Friday, May 13, 2011

Seoul Survivor, Part Three


Since Saturday night things have been more or less steady. On Sunday, Commodore Getsmoney and I met his associates, Lord and Lady Herbivore, by Noksapyeong Station for a day that involved climbing a whole goddamn mountain and eating fusion takeout by the park. Perhaps the highlight of that day was an overly-friendly old man coming up and trying to convince me that “Korean uwumahn is best uwumahn in all uwahrld.” We think he may have been in the mail-order bride business.

Monday saw The Commodore, The High Chancellor, and I taking in Thor, and then going separate ways during the evening. The Commodore saw The Lord and Lady while I hit Hongdae once again with The Brazilian and The Swede, wherein I did better at darts than I expected and got seized by a drunk. Said drunk approached me while The Brazilian was in the loo, and the conversation went like this:

“Harlo,” says the drunk.

“Hi?” I say back.

“Can you... ” he begins, trailing off. Then, a second later, he gripped my arms and mumbled, “Have a nice day” before stumbling off.

I wonder if he planted drugs on me somehow.

Tuesday saw me, The Commodore, The High Chancellor, The Duchess, and Lord Herbivore meeting for lunch before CG and LH took me to a museum and then I took myself to Bucheon for... basically nothing. I went there on the recommendation of someone I knew, someone who didn’t tell me what to see or do while in the area. Well done? Anyway, Wednesday was much more eventful, with The High Chancellor, The Commodore, and I spending the whole day together, raiding art galleries, harassing people at the royal palace, and then scaling another mountain so we could catch a look at the city skyline at night.

The past two days, meanwhile, were very war-related. I visited the Demilitarized Zone north of Seoul as part of a group tour, spending much of my morning being led around mine fields, barbed wire fences, and military-owned ginseng farmlands. I was also shown the third tunnel constructed by North Korean soldiers using only dynamite and determination, something that was intended to funnel spies and assassins from Pyongyang to Seoul. Thankfully, nobody told the North Koreans that if you use dynamite all the time, not only are farmers going to notice but eventually you’re going to mess up and hit a water main. Score one for common sense!

Then, today, I went to the War Museum of Seoul, which did its best to not tell anyone what the North Koreans were fighting for, what weapons they used, or what the current status of the conflict was. There’s great determination on the part of the South Korean government to make sure that the North Koreans stay mysterious and spooky in the public eye, it seems. Meanwhile, the museum itself held everything from memorials to weapons and old vehicles of past wars. Were I a war machines buff, or at least a G.I. Joe fan, my Hard would certainly be On. That said, there’s great pleasure in stalking around the inside of an old battleship and fiddling with the compasses.

Oh yes, and later that evening The Lord and Lady invited me out to Hyehwa, where drunken hipsters sang classic rock and I got a ride home from the surliest cab driver ever. My lack of understanding of the Korean language left him miffed, no doubt, especially when he picked up another passenger on the way to Hapjeong Station who shared in his mirth as he poked my leg and laughed raucously at my expense. Picking up multiple passengers is apparently illegal, and he’s also supposed to tell me about the translation services offered by each taxi. Thank you, Korea. Next time, I’ll walk.

I’ve noticed several things while here. Firstly, according to banks and airports, my name is either Robe or Rovert. I don’t know how this keeps happenings, but I have so many documents with my name misspelled on them. They always get my surname right, which is nice, but for some reason there hasn’t been a Robert in Seoul for many a century and now they don’t know what to do with me.

The other thing is that everyone under the age of eighteen greets foreigners simply for the sake of it. I was wondering why so many middle school youths were shouting “Harlo naise tuu meechoo” everytime I passed by. Apparently some of them dare each other to do it; not sure why, it’s not like I breathe fire. I also quickly learned that you can dumbfound them by talking back in Korean. One boy in particular blanched and ran back to his friends in a gesture that practically said “OH SHIT THEY’RE LEARNING OUR LANGUAGE! THEY’RE ADAPTING!

Lastly, the women have been checking me to a distressing degree. Apparently this has to do with my height, because some pop star or another went out and said that anyone below 180 centimetres is “useless.” Either way, it’s been bizarre. The Commodore noticed a woman on the train who would cover a blemish on her leg every time I lifted my head. Several fashionable twenty-somethings from the area scanned me up and down and shot friendly smiles whenever I passed. One young lady cast a lingering look my way before quickly turning her attention back to her boyfriend.

It’s unsettling and pleasing at the same time. The single man in my head is flattered by this, but his paranoid roommate is causing a ruckus. Is it genuine interest or are these girls just following a trend? How do I know they’re not doing price checks on my organs with their eyes? Which one of them is a North Korean spy, trying to recruit me to star in Kim Jong-Il’s last film?

Who cares? They have ridiculously nice legs.

Next time: Robert gets deported from Asia; yes, the whole thing.

EDIT: May 20, 2012. Minor edits.

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