Monday, November 24, 2008

So two Americans ride a bus into Seoul...

And the first one says to the other, "Hey, didja see that giant effing city over there?!" And the other one looks and goes, "Hey. Yeah. How bout that?"

OK, there is no punchline to this terrible joke. Sorry. You'll get over it, though, right?

So Jill was kind enough to show me around Seoul on Saturday. She was going anyway -- she had a date with a "really cute" Korean guy. This is all she knows about him, apart from his name. Although she did tell me how cute he was over and over, so... yeah. Sad ending alert: she didn't end up meeting him. Poor Jill. =( OK. I'm over it.

So, we took the bus into Seoul, and then the subway farther into Seoul. First, though, we visited a place that may exist only in the best kind of dream. TechnoMart. Is. Awesome. It's like Marshall Fields on State St. in Chicago, except bigger, and filled with nothing but electronics. 10 stories. Of electronics. And a food court. Like I said, it's the stuff dreams are made of. It's basically the Iowa cornfield of electronics. They built it, and I went.

I am, however, poor at the moment. So, no fun gadgets for me. I did find a little notebook computer I wanted for like $400 though, and Jill has an ipod touch, which is freaking fantastic. It does everything the iphone does, except make phone calls. It does have wifi, and Korea has network access covering most of the country for free, so if you buy a little plugin microphone you've got a VOIP phone, ready to go. Bad ass, man. I'm gettin me one, soon. Like, when I'm not poor.

Next stop -- Insadong. This is a very touristy neighborhood of Seoul, but it's still sort of classy. There are lots of art galleries, museums, and the kind of people who like art galleries and museums. We browsed through a few galleries, looked at the souvenir shops, watched a guy doing seoye (giant calligraphy) and then we jetted. She's poor too. As we were walking, I heard a Korean drumline jamming out on the street. So, naturally I went to go investigate, and lo! and behold, we find this really kickass little man-made river running like, in the median of a huge street. And there's steps down to the waterside, and little stepping stone paths so you can cross the water, and willow-y trees planted down there. And where it runs under the streets, there are little lighted art shows and sugarplum fairies and visions of pumpkins and magic dust and they're both verbs and it rhymes and it's just awesome. Pictures of all these things are here.

So, moving on, we found the Youngpoong bookstore, which looks really funny if part of the name is blocked by another building, but has a pretty good selection of English books. I picked up a historical novel about Genghis Khan and 2 of the books in Ludlum's "Bourne" series, which are insanely different from the movies! I was a little shocked at how different, but they're definitely easy to read and quite enjoyable.

Next, we hopped on the subway and went to Hongdae, which is the area surrounding Hongik University. So, lots of college kids and foreigners and bars and restaurants. There was a woman selling cocktails from a street stall, in ziploc bags. For 3000Won. Or like, $2. Yep, vodka cranberry in a ziploc bag, that's how I roll. So, Jill really wanted to salsa dance, and there are apparently several salsa clubs in Hongdae, with the very small complication that only 1 of them actually exists, in the physical sense. The rest are theoretically there, and you can get directions to them from any well-meaning local, but when it comes to actually physically being, with a door and walls and a place to salsa, these clubs are sorely lacking. So yeah, we were on a hunt. Enter Thibault, a French guy who stopped us on the street to ask if we knew where these 2 salsa clubs he had heard about were. They also existed in a very abstract sense, in that people had heard of them and could point the way, but the concreteness of their being was shy of expectations. More cran-vodka-bag, more walking, more looking, more asking, more listening, more looking, more vodka-bag, rinse, repeat. I got pretty hammered by the time we actually did find the one salsa place in the neighborhood. And Jill hated it. Don't ask me why -- I'm hazy on the details; all I know is that the bartender had ordered pizza and gave me some of it with my beer. So I was in a happy place.

Next, they wanted to go to Itaewon, which is the neighborhood surrounding an American Army base, and as such caters to foreigners. So, there are a lot of, in fact I'd say "mostly" foreigners. So we stopped at a little van and bought some empanadas, spoke Spanish to the people selling them, and then hit Club Caliente. Which was full of big ole drunk Army guys. Whoo-ee! And it also charged a cover. That's bad. But with the cover you got a ticket for a free beer. That's good. It was OK... not really my scene, but still fun.

Finally, we walked across the street to the jimjilbang, which roughly translates as shower room or sauna. But for 10000Won, you get a shower, a bath in mineral spring water (pumped from 1000 feet underground), and a mat on the floor in a communal sleeping room. Which is a perfect finish for a drunken night. Except for the naked Korean dudes walking around the bath room, which was a little weird. But again, when in Rome, right? Being blitzed helped too, I think. So, yeah, separate shower facilities, but then you go to this giant room with mats and little pillows all over the (nicely heated) floor, and you sleep with everyone else. So, I'm sure you can imagine, lots of snoring Koreans all over the floor -- strange, but fun. And way better than paying for a hotel with an actual bed -- pshaw, that's so 1990's... or something. So, that was my weekend.

Next time, my first day teaching at the school, and my awesome new schedule. Here's a hint: it starts with 6 40-minute classes a week and ends with... well, a lot of free time, I guess. It rocks. OK, that's all for now. Thanks for reading. Class dismissed.

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