Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The insanity built into the Korean Matrix

Remember in The Matrix when Neo is told about the first matrix and how it was too perfect that the people didn't believe it? What they failed to tell you was that there was a second matrix before the one where Neo, Trinity, and Morphus were playing about. You live in it: the Korean Matrix.
Instead of being too perfect, the Korean matrix is too imperfect. People running around, bumping into each other, expressionless and cold individuals, trying to cut away at their faces to change appearance or opting to leave the matrix via 15th floor balcony of their apartment that looks like every other apartment in every other city.
I get on the bus today. The bus driver doesn't great me, but greats the other passengers behind me. His programming tells him that all white people in the matrix do not speak Korean. It is 25 degrees Celsius outside. The bus driver doesn't turn on the air conditioner because he is programmed not too...it's not that hot. The temperature in the matrix is always just a little above what is comfortable for us humans.
Every man has his legs spread wide out, airing out their little packages. Most people close their eyes, some talk into cellphones. Others look forward or out the window with a vacuous expression on their impassive faces. They are all, as Chuck Palahniuk wrote (about something else): "A copy of a copy of a copy." They all think the same way, the way they have been told to think. There is little original thought here. They all hold the same views on most things, especially about those who don't belong in the matrix...foreigners.
Foreigner have a round eye and high nose. Any foreigner darker than Korea is dirty. Chinese is a dirty Asian. Foreigner can not eat spicy food. White teacher spend a time in Hongdae for meeting the Korean woman. Have new Korean woman many. They cannot speak the Korean. They don't understand about the Korean people or culture.

Do you know Dokdo?

The man in front of me coughs at the window. I turn my head and hold my breath. Anger washes over me and I tell myself he is just a Korean and knows no better. The old woman sitting next to me is like jelly; as the bus jolts side to side, she repeatedly bounces off of me. She digs in her bag, elbow a few centemeters from my face. The man next to her watches TV on a very small screen.
I ring the bell with my elbow. Passengers standing do not want to move out of my way. I have to push them. A middle aged woman stands with her ass on the bus card machine. I slid my hand across her ass and swipe my ring on the machine. She barely moves. The bus stops and I get off.
Three university students are talking and not looking where they are going. I either step into the street or stand still. Unattractive university girl runs into me. She makes eye contact, but there is no glimmer of life in her dull brown eyes. No sorry, no bow...it was like she ran into a tree.
I wondered if there was not a glitch in the Korean matrix like the woman in the red dress. But in the Korean matrix, the glitch is public drunkenness. I look around and there are no glitches...unusual.
I start walking towards the store. Two women in identical black dresses, jackets, and white shirts with their hair up in buns stare at me. I smile. They stare back. A woman with a push cart is delivering a monologue as she pushed the cart. But maybe it was a dialog as she was answering herself. She liked the word μ‹ΆνŒ”λ…„ (fucking bitch). I couldn't help thinking she was the sanest person I saw today.
I get on the subway instead of the bus because from 4 to 8 pm everyday, several kilometers of the main street running to my neighborhood are all kinds of fucksated with traffic and driver retards. There is a three way intersection. Cars go north/south, east/west, then a left turn signal. Each and every time, more cars drive into the intersection that can get out, running the red light. This causes cars whose light has turned green to have to wait or drive around the stalled traffic. Then they block the intersection. Then those cars turning cant move and they block the intersection. EACH AND EVERY INSANE TURN OF THE FUCKING TRAFFIC LIGHT. A police officer watches, never taking out his ticket book.
The insanity of Korea never ends.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Putting New in front of something certainly makes it somehow better

I was on a bus travelling through Korea's Manhattan when I spied a brochure in the hand of a salaryman. "Chuncheon: New Siliconvalley". Apparently, Silicon Valley is now one word; better tell the folks in Northern California. Old Silicon Valley stands for innovation and progress. In Korea, these words apply only to how to tear down traditional buildings and put up the New Traditional building of Korea: dog box apartments.
It is in these New Traditional apartments that a real sense of community can form. You will become close to your neighbors like never before. 1600+ people jammed into a close space.
You will get to know the comings and goings of your neighbors with their frequent door slamming. Their children running and screaming down the hall will teach you to the joys of unrestrained, shrieking youth.
You can feel the pain and joys of your neighbors as they scream at each other in a loving argument or as Mr. Kim next door smacks around his wife, to the crying voices of his children pleading him to stop.
It is here that you child's greatest memories will be of riding their bikes around the car park in a endless circle or kicking a soccer ball against the wall with friends, screaming loudly after each goal.
The building guards control your heating. You can turn it off, but you still pay for it. They will lovingly keep a watchful eye out for you, hovering over you as you sort your recyclables, ever vigilant that you, as a foreigner, might make a mistake and put something in the wrong place.
Community....it only exists in Korea, New Paradise.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Way to Keep it Classy, Korea!

When I lived in Uijongbu, I would walk alot in the countryside because I like to walk. On the main road to school was trash everywhere. There were very few places where you could see a meter without garbage. This wasnt a street people would generally walk on. It ran mostly through farms. No, gentle readers, this garbage came from people throwing it out of cars.
I dont know about where you come from, but in California, people....adults usually do not throw their trash wherever they want. Parents usually instill in their children that we need to keep our city clean and pretty. Korean parents obviously do not do this.
Last year, I was walking behind a father with two small kids with him. He, the father...an adult, threw his popsicle wrapper on the ground. I yelled at him and told him in Korean that trash doesnt go there. He picked it up and say "solly." I told him sarcastically that he was a good father.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Do you remember?

September. Summer breaks in September in the Land of the Morning Sparkle. I don't care for the traditional definitions of the seasons, American or Korean. If it is hot and you sweat without exercising, it is summer.

If you are from California or have spent any length of time there, you know that the seasons are not predictable. I was at Disneyland two days before Christmas one year and it was really hot, short pants and short sleeve shirt weather. Summers in Northern California can be very cold. I miss the unpredictable weather.

This summer has been mild in Korea. Cold winds from the North blow blah blah blah...I couldn't care less the reason, but I am thankful for it none the less. Korea's weather is indeed predicable. Since inventing the four season over 5000 years of culture ago, the weather is enervating in its predictability. The monsoon season comes in June, July and August are unbearable with heat and humidity, January will be the coldest month. The air will be dry. Yellow sand will come in spring, heavy or not, it will come.

I love winter. I truly do. I believe that this stems from two factors: I would visit my grandparents in winter and winter meant skiing at Squaw Valley, site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Squaw Valley. Vaurnet cat eyes. Mother Karen pullover. Jeans sprayed with waterproof spray.

"Dude, there is fresh powder all over Tahoe, lets go tomorrow." Leave the house at 5am, skip school, drive to Tahoe, get back at dinnertime. Parents would ask you how your day was at school and you'd reply "good," raccoon tan on your face.

My point is, gentle reader, I fucking hate summer in Korea. Summer is California is a fantasy world of cool people, the beach, a few brews, girls in bikinis, and it lasted forever. I remember one summer when I was working in Beverley Hills. I quit my job and hung out in Malibu at the beach. I would hang out at Zuma or Dan Blocker. There were these pretty high school girls who would invariably be there everyday. They took a lot of pictures of each other. I remember thinking how cherished those pictures and those memories would become for them. Beautiful girls growing up in the coolest place on the planet...California.