Population-wise, it's the third biggest city in the world, right behind Tokyo and New York City. If you include its greater metropolitan area, Seoul/Incheon teems with more than twenty-three million people walking the streets. Twenty-three million people. There's no way I can wrap myself around that number. To me, it only means one thing:
alot of fucking people.
Saturday night in Seoul. I join three of my fellow teachers for a bus into the city. It shakes and rattles through traffic-lit tunnels. David strikes up a conversation with two Canadian women dressed in Halloween garb and I pop myself into the fray. White people. White women. Not such a common sight in Bundang, at least in my very limited three days here.
One has witchly facepaint and somehow starts talking about her failed acting career, from her early 90's experience as prostitute in Wiseguy, the short-lived Kevin Spacey mob series, to her stint on All My Children. I don't remember if she told us she was an extra on that show, or if she played a prostitute as well. She seems kind of distraught. Maybe playing prostitutes can do that to you.
The other Canadian is dressed as Medusa. She's from Nova Scotia. Both are English teachers. Medusa is kind of cute, I won't lie. I can safely and confidently say that this is the very first time I'm talking with a Nova Scotian woman dressed as Medusa on a bus bound for Seoul.
We get to the city proper and stumble upon some street food. Looks like traditional sausages, but they taste like something wholly new. Delicious, flavorful. I tell my mom this story, and she tells me maybe I was eating dog. Very funny, mom. But if she's right, then I love myself some dog.
Outside it's cool but not cold. Koreans walk through very narrow streets, illuminate signs climbing three and four stories above, cars honking and weaving through the foot traffic, motorcycles threatening to clip you if you slip up. So. many. people. Women here often walk arm in arm, and it's not because one is drunk or both are lesbians, it's because that's what women do here. Even men sometimes, arm over shoulder, just because. It's a night out. It's Seoul. It's Korea. To paraphrase Montell Jordan, this is how they do it. Sha na na- na- na- na.
So we go to Water Cock. Seriously. (Author's Note 9/1/08: I was wrong. The place was called Jazz Rock. Water Cock was a different establishment right above it. My bad, but hey, I was new!) It's an intimate hipster lounge/bar nestled into an alley.
There, amid the blast of Rolling Stones , Yo La Tengo and Tom Waits posters on the walls, I talk to a short-skirted Korean girl who recently traveled through Europe. Her favorite spot? "Amsterdam!" she says with a tee-hee giggle. I ask if she's ever visited the US. She hasn't, but she wants to go to..."Las Vegas!" Another tee-hee.
This girl smoothly flirts with the Americans across the table. "Can I write on your hand?" she asks one. "Can you teach me how to tie a tie?" she asks another. Good thing she didn't ask me. My ex-girlfriend's 10 year-old brother taught me how to tie a tie just last year, and I don't know if I remember quite how it's done. But forget that. I sip my Hite beer and listen to the plinking keys of a song I don't know. This is the Water Cock. (Author's Note: Um, no, it's actually Jazz Rock.)
Later we wander out into the night. At this point, there's six or seven of us. We're supposed to meet the Canadians but circumstances beyond our control make that impossible. Those circumstances include us rounding the same streets two or three times, like video game characters. Haven't we seen this food vendor stand before? Haven't I already seen those posters advertising the Click Five coming to Seoul?
Every restaurant is crowded and few can seat us. One rooftop spot looks cool but we can't get up there. We settle on a green-lit diner that serves us fried chicken and fries. A little reprieve from the Korean traditionals.
Among our group tonight is a girl from New Zealand who speaks English, Korean, French, and Spanish. She has a very distinct accent and I ask her if she likes Flight of the Concords; she chuckles and say yes, it's funny, that her friend Jason introduced her to the show. She also has a lip ring. She wants to be an interpreter. Seems like there's interesting personalities everywhere I turn here; I hope that pattern continues.
The clock inches past 4, past 5. The night is winding down. Into the cab. A little taste of Seoul, but I'm sure I'll return and get a better perspective. The Han River to our right. Back to the apartment at 6am. Hazy twilight through the windows.