Tuesday, October 20, 2009

DMZ: The Prologue

So I went to the DMZ last Saturday. Here's my story.

Started off with an uneventful bus ride to Seoul after school. Read a little bit of my book, relaxed, and looked forward to the weekend ahead. Rolled into town around 7pm and jumped on the subway over to foreigner-ville, AKA Itaewon. I was supposed to meet up Tom, who planned the trip, and some other folks around 8 or 8:30. I called Tom and told him to meet me at the Wolfhound, a fairly well known Irish pub in Itaewon. I sat down at the bar upstairs, chatted with the bartender (who spoke really good English), and ordered an AlleyKat, which tastes sort of fresh and hoppy and may or may not be an IPA, but is definitely delicious. I start playing sudoku on my phone and get really into it. I finally beat this really hard puzzle I've been struggling over off and on for about 3 weeks. I have a couple of beers. I chat with some other American guys, Army guys I think, for a bit, and then look at my phone. 9:15?! Where is everybody?? I text Tom. The reply: "Wolfhound." Doh.

So I pay my tab and take a walk downstairs. Sure enough, there's Tom, Travis, and a couple of girls hanging out and drinking. I order another beer and we sit and chat for a while about how we need to bounce pretty early and get to sleep so we can make our 7am call at the USO Office. A couple beers later and we decide to order club sandwiches and potato wedges. Then this South African chick, Nomfundo, shows up and we get more food: steak and kidney pie or some such. More beers. Next thing we know it's like 1am and Nomfundo talks us into coming back to her motel. So, by this time the other chicks are gone and it's just the 4 of us. The guys figure we can all share a room for a few hours, so we decide to walk over there. And stop at the Family Mart, to buy more beer and some soju, naturally. Like, that wasn't even an option, for real. Anyway, as we're walking it begins to thunder and lightning, and then to rain more and more heavily. You know, we're not that upset, because we've got beer and the plastic bags that the beer came in to put over our heads. But as it turns from storm to raging downpour, we start looking for little eaves and awnings and whatnot to hide under. Then the kicker: Nomfundo can't remember where her hotel is! But no worries: She's got a business card! But wait -- the address doesn't mean anything to us, because we're not from Seoul! But it's ok because it's got a phone number! But hornswaggle -- we can't speak Korean! Idea: we'll find a taxi and make him call and find out where it is! Bullspit -- no taxi's will stop because we're not by a designated taxi stand. And soaking wet. I'm sure that didn't help...

After about 20 minutes standing on this corner waving and cursing at every cab that came by, we finally got one to not only stop, but also call the hotel, find out where it is, and take us there. Awesome: it's like 2 minutes away from that corner we've been huddling on. Even more awesome: it's smack dab in the middle of the Red Light District. Yep, on both sides of the road, just hookers. And not old dirty ones either... these girls were hot! I'm sure the cab driver was... well, probably not at all surprised that 3 white guys had found this particular hotel out of all the options in Seoul, but seriously: we're here to learn, folks! Not to make out with you! Billy Madison... anyone? Anyone? Ok, never mind. So yeah... we did take a quick stroll (in the pouring rain, mind you) to see what was for sale, because I for one had never been to a Korean RLD before, but it was strictly window shopping. Anyway, back to the hotel for about 3 hours sleep and then we're off to the DMZ.

Morning, hangover, quick walk, quicker cab ride, no breakfast, check-in, bus ride. Korean tour guide, Freedom Road (along the Han River, protected with fences to keep invading North Korean marine units off the freeway), and up to the actual De-Militarized Zone.There we receive a briefing at Camp Bonifas ("In Front of Them All") about the DMZ and expected behavior and such. Highlights? In front of the North Korean guards (whom we only saw from a distance): no gestures, no pointing, basically don't acknowledge their presence in any way. You can take pictures, but they will remotely scan any and all electronic equipment that you carry. In other words, don't make yourself a target and don't be a dumbass. Done and done.

And that's where the story ends for today, ladies and gents. Pictures can be found here.

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