Wednesday, June 24, 2009


As previously chronicled, after a long first week I was in need of a solid weekend to salvage my second impression of Korea. As luck would have it, Cannytrophic coworker Zoz was also in Seoul, allowing us to continue our search for the ideal location for Cannytrophic's pending Asia branch.

The global intern posse had a scheduled trip into Seoul to explore the modern parts. Despite Friday night's liberation celebration, I was on the bus at 8:40, feeling only slightly worse for the wear. Our first stop was the Coex mall, an underground tribute to consumerism and Korea's 17th century victory* over the mole people who originally inhabited the peninsula. Not particularly exciting, but I did eat at a Pizza Hut and the pizza did have sweet potato around the outside and can now definitively state that sweet potato does not belong on pizza.

After that we went somewhere with upscale shopping, then to some other market. But again, nice places with many shops that I recognized, not the cool places with questionable goods and socks with Korean celebrities on them.

Lastly, the intern posse headed to Itaewon to check out Seoul's gaijin (there is a Korean word for this, but I forgot it and kinda like gaijin anyway) outpost. The intern posse headed back for Suwon and I remained in Itaewon to meet up w/ Zoz and his expat associates.

Thunder, a former MITer now in his 4th year in Korea, was our guide through Itaewon which ranges from quite nice to quite seedy in a pretty small area. Also, while I certainly don't want to denigrate the entire expat community, I can understand why Korean's have a negative few of the 'dirty foreigners'. Let's just say, if I wind up 50 and hitting on young girls in Itaewon, I won't be impressed. Still, I'd take Itaewon over Roppongi in a heartbeat. Highlights included an interesting bar filled with swings and sand to dinner overlooking a tranny cafe. To which I note, from a distance they are frighteningly convincing, closer up, just kind of frightening.

But the real scene stealer from the night in Itaewon was Champ. Late in the night, we stopped at one of the small food stands that line the streets. Basically it's a grill with tables and bench seats on 3 sides of it. The rain had stopped and it seemed a nice, cheap place to wrap up the night. Our group of 5 was split with 3 on the front bench and myself and 'Sarah' sitting on a smaller side bench. All is going fine when up staggers Champ and plops down next to me.

Champ orders a beer, announces that he is Korean and then rambles in Korean. We stare at him. Our puzzled stares and English replies do not dissuade Champ. He reiterates that he is Korean, apparently expecting this to give us the ability to understand him. This repeats several times, often with Champ reaching over me to shake/try to kiss 'Sarah''s hand. Sarah is not a fan. But, Champ is not dissuaded. No, he is Korean and he is a champ.

Thunder points out that we were rude not to introduce ourselves to Champ. We do so, which Champ understands well enough to show us an ID w/ his name on it. It is at this point that I inform Champ that his English name will henceforth be Champ. I write it on a scrap of paper and he puts it in his wallet with his ID. He then lapses back into rambling Korean and creeping out Sarah.

I decide that since Champ has no problem with carrying on a one way conversation, I will return the favor and begin discussing the new Transformers movie with Champ. There is a brief moment of recognition as Champ seems to have heard of Transformers or at least recognize my high quality sound effects. Champ also recognizes if I let obscenities slip and gets unduly excited. Like, crap, what have I unleashed, excited.

The amusement of this situation begins to wear thin as Champ begins gesture at me and himself in what I can only assume is concern as to whether I regularly check for testicular cancer. He also gets more aggressive in his quest to kiss Sarah's hand. He jokingly(?) hits me in the shoulder, which sobers me up pretty quickly. Not b/c it was particularly threatening (he immediately apologized), but the whole scenario seemed to be trending in the wrong direction.

We decided it was time to go. As we start to get up, Champ hops up and saunters down the street. We sit back down to finish our food/drinks, thinking he was gone. Nope, Champ just had to piss. In the middle of the street. Because he's Champ. Fortunately, when he returned, the lady running the food stand and her son ran him off (though I think Thunder might have offered/been coerced into paying for Champ's beers as part of the bargain).

All in all, it made for an entertaining evening augmented even more by a new appreciation of being free.

*This may not be entirely historically accurate, but I can't imagine why there would be so many underground shopping areas if they were not taken from the mole people.

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