Tea and Tom Jones

23 03 2011

My heart is full. I had tea and dinner with two strangers today and want to remember this day.

This afternoon, I stopped for tea in the corner shop.
“천천히” the shop owner told me when I walked in. “Slowly.”
Pottery, pottery everywhere.

The shop was empty, and I was able to take pictures while the shop owner prepared us “something Korean”. We shared chrysanthemum tea, and she explained this tea is “good for the head and the eyes” and that Korean chrysanthemums bloom more slowly in water than Chinese chrysanthemums, which bloom quickly on the first pour.

We sat in front of the goldfish pond and talked about kids.

Her daughter lives in Tampa, and her son lives close by. He is 41 with one daughter. Adorable. Her daughter has two girls in FL, whom she hasn’t seen since they were born, though they Skype often. Her other daughter teaches at Pusan National University. She teaches cardiology or something to do with the heart. Either that, or the daughter’s heart hurts. (I think she teaches a heart-related subject.)

She asked if I was married. I told her once, but not anymore, and she made the “x” sign with her arms implying not anymore.

“No. I hope one day.”

Children are so important to Koreans.
So is Tom Jones apparently. “Delilah” played in the background, and the owner told me how much she liked “Green, Green Grass of Home.” Yeah, you and my mother both.

We poured tea for each other, ate rice cake and talked.

An older gentleman and a couple of young guys came in.

The gentleman talked about his daughter who went to school at UC-Santa Barbara and works in L.A. managing a clothing shop. We talked about where to get good 짜장면, and the shop owner told me her friend, the gentleman, would take me there. I had a fleeting thought of fleeing to do whatever I had to do next and to avoid being burdensome or in the way. Racket.

Fortunately, my Korean is poor, and I think he’d called ahead to let the restaurant know we were coming.

“Isn’t he busy?”
”No, no. He has a good heart,” the owner told me.

So the fellow and I walked a few blocks over to a Chinese-Korean restaurant and fried prawns in spicy sauce followed by the best 짜장면 I’ve ever had. Truly.

I got to practice serving food to my elder and slurping loudly, like he did, and tried not to talk too much during dinner. The guidebook said older folks view eating as necessary, not social.

We had a side conversation about noraebangs, because I thought he said he was a singer, when he really said he was single. He wouldn’t let me take a picture of him, pointing to his face, though I assured him he was pretty. And then he got up to pay for dinner.

I protested of course, but only once. In Korea, where it’s standard for the eldest to pay, how much can you protest without being rude?

He asked where I needed to go next. I told him a coffee shop to do homework. I thanked him and told him (I hope) if he was ever future in America, I would like to buy eating food for him.

Then he kissed me on the hand, jumped in a taxi and left.

Democracy Park

23 03 2011

My favorite images of Korea so far are from mountaintops. Unfortunately, I won’t have any of these pictures to share with friends back home. The drawback of running without a camera is, well…

Anyway, running in Korea has been rewarding so far. The process goes something like this:

Run through downtown concrete jungle.
Find side street.
Go up, up, up.

Don’t worry about taking a map. Invariably, you will find a mountain and be rewarded by a mountaintop park with breathtaking views. That happened in Seoul with Inwangsan, and this afternoon, when I  jogged up Yongdusan.

There were fewer storefronts and signs and more schools and town buses. Up, up, around, around, eventually I got to Democracy Park. From here, you can see the shipping port of Pusan and the mountainside. The park holds historical statues and contemporary art including a boy climbing a large bronze hammer and a stone Buddha head on its side. Walking around the park, I passed several pairs of men playing “go” or “baduk“, but didn’t want to stare.

credit: Carpe Feline, Flickr

I abandoned jogging half-way down the mountain. Too much to see. Instead, I bought sticky rice doughnuts and wandered into Bosudong bookstore alley. How does anyone find what they need in these stores? Floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall books.

credit: Busan Mike, Flickr

I enjoyed leisurely eyeball-shopping through Gukje market, then Beom-il dong (young and trendy but more wood and less neon) and now looking forward to jjajjangmyeon somewhere the innkeeper recommended. Then, homework!


21 03 2011

So far, Pusan > Seoul. It’s colder and windier here, though and there aren’t as many coffee shops as in Seoul, not that any of those were open before 10 a.m. anyway.

I took the KTX high-speed last night to Pusan–roughly $50 and a 2.5 hr ride.

Today, I”m staying in Elysee Motel, which is a “love motel”. It’s Trip Advisor’s #2 inn and costs less than $40 USD/night. The room is huge and clean (!), the host speaks English, there’s a TV with CNN and in-suite bathroom and tub. And this place is directly next to Yongdusan Park, where you can view Pusan in panorama. More about the park later.

Forewarned by TripAdvisor, I had a few expectations. Still, this place is so obvious:

  • there are “calling cards” taped to the front door. think baseball cards but with boobs.
  • in addition to intl CNN and other sat channels, there’s an adult channel on TV.
  • the room’s equipped with aftershave, hairspray and other essentials for cleaning up.
  • there are two doors to the room–exterior and bedroom. when i checked in, the host instructed me to close the inner, soundproof door, so i wouldn’t hear people in the hallway “getting drunk”.
  • there’s a VHS player in every room and a case of movies in the hallway that includes adult flicks and international films like Bone Collector and Spy Kids
  • there is also a celestial scene conveyed in velvet with fluorescent lighting (ah romance) directly above the bed
  • oh! and a remote that controls all of the above

motel elysee room ceiling

spy kids @ motel elysee

Enough about this room. I’m off to Jagalchi Fish Market and the Pusan theatre district.

it’s official

9 03 2011

Elizabeth filed divorce papers today.
Susan Rene’ Sanford, take 2.