Saturday, January 1, 2011

Korea. Do you need to press the bell?

There's a chance that I am slightly behind on the blogging. I went to Korea in early November 2010. Katy and Mae sent me off at the Airport Express station. What stellar people! They crew just about every show in HK. Katy and I have poem challenges. They hid behind a column to startle me as I entered the station, but when they jumped out, they actually scared a middle-aged man, who cowered into his leather jacket and didn't emerge until he was out of sight. Here they are, blurry, in the center, as I left on the train: I almost didn't get out of Hong Kong, though. The immigration people caught me and questioned why I had overstayed my allowed time on my visa. I didn't think that "well, there's this show called Rocky, and I really wanted to do that, so...I stayed" would fly with the genial immigration staff, so I just kind of mumbled something about I thought I was fine. Eventually, I got through, but I had to extend my visa and mark the "spinster" box under marital status one last time. Made my flight to Seoul with 2 minutes to spare. At last, Korea. On the customs declaration form, I had to verify that I would not be taking my bear gall into the country. You'd think with a downer like that, it'd be hard to bounce back, but I did.My first night, I unloaded at the hostel and set out to explore my neighborhood. I found a great cafe where I ate authentic Korean spaghetti with Hah Ro and Jin Woo. It's ok because it was a fusion of Korean noodles and Ragu. Also, when Hah Ro was helping me read the menu, I thought he said "spicy" not "spaghetti." I returned to the hostel around 1am, so the next day was a bit of a late start to go to Masan. En route to Masan, the bus stopped at a rest area. As I always do, I used the facilities and took note. The most glaring difference between Korean and American restrooms is the presence in the former of an Etiquette Bell. I did not press it, for fear of a mistranslation that would call a SWAT Team. So in Masan, when I met Margaret for a salad topped with vanilla ice cream. I asked her about the Etiquette Bell. "Oh, yeah. When you gotta take a really big dump, you press the button and this really loud fake flushing sound happens so no one else can hear you." Brilliant, I say. Just brilliant. And only in Asia. Americans tend to be proud of their bodily functions--or maybe that's just South Dakotans. Who lived in Hanson Hall. So yes, I met Margaret, a friend from high school, in Masan. I stayed with her and her husband, Graeme, for a couple nights. We talked about living in Asia, ancient civilizations, and alien invasions. One night, after they finished work, we all took a bus to Chongwon, the "Seoul of the South" for dinner and talking to westerners. I commented to Margaret that the transportation is cheap--only $1 for a 45 minute bus to Chongwon. "Yeah...although you could pay for it with your life, so it depends on your perspective." I took another bus, the next day, to Daegu, to visit Kristine, a friend from college, and her boyfriend, Cyphar. Despite the mayhem of maneuvering through an Asian mall to reach her, at last we crossed on an escalator and all was well in the world again. We walked around the city

and I introduced them to the wonder of the tofu donut. We ate Mexican at a place called The Holy Grill (I love a good pun) and stayed for a good 3 hours until we parted ways at the station. I don't look like a 3rd wheel AT ALL in that photo. wow. I took the train back to Seoul and stayed at the same hostel, because the owner, Min, had so generously let me store my Suitcase of Things for Caitlin in Mongolia in a corner in his house. And that's KOREA...PART ONE. Stay tuned for PART TWO, which involves kimchi, forts, fake mustaches, and most of all JUNO!!