Hanguk-mahl (the Korean language) isn’t as hard as Japanese, I don’t think, but it’s certainly no picnic.
On the subway : Ad, apparently for lipstick, with the large logo at the bottom, underneath the pursed-mouthed hottie – Brown Love Letter. Kinda-tarot card in the background with a sad woman holding what looks like a giant turd. A tagline in the upper right corner exhorts : Be Pretty, Girls!
No further comment.
“The wisdom of the Korean people can be seen in salted shrimp” – Geo Korea, on Arirang Network.
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
*grins, drinks, burps, eats a salted shrimp*
I am offering this medium-size phallooter. Barely used, one owner. Free, or near offer.
But wait, there’s more! The sweat off my balls! The hard-earned smegmatic cheeseplate pneumatic pumperbots! The lyrical sex-scenes in the High High Grain fields! The pell-mell running to avoid the Bad Guys! More than one or two accidental direct clitoral stimuli! A field day for the less than clever! Call Now!
Wha? Ah hell, who turned out the lights?
I’m not going to bother talking about the terrorist attacks in the states. I commented briefly over on the blogversation and my thoughts can be dredged up from Metafilter pretty easily.
Nope, what I’m gonna talk about is the puddles, literally great palm-sized puddles of spit all over the floor in the men’s toilet at the English center at the Uni. Bad enough that these guys sit in a stall and smoke whilst pinching a loaf, but they seem to find it necessary to gob huge f–king quantities of saliva all over the floor. I make it a point not to get irate about ‘different’ stuff like this, and I must acknowledge that there was also some mutant bastard in Sydney who felt it necessary to extract snot and stick it all over the cubicle walls in the Level 20 can, but damn it! I actually wiped up two huge pools of the stuff in my favorite stall in the morning, and three hours later, there were 6 more to take their place.
Mr Bill says “You put a rice farmer in a suit, but he’s still a rice farmer” to which I tend to reply “You can put a racist…” etc, but honestly, some days I tend to agree with him.
Terrorists? Thousands dead? Me, I’m irate about spit puddles. For the moment, anyway.
A little anecdote that illustrates, I hope, how differently some things we take for granted are approached here. I was standing at the University Shuttle Bus stop a couple of mornings ago, which is in front of the local equivalent of a 7-11.
Piled on the edge of the curb was a mountain of garbage. This presumably was the detritus for a number of shops and f–k-hotels and restaurants and such in the immediate vicinity over the last day or two. Garbage collection here is not funded by taxes or anything of the kind – it’s user-paid. In order to have your garbage collected, you have to buy extremely expensive garbage bags which you then stuff to their absolute limit, and put on the street for some poor bastards to pick up. There are no dumpsters.
So, I was standing there, and the garbage truck pulled up. Not unlike what one might see in Canada or America or Australia, with the requisite couple of guys with wiry, ropy-veined forearms hanging off the back.Where it diverged from the expected is that they didn’t just hurl the bags into the back, they sorted it! They made sure all the cans went into can bags, and *shudder* organic stuff into the organic bags, and so on. After it had all been sorted, the driver came over with a large whisk broom, swept the leftover detritus into the gutter, and off they went, presumably to the next reeking pile.
Labor is very very cheap here. And there’s not a lot of room for landfills chockablock with random crap. It makes sense, but it’s just….that….different enough to make you think twice.
Crap. Reblogger has lost all comments made so far. This means you, G! Please repost if you care to…thanks. It’ll help with the eventual book and incredible fame that comes as a result.
Well, the sh-t has hit the fan, familially. SK got a call from her mother last night – her mother had tracked her down through Korea telecom, and let fly with pure fury due to (in order of fury-inducement potential) a) she’d not told her mother that she was back in the country yet (waiting for the right moment, kind of) b) she’d been ‘bending the truth’ about her singleness over the past few years and c) her man (that’d be me) wasn’t a Korean. I’ve been asking her for a long time now to tell them about us, but she always maintained it was best to wait. Her call, I figured. But some very evil and unpleasant things have been said. Regardless, we are standing firm.
It would seem that apparently her parents, despite the fact that they have never met me, are irate enough to put a bullet through my head. If I should suddenly fall silent here, you can be reasonably sure that they’ve hired a hitman.
I’ll keep ya’ll updated.
Watching the news in Korean this evening, and managed to decipher a piece on the proliferation of middle-school and high-school girls selling their bodies on the streets lately. Another of the ‘bad things’ from Japan that they’ve picked up here. Next it’ll be the used panties from the vending machines. Now if there was ever a victimless crime, buying used schoolgirl panties would hafta be it.
In other news, I signed my contract today, and one of the clauses stated that I must not perform any unlawful, unethical or immortal acts during my tenure at the University, within or outside the campus. And here I was planning to live forever : now I’ve signed a contract explicitly forbidding me to do so. Craptastic.
(from offline period – August 28 2001)
William Gibson, I think, talks about japan as a palimpsest – eruptions of the ancient, or the merely old, through the veneer of the new. He mentions details like the anti-radiation voodoo charms dangling from everyone’s mobile phone antennas, and the usual cast of ‘amusing from an outsider’s perspective’ things like Pocari sweat. Now, I’m not one to dis’ Mr Gibson – he is after all, the man – but I wonder how he’d react here in Korea.
There are so many of the things that The Reverend Mr Gibson picks up in Japan, but turned up to 11, and twisted sideways while viewed through very thick beer goggles. Pure chaos, at least from a waeguk’s perspective…I’d forgotten the purely fractal nature of disorder here, self-resembling from the tiny to the immense, from the haphazard piles of goods in the corner shop, to the seemingly random layout of buldings and streets, to the wild tangle of the subway system and so on up (and down). It’s daunting, by christ.
Having spent the day cleaning the thick layer of black air-pollution dust from everything in the new apart’, I have Tom Waits playing and and feeling contemplative (and exhausted). Somehow niggling at my brain is this apartment as a metaphor for the Korean Way of Doing Things. It’s a wonder of good design, this place. Looking around a couple of days ago (we’ve been crashing here waiting for the bureacracy at the Uni to confirm that yes, we could actually live here), every time I thought ‘Wouldn’t it be useful if…’ there the useful thing would be. The descending-from-the-ceiling clothes drying rack on the balcony, and the tap out there with the spraygun attached for hosing away the Black Dust and watering your plants. The incredibly ample storage space incorporated into the wall cabinets in the kitchen. And so on. Cleverness and efficient use of space at every turn.
But so badly put together as to be laughable. I was told that Bill, who lives in the next building, has had a number of problems that required maintenance, and the general consensus was that the building was badly built. You can see it everywhere – misaligned fixtures, streaks of paint and caulking everywhere, wows and cracks in the walls and ceiling, and more.
So – great design, but truly abysmal construction. Why should this be so? sh-t, I dunno…I have a whole bunch of theories, any one of which might be partly true. Rampant alcoholism amongst contruction workers? The incredibly powerful urge amongst pretty much every Korean I’ve every met to go for the cheap solution before the right one? The headlong rush into the future that says ‘build it, forget it, go on the next one’? There’s a long history of things falling down and apart here (mentioned in one of the first posts here, a cut and paste from circa ’97 when I was living in Pusan) due to shoddy, cheap materials…. Some kind of subconscious ‘f–k it’ attitude in expectation of the next war coming along and everything getting knocked to hell anyway?
But it’s so odd that 100 metres from our brand new, if badly built, still groovy apartment beehive, the main street to the station is, by my standards, straight out of Slumland. Filthy, chaotic, reeking and third-worldy. I’m still trying to get my head around it, and this is all just brain dump, so should be taken as just that. I’ve still got a lot of love for Korea, and I’m glad we’re here.
When it comes down to it, I have said ‘those goddamn (-blank-)’ about so many nationalities now, including Canadians, that it’s clear to me at least that I’m not a nationalist or a racist – I’m pure misanthrope, with enough scorn to go around for all of humanity. At the same time, love love love. It’s weird being me.
Anyway, I’ve got an unopened bottle of duty-free bourbon waiting patiently for me, so I’m gonna go get myself loose, jjjjjj-ack!