Sunday, July 06, 2008

Crappy Cameraphone's last day in the sun (and a game of spot the unintentional pun I discovered on proofreading, and decided to leave in)

Heck, let's make it into a contest.

If you can spot the unintentional pun and name it first in the comments, you get to choose the topic for my next post. I reserve the right to veto topic suggestions that are beyond reasonable boundaries of privacy, length, and good taste (this is a blog, not a game of truth or dare, you know), but if there's something you'd like to know about Roboseyo, or Roboseyo's Korea. . . get out your fine-tooth.

Inwang mountain: the last mountain I climbed before buying a real digital camera.

Inwang mountain is the mountain just to the west of the blue house (where Korea's president lives).  There's a neighbourhood between them, but it's a very nice mountain.

This guy enjoyed the peak a lot.

The mountain looks down on a really charming little village that, due to lack of access, has remained a little less gentrified, commercialized, and uglified than the apartment-block mausoleums in other areas of Seoul.  Would you believe that a twenty-minute walk from this view, in the opposite direction, is Seoul's finance district, City Hall, and the epicenter of every protest?

I wound around the side of the mountain, on the north side of the six hundred year old wall that the old kings built to protect the palaces from raiders and invaders.  I'd just head uphill, and wind around to the next side street when I hit a dead end, and I stumbled into this sleepy little huttish area that could have been untouched since 1930 (judging from the people I saw living there, with no new neighbours since then, either).  How these little bastions survive without either turning into tourist-trap self-recreations or getting bought out by developers, I'll never know. . . but I'm glad they don't.

I picked my way through their tiered gardens (another OOoooold Korea method), and came upon this trail, which led up to the defensive wall.  Again, just to re-state: this scene was a 40 minute walk from Jongno Tower.  (50 if you go slow)
More layered houses, winding up the mountainside:

a view from a lookout point on one of the side-streets a little closer to the town-ish area (where lookouts were obscured by vegetation) -- some nice, rich-looking, gated-garden type houses were there as a buffer between the city and the little grandmother villa I walked through.  The views there were nice.
Inwangsan was great.  Here's the defensive wall; on the other side of it are a bunch of military defensive structures, lookout towers and stuff, as well as signs, "don't you effing dare enter" warnings, and certain directions you ought not point your camera.  But it's also pretty darn beautiful up there.

As you can see, despite the sleepy villa on the approach, we're just THAT close to the big-ass city.  (The mountain you can see in the distance with the blurry, crappy cameraphone tower white smudge on it, is actually Namsan, with Seoul Tower.)

Went back to the same place again this weekend, and took more pictures: the 능소화 (Google Translate says they're "Neungsohwa" flowers) were out in full colour today; they're one of girlfriendoseyo's favourite flowers, so we had a real nice walkabout.

Girlfriendoseyo likes gardens.

A little too much.  (She pretended to climb the wall as a joke; that gave me a good laugh, so she posed like this. . . she's not ACTUALLY Girlfriendoseyo the B&E artist. . . as far as I know.)

The fallen petals are also fantastic.

Girlfriendoseyo says these flowers' name means, in the original Chinese, "the flower that mocks the sun" -- that is, the flower so beautiful, it even taunts the heavens.

Maybe somebody else tried to climb this wall too many times.  A lot of barking dogs on this lane, and the most unfriendly wall I've seen south of the Demilitarized Zone and outside of the military bases.

This seems like a perfectly lovely fusion restaurant. . . until you pronounce the name like a Korean would, switching the "R" out for an "L".

Finally, at the bottom of Inwang Mountain, in Puk'ak Dong, there's a heavenly coffee shop.

It actually felt like being back in the Pacific Northwest, between the look, the smell (beans roasted on site) and the atmosphere.  The specialty hand-drip coffees were obscenely tasty, for a very reasonable price.

The place had some reputation, too: we actually had to wait for a table!

Other pics: the receptionists at my workplace are hilarious and charming.  I took a picture of them together that didn't turn out well, so I said "Sorry.  Bad picture.  One more time." and they both did that, because of the "One More Time" song I wrote about before, but can't justify posting as a clip a second time.  This is called the "ET Dance."

Finally (and these, in case you haven't noticed, were taken with the new, good camera). . . a bit of goofy Korea:

>Are you sure we're in the MEN's shirts' section?  (why Korean men wear pink shirts)
(Hooray for Bean Pole)

The store and the brand's name is FUBU, standing for "For Us, By Us" (citation) -- it was a company started by African-American entrepreneurs when they noticed that most urban clothing marketed toward African-Americans was made by white-owned companies.  The company has since become very successful.  Now, I must defer to other bloggers and experts on the topic of black culture without black people (for example, Korean rappers flashing gang signs and talking in weird mixes of Konglish and Ebonics -- Kebonics? Ebonglish?), but I realized the name FUBU is a bit of a misnomer in COEX mall in Seoul, because there just aren't enough people of African descent who shop at COEX, to keep this store in the black.  I suggest a name change: FKBU -- For Koreans By Us.
Here's a video featuring a Korean hip-hop stars, Crown J, at the end.  Brian thinks he's a poser and a douche; agree or disagree?  Discuss amongst yourselves.   Decide for yourself also whether something like hip-hop culture is such a liquid concept that it can be separated completely from the culture that created it, and still keep some kind of legitimacy, or whether it's been totally co-opted and exploited. . . along the way, you can listen to an awful English rap in this one, count how many other reference to American culture are. . . um, raped, and pick out which singers use pitch-correction, before Crown J throws down his badass gang signs at the end.

You can listen to this other Crown J track, for more information, and decide what you think about him.  All I'm gonna say is, I don't watch Korean MTV.

Interesting as cultural artifacts and examples of fusion culture. . . but not quite enough to a spot next to the pink shirts on my page.


melissa v. said...

um, yeah. Poser and douche.
Art supercedes individual cultural phenoms simply because (a) it is universal and (b) culture is FAR more fluid than most of us admit. Hence, Korean hip hop dancers are legit. The posers may be BAD, but they're still hip hoppers.

ps love gfoseyos flowers!

Anonymous said...

"...because there just aren't enough people of African descent who shop at COEX, to keep this store in the black."

That MUST be it!

Roboseyo said...

ding ding ding! We have a winner!

So, juli, to claim your prize, suggest a topic I should blog about next. . . what do you want me to write about next?

Unknown said...

I wish we had, not just one, but TWO, funny, charming AND cute receptionists. Oh well.

The spiked wall security is nice. If we had some of that here in Two Thousand City then I would feel more at home. Aaaah, the dangers of back home...

Rebecca said...

Rob, when in Vancouver, we noticed that East Indian men also wore pink; in fact, they built pink houses and even a pink hotel (near the 200th St. exit, I think). After all, the feminine connotations of pink are part of our culture, not inherently human -- so why would we expect them to be the same in every other culture? (If a baby is pink or blue when it comes out it is not an indication of gender, but whether they're breathing or not!)

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Juli got it? Damn! And I was sure the unintentional pun was "Rabia" . . . which, for some reason, I spotted rather easily.

Oh, now, I remember why. You pointed it out. I should have realized that would be making the contest too easy. Yet . . . superb misdirection.

Can't I win something?

Jeffery Hodges

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Roboseyo said...

Otto: having cute and charming receptionists means nothing when 1. one is quite taken with one's girlfriendoseyo, and 2. one believes strongly that, as romance and personal entanglements in the workplace go, the best advice is "Don't shit where you eat".

I think the spiked wall was to keep stray cats out. Everybody knows there are no burglars in Korea!

Rebecca: you're right, that colour coding varies from culture to culture, but it's my own blog, so I'll take intellectually lazy cheap cultural shots if I like, from time to time. . . but only in jest.

H.J. Hodges: How about this. If Juli doesn't stop back by and notice she won, you'll win by disqualification, and you'll get to choose either 1. to choose the topic for a next or near-future blog post, or 2. split a pitcher of beer with me in Shinchon that I won from an Expat Living contest.

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

The beer sounds more tangible . . . but isn't that provided free by Matt Lamers? Still, I'll take you up on that -- assuming that you're talking about the 26th at Watts on Tap.

Jeffery Hodges

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Roboseyo said...

The 26th at Watts on Tap? I won a free pitcher of beer in a trivia contest at expat living that I heard about through facebook. Is that connected to your thingy on the 26th?