Adventures in meatspace – No, you are not seeing things—this really is a new entry appearing less than a week after the previous entry. I have realized (or perhaps I should say that I have reminded myself, since I knew this all along) that I am writing so infrequently these days not because I am busy, or because I have nothing to say, but because I am lazy. It’s just so much easier to load up Civilization IV and introduce the Spanish to a whole new world of pain with my brand spanking new cavalry than it is to actually do anything productive. I may still get around to putting the smack down on Isabella later tonight, but I will finish this entry first, capping off what has been a pleasantly productive day in terms of work.
January has been an interesting month so far. I didn’t make any resolutions, mainly because I can’t stand resolutions, but I have turned over some new leaves anyway. For one, I have met some bloggers in person for the first time ever. That is, I have never discovered someone through their blog and then met them later (although I have met people that I met on bulletin boards, namely the Ozone Asylum). This month, I met not one, but two bloggers whose writing I enjoy.
On the third of the month, I met up with the Silk Alley Korean (who goes by the moniker “Nequila” on her blog) during her trip to Korea. I discovered her blog when she sent me an email once, asking me a question about something I had written on my site. I started reading her site, and we began corresponding by email. We carried on an interesting dialogue that even inspired a couple of entries along the way here at Liminality. Although we had never met, I enjoyed our “conversations,” and when I heard that she was going to be visiting Korea, we decided that we had to meet up for lunch.
(Quick aside here: sometimes people email me with a comment or question, and at the end of the message they give me the link to their website prefaced by some meandering, self-effacing line that goes something like, “Oh, you probably won’t be interested in my site, but I thought that maybe I’d just drop a link anyway, you know, in case you get bored of tattooing yourself with magic markers or whatever it is you do with your free time.” Now, I understand why people do this, but I have never felt bothered because someone sent me a link to a site. In fact, I check out the site of every person who emails me. That doesn’t mean that I necessarily find all of these sites to be interesting, but a number of the feeds in my now pared-down feed list are from sites I discovered because someone emailed me and introduced me to their site. That’s one of the things that makes cyberspace so cool. So if you’re emailing me and you’ve got a site of your own, definitely give me the link and definitely don’t apologize for it. OK, so that wasn’t as quick as I thought it would be. End aside.)
So, as I was saying before I so rudely interrupted, Nequila and I met up on the third of this month in Insa-dong. It’s kind of embarrassing that I can’t find my way around Seoul better, considering how long I’ve lived here (granted, not all of that time has been in Seoul, but still). The truth is that I have this knack for getting lost when I’m with other people. The funny thing is that I have a good sense of direction. I think the problem is that I often fail to go with my first instinct and second guess myself a lot, especially when I’m with someone else and I’m supposed to know where I’m going. When I’m by myself, I’m fine, but put someone in tow and I will lead them straight into a brick wall.
Fortunately we didn’t really have much in the way of a destination, so we arrived without incident. We had a rather large lunch of fried rice with various ingredients that didn’t faze me until Nequila pointed them out. Like the tangerines—or mandarins, or baby clementines, or whatever you call those things (gyul) in English. Then we had a whole bunch of steamed oysters. I’m not the biggest eater, and apparently neither is Nequila, and we had to leave some of the food.
There is a tea house I like to go to in Insa-dong, in the Kyung-In Museum of Art (site in Korean), and we decided to head there for tea. There is a nice outdoor area there where you can sit and drink tea and almost forget that you are in the middle of this huge, sprawling, writhing city, but it’s not the most hospitable place in January. The tables outside were empty, and we went inside instead. It was my first time actually going inside, and it looked very different from what I had thought it would be. Or maybe they remodeled. Anyway, I had the ssanghwa tea (which Nequila rightly described as “dark and medicinal-tasting) and she had the omija (a type of fruit) tea. Then we walked over to Jongro Tower, where I met my wife and headed home.
After our email conversations, I was expecting to have plenty to talk about, and I was not disappointed. I tend to talk a lot when I get the (rare) chance to speak English, as if I can make up for all the days (and weeks and months) that I go without speaking it, but Nequila tolerated my babbling. For her part, she did scarily accurate renditions of Korean service personnel and Koreans speaking Konglish. In fact, she was far too accurate for someone who claims to have little exposure to Koreans. I have a new theory, and that is that the Silk Alley Korean is actually a spy sent to infiltrate the Korean government and, uh, infect them with the disease of Konglish! Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Spy or not, I was glad to finally have the chance to meet her. The only downside is that I now have to make a conscious effort to not hear her Konglish voice in my head when I read her blog. It still makes me shudder.
On this past Friday, the 20th, I had my second blogting (yay! I just coined a new Konglish word! Or maybe not; knowing Konglish, this word has probably been around for a while. If not, though, you heard it here first). This time I met up with Kevin S. Kim (I’ve been informed that the “S” is for “Subtlety”), the Big Hominid himself. We had originally planned on heading to a nice Italian restaurant near Gangnam Station called Puccini, but Kevin warned me in advance that he was under siege by the snot demons and might not be able to taste the food. Fine food would have been wasted, so we decided to go with a backup plan. On the subway into Seoul, I had been trying to think of foods that might be able to keep the snot demons at bay, and the first thing that popped into my head was dalkgalbi—a mixture of chicken, ddeok (rice cake), and vegetables stir-fried on the spot with hot pepper paste and other seasonings. Apparently great minds think alike, because this was the first thing Kevin suggested, and we went to have dalkgalbi. The version we had (of which you can see a picture at the link above) threw in severed infant appendages. It was good, but unfortunately even the human sacrifice required to cook it was not enough to fully exorcise the snot demons.
We did talk during dinner, but the place was so noisy that my throat was hurting from shouting by the time we finished eating. We decided to find a quieter locale for tea and left the main drag. We did find a relatively quiet place (and then sat down right next to the speaker, which slowly increased in volume throughout the night) and were able to have a fairly normal conversation. As Kevin notes, the conversation was interesting, but like him, I’m not going to comment on some of the things we talked about. There are things that I write about here, and there are things that I talk about with friends, and there is a line that does not get crossed. And I guess that’s enough said on that subject.
My wife showed up later on after watching the film Yasu with her student (another “blockbuster” that sucked, by the way). As Kevin records on his blog, the “cruel decision” was made to speak only in Korean. The excuse that I gave was that my wife has to speak English throughout the day, so she needed a break. The real reason, which I will now admit, is that I wanted to see how good Kevin’s Korean was. Yes, I suppose that was cruel of me. But I think his Korean is better than he makes it out to be. The three of us were able to have a conversation more or less completely in Korean without any problems.
We had been joking about how Koreans will often mistake me for the Son of God (true story: there was once a guy at Gangnam Station, slightly on the nutty side, who would follow me around when I exited the station there and proclaim that the Second Coming had taken place and I had returned to earth. Fortunately, he was not there this past Friday), and after seeing some photos of me here at Liminality, Kevin had dubbed me “White Jesus.” Well, when we left the cafe there just happened to be two crosses there, and my wife had some spare steel spikes in her pocket... you can probably guess what we decided to do next. (Note: the following image is not intended to be blasphemous, just humorous. Apologies if it ends up being neither.)
The original can be found on Kevin’s site, along with a number of variations. This is my stab at the motif. Not very original, perhaps, but someone had to do it.
All in all, we had a good time, although probably not nearly as good a time as might have been had had Kevin’s mucous geysers not been going off. Fortunately, neither of us are going anywhere in the immediate future, so I suspect there will be more insanity to look forward to, maybe even insanity that involves fine Italian food (and food that Kevin has promised to cook for us! Yay!).
As if meeting two really cool people in one month wasn’t enough, February has it’s own fun in store for me. I’m pretty psyched about this, I must admit: That David Guy will be visiting me for about two days toward the end of the month. I’m psyched because I don’t get to see my friends from the States too often, but also because this will be the first time someone other than family will visit me here in Korea. I’ve made a number of trips back to the States since I first got here, but (understandably) none of my friends have been able to make the trip out here to see me. So I’m really looking forward to that.
And I guess that’s all for today. Hopefully I’ll be able to get back into a more or less regular schedule of writing here again. I think this week has been a good start.