Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Stream of Consciousness on the KTX

Seoul is warm and very hazy today, with the sun trying to break through the tan dust everywhere. I’m wearing the same shirt, vest, and blazer that I wore yesterday and I don’t care—it’s not like I care about impressing my coworkers, and my customer didn’t see me yesterday. Eff them.

(In a good way, if there is indeed such a thing. I would never offend a customer by wearing the same thing two days in a row. Fortunately I don’t have to worry about it.)

A red-head (even with my hair up) full on RUNNING for a train in a suit, backpack, and patent leather high heels will attract a lot of attention in Seoul Station, it turns out. Fortunately that worked out to our favor—a janitor type person stopped my Korean coworker and motioned to us that we were going the wrong way. “They’ve changed the KTX entrance,” he said, and by God, he was right.

Seoul is such a SAFE town. I don’t know anything about the organized crime here, but I do know that my Korean coworker has no compunctions about leaving his suit jacket and briefcase on his seat in the train while he goes to the restroom. He knew that I was there (probably) watching them, but still. Also, Seoul is incredibly friendly. The janitor had no problem with flagging Korean Coworker down and directing him to the right place, and even more strangely still, Korean Coworker had no problem stopping to listen. I’m not sure if I would have stopped if a janitor had flagged me down in NYC, for example. Maybe I would, since the janitor would immediately use words that I would understand.

Seoul is a weird mix of formal and informal, aloof and accessible. They bow all the time, and can be incredibly genuflectious, if that is even a word. Even just in formal business settings. And I’ve been in places in which I’ve been full on ignored, like at Nam Dae Mun market, in which I was the only white girl for miles, or because I’ve just joined a table of men and the waitstaff are obviously waiting for the men to flag them down to get me a cup of coffee, and their eyes slide right over my frantic hand signals. On the other hand, in Korean business, NO ONE ignores me. A Korea conference table is a like a lit up stage, I’m on so much display. And Korean Coworker just returned to his usurped seat and reached over the man now sitting there to grab his bottle of water. Neither the man nor Korean Coworker seemed aware of each other’s presence nor exchanged a word, and they passed within a hair's breadth of each other.) In America, someone leaning over my seat would immediately put me on high alert, but the Koreans (and I think they share this with most Asian cultures) have no sense of personal space whatsoever. They will breathe down the back of your neck. It’s disconcerting, but also friendly, or at least, familiar. Koreans will stand and argue with the ticket taker or flight attendant for what seems like FOREVER, and they obviously feel comfortable doing so.

I wish I had brought my phone. The countryside is really quite beautiful today, even in the haze; it’s incredibly green. And my mood has improved from yesterday, in which I was so heartsick that even the huge chunks of free Brie seemed unpalatable; I will have QUITE a lot of time today to walk and run errands and take pictures, and that is a wonderful thing. I think the tan high rises everywhere are apartment buildings, if I had to guess. They’re sure building a lot of them, and they’re all marked with numbers on the side. I wonder if there is some standard apartment building labeling system to make the post easier? Would make sense. Seoul is growing by leaps and bounds.

They’ve changed the wifi system; either that, or I only get free wifi in the first class car and I arrived too late today at the station to get a first class ticket. No matter. I can post this later

Quite a lot of this countryside that I’m currently passing is using solar panels. I wonder if there is a special incentive applied in this district?

I’ve been thinking a lot about my post from yesterday, and I want to emphasize that I am not an anthropologist or a psychologist, nor do I have any training in the field. And I haven’t run my ideas by a Korean person. I may be 100% wrong. Maybe the closets are over the windows. Maybe clothes in the window (because it’s certainly not 100%) signifies something sinister, or class-oriented, or some other social cue that I can’t pick up because I don’t know. I’m just making it up as I go along.

I want to get a few pictures of Seoul at dusk tonight—there’s quite a few Christian churches by me (I’m in an area heavily populated by ex-pats) and they all have gorgeous neon crosses on them. As a mix of contemporary, foreign, and an attempt to also make the church building itself blend in with the landscape (which is only, itself, probably 20 years old) it is fascinating. Also, of course, I’m trying to convince my roommate to let me have a neon cross in the apartment.

I REALLY wish I had brought my phone. I could have gotten an excellent picture of the “Sweet Long Sugar”. Maybe I’ll grab a packet on the way back.

Things I’d like to do today:

Drop off my suits

Tour the palace by Insadong

Buy postcards at mm/mg and send them to people.

Possibly stroll the grounds at the Grand Hyatt? If I have time?

Go by the Body Shop and buy wipes? So far my skin is awesome. The Yes To Blueberries stuff and the Argan oil has really made a fast difference.

My hands are just okay. They haven’t fallen off yet, so that’s a good sign.

*End stream of consciousness post.*

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