Tuesday, 4 March 2008
(I'm Stickin' With You, by the Velvet Underground: Just hit play and read)
Every year, sometime in early march, it seems Korean winter gets one last kick at the can before spring begins to shine around the corner. Last year, late February was uncannily warm, and then March was one of the most bitterly, hawkishly cold months I've ever experienced; most years, that last gasp of winter comes in the form of bit, fat-flaked, fluffy snow (I've blogged about this before).
Every year, sometime in April or May, dust from the Gobi Desert blows away in the wind, and carries up into the atmosphere, choking provinces to the east, and turning the sky in Seoul yellow. It's called the "Yellow Dust" and, as clear-cutting increases wind-erosion in China, it's been starting earlier, and getting more frequent and severe. Many Koreans (especially the asthmatic and elderly) wear surgical facemasks during the yellow-dust, and are encouraged to stay home during severe alerts.
Now normally, snow in Korea is considered extremely romantic. You phone your girlfriend or boyfriend, go for a walk at night, practice catching it in your eyelashes and pretend you're in a music video or a teen movie montage. This year, though, we had an ugly intersection.
As you can see, the sky has this pallid haze -- the light is really odd during the yellow dust, a little like the hour before sundown, but not as warm. It looks to me like the kind of light you might have in a zombie movie, while the hero's walking around the city and going "why is it so empty?"
(I love bad zombie movies. This is funny. Really.)
But that was the colour of the sky, when the snow started falling.
Gross, ugly, sticky, yellow snow all clumpy with China's yellow dust, so that I didn't want to go out and play in it.
One more zombie clip: zombies doing yoga. They're funny, ya?
Other stuff I've spotted out and about: the frequent sight of people trying to meet their friends, standing on the partitions that stop cars from driving on the sidewalk, always makes me smile. I've done it myself.
"Can you see me now?"
"What about now? I'm standing on a post."
To celebrate my coworker Sonober finishing her contract, we went out to a tuna sushi restaurant and went all out. Wow, it was good.
Another tuna restaurant wants me to check their manu (Konglish contingent for the post)
On Valentine's Day, girlfriendoseyo took me to a really nice restaurant near her house, where they present the food beautifully. It's a great place, and the decor is fantastic (restaurants with real atmosphere are few and far here). They have picassos and. . . another really famous artist's paintings . . . on the walls.
And even the dishes are works of art.
This was a 300 year old stone cooking brick.
That's either really gross, or really cool. . . I'm opting for the latter.
In Insadong, last weekend (or maybe the one before) the sun finally broke out, and this guy decided to honour it with a few OMs.
This sign is really funny if you can read Korean: the restaurant name is "Beer Valley" but because of the way Hangeul (the korean alphabet) transliterates English words [there's no "V" in Korean, for one], the characters could just as easily read "Beer Belly" as "Beer Valley". Hee hee.
I like the delivery motor-trikes. Sometimes you see some unbelievable mode of transportation here. Once I saw this guy sitting at the front of a big wagon, with what might have been a lawn-mower engine welded next to the chair where he sat, with the engine lashed to his wagon's axle, chugging along right out on the road, totally vulnerable, totally blind, unable to go faster than a brisk walk, snarling traffic around him everywhere he went, proudly unapologetic. Fantastic!
Many restaurants have live fish tanks, where you can choose what you want to eat.
Plus, you get to gawk at ugly deep-sea fish with suckers on their bellies!
This guy's a palm-reader/fortune teller. His little stand looks quite pretty at night in the winter, when he pulls the plastic drape around it to keep the heat in.
Near my school is a bell that used to announce when the market opened and closed each day. Once or twice a week they have a changing of the guard ceremony there. They wear traditional clothing and fake facial hair. One thing I love about living in Korea, and in downtown Seoul, is I get to share a crosswalk with people like this sometimes.
What do you love about YOUR town?