South Korea II: Seeking Zen in the City

I am still adjusting to hostel life and constant change, but quickly.  Apart from the consistent staff and morning waffles, there is a lot of movement and fluidity in day to day activity.  It feels temporary, despite my long-term plans because I can’t unpack my bags.

I have yet to find the building for my Korean classes on the Yonsei University campus.  I will try again today.  I feel kind of purposeless and ungrounded without any sort of schedule or regard for the passing of hours.   But because of the spatial constraints and Seoul’s utilization of an underground network, my body is getting used to climbing vast amounts of stairs.  Most of the nearby “parks” are cement spaces with benches.  It’s the kind of period when you tune out, lose track of days, and stop reading the news.  Time doesn’t matter.  And that’s when you start to really think about what time really means and how some hours seem shorter than others.  


Also related to time is age.  And I really can’t tell how old anybody in this city is.  The eternal gift of youth bestowed on Asians is completely deceiving. I had a wow moment in NB2 listening to K-Pop and watching people doing synchronized dances to Fantastic Baby, where I thought I was surrounded by teens.  It turned out that most were in their late 20’s.  K-Pop stars are considered the epitome of sexy here in Korea as shaped by plastic surgery?! and high fashion, and every girl here seems to have a favorite. I don’t know which is mine…maybe dude with chains?!?!… I don’t really have an answer for that…

The above ground metro line means that I get to see all of the city, which has an especially stunning silhouette around 5 pm against the dimming light.   One of my favorite viewpoints approaches while crossing over the Han River south. 

The highlight of this week was getting into the sold out Grimes concert after waiting in line two hours with Niclas.  All of the hip ex-pats and English teachers in the vicinity took the corner in front of Rolling Hall to cue up, giving the nearby 7/11 its best business by clearing out its selection of OB, Cass, and soju.  The wait paid off when we got our wristbands against all odds.  Opening was a really great Baltimore-based artist named Ami Dang, who mixed her soaring vocals with the sounds of the sitar. Here is her soundcloud:

 And when Grimes took the stage the entire crowd lit up with enthusiasm to greet the pink hazy lights and bubbles accompanying Oblivion.  I danced my face off in the sticky mess of spilled gin and tonics and cigarettes. 


The after party was at nearby club OBEG—a large cavernous underground room dressed up like a Moroccan cave with stalagmites and the works.  Apparently it usually plays a mix of reggae/electro/house music, but on this night, it was somewhat overwhelmingly lame.  The opening DJ was spinning slowed down versions of Kelly Clarkson and Sandstorm.  It felt like…a bar mitzvah.  And even when Ms. Grimes herself arrived, she played Christmas carols and a few choice songs from the Aqua album before fleeing the scene.  We were offered refunds, if that is any indication of how awkward it was.   The DJ-ing was sub par (awful), but the place itself has potential. 

Also, I got a haircut.  


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