When I went today, though, the skeev factor was pumped up by at least 10. Maybe because it's the first time in a while that I've gone by myself. Despite the sketchiness of Itaewon, I usually do look forward to going there when I'm with friends. No matter how anybody might feel about it, it's a useful place. There's a foreign food market that sells granola, Western spices, and beans (all hard to get in Korea), an excellent English bookstore, plus-sized clothing shops, and a terribly named restaurant called Foreign Restaurant that has a fantastic Indian buffet (with halvah for dessert!). There's also my favourite Thai restaurant in all the world, where they give you a private dining room on your birthday. Not to mention art stores and antique shops. It can be a fun place.
That was not the case today. It started before I even got to Itaewon. I was on my way to a play in Hyehwa and thought I'd nip in to pick up some pre-made pizza crusts for homemade pizza. As soon as I got on the orange line of the Seoul Metro, I noticed that this foreign guy sitting further down the subway car was staring at me in the perviest way. Every few seconds I would look back at him to see if he was still staring...and yep, he always was. When the train stopped I wanted to get out of there as quickly as I could, and the guy followed me through the station to the concourse that switches to the brown line. When we got to the escalator I took the stairs instead. I flew down them and by a miracle of good timing, there was a train already at the platform. I managed to squeeze in just as the doors were closing. The guy ended up being stuck on the platform. My relief was palpable.
So I was already a bit unsettled by the time I actually got to Itaewon. I went to the market, and no pizza crusts, but they had Indian flatbreads that would do just as well. I bought them and strode back down the street back to the subway line, when this OTHER pervy guy, even pervier than the last, stepped into my path. With a smile that would grease rubber, he looked at me and said, "Good afternoon, ma'am."
I just shoved past him and kept walking. Fortunately Itaewon is always crowded so it was easy to lose him. I was really happy to get back on the subway and out of there. I think from now on, if I'm by myself, it would be better to go to the foreign food market in Hannam, which is on the same street as a bunch of churches and has a highly reduced sketch factor.
On another, unrelated note, it would seem that my New Year's Resolution to write in this blog weekly has fizzled. I have decided that, to motivate myself to write more often, I should start a new feature. It will be entitled "Korean Randomness of the Week." This will be a good way for me to show you all of the things that I love about Korea, as well as give you a sense of just how random this place is. Doing this feature will require me to act partly as a journalist and partly as a cultural anthropologist. Every week I will locate an example of the absolute randomness that is Korean culture. Then I will attempt to explain things about it that, by all logic, defy explanation.
My first contribution comes from my students. As an assignment for their Communication Arts class, I had my ninth and tenth graders write and perform their own commercials. In the class blogs I have them keep, many of my students provided links to their own favourite commercials. Since I don't have cable in Korea, I haven't seen most of them, so I checked them all out.
The first commercial is an ad for SK Telecom's broadband service. I did not include because it deserves the "Randomness Award of the Week," but because it deserves the "AWESOMENESS Award of the Week." It is just a really cool commercial. I can't embed it, but you can watch it by clicking here.
The second commercial, however, is in a class by itself. It is a cell phone commercial that is currently very popular in Korea right now. It features none other than K-Pop sensation Big Bang!
Her skirt is, by far, the greatest thing ever!
This commercial makes me proud to own a Cyon cell phone. I was also proud of myself for understanding the first few song lyrics. They go like this:
"Give me an ice cream, please! Give me two ice creams, please!"
I'm glad that my efforts to learn Korean have allowed me to pick up these subtle nuances.