Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Episode 44: In Which DFM Becomes A Victim, Helps A Victim, And Eats A Coincidence

On Tuesday I was told that I needed to vacate my former premises by Thursday (just two days later, for those of you doing the maths). As a result I was forced to spend most of Wednesday cleaning up the pigsty that used to be my room.

Over the course of the last four months I had managed to amass a rather large amount of excess supplies that would not fit in my suitcase. During my last stay in Korea the same thing happened to me, as well, but I was actually able to cram everything into my suitcase. However, the consequence of my efficient packing was that I was charged an extra $100 at the airport for a suitcase that tipped the scale 20 kg over the limit. Looking to avoid a similar blow to my wallet, I took some advice from a friend and decided to send a package home ahead of time through the mail.

As seems to be the norm with government sites in Korea, the Korea Post website is awful. Oh sure, there are lots of colourful boxes, and buttons to press, but very little real information is given, and as usual there seems to be no way to actually find out how to get to any one of the buildings for which the website was designed.

Again I had to use independent websites to find the location of a government building in Seoul (in this case, my neighbourhood's post office) and set off to find it. Once I found the post office, I got set packing all of my things into the largest of the boxes you can buy there for a nominal fee, with the intention of sending it to my house in Canada via the ultra slow, but relatively cheap "surface mail." However, since I lacked the necessary Korean language capability to request what is probably a rarely requested service, I was charged over $100 to send it through the air (AKA the money I was hoping to avoid spending by going to the post office in the first place).

* * * * *

Later that night I went to Hongdae to meet Scarlett and her friend (not Liz, the other one, I feel horrible that I keep forgetting her name). When I reached the station I tried to find the exit at which she told me to meet, but it didn't seem to exist. After a few phone calls, and a game of hide and seek, it became apparent that in all the stress and confusion of the last few days I had forgotten that she changed our meeting place last night, and so I was at the wrong station.

Eventually we met up in Sillim (I think I know the streets of Sillim better than my own neighbourhood I've been there so often), and Scarlett decided to take me out for naengmyeon. I was pretty excited because at that time, I had been asked about a dozen times if I had tried naengmyeon, and I would finally be able to say yes.

When I got my bowl, I was expecting something really spicy. Everything in Korea is hot and spicy it seems, and I kind of like that now. Much to my surprise though, naengmyeon is a bowl of buckwheat noodles in a tangy soup that has a bunch of ice floating around in it, but it's definitely not spicy.

I still can't believe it, but up until that point I had just thought it an ironic coincidence that the word for refriderator is 냉장고 - "naeng-jang-go." I had wondered on more than one occasion why something designed to keep food cold, would sound so similar to a hot, spicy Korean dish, but as soon as I saw the ice in the bowl I felt kind of stupid. ("naeng" - mean cold.)

* * * * *

On the way home I had my first experience with a subway drunkard. This particular man had spread himself out on the bench occupying two seats for himself. A third and fourth seat were occupied by a combination of alcohol bottles, a bag, the sugared candies that used to be in the bag, and a bag of kimchi that the man had been eating with his hands. I'm not exactly sure what he had been drinking (and still drinking), but it had an incredibly strong camphorous scent, and the eyes of the poor guy sitting beside him were watering pretty badly.

As well as breaking the law, the drunkard was obviously breaking a strict sociatal code of ethics, or so I gathered from the looks of disgust and distain most of the older Koreans were throwing his way. He couldn't be bothered with that though, and so chose to try and pick a fight with theth the only guy kind enough to sit by him and put up with his state.

I'm not sure what was said, but the drunkard first started talking to the guy next to him, who was listening to music on his headphones and reading a book at that time. When the man couldn't hear him, the drunkard starting yelling at him, until he noticed the drunkard's voice and looked up. He was quite patient for some time in listening to and responding to whatever the drunkard was asking, and one would think the drunkard would have appreciated the man's kindness. Apparently that's not how drunkards think though, for he then started to get beligirent with the kind man. This especially offended a gentleman in his mid-sixties, sitting on the other side of the kind victim, who then became quite stern with the drunkard for his lack of manners. However this only served to spur the drunkard on more, and he once again directed more of his annoying behaviour towards the unfortunate young man literally caught in the middle.

At this moment, what I had been waiting to happen finally did happen, and the kimchi covered hand that the drunkard had been waving around started coming closer and closer to the young man's white shirt. Finally the young man's patience had worn too thin, and he stood up in disgust. The older man told him he should call the police, but the younger man said it was alright, although it was plain to see that he was rather upset. I smiled at him and asked him if everything was all right, which I like to think helped distract him enough so that he could calm down.

And with the show over just in time for me to get off at my station, I headed home to try and get some sleep before my big move the next day.

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