walked straight back home and felt like the van was following me, crawling down the slope I was now pacing, then parking right by my apartment, before crawling elsewhere, advertising something, perhaps the same source of the medley, perhaps not.

There's a music academy by my house too, from where I heard a silly flute from the 2nd floor window floating above scrappy drums. It took me a while to figure out the kids above were playing 'One More Time' by girl group Jewelry - not because they were offkey but I was just slow piecing it together out of all the confusion.


Went on a girl's night out with 3 of the teachers from school in 수원시 (Suwon). It was a freaky Friday, starting off with some noraebang in Jukjeon. Be advised to never sing this*. Very alienating and kills all atmosphere -

Shampoo Night Club in Suwon occupies the 9th and 10th floor of a usual Korean city cube. I've never danced so far off the ground, nor in such a setting. The establishment had a 70s look to it. It wasn't a club as such - there was a floor for dancing, but most of the space was taken by chattering tables below rows of shut doors, 'private rooms' I was told, for people who didn't want to hear the music.

A traditional Korean club runs like this - when the lights are off, you talk and drink at your table while Celine Dion plays through the PA. Then, kazam, lights on, and everyone rushes at the behest of the DJ/MC, manning a TARDIS like CD deck suspended from the ceiling, standing on the stage above the dancefloor. I tell you, there's nothing quite like dancing to a happy house remix of the omega pop terminator that is 'Sorry Sorry' by Super Junior. They also played bloody 'Who Let The Dogs Out?' so it all had the charm of a school disco to me until - lights off/on - 3 strippers came out, but even they were Disney approved, miming to speedy chipmunk Euro trash when not chatting with the drunk men congregated below at their high heels. I really didn't know where to look - lights off before anything cupped was exposed.

The next act was a bunch of lads miming to a medley of Korean boy band hits, sporting shades and baggy orange trousers. 'SexyBack' got thrown in, and 'Sorry Sorry'. Again. Shampoo has a habit of playing certain songs around 4 or 5 times, but everyone was happy. The floor was always busy.

A muscly 50 something with a crew cut was pounding his beefy arms away in a vest during the boyband set, wearing superspy sunglasses, alone and beaming up at the young lads. This image will stay with me for a long time. Then lights off.

I was walking back to our booth when a Korean guy latches me in a bear grip around my shoulders and asks my name, if I have a girlfriend. I say no and he brings me to his private room.

Being one of those idiots, I assumed he was going to introduce me to a few nice looking girls. There were 2 in there, along with a host of guys, karaoke machine at the front, dining table between 2 benches. No one spoke English, but they all seemed friendly. I sat as the guy told me his English name was Michael, or George Michael. I just laughed this off, accepting his shot of whiskey. George then told me to get up because it was time to dance again outside. His friend in a sharp suit gave me a mic to sing something English as I walked out but the host pulled me along - we just had to dance, so his friend tagged along too.

Thing is, the lights were still off. The music was still slow. And yet there was just us 3 in front of all the chattering tables, right in the middle of the stage, dancing away. Confused I tried to be enthusiastic as the 2 drunks showed off some unabashed boy band routines, clapping hands, George kicking out his legs like a cossack. Lights on - the other teachers came to the stage and quite rightly pointed at me laughing. I beckoned my new friends to join their group, so we all danced for a bit, but then my new buds just walked off, whispering. I found out today they asked my friend as well if he had a girlfriend or not. He figured them out straight off.

I wasn't so dumb when leaving Shampoo around 4 I had a guy say hi to me with a very flashy grin...and then there was the bouncer outside who could only say one thing to me in English -

'I love you'.

I blame the language barrier for my earlier idiocy. And hey, they were pretty smashed too, so...

Ah, Shampoo. I've never felt so wanted.

*nor sing 'Round Round' by Sugababes. Too tricky.