Archive for September 5th, 2009

Locks of Love

Seoul, South Korea


Couplehood is a HUGE deal in SKorea and from what I can tell one’s identity may be closely tied to the couples identity. As one of Sara’s friends said: “Couples, couples, couples,Korea is all about couples and if you are not in a couple well you are simply not in”. One interesting manifestation of this is in dressing alike – down to matching patent leather with accompanying sequin shoes, and socks. The men also frequently carry their own “man bag” as well as carrying their partner’s purse. When we saw the guy with the brightly flowered purse of his partner along with his beautiful yellow shoes, Sara commented that “he is obviously comfortable”. Our ever increasing homophobic society complete with its macho stereotypes should take note.

After taking the “90 minute” Lonely Planet walking tour around Seoul, we ended up at the tram and a ride to the top of the city and the home of the love locks fence; where lovers journey together, to seal their forever love by locking a lock on the fence. Given that Sara and I are both single, we were there just to look at what locked love looked like. It was interesting to reflect on this in context of my own marriage that I once perceived as locked in time forever. I was wrong. And it struck me as ironic that in a land of Buddha, where Siddhartha taught impermanence, lovers would still embrace the idea of forever…I guess I would again also, if I was to see love again. And yet I laughed it was uncomfortably sad when Sara was looking at a group of locks and touched one only to have it, and several other attached to it, finally succumb to rust and drop to the concrete with an unceremonious thud.

So we are minding our own business looking for a power converter (which took a bus, two subways, and 5 hours to find, but that is another story) when we see a guy casually standing in the alley holding an umbrella as we walk forward. Suddenly he runs up to Sara and covers her with the covering as I jump back. The umbrella almost collapses and I dive for cover as a bucket of water is emptied from the window washers about 20 stories above. Low tech, but it worked. Sara looks at me and her eyes say “did what I think just happen, happen?” We laugh hysterically.


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Korean Folk Village

Korean Folk Village and Heritage Site

flyng man

Have you ever eaten the pupae of a silk worm? Well, I can now say that I have, and it does not taste like chicken. Actually it taste like a soft walnut…sorta. And why did you eat this? Well after we watched the silk being spun off the cocoon, the women broke the remainder open, and offered it to me with an indication to eat. I figured I might as well try something that even the locals were refusing (two actually did try as well), and live up to my notoriety from a Seoul crosswalk of “You look like American Actiooooon Star”. Must have been the Ex-Officio shirt….or maybe the hair cut.

Getting to the village and around elsewhere has been a test in Korean public transportation prowess. On one leg of our subway ride, I apparently failed to buy enough fare on my card and thus when I attempted to exit, the gate would not open; to the annoyance of those behind me in line I am sure. Sara was on the other side and I debated doing a OJ (pre-murder days) and jumping the gate. Somehow this just did not seem like a good idea in a country where you have no ideas what the laws and punishment are. Sara went for “help” as I hovered in a corner. Soon a smart dressed Korean toll police or something like that showed up and I handed him my card and indicated that I was all to happy to pay additional fare for my immediate release. After trying to figure out what he was supposed to do with an American that he could not understand, he opened the gate manually, gave me a 50 WON coin, and left the scene so quickly that you would have thought he had killed someone.

The bus was supposed to cost 1800 WON, I only had a 5000 note, and only saw the driver indicating “NO” after I dropped the bill into the slot. It was like pulling three cherries on the slot machine as the coins just kept coming and coming while I filled my pockets with my change.

The dancers at the folk village were really good and the overall afternoon was very enjoyable and interesting. We saw ingenious grinding tools that utilized water, people, and beast. These were used for grinding rice, and soy into a dizzying array of different foods. We saw traditional building techniques for structures as well as a type of rope made from a grass or reed of some sort that was then constructed into all manner (shoes, baskets, backpacks) of things.

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