Thursday, October 29, 2015

Seoul Revisited

It turned out to be a three-day weekend on both sides (with people in Korea having the Friday and people in Japan having the Monday off), but yea, verily, we cared not that our flight was at least twice what it should have cost. Determined we were to once again set foot on the neighbouring peninsula that had become dear to our hearts and to toss back many a hearty draught in its Capitol, which is much more manageable and enjoyable in every way than this greatest and most populous city of Men, which in truth be a huge buzzkill.

I'm finally on the last book of the LOTR series and Aragorn has just planted a new White Tree in Minas Tirith, the darkness hath receeded, and oh em gee, Faramir and Eowyn falling in love is, like, so sweet.

Anyway, right, we were determined to get back to Seoul for a visit before the year was out, and it was exactly everything we wanted it to be.

Hannes wanted to be a real adult and stay in a hotel, so I found a cheap one, Casaville Sinchon.

It's an extended stay place and the room was more like an apartment. The floor and furniture were quite worn and damaged, so it wasn't shiny or new or anything, but it was definitely spacious, nice, and extremely conveniently-located, which was mostly what I was looking for when I booked it. "Standard double bed" also apparently means "... plus one single bed just in case", as you can sort of see.

After dropping off our stuff in the room and changing our shirts, first things were first: 
Try the new Mexican restaurant across the street.

Hannes had never had rock salt on the rim of a margarita glass before and didn't know it was a thing. He was not pleased, so I licked the salt off his glass. Then he was all like, "Ew," and I was like, "One or the other, you can't have it all!"

Apparently these veggie tacos weren't that great, though they don't look like they could be bad, either.

My "enchilada" was actually a burrito with enchilada sauce pooled on one side of the plate.
Look at all that cilantro. LOOK AT IT! It was glorious. There was also avocado in it. I inhaled it in the least ladylike manner possible, thus kicking off a glorious weekend of flouting the mild to moderate allergies that are driving me insane.

We decided to go to the recently re-opened Skunk Hell, which had been the first dedicated punk venue in Korea but had closed down by the time I moved there. They reopened it in Mullae, where the art street is, down the street from Space Moon (a couple miles from where I lived last year).

Ki Seok of The Geeks was the only person we knew there, which was pretty surprising. 
This was a pricey show for Korea, but we figured we'd see at least a couple more people we knew about. Oh well! Soju cider time!


What's a bit unusual and expensive in Korea is the minimum price you pay for a way-shittier show in Japan, full of asshats trying real hard to look cool and/or playing generic, formulaic music who speak absolutely 0 English and wouldn't make small talk with you even if they did. 

We made more new friends in one weekend back in Seoul than we have in 7 1/2 months in Japan. 

Hannes was starting to worry that it might be us. I was like, no, it's Japan.

You can try to sugarcoat it or apologise for Japanese people all you want, and be one of those awful excuses for a person who says shit like, "being friendly and accepting isn't part of their culture, you just don't understand the culture", but that's outright ridiculous. 
I really thought Tokyo would be awesome, and I was totally wrong. 

Even if my Japanese were more proficient and I could make decent conversation with people, no one wants anything to do with foreigners, and everyone is surprised that you actually live in Japan. Which it doesn't even feel like you do, because, again, at least in Tokyo, Japanese people won't have anything to do with you and are exclusive, cliquey, unwelcoming, and almost universally unable/unwilling to communicate in any other language (even after 12+ years of having English crammed down their throats), or to try to work with you and your very basic conversational Japanese the way people often do with those who barely speak English. 
As one could probably imagine, as a result, I'm not only finding it difficult to practice using any meaningful amount of Japanese, but am also finding it at least as difficult to feel any desire to talk with anyone in the first place. The irony. The ennui.

I'd had the impression that Japanese people were a bit timid and constrained by the almost entirely scripted social interactions and etiquette for which they're so well-known, but like most people from anywhere, mostly nice, and friendly. 
I've realised, though, that I was only dealing with Japanese people outside Japan. I don't think I can describe well enough the phenomenon of mind expansion that must occur when someone makes it off one of these islands to experience the outside world (Gasp! How strange and un-Japanese of you!), but not many Japanese people do. 

The impression I had was based on a small, unique group of people more like myself, much like the impression my Romanian tutor my last year of college had of Americans. He told me that people from back home kept asking if what they'd heard was true, that Americans were really loud, awful idiots who didn't read, travel, or learn any other languages. "And I said no, that's not true at all, the people I'm meeting and working with are very intelligent and interesting".
I was like, "Daci, you're dealing with such a tiny sliver of the population here, a tiny group totally different from everyone else. You're working at a university and interacting exclusively with mixed-ethnicity, multicultural, multilingual people interested in traveling the world, getting MA's and PhD's, and building great careers. You're specifically avoiding the masses, who are very much like the stereotypes". He nodded sadly, personally grieved - as a lover of romantic French literature and poetry, in the original French - by the fact that something like 30% of Americans didn't read a single book last year. 

But I've digressed enough, back to the main storyline here: With a number of exceptions that can practically be counted on one hand, the only other foreign people we've met at shows in Tokyo this whole time have been American military guys who originally came over here like 20 years ago and stayed, or people who were on vacation.

So, not seeing anyone we knew at Skunk Hell, we saw a solitary American-looking guy milling around out front while we were sitting there drinking, and were like, "Hey, hi, what's your name?"

Turns out he's an Air Force carpenter - which was a new one for both of us - who's transferring to Yokosuka (the base nearest Tokyo but still like 2 hours from it) next summer, and who dragged three of his Air Force friends to this show from Busan, because in his 7 or 8 months in Korea he hadn't met anyone else who was into hardcore.

They turned out to be a lot of fun, and we all got drunk, and shenanigans ensued, partly because this was the guy who pointed out the new flavoured soju to us, though it was only a matter of time. And it was also simultaneously the best and worst development to have occurred in our absence. 
He was like, "Oh, you haven't tried the lemon one? It's really good!" When he brought a bottle it back from a conbini run I was like, "You fool, what have you done?! This is yuzu, see? Citron, not lemon! And this stuff is fucking delicious!"

So, yeah, we got completely shipwrecked.

Some of the highlights include this chick you see in the picture below picking me up and piggybacking me, and then doing the same with Hannes! She's strong. The guy you see below - who was really, really funny - sat in a plastic convenience store chair that was broken, but just worn-out broken, not snap-in-half broken, so he was like, "Ah! Oh no! ..... Oh no!" as he slowly sank down to the ground under the bending chair leg, holding his drink aloft to save it, all the way down to the sidewalk. 
I also sat in a crappy plastic chair that just straight up broke.
Apparently I also slapped Hannes pretty hard, winding up for it and then sort of spinning out of control a little after making contact, which I was completely blacked out for. He makes some really bad puns and lame, snarky jokes (which are all hilarious and adorable of course), so I sometimes barely tap his cheek as if to jokingly say, you know, "Don't say that shit again", but I guess I completely lost control of my sense of force that time lol.

I don't even have a slight recollection of going to this place or where it was. Perfect!

I had nengmyeon, cold buckwheat noodles, and the Korean guy you see there reached over and cut it up and mixed it for me in exasperation, and did the same with the carpenter's noodles. That's a very Korean thing, to show non-Koreans how to eat. I tried to protest, saying I knew what to do and was just really wasted, but it was to no avail.

We did shots, which Hannes and I didn't even remember doing until we'd been piecing together the night for about a half hour the following morning. At some point everyone was cheering for me to slurp this one noodle, which of course then slapped me right in the eye. They're very stretchy and chewy, and the colour of that broth there should be a good indicator of how much that burned. Sexy and classy. Oh yes.

The following morning I woke up in a state of hungoverness that I hadn't achieved for years. My whole face was swollen and my eyes were swollen nearly shut, prompting me to wonder all kinds of things about whether or not I'd gotten kicked during the show, fallen down, tried to start a fight with someone, or what. When later that night I told Amy that my neck was all stiff because at one point I'd apparently started headbanging like a crazy person ("Oh yeaaah, I remember that.."), she was like, "Ohhh no, you've got a bangover?" and I was like, "Bangoveeer!" because I'd never heard that one before.

Bravely, very bravely, pausing and laying down on the floor only once or twice, I got up and got dressed while Hannes was still mostly out cold, and made what felt like a strangely long journey to the first floor of the building, where there was a Dunkin' Donuts. 

There were two German guys sitting in there talking, which struck me as quite odd, as I sat waiting for me order, half-slumped over with my forehead pressed against a small railing next to the tables. I could barely talk, count change, or carry more than one thing at a time, but even the kid working the counter made a little bit of small talk with me when I ordered in Korean. That has happened to me exactly once since we've been in Japan. Ridiculous! Anyway, it was nice, and I was very pleased with myself for acquiring hot coffee, cakey chocolate Munchkins and a ham and egg waffle sandwich for my companion, who was somehow feeling much worse than me.

Seeing him more incapacitated that I'd seen him in many moons, I decided that it would be a good time to run some of the errands I'd been planning and looking forward to for somewhat fewer moons, since Hannes has even less interest in even laser-targeted shopping than many other men. We agreed to meet at the bibimbap place we used to go to multiple times a week because it was like ten steps from my old apartment about an hour after I left.

In that extremely productive hour, working my way toward the bibimbap place all the time, I got new concealer and foundation, a year's worth of contact lenses, some headache, sinus, and stomach medicine, a $4.50 undershave, a bubble tea, a pastry, and the weird feeling that we had only just recently and temporarily left the area. I really felt at home there, and miss it.

Awww yiss

Grade AA hangover food

Bibimbap lady was happy to see us again, even if we can't really communicate!
(Oh man, I look so lumpy, my face was still pretty swollen)

We went back to our room and chilled for another hour or two before meeting Patrick and Amy in Hongdae and then walking to Hapjeong for another show, in support of Rumah Api.

I'd skimmed an article about corrupt Malaysian cops cracking down on a place and arresting about 100 punks, but I didn't know the name of it until I read the Facebook event page info and realised it was this one. When I went to Rumah Api's actual site the topmost post in the News section was an article about how it and a whole bunch of the neighbourhood around it is going to get knocked down to make room for a new expressway, so I thought the benefit show was about raising money for that. Turns out it's because the corrupt cops came up with a bunch of BS fines for the place to pay that they still need help with, after the crackdown incident. Doesn't sound very hopeful, does it? And we're talking about a bunch of straight-edge, Food Not Bombs, voluntarily cooking for and feeding the homeless punks and artists here, too, which makes it especially sad.

Please go to their site and donate if you can, or sign the petition.

Find the Spot

Dead Gakkahs

(and The More I See)

There's always at least one of these. I didn't have a drop to drink that night, though, with such a gnarly bangover going on lol

First attempt at a nice group photo didn't quite work out

Yuppie Killer

Not sure why Channel 1969 has the GDR flag on the wall, but Hannes approves

Another angle of the large group shot, even if it is blurry

And the main group shot, as posted by @themoreisee, who's also the drummer of Scumraid

Speaking of Scumraid..

Ah ha! Finally! Here it is! This is exactly the photo I wanted. 
We miss our friends.

The next morning Hannes was pretty dead again, but my former coworker and conversation partner Takako had been messaging me about possibly meeting up between her classes, so I suggested Gusto Taco in Sangsu and was extremely happy that she hadn't been before and was totally down for Mexican food.

Before meeting her I got myself a very badly-needed ~$13 manicure and picked up a new phone case for less than half of what they cost in Tokyo, some paint that was of course also cheaper, a Sailormoon Nanoblock knockoff set for myself and one for a friend, and a couple pairs of $1 Ghibli character socks for myself plus a couple more for another friend.

Spared no expense. I went full bird with the veggie tacos, a margarita, an order of tofu taquitos with homemade nacho cheese and a side of guacamole to share.

We had a really, really nice time chatting and catching up. I could only get her to take a sip of my strong margarita since she was between classes, though. Damn! I wanted to be a much worse influence.

Sadly, Hannes and I didn't make it to vinyl for a few of their great IV bag cocktails, but I had never gotten a picture of the robot facade, so I've got that going for me I guess.

DGAF about One Piece but liked how this looked; it was a really nice day.

One of the things on my To Do List was to get Hannes a set of these adorable muffin-cupcakes like I did last year, when I first started trying to get him into Halloween. 
Instead of breakfast and lunch he ate the whole set in one sitting!

"I think that one's strawberry?"
"OMG! It's red inside! -splat-"

It was Monday night, so it didn't seem like plans to meet up and drink with people would be very fruitful, until Abel suggested an import beer convenience store he knew in Kyungridan so that Eun Seong would also be able to come. 
While we were sitting there with beer and pizza from next door (and another bottle of that yuzu soju just for me), another guy we knew from the punk scene and who I talked about in my last-show-in-Korea post just happened right into us, as he was stopping for a couple of beers on the way home. We were like, "Oh! Eddie! Do you have time to sit down and have a drink?!", and he did indeed. 
I think he missed keeping up his German with Hannes, who he stumbled into early-on, and maybe a month or so before I met him. 

This apparently perpetually drunk adjumma who runs the import beer shop is zany and hilarious. I think we all secretly or not-so-secretly wish we were having as much fun as her while doing things like being at work and cleaning, amirite?

It was good times, but as we got up to move to a nearby bar called Pet Sounds, Eddie had to go, and Patrick and Amy were once again summoned even though Patrick was working until 10 and I'd promised him we'd meet up right near where he lives/we were staying because that'd be much easier. It was surprising and kind of meant a lot to us when they came to Kyungridan anyway.


Another guy I'd met a couple times who still works at Berlitz named John also joined us, and we had more snacks, played some darts, and made merry until everyone had to catch the last trains home. 

Patrick, Amy, Hannes, and I all headed back to Sinchon and wandered around the main intersection near our respective lodgings looking for a place that was still open to have food. The night before we'd gone to McDonald's because the one there has this new, high-tech, touch-screen, build-your-own-burger ordering system, and because most everything else had just closed.

We ended up having one more mediocre but still very welcome bibimbap for the road, and Patrick and Hannes shared waaaay too many dumplings because they were really cheap, and why not.

Le sigh

Parting ways was almost as sad as the first time, when I had those two come over to my then-empty apartment and take a bunch of useful household items and products that I hadn't managed to sell, and that they were in need of at the time. Once again we stood in the road in the cold saying "bye" for too long, hugging (okay, that was mostly Amy), and talking about visiting in the future, in that place and in others.

The next day Hannes and I went and saw The Martian at the nearby CGV after checking out of our hotel, which for whatever reason had reeked very powerfully of burning hair since the night before. We'd both read the book earlier this year and had really been looking forward to it, and since I had an old voucher it only cost 5000 won to see it, which made up for the fact that we didn't make it to a 4DX showing or the Starium theatre. 

We both really liked it and thought they did it all right, except for the fact that the very clearly Indian and Korean characters were... not, as this article about the whitewashing of the movie explains. I figured that a Korean character was a big part of the reason the movie was marketed heavily there, but apparently not. Aside from that totally unnecessary fumble, I'd recommend it highly.

We tried to go back to Taco Loco for lunch after the movie and before we had to catch our flight, but it was closed (boooo!), so we had a bit of Indian food instead.

Ehrmahgerd, Gehrfield
One more sweet potato latte for the road, even though my stomach couldn't really handle any more milk.

Haneda and Gimpo are WAY more convenient than Narita and Incheon. 
We have to do this again sometime.

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