Four Days in Seoul

Day 1

Arrival: if you’re from Mali and visiting ROK, you are now good to go.

The train from Incheon into Seoul has butt warmers under its seats.

The Blue House has a giant taiko drum outside. Also in 1968 North Korea sent 30 commandoes across the border to blow it up, but they were spotted by four farmers and the city went on lock-down and ended up killing all but one of them over the next few days.

Standing outside a KFC I was asked if I was a christian, I responded thanks but no thanks I’m Jewish. I told this story to an expat, she asked “but are you actually though?” This is the go to expat “leave me alone” line.

Very striking to see so many Americans in uniform just walking around. Equal almost to DC, certainly way more than any other city in the US.

The subways are so smooth that you don’t have to hold on to anything. Also in the trains people walk around while watching tvs on their galaxies. “Once you start,” a friend said, “you never stop watching.”

Of course I stumbled into the one hip hop bar where lots of black Americans go, hearing inside a trap queen remix. Ladies night meant free drinks for all ladies all night. Two days later there were four MPs and an ROK policeman lingering outside.

Near some big dance club, Octagon, the corner store sold Manischewitz.

There were ash trays on top of the club’s urinals.

Day 2

Star and Moon maces are dope.

Was walking through the national museum conducting an internal‘battle of the civilizations,’ seeing whether or not their 500bc shit was cooler than Athens’, their 50bc shit cooler than the Rome’s.

Went to a Rhye concert (kpop shows seemed impossible to get tix to). No pat down to get in. The crowd, better dressed than any group of Americans or foreigners I had ever seen, felt like a tv show audience. Clapped almost on command after every song, then silence or chatting between numbers.

Another night, another hip hop club. ‘Soul Seoul’ played an incredible set, paced to let you breathe, with R&B from the late 80s to present. Ante Up cracked me up. Fun to be the only American. Median ROK rhythm below average?

Seoul seems much more managable and much more familiar — read American — than Tokyo.

Day 3

All batting cages should be outdoors in the middle of a city. The pitches were shot out a little lower than normal.

I asked a Korean guy who was speaking American English to his mom next to me at a noodle shop what wasn’t pork on the menu. He asked why, I said I was kosher, he mentioned that he grew up 7th day adventist and kept kosher and the Sabbath. Said too that there was a whole neighborhood in Seoul full of halal and kosher places for this reason.

General Gyebeck who in 660ad killed his wife and kids rather than letting another Korean empire take them captive/letting them “influence him in battle” the National War Museum told me was a national hero. My 16 year old tourguide was a little less convinced — “he’s not that famous because he was from the losing empire.”

Also from the 16 year old tour guide asked if anyone had heard of the Dokdo islands. Silence from the crowd of French college kids. “That’s sad, it’s very important.”

ROK is a bigger fan of the UN than any other nation on the planet. They know what’s up.

Conclusion from the tourguide: “This shows why war is bad and we should never have it again. But, we did turn out fine I think. Now we give support to other countries.”

B-52s are fucking huge.

On Facebook Koreans only upload photoshopped photos. “I was impressed that Americans uploaded so many ones, even funny photos where they don’t look good.”

League of Legends has earned the moniker “enemy of girlfriends.” Basically no arcades to be found — apparently starcraft (and an import ban on Japanese electronics) killed them.

The remote buzzer at the coffee shop had a countdown of how many orders were in front of you. At fancier places, there are tvs with ads in the buzzers.

Were at a coffee shop called the “twosome cafe.” I told friends the words ‘twosome,’ ‘threesome,’…etc were only used for golf and sex. Then get asked whether Americans really have threesomes, and just how scandalous they are. I said people might admit to it during truth or dare, they said no-one would ever cop to such a thing. Sex used to be way more scandalous, drugs still are and only are used by artists/celebrities. Sort of changing though, “because of american tv shows…you know, like gossip girl.” Also a Korean talk call-in show “witch hunt.”

Makegiolli, which I had at an upscale Korean place in Hell’s Kitchen (Danji) for $8 and had been searching for all week, is apparently only for old people. The name of the most popular brand is “live long.” It was scandalous when I was drinking out of the bottle on the street — you’re an alcoholic unless you pay the fifty cents to the corner store to get a disposable cup. Sounds like a disposable cup racket.

You sip, not shoot, soju.

Kakaotalk is ubiquitous, a next-level whatsapp. People buy extra emojis to “express themselves better” and compete against their friends. You can also buy gifts for friends, they show a code to a store and can pick up a coffee or whatever. “Would anyone,” I asked, “buy girlfriend flowers on kakaotalk?” “No!” That’s the future, but we’re not there quite yet.

This is the scariest animal I have ever seen.

Heard Single Ladies and the Macarena (had to teach people the correct moves) in the club. Really striking how ubiquituous American culture is around the world, and how impactful its norms (see GG above) are.

Lots of restaurants give you scissors to chop up your squid, noodles…etc. Fun being a part of the process.

Day 4

Only when you’re struck by the fact that one ethnicity is doing all the service/kitchen jobs and well as all the conspicuous consumption does it come home just how messed up America is.

At the airport I had $5 to kill. The coffee store had three frap types: chocolate, green tea, and misugaru. I took a leap into the unknown and went with misugaru. It was made of my two favorite things — sesame and red beans. Then I googled it — the ny daily news wrote a trend piece about it last August.