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Sunday, April 17, 2011

First Exploration of the City; Involving Pop Singers, Superstars, Old Men, and Girls

I was here for a month, and quite opposite of my nature, I went without stretching my legs a bit and going for a random, hapless roam through the city. I pretty much would just follow the other Western teachers on the weekend, going where they go, getting my feet just a little wet, more from spilled beer (not from me) than from unknown waters.

So this weekend, I hopped on a bus that took me into the city, until I made it to a Metro and from there rode underground and emerged out from the ground in the heart of the city. I decided to start my year of wild city ramblings in the center. So, to City Hall I went. And the first thing, I noticed was this large area off in the distance with these little white pavilions set far below the towering skyscrapers above. Some type of music was playing in the city with a stage and all these people crowded around. So, I set my curious footsteps aimed in that direction. 2 people stood on stage holding mics as some sort of MCs..cracking jokes and making important declarations. But it all being in Korean, I didn't know what it was about.
I ambled over to one of the white tents where they were giving free bottles of water. And asked the girls at the booth what was going on. One of them answered that it was a benefit concert for the Handicapped.

This older man in a tweed blazer overheard me and strikes up a conversation with me, asking me where I was from and if I was single. Then he motions at all 3 of these girls and tells me that I had my pick for a girlfriend. This was right in front of them and of course, they just laughed. Then he mentions, "You know, I have a daughter."..... "Really?" I asked. Mainly because, what else do you say in such circumstances. But also because feigning an interest in marriage deals have lead to some very interesting cultural experiences for me in the past.

Then this old Mr. Tweed suit, smiled with a grin, "No, I'm only kidding." and I smiled back and gave a slight bow, which is a sign of respect here, and said, "I am too." We went on talking about something else and I in this half-bantering, playful jibe made the comment about him wearing such a toasty-looking tweed coat on such a warm day. The girls who were all overhearing the conversation laughed. This laughter caught me a little off guard. I am catching the hint that utmost respect is paid to the elderly here and maybe I was slightly going over the barrier by lightly tugging on his lapel and criticizing humorously what this elderly man was wearing. He said something about him being an older gentleman and he's supposed to dress up like this. I, on the other hand, can wear whatever I wanted. "Plus," he added, "it'll probably get cold tonight." Which is a reality I'm getting to know all too well.

Just then, a band began to play. And one of the girls got all excited. And they explained to me that it was the winner of the Korean version of American Idol. I got curious so I stepped towards the small concert, and watched as this scarecrow of a Korean emerged on stage surrounded by this frolicsome boy band. They were Nsync incarnated and hip hopped about the stage, every now and then the lead singer would gesticulate with his hands, clutching his heart as though he was in some ecstatic passion. The crowd, mostly girls would yell. 2 of the girls from the pavillion came over and stood beside me as we watched. We had light, sporadic conversation. I could tell it, the conversation, that is, was supposed to go in a certain direction, that is with the exchange of phone numbers or such and I kept trying to explain to one of the girls what an undertaker was. Mainly, because the coat that this Korean Idol singer, I can't remember his name, was wearing made him look like an undertaker while sweeping the stage and the audience with his song and moves.

After this, another band got up. This time, it was a famous Korean band that's been around for 15 years. They were more of a rock/alternative group. The talkative girl told me that their name when translated into English meant "No Brain" or something like that. All during these performances, a lone man danced in the middle of the big space between the seats and the stage. He danced crazily and he danced good, all the while he danced, he convinced those that looked on that he was out of his mind. Some sort of madman getting his groove on all by himself. He kept ripping his shirt off accompanying it all his moves. And then putting it back on again. I found myself more entertained watching him than all the other stars. I think half the crowd did too. And secretly, even though he was a source of ridicule for those all around, I think I half wanted to be doing what he was doing. The girls told me that they had to go and fill out their forms for their volunteering, so I departed.

Not more than 50 yards from this spot, another spectacle was taking place. Near the Cheonggyecheon, a nice little stream flowing in the middle of the northern part of the city, a music video was being filmed in the vibrant sunlight, with all the throngs of people ambling here and there. It was this pretty girl and guy, they were singing hip hop in English as some kind of duo with the skyscrapers of Seoul behind them embroidered by the blue sky. I got the tail end of the shoot. After they ended, a group of people that were not Oriental and not White, mobbed the guy with the shades getting pictures with him. It turns out that the guy was some huge star in Malaysia. The girl sat in her star chair and watched these fans admire this guy. I liked to think that I read on her face, a diva look of, "Why, isn't anybody rushing to get pictures with me."

I followed this river down as the night fell upon the city, and the lights woke up. About the only thing else I saw, worth noting before I made my long commute back to Suji was this fight that took place. I only know about it for rambling through these busy alleys and shopping lanes, I followed a policeman who was in a hurry. And down in a basement where they had this Korean restaurant some old man was in a fury yelling berserk and throwing things. I don't know what it was about. I just know that this old man and an old lady were escorted in the back of this police car out of the lights of the lanes. About this time I headed back.


Blogger Helen said...

How appropro that you'd attempt to explain an undertaker to a pretty girl whilst she may have made goo goo eyes at you. So funny!

10:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Harrison said...

I just bore easily of small talk and nothing cuts through small talk like talking about undertakers. Also, the girl was not knock out pretty.

9:09 AM  

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