June 08, 2010

I'll rewind your flashforward...

I was standing in front of the structure known as the blue house, which is the Korean version of the white house. Here’s the kicker, it’s not blue, it’s white, and looks nothing like the white house. Even if you could envision what an Asian version of the white house could be, you’d be off. Strange, yet Bollywood doesn’t have a giant garish sign like its nickname counterpart in LA. Nicknames don’t always make sense.

Sunday Funday (another nickname, probably wrongfully appropriated from gill, sorry gill) was spent lazing around Samcheong-dong (near the blue house). Patio hopping from various café’s and fancy eateries that litter the district.

Lately I’ve been struck with these “OMG I’m in Korea’ moments. These places in time where I look around and realize HEY, this isn’t what its like in Calgary, Surrounded by trees and mountains. Well not mountains that I’m used to, these are wimpy hills by comparison, but Calgary doesn’t have any mountains in the city, so whatever.

Anywho, these moments, they have been occurring more and more recently, ever since my self imposed exile from itaewon, the foreigner district. I think the lack of weiguk sightings has sharpened my awareness to my surroundings. it's in these moments where i realize where i am, and what i'm actually doing. I love them, they are little reminders that i'm doing the right thing. Sunday's moment was sparked through a conversation of our friends back 'home' (wherever that is). 24hrs before that conversation sparked my realization, I was sitting in a park alongside the Han River.

The Koreans are very forward thinking people. The city of Seoul has experienced exponential growth in the past decade. Yet this city has remained decently planned. There are a couple roadways that run alongside the Han river. Well not alongside, cause if you put it there you ruin any chances for a park! And no one wants that! So the highways actually run over the Han River, leaving GREAT real estate for bike paths, and recreational grounds alongside the river. There are even outdoor swimming pool areas. The goal Saturday afternoon was to visit one such pool not far from Gusan (where I live). This never happened, because 30degree heat is not apparently enough for them to open the pool. It sat deserted the way I imagine California to be, sans people, kind of overgrown.

The parks alongside the Han river are well equipped. They’ve got all you could possibly need. We sat close to a 711 (This 7-11 is stand alone, in the middle of the park, not on some street corner nearby, actually in the park) that will supply you with all you need, including draft beer, and canned beer at the same price as any convenient store. Alcohol is definitely the number one sell at this store; it seems every group of Koreans have numerous empty soju or makelli bottles strewn around their feet. There are fewer things better than being able to freely drink in public, screw hiding wine in pop cans. An possible reason for this tolerance of public drinking and drunkenness was pointed out to me, where do these people have to drive? The public transport here is so good, most people don’t drive. When you drink you get hungry, and if you wanted food, there were men strolling the park with takeout/delivery menus. I really wonder how you order though, ‘we are the white blanket beside the 10th tree, you can’t miss us???. Yet scooters rip down the pathways delivering fried chicken to hungry Koreans. Who knows if they ordered it, they paid for it and they are eating it.

One thing that is not kosher in Korea is bikinis in public. Our group consisted of 5 girls and me. The girls all had bikini’s on, and we attracted police attention later on in the afternoon. I had boardshorts on, but sitting next to 5 bikini clad women I quickly disappear, and become background noise. The police found me though, and told me through body language and gestures that the girls had to put their clothes back on. The girls sat by peeved that they approached me, the guy, who was at that moment in time wearing all the clothes he arrived to the park in, that the girls, should put their clothes back on. This country is progressive and forward thinking in a lot of areas, yet in moments like that I realize “ah, I’m in korea”.

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