These are the four fishermen who were just released by North Korea. Notice the wide and diverse range of emotions on their faces. Very expressive, no?
Monday, August 31, 2009
In 1994, bars closed at midnight. You couldn't get a beer at the store. Shady probable gangsters would hang out in the mouths of alleys asking if you wanted to buy a beer. Touts (비키?) could take you to closed illegal speakeasies around Shinchon. There were placing in Hondae, too (and probably everywhere else). There was one place halfway between the Methodist church in front of Yonsei and Shinchon train station (which is now a fucking department store with a movie theatre).
Halfway down an alley and down a set of stairs, it looked abandoned. There was no bell. You had to take turns banging on the door as hard as you could. Sometimes it would take 10 minutes to be let in. The door was metal, heavy like at Hitler's bunker, and it had professional sound absorption padding like they have in studios and at the ear doctor.
The door would open eventually, it always did, and loud American music would blast through the opening as a Korean beckoned you quickly to come inside. Once inside, the place was spacious and trendy. Foreigners, Koreans...we all came to party.
Once on our way there, we passed one of my students. I didn't even see her. My friend asked me if that wasn't her. She had a quick smile. She was a student at Ewha Womens (sic) University. She majored in Korean traditional dance and minored in ballet...or was it the other way around? She was with a Korean guy, a first date as I would learn (and the last).
Basically, we hooked up at the club. On the way out, we saw the guy drunk and dejected, sitting on the curb wondering how the fuck that just happened to him. We giggled and crept away into the night. I couldn't have cared less about him.
YJ was from Pusan. She wanted to be a model, but she was too short at 162cm. I did see her in a print ad for Samsung once. She was wearing a silver miniskirt outfit and standing next to a traditional looking old man. I haven't seen her since about 1996.
Back at the bunker another time, there was a big fight. There was a guy from Edmonton, stocky and looked like he could handle himself. He walked over to YJ as I was buying drinks. Upon walking towards the table, she pointed at me and said something to he guy. He approached me and began apologizing, saying he didn't know she was with me. Cool. Enjoy the party, brother.
Now, we didn't know at the time why the fight started. But I learned later when I saw the guy sitting down waiting for someone near the Methodist church. I asked him the reason for the fight and he told me that a guy in our group, a real wanker, was also from Edmonton. When the guy told him he was also from Edmonton, our wanker friend began badmouthing the city. The stocky guy wasn't having it.
We didn't know that though. Just one of his friends came over and said that the guy was pissed and we should leave. A friend of mine told him to fuck off repeatedly until he got punched for swearing in the guy's face. A couple of other punches were thrown and there was pushing and shoving and a lot of trash talking. The fight basically ended with me politely asking the stocky to take his hand off my shit-talking friend's neck. He did. He was a reasonable guy.
We did leave though. I walked YJ back to her boarding house then walked home.
(I have no idea why blogger will not save in paragraph form. I indented and left 5 spaces indented).
Friday, August 28, 2009
It was the end of August 1994. I got off the plane from Kimpo and was met by a gentleman named Mr. No. We waited for two other English teachers to get off the same flight. One was a 49 year old former drama teacher and the other was an unintelligent woman-child who would later that year begin to bring her puppy into her classes at the hogwon.
Mr. No drove us in the minivan to the main hogwon on Chong-ro. It was to be our first, but not last, view of the way Koreans do things without consideration for others. The bags stayed in the minivan and Mr. No brought us into the hogwon for a cup of instant coffee and we sat there with him. He spoke almost no English.
After 45 minutes, we tried to ascertain why we were sitting there. We all had a long flight from California and needed a shower and dinner. Mr. No just thought we wanted a cup of coffee and awkward conversation. He eventually took us across the street to the YMCA.
I was to share a room with the older gentleman and the woman-child had her own room. This was fortuitous as she and I ended up sleeping together that night. There were three other new teachers for the hogwon that we met at the YMCA, and we went out for dinner in Chong-ro. I remember thinking this was the gay part of town as many ajosshis were holding hands. At dinner, the older gentleman tried to ask the BBQ ajumma in English if the meal was dog meat.
After dinner, the woman-child told the group that we were going to go for a walk and we parted ways with them. She was very pretty, with mid-back length brown hair and green eyes. We held hands and walked around for a while in the late summer heat.
Back at her hotel room, she asked me to give her a massage. I did and she took off her shirt. I countered by taking off her bra. The massage didn't last too long and we began having sex. Little did I know that she was to be my penultimate Caucasian paramour. We made love several times and slept well into the morning of our first full day in Seoul.
I would have never imagined that 15 years later I would still be in Korea.