Monday, March 06, 2006

Better than a Saturday movie, this is life

The weekend was an interesting one with the fun starting Friday night and not ending until late Sunday. The weather gave me the impression that winter is finally over, but we'll see what happens. On account of the good weather and a long day with nothing planned, I decided to walk without a destination and see what I would encounter.

I think I was somewhere around Samgakji station when I came upon a street I dubbed 'Prosthetic Limb Lane' after the dozen or so shops with legs, feet, arms, hands, and fingers eerily displayed in the windows. I have no idea how all these businesses survive unless there is an excessive number of limbless people in Seoul. It's certainly not everyday you get to see more than one assortment of mingled, dusty plastic limbs. Some were strangely lifelike while others looked like props straight out of a horror movie.

When I got to Seoul Station I sat on a bench in the sun and stayed quite awhile. The diverse crowd that congregates outside makes it a very interesting place to sit and watch how people interact. There are the homeless men usually drunk on soju who make the occasional request for money when the bottle gets low. There are also the Christian missionaries, some singing, some preaching on a microphone and some walking around attempting to proselytize anyone who crosses their path. Continuously walking through this slightly fluctuating crowd are people going to and from the subway, the department store and LotteMart.

On this particular day there was also man in a business suit with a top hat who kept doing dramatic taekwando moves while talking to himself.

At one point a Buddhist nun walked by and a drunk homeless man approached her. She gave him 1,000 won and kept walking. A minute later the homeless man is sharing a bottle of soju with his neighbors. When it was gone one homeless man from the group in a NY Yankees shirt came up to me and asked for money. I asked him why, and he said he was hungry. I said okay and his face lit up for a moment until I stood up and started walking to the convenience store. I motioned for him to follow me. I asked him what he wanted to eat-- ramyeon, kimbab, boiled eggs, a sandwich? He shakes his head and says, "Anio. Money," even after I tell him he can get anything he wants in the store to eat. He refuses and I go back to my bench in the sun. Five minutes later he comes back and politely asks for a sandwich. I obliged.

After a few minutes of scripture readings and questions about my spiritual beliefs, an unrelenting missionary told me I was going to "herr" (pronounced "hair"). He emphatically pointed towards the ground and spelled "H-E-R-R." Being a teacher in Asia, I'm accustomed to the L/R confusion with my students but this was a particularly funny situation, considering the context.

I was about to leave when I look over and see a man going psycho on the man with the microphone. Naked. He ripped the poster down with a picture of people who are burning in hell. (Maybe me in 50 years. Or tomorrow.) He picks up the metal stand and starts swinging it around. Naked. That was one of the oddest things I've seen in Korea so far.

If any Seoulites out there in the blogosphere are looking for free entertainment, head to Seoul Station on a Saturday afternoon, grab a seat and enjoy.