A Travellerspoint blog

Post-Expedition: it was over

... and then it was never over !

sunny

WOW OKAY I AM A BAD BLOG KEEPER
also, nearly all of my entries have over 200 views? wha? Hello hello mystery and repeated readers; imagine me waving enthusiastically at you!

So! Obviously I made it back to my Home Country all in one piece, through the perilous perils of Shanghai and transatlantic flights with no TV and the fact they confiscated my banana milk before boarding (ITS NOT AN EXPLOSIVE WHYYYY).

Anyway, so. Let's ~weigh the experience~ shall we? right, so, Korea has issues; I'll be real. there are a lot of people. they are still extremely hierarchical. many of them are high-maintenance. they have only one genre of music so help you god if you don't want to hear 2NE1 and SHINee 22.5 hours each and every day. there are cultural institutions of which I am less than fond. everyone is tiny and body conscious to the point of disturbing. everyone will Inception you if you are not a black-haired waif wearing six-inch heels. sometimes you will eat something and it will be an octopus.

BUT there are also a ton of amazing brilliant things happening and I LOVED THE CRAP OUT OF IT .

Being back from Extreme Adventure always entails a case of Post-Expedition Letdown Syndrome, but this is definitely the worst I've had it since London.
Sometimes I'll look at things and have, like, a VISCERAL flashback momentary hallucination, or I was looking at this completely pointless tabloid article and they were out to dinner and I was just like CRYING FOREVER I CAN PICTURE AND TASTE AND SEE AND SMELL THAT PERFECTLY and got irrationally jealous of xyz celebrity not for being xyz celebrity but for being in Korea and going out to eat. HOW DARE HE hahaha.

This connects to how much I loved the beautiful scenery and historical sights that made me fall over fangirling ancient earrings and the AMAZING big-hearted welcoming enthusiastic helpful people but also I'm not gonna lie the food is a giant part of my deeeeeeep crushing woe at the differences between our faraway nations. I be fantasizing about that iced soup for REAL, yo; and a cold day like today I would beat someone up in the alley if they stood in the way of potential dumpling soup (don't worry guys it's not a possibility, no harm no foul).
not to mention the tiny fish-shaped waffles stuffed with red bean paste, about which my sad friends and family can attest I will pretty much not shut up.
NOT TO MENTION THE BANANA MILK, DID I MENTION THAT. haha. but for real. the food there is out of control off the chain amazing and I wish we ate that well here.

This is not really a deep and powerful reflection. Oh right here's some deep thoughts for you:
so we have A BILLION AND ONE koreans here - like seriously they own like 90% of the businesses within a one mile radius, and korean is definitely the second most spoken language - but they have the weirdest relationship ever with their korean-ness and their home country and I have learned a lot from it. i.e. this trip, and coming back, has taught me to appreciate yourself and where you are a lot more.
there's always a tendency to either romanticize and pedestal or self-deprecate the crap out of your place of origin and neither really is the right thing to do and I'm super tired of hearing it! get it together, people of all nations!
like, mucho of the koreans here all speak korean unless absolutely necessary, but are stratified by 'time off the boat' and resent the FOBbiest among them; they all have jay park ringtones but pretend they only listen to kanye west. they are simultaneously too cool for the usa and too cool for korea - it must be exhausting really, and you shouldn't bother.
on the flip side, it was super cool in middle school (and high school) to be too cool for america. we were all like "if bush gets elected i'm moving, if palin gets elected I'm moving, the british school system is so great I wish I were taking A-levels, there's so much more culture in france blah blah blah" and I STILL hear it a lot (although now a lot of people are more educated about those other countries and many get into social activism here YOU GO, STELLA!! haha)
but anyway - you know what? I've been really, really lucky in my life and I've gotten to see a lot of (developed, mostly ex-imperial) countries. When I was in middle school and spent the summer in London, I came home and was like This is Heaven, I am moving here ASAP ASAP A.S.A.P when can I leave this stupid dump now see I would still totally move there because my soul is, like, part british BUT that was a stupid attitude.

I still love England to death - history, culture, dress, people, buildings, food - but it's not paradise. NOWHERE IS. Korea has issues. England has issues. "If Bush gets elected, I'm moving to Canada" - yeah guess what CANADA HAS ISSUES TOO (uh, maybe less haha. BUT THEY'RE THERE have you ever spoken to a canadian, seriously). Sweden has the Vasa and blonde people and fjords, but it has issues. Germany has castles and metrosexuals and Berlin, but it has issues. France has crousants and the Louvre and issues. Korea has bibimbap and Silla crowns and fish-shaped waffles and the most attractive men on Earth (outside Germany maybe), and issues.
And yeah, America has issues.

=== B U T! ===
Let's quit being too cool for school and appreciate that here there are ALSO gorgeous mountains and trails all over, Neal Stephenson writes kickass books (here! in english!), people can and do wear hideous uggs to class, we eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and spaghetti is cheap and you eat it with a fork, metallica and lady gaga and bob dylan and fall out boy are all on the radio, the air is clear and clean, we have the first amendment and the internet and a bus system with drivers who will tell you when your stop is coming up.... I love London, I love Berlin, I love Seoul and Gyeongju and Cheongju and I also love it here. And life is so much more awesome that way.

OH and the number one mystery of my vacation, namely what the bloody hell was all that zillion pounds of rice doing at that musical, AN ANSWER HAS BEEN FOUND. it was donated to mr. flawless big-name star , who donated it to north korea. THREE AND A HALF THOUSAND POUNDS. these fanclubs may be cray cray for real, but that is really sweet. A+ you 'shawols' (still lol'ing on that tho).

SO THE FUTURE TELL US ABOUT THAT : well I'm going back, that much is certain. when, hopefully not until next fall, because as much as I want to get on the plane RIGHT NOW LETS GO , it'll probably be for much much longer than two weeks and I want to appreciate where I am while I am still here.

<3 <3

Posted by dodie.does 13:34 Archived in USA Tagged home again jiggity jig Comments (1)

can't keep up!

too many adventures!!

You have never driven until you have driven in Asia: A Primer

- Every car has a Navi. Totally understandably.

- If you leave the freeway and turn down basically any street in any city, and then get out of your car, you will be able to spread your arms and touch both sides of the road. There is good reason all the cars are like a yard wide! It's a honeycomb of doom and peril!! If I had a dollar for the number of times I covered my eyes and went 'NOT POSSIBLE!!' I would own a hanok in Seoul. PEDESTRIANS! HAIRPIN TURNS! HEAD-ON INTERACTIONS! I would never drive here the end pretty much.

- you have to pay to use the freeway here! it is not a freeway! it is an expensiveway! You take a ticket from a machine tollbooth at the on-ramp, and then all the exits are blocked with tollbooths where a lady takes all your money along with the ticket! Korea!

- 'trapicjam bad' oic. OH NO YOU DONT YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW TRAFFIC JAM until you came to asia. azn traffic jam=new artistic level for traffic jam. impressive times. We must have been passed by at least thirty cars just legit using the shoulder as another lane (as Deokjae says, 'BAD BOYS!!')

- Rest stops in Korea! Epik! There's no such thing as truckers driving to Florida from Oregon and logging days on the road since the entirety of Korea is roughly the size of Indiana. Rest stops are big complexes randomly in the middle of nowhere countryside rural Korea, and include bathroom and restaurant and gas station and shopping place etc etc etc HUGE!

- I must have heard We Got Married, Heartbeat, Mystery, Jojo, and Women's World a thousand times each. AT LEAST. We drove seven hours on two CDs and like, I like a lot of those songs but I was ready to scream if I heard any more 2PM for about a week thnx very much. Also it was really interesting having to explain Paparazzi, Poker Face, Kiss me through the Phone, Black Eyed Peas, Sean Kingston etc etc etc to the ESL listener ... Flo Rida and Ke$ha are super popular (WHY GOD WHY) and listening to Korean popular radio fare and then ours was, like, damn guys we suck at being emotional human beings why is our music retarded mysogynist drivel please DIAF Ke4ha and Soulja Boy thxkbai.

- The scenery is gorgeous beyond belief, omg wow wow wow it's predominantly deciduous and more tropical-ish trees SO GREEN AND LEAFY and SO. MANY. HILLS. we must have gone through twice the tunnels of my life combined (because of them hills) which was interesting since they have massive wind turbine things in them and fire stops and passageways branching off to the side like dwarf tunnel style or something and also go on forever.

Also there was a lot of ancient-looking terraced farm action happening around villages...then more leafy hills and then randomly in the middle of semingly NOWHERE would be a perfectly manicured grassy clearing with big mounds and stone pillar things!! Literally hundreds of these little grassy grave shrine knolls all over Korea; amaaaaaaaaaaaaaazing. PLUS!! Yesterday not so much but since today was Chuseok there were PEOPLE at some of them doing ancestor visiting from whatever uncseen villages these belonged to!! Yes!

The story went like this (Koreans LOVE the word Story. All the stores are like, 'Food Story' and 'The Story of Tea' and 'Basebal Story' idk idk??):
Busan byeee early morning will I make the bus - most plushy deluxe bus of my whole life ever to Gyeongju - where is deokjae where is deokjae waiting waiting waiting finally after an hou use the pay phone in korean:
Chloe: Hello Deokjae where are you??
Deokjae: At bus station!
Chloe: I am at the bus station!
Deokjae: Me too!
Sidenote: the bus station is approximately the size of my bathroom (surrounded by old men who keep coming up and going TAXI! TAXI! YOU NEED A TAXI?)
Anyway he was around the block for that whole hour, we are awesome. But! Reunited! Party!
Time to see Gyeongju!

Shilla Millenium Park : It's a theme park. Of ancient Shilla. Basically, the best thing ever. Also !!! Filming locations of Queen Seondeok !!! Chloe GEEKS OUT OF HER MIND !! THEY HAD A SHOW OF HWARAND TRAINING EXERCISES YOU GUYS. YOU GUYS. It was historical paradise. I was like I wrote an essay about this! I wrote an essay about THIS! I saw a movie with this! I SAW THIS IN QUEEN SEONDEOK KIM NAMGIL HAS STOOD ON THIS SPOT DIE OF JOY.
Pretty much.

ugh ugh ugh late so part two commencing later....buuuuuuut then we had Many Many Many Adventures oh my gosh Deokjae driving champion and I love Cheongju! and Happy Chuseok!!

Posted by dodie.does 05:32 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

vol. 6 : .....still in Busan

dark dark days but good times ensue

sunny

Right, okay, so. I'm still in Busan, even though I had planned to be in Daegu yesterday morning...haha SURPRISE GUYS I hate life.
So I bought the new camera, and took some really nice pictures. I saw A Celebrity! at Lotte department store, and ate street food weird chickin on a stick and the freshest peach juice of my whole life, and then went out to dinner with a girl from my hostel from Texas.
and took a picture.
and turned the camera off.
and then turned it on to take another one
..... and it's broken.
in the exact same way. it doesn't focus. I literally, literally cannot even.
Not even two bags of gummy dog bones and watching Taemin eating a ricecake version of himself on Star King could help ease the pain. About four people from my hostel tried fiddling with EVERYTHING and reset it, etc etc etc...no luck.

Sooooooooo today was The Great Busan Camera Adventure PART TWO. And if anything happens with this camera so help me I will lose all remaining faith in love or justice, jfc please please please be a good camera pleeease
I would really like to subvert these memories so I'mma keep it brief, but the amazing Jin whom I love wrote out a bunch of hangul saying THIS CAMERA DOESNT WORK THE FOCUS IS BROKEN I BOUGHT IT YESTERDAY and Suzanne met me at the Lotte Giant Globe and holy dang I was glad to see her and say words like BELLINGHAM and ENGLISH and SOBBING FOREVER etc etc and we went off to find Home Plus AGAIN jfc. We got there in 40minutes instead of 2.5 hours, so that was an improvement, and then the dudes at the counter spoke, say it with me now, ZERO ENGLISH but read the note and tried the camera a zillion times....
....yeah it worked perfectly. I was like, you have GOT to be joking me, I cannot EVEN right now; luckily Suzanne had seen it being demented and knew I wasn't making it up but he didn't so that was bad.
So he called Jin who is my angelic heroine and they had a chat in moontalk and then suddenly the camera did it's demonfocus thing and I was like SEE SEEE SEEE and he said Gley or Lead and I was confused but then I got a brand-new grey Canon Mju 7010. Again. And this thing had better #$^#ing work. I pointed at the camera (bad one) and was like 'WHY??' and he just shook his head and said I don't know, so the mystery remains how on earth two fine cameras could have malfunctioned in the EXACTLY IDENTICAL FASHION in TWO SUBSEQUENT DAYS unless cursed by the heavens in which case they can chill out now thanks.
Hopefully it's not the charger or something...but why would they sell all this stuff (100% of the things in that camera/with that camera were bought IN BUSAN) that doesn't work here??? So everyone please cross your fingers and inquire with higher deities that this bb works like a dream rather than NIGHTMARE OF DEMONSPAWN.
Oh also Kara in pink cheerleader outfits was STILL PLAYING on endles repeat in the background. The employees must have a major boner for Kara or something cos I only had to see three hours of it and I would be happy to never see it again thnx. Although they did play No Other which has been my zen song for most of the summer so that put me in a nicely zen place ahaha. Sort of.

Then we had Green Tea Lattes at the Home Plus Food Court and embarked on Further Adventure.

Went up Busan Tower, which Suzanne had never done (!!) so it was perfect! This totally random dude comes up to us in the exhibit about the crazy difference between present and 1954 Busan and talked to us for probably about twenty minutes in pretty good but amusing English about the 'soul of the animal and soul of the human' and how much better the old days were because everyone was pure of heart and looking only to support fellow human souls and best spiritual friends with the cow.
The dude looked about 35 so I was side-eying him a bit about that - like, what were you THERE I really don't think all of Korea was just 'pure innocent souls' 24/7 amidst crippling poverty and a hugely devastating war (even though I definitely wrote a paper two years ago about the Surprisingly Romantic Memories of the Korean War among survivors) OMG A SPIDER JUST BIT ME ON THE FOOT WTF I WILL KILL YOU wow it itches like a mother already. perfect. in related insect experiences, I have a jillion more mosquito bites (probs cos we're by the coast/water?) and my bedbug/cockroach/??? bites are healing sloooooooooooooowly after itching like burning for four days and swelling up gigantically. GOOD TIMES PLS GO AWAY NOW.

Anyway where was I , oh right random dude. So he went on and on and then wanted us to sign his book he like whips out because Suzanne is 'very venerated old educator' etc etc and then we managed to escape down to where this loud traditional music was playing and there were a bunch of traditional dancer chicks! Totally awesome! There was also a group of girls with traditional instruments waiting in the wings (KAYAGEUM CASE WOOO) but they weren't on for another hour so we peaced out.
Then we walked through a peaceful shady grove FULL of really old dudes playing Go! It was also totally awesome! It was like Retirement Park Party Zone, all these ancient dudes in their utility vests playing Go and feeding pigeons. you go, old dudes.

Then we got lost some more and bought Engrish tee shirts which I'm pretty sure the salesladies clued in as we read them aloud and cracked up hysterically (my favorite: LOVE IS ONE YOU THING ABOUT DURING SAD SONG) and then went to the second Lotte department store (THE EARTH IS OWNED BY LOTTE HERE BASICALLY) and had lunch at the Mongolian Grill.
It is frankly ASTOUNDING how much happier and more comfortable I feel with just one other person here, ugh seriously. I always feel self-conscious alone! Which, like, who am I trying to impress here; Mr. Metro with his V-neck and couples sneakers (what is that about, anyway, man o man) will never love me, may as well run free, but there it is. Am getting much better though! SMALL STEPS GUYS.

Speaking of Steppes there is a HUGE Russian population here! wtf! Who knew! A lot of the subway signs are in Russian, they sell nesting dolls in a lot of the souvenir stores, and of course THERE ARE RUSSIANS. It's pretty bizarre.

Then we parted ways (FAREWELL AWESOME HEROINE SUZANNE ILU) ... except Suzanne paid for me to get in with her little keychain doohickey and then went on ahead to HER stop... yeah so I had no ticket. Not a problem since all I want to do is leave, right? HAHAHAHA ENJOY KOREA DUDES you have to put in your ticket to LEAVE. Ahaha fantastic. I tried my previous method that worked in Seoul, namely, busting through the barrier like a crazy rhino, but hohoho Seomyun station was ON TO ME and didn't budge. I was literally locked in the subway station. OH BABY this is the stuff nightmares are made of.
I didn't really know what to do and people were flowing all around me like What is this chick's deal so I wandered back down the stairs to a differnt platform hoping for... uh I dunno a way out, but that wasn't happening JUST MORE PLATFORMS AND TRAINS AND LOCKED GATES. Finally I stopped at one of the underground beauty stores and went HELLO TICKET EOBSOYO at the girl who worked there and she led a a bit away and said 'elevator, no ticket' OHOHO IC. So hot tip, if you use the elevator it comes out ON THE OTHER SIDE of the locked gates and you can run free! love it!
So I ran free.
And then stopped immediately to buy tiny awesome crap at one of the omnipresent shop things...like I have room for that. Tomorrow I really hope the post office opens early, but I suspect I'mma be hauling GIANT MASSIVE BAGS of Home Plus goodies and subway crap all over Korea haha. HELLO DAEGU I AM LIKE THE SPACE STATION ORBITED BY SHOPPING HELLO HELLO

Then I bought even more banana milk, like my third of the day lol damn you guys I am gonna miss the banana milk something FIERCE when I get back, they better be hiding this stuff somewhere in Uwajimaya fo REALZ, plus some mango milk and a delicious vanilla ice pop that melted faster thatn I could eat it since it's about nine billion degrees all the time.

now I look a COMPLETE mess and am recovering in the hostel again...am supposed to chat with Deokjae about tomorrow (SURPRISE I AM NOT IN DAEGU JUST SIT TIGHT DUDES) so we shall see...

Posted by dodie.does 01:20 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)

vol. 4 : BBB

BlueBackpackerBusan !

first of all, HOSTEL OF MY DREEEEAMS after the dingydirtydisaster of Hongdae !!
It is a. clean
b. silent by comparison
c. did I mention no giant cockroaches in my room
d. run by a super nice lady instead of a crabby bachelor dude
e. the door actually locks
f. the door to my SEPARATE ROOM also LOCKS
g. has a kitchen !! and promise of free bfast REFLECTS REALITY. toast, but still. freaking love toast, man.

Anyway, I had a bit of drama with calling Deokjae and having one of the most fractured phonecalls of my life (also I'm pretty sure his dad answered the phone and was like "????!!!???", but anyway) and apparently we're meeting in Daegu...day after tomorrow? Also got to talk to YJ which was nice because ENGLISH ILU YJ even though I called her in class (omg sorry yj). Felt very cosmo with all the phone tag, running around outside my hostel going 'yobosaeyo? yobosaeyo? yobosaeyo?' to various people, haha. Good days.

Made it to Seoul Station (yo I am a subway PRO, dudes I will meet you ANYWHERES LETS DO THIS) and got a KTX train ticket for the 12:00 train (having got to the counter at 11:48). Damn I love korean timescheduling, it is instant gratification!
Also the KTX lives up to it's speedy name and reputation; we got to Busan in like two hours flat. Hot damn.
The grandma next to me was also adorable and very nice, and we had a great conversation of butchering one another's language for a bit before she got off at Daegu. Then a western lady walking next to me at Busan station compared Busan itineraries with me and mourned the fact that I was not French (KATE SEE YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE).
Then I was in Busan! Pretty much!

So, first hour in Busan my camera, beloved and well-used for over three years, died a death of tragedy. Turns out the lens no longer works, so it's mentally fine and will take and display pictures perfectly, but can't focus on anything so all pictures would be of avant-garde blurry color blobs. NOOOOO I HATE LIFE WHYYYY.

So I was flipping depressed and upset for the duration of the evening, and wandered around Busan downtown not able to take any pictures and raging, and trying to find someone to look at the camera, so I went into the MASSIVE GIANT BEHEMOUTH department store Lotte and asked the helpful desk woman, who was the opposite of helpful and just said NO, ANNIO, NO when I asked in English, fractured Korean, and interactive pictogram if there was an electronic department in the store. I was surprised there wasn't....yeah Jin the awesome hostel manager says there totally is one, and she probably thought I wanted to take pictures in the store (strictly Not Allowed!) and was telling me off. GREAT OKAY.

The Adventure of the New Camera

I'm not terrible at directions, honestly (Catherine, on the other hand...no I'm just kidding ilu Catherine). But let me tell you fact, and that fact is JFC KOREAN CITIES ARE A SWARMING HONEYCOMB DISASTER ZONE FOR FOREIGNERS. Jin was a sweetheart (as usual) and gave me directions to both Home Plus and E-Mart, which she said was about 20 minutes walking away. HAHAHA MAYBE FOR YOU let's just say I left at 10 and was audibly overjoyed to see the towering HOME PLUS sign at 11:50. And that was only because the nice girl behind the counter at the 50th FamilyMart I'd passed gave me more directions (ilu familymart girl,omg).

HOMEPLUS! You guys, HOME PLUS. It's like the Fred Meyer of Korea, if Fred Meyer had four floors of Advanced Right-Brain Activity Books for toddlers (!!), sweet potatoes wrapped in gold silk(??), and shoppers in hot pink hanboks. And blasted Sistar and Lucifer as you trolled the endless aisles. OH BABY.

First stop: the camera zone. Well, first stop was the friendly Walmart greeter who was actually the friendly HomePlus greeter, and confused me with a lot of moontalk and bowing when I walked in. my life. I browsed the selection while a giant bank of TVs played KARA in pink cheerleader outfits on endless repeat, and then they didn't have the camera I wanted (I am partial to my olympus okay, and they came out with a new one this year, and then IT WAS NOT THERE).

Actually it was okay because even though the lady spoke ZERO english except for "sale" and "good" and "camera" and "not so good" we got through it bumblingly
Chloe, in freaking awful Korean: "Vacation" in Korean, pointing to self, making sadface at broken camera
Saleslady: No no no!
Chloe: .....
Chloe, refuses to give up because gdi I will talk to ppl here and I will use my three-year-old level of Korean even though I really really freaking do not want to: "Vacation" pointing to self, "broken" pointing to camera, "sad", pointing to self
Saleslady: Aha!! Sad, no good, ah. Smiley.
Chloe: VICTORIOUS KOREAN VICTORY, FTW FTWWW

There's no sales tax here (HELLS YES) and this one was on sale so I have a $400 Olympus mju-7020 for 198 bucks, no tax. SWEET. now to figure out how to get all the menus out of hangul (Do you want to take pictures? ahaha enjoy korean learning curve sucka!!).

Then I went shopping. And it was amazing. And I bought two gigantic Amazing Things I have to mail home because carting them across Busan back to the hostel was way more than enough carting of them for the rest of my life thank you but omg I love them so much omg they are beautiful things. AND I GOT A TOWEL and SHOWER SHOES and RAZORS for 5 bucks total, which are five bucks each at all the other places I've been, I LOVE YOU HOME PLUSE.

Also between the endless Sistar replays they kept playing this cheery song whose chorus was just 'Hopeless, hopeless, shop hopeless' which I found odd .... I'm sorry Home Plus jingle but you need a singer with better english, bb.

I was able to stumble my way back home by guiding my life by the Lotte Hotel, my North Star and forty-story beacon of joy and familiarity from which I can find my way to the hostel, and it is A BILLION BILLION DEGREES HERE NOW so I am taking refuge and figuring out my hangul-camera for another couple hours until like 4 when it stops being A BILLION BILLION DEGREES and starts just being REALLY HOT.

Oh! And there is also a Cello Motel and a Cafe Viola down the street!! Yes!!

Posted by dodie.does 21:29 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

vol 3: beautiful things old and new

pretty consistently gorgeous, consistently strange

sunny 0 °F

Pretty sure I will never sleep more than six hours a night ever again. Eighteen 20-somethings in 400 square feet in the noisiest U district on earth ! Please to enjoy! ALSO THERE ARE COCKROACHES SWEET JEEBUS WHY they are bright red and the size of my top ring finger joint, that is to say HUGE and let's just say I am beginning to get the hang of Seoul and enjoy it but I am freaking glad to get out of here tonight. Also something bit me twice on the arm and it's gone all angry red and itchy...uh let's hope it was a mosquito and gtfo of here.

Related: NO idea where I am going to be tonight! I thought/planned for Busan, and then midnight last night I have this message from Deokjae like "I'll meet you tomorrow morning in Daegu okay!!" WHAT?!? So, um, wtf, we shall see I guess.

Anyway, yesterday. Yesterday. Wow. Yeah.

tl;dr summary: Gorgeous sweet amazing palace - Museum of Folk Life - other museum - dinner of Bibimbap yuss - multiple super-nice strangers befriend me on the subway - Musical at Olympic Park aka Drink the Koolaid You Are One of Us - stagger home at midnight

Expanded Edition!

Mornings are weird
- No one else in this hostel except the two Japanese girls gets up before 2pm. Not joking.
- 2AM, this sort of ballad kpop quartet, seem to be the patron saints of the subway, and are wallpapered ALL OVER it telling me not to run, and to love culture, and to watch the doors, and that my tax dollars help the trains, and all this. They also have giant posters above some stations that say NO MORE MILKY BOY with pictures of them in suits frowning, which kind of crack me up.
Gorgeous Sweet Amazing Palace Deserves Own Post, brb wit dat later

[b6pm: ]Lost, Oh wow Surprise[/b]
Okay so good thing I left two hours early because I was there literally JUST on time. Olympic Park is 'in Seoul' but about nine Seattles are also 'in Seoul' so it took at least an hour and a half to get there. I also missed the switch connection at one point, which I realized when we were two stops away. YEP GREAT JOB TEAM. Luckily this random man sitting next to me goes 'Where are you going?" and got off at the wrong stop, walked me to the bus stop (I avoid buses 100% because even Youngjoo was like There's no way you'll ever have any idea where you are where it's going or where to get off, so maybe not) and put me on the bus to Olympic Park. We careened around aboveground, which was a different experience, and ended up at GIANT really nice park! With clear directions on large signs! In English! JOY.
It was still realllllly warm at like 7.30, and there were tons of people out strolling and biking in the dark, and a sort of swing/reggae bongo fusion band playing projected across the park. It would have been fun to just stroll around too, but I had somewhere to BE so I marched on over towards "Woori Art Hall (Olympic Weightlifting Arena)" (lol what).

I learn what a Shawol is and spend the night with a few hundred: A Study in Self-Indulgence
OKAY YOU GUYS, YOU GUYSSSS. Okay. I wish you all could have been there (as with , um, everywhere else here! but even more so) because it was a scene you have not seen, my children, in your lives. Also I will be fairly spazzy about it tbh I'm warning you now! BEWARE lol.
I knew I was going to the right place because there was a MASSIVE mural sign thing that said ROCK OF AGES above all these Koreans in 80s gear making rock faces, the largest and centermost of whom was clearly the youngest (and hottest lol but anyway) and Of Most Importance.

So I get closer and under the sign is a row of giant big flower sculpture things, like prize ribbons as big as you are made of pink flowers, and luckily everyone was too busy flailing around the theatre to hear me go Oh, oh they're for him, oh my God and start cracking up. I don't know, it was one of those realizations that was too OMG AHA to handle internally haha. Of course I was right; when you got closer they deeeefinitely all had his name in big banner ribbons down the middle. I felt slightly bad for the rest of the cast, jeez; none of THEM had flower trestles (later it became apparent that most of them might as well have not been on stage, poor things, but more on that later).

On my way to the door a rather depressed-looking teenage boy hands me something...yeah be jealous guys, I have a big plastic teal fan with a drawing and THE NAME IS ONEW in big letters. Oh baby. I found this bemusing for a number of reasons, one of which is that his name isn't actually Onew lol and another of which was I was holding a big plastic teal fan with a drawing and THE NAME IS ONEW in big letters on it. What was I supposed to do with this?? WHAT IS MY LIFE.

So I went in.
The place was CRAWLING with teenage girls, some of them still in their school uniforms, some of them putting on all this extra makeup and endlessly checking their reflections, running around the auditorium tittering is the most accurate word I think, as well as squealing and chattering. I am not exaggerating AT ALL when I say the audience was 99.5% female. Probably 99.995%; I think I saw two depressed-looking boyfriends obviously dragged along, one dad looking confused, and two businessmen looking really confused and slightly irritated. So, all girls, all under 25 except for a couple of the famous 'noonas' (first single about being a sucker for older women: effective marketing strategy!), most with massive high-powered cameras (even though it said no photography oic okay).
The boy at the will-call counter looked extremely harried and gave me this look of What on Earth are you doing here??
(he was certainly not the last to do so, let me tell you I was giving myself this look also. Internally. You know.)

So around the theatre was a sweet kind of lounge thing FULL of girls, and the whole thing is ringed with MORE of the giant pink flower sculptures and, oddly, about 1400kg of rice. SO MUCH RICE. I'm guessing this is some other Korean/Azn good-luck thing?? It looked like we were preparing to siege-barricade ourselves in the theatre for the entire winter in parkas made of pink ribbons and FOLLOW YOUR HEARTS ONDREW signs. Maybe they're donating it? What on earth would one young guy want with a thousand pounds of rice? Anyway the mystery endures.

Getting to my seat was fun because the woman was like 'Do you speak Korean?' and when I said no gave me another What on Earth are you doing here expression, to which half of me wanted to reply I KNOW RIGHT and the other half wanted to go Pat Benatar was ours first, bitch (the other half was feeling super defensive pretty much). The girl in front of me is going Blah blah moontalk Key-oppa blah blah, the girl next to me looks like she's about to cry, half the audience is texting furiously with expressions of rapturous joy...yep okay let the good times roll.

Rock of Ages: Korea edition Highlights
- Sherri is now Shelley (inadvertently)
- Dennis = 'Denisesuh-sshi'
- I don't even KNOW how to describe what the German names came out as
- "We nod gonna taekey! NO! We ain gonna taekey!" omg I felt a bit bad but I was loling. Exactly ONE member of the cast had passable/pretty much unaccented English (ten points to guess; swear to god I'm not biasing this)
- Sherri and Drew finish their love song - they're both amazing singers; it was pretty gorgeous, aaaand ...... awkward silence descends. NO ONE claps. Yeah we'd definitely applauded everything else. Okaaaaaay then.
- Related fascinating: in the Korean version, the men kiss but the hetero couple doesn't. oic, casting decision running the entire narrative. oic.

Halftime:
The whole balcony seem to know each other, the girl next to me really IS crying now, the front row starts shouting ONEW ONEW ONEW as soon as the lights go up, and I'm still going WHAT IS LIFE. About 80% of the balcony is empty - that is, has always been empty; like, there are no bodies filling those seats. This is confusing because all of those seats are, I know for a fact, sold out. So two hundred people have bought balcony seats (all the cheap seats, which is why I had to buy the next most expensive) but NONE came?? What?
Yes welcome to Korean fanclub politics. APPARENTLY the 'Shawols' have bought the entire balcony just so those seats would sell and then bought better seats for themselves. Excuse me??? It strikes me that while this was a nice gesture so it looks on paper like this thing is successful, first of all who on EARTH spends money like that, and secondly they're giving this kid a pretty gigantic cushion: the show is disproportionately successful, and the entire audience is completely on your side. I dunno, props for setting someone up for success, but it was weird. Helpful sidenote: shawol is the ridiculous name of the dude's band's fanclub and is short for the equally hopeless 'SHINEE world. facepalm.

Of course this whole post is just beating around the bush regarding the whole point of why everyone was there, which was for this baby popstar and the rest was just background icing (I thought they were pretty amazing background icing, though).
You know how people always make, like, smarmy metaphors for singers, like "Oh, her voice is like silk, blah blah like butter blah it made me pregnant blah blah"?
Yeah, okay.
The intro dude was fantastic, and Sherri was basically flawless, and then Boy comes out and luckily the whole theatre screamed after the first line because otherwise the whole balcony would have heard me go Shit, because, like, oh my god I like him but I had realistic expectations and that was not what I was expecting at all.
Legit the most gorgeous thing I have heard in my life. Legit like silk, butter, choose your smooooooooth object for comparison, jeeeeebus dis boy can sing like nobody's business no bias no lie. Mika and Glambert have better ranges, but I have yet to hear them pull off six songs in a row 100% flawlessly live. Won moi over totally!

Anyway then I managed to get home at midnight without troubles (GO ME) in time to shower, get yelled at by hostel manager again (not my fault!!), witness cockroach participation, be creeped out, and go to sleep. WHEW.

Posted by dodie.does 16:02 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)

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