Monday, September 15, 2008

Mistaken for a Russian Prostitute or Adventures in Insadong

Yesterday, I was a tourist for the first time in Seoul. The owner of club psycho, UuJohn (no idea how that might actually be spelled romanized but that is how you pronounce it) and another teacher I know from psycho, R., met at Dunkin Donuts before hopping the subway into Seoul.

Side note: no where in Korea is it possible to find a good cup of coffee. I gave in and bought coffee at both Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, hoping for something that wasn't coffee flavored water. It looks like I am going to need to buy a coffee pot and import pounds of coffee from abroad if I ever want that cup of coffee.

Anyways, first we headed to Itaewon, the foreigner hot spot in Seoul. I live in a neighborhood where I am usually the only Caucasian on the streets. It is not uncommon for people to stare and point when I go out. Walking the streets of Itaewon, home of the American army base, tourists and English teachers was disorienting-- everywhere I turned were people who looked like me. Instead of noodle shops there were Morrocan, Italian, French and American restaurants. I liked hearing all of the different languages around me again, like walking around in New York City. Anyways, the main point of our journey to Itaewon, aside from the pretty things to look at, was this store called 'What the Book.' It is the best English language book store around, featuring used and new books and catering to English teachers like me. So in addition to the novels there were large sections containing travel books, teach yourself Korean books, kids books, teaching aids and the works. Needless to say, I was in heaven. Uujohn, who speaks English very well but isn't a big English reader abandoned R. and I to our bibliophile induced mania for a coffee shop. I already have several books in the new book section earmarked for when I actually have money. Needless to say I was not so strong as to resist the used book section. I got George Orwell's Burmese Days and Andre Gide's Strait is the Gate . I have never heard of Gide but it looked good. Needless to say, there shall be much stealing of books between us.

After wandering around Itaewon some more, we stopped at a pub/restaurant called Phillies where I got to have a real American breakfast! (It was actually 3 in the afternoon but I can always eat breakfast.)Hash browns, eggs, sausage, toast! Actually, I think it was probably more like a British breakfast since on the menu were also things like 'bangers and mash' and 'baked beans on toast.' No matter, it was tasty. Then Uujohn went off to a hair appointment. (She is getting her hair chemically straightened. I am not entirely sure why as I have never seen straighter hair but who am I to judge?) R. and I decided to head off to Insadong to see a really cool Pagoda Park and wander around.
[Why are there no pictures you ask? Because I cannot for the life of me get my card reader to work. I have the sneaking suspicion I might need some sort of driver disk for it.]

After wandering around Insadong for a few hours we decided to stop at a cool bar that R. knew about and have a pint. Ok, here is where the cultural translation is needed:
There are many Russian prostitutes in Korea. Apparently. I have yet to notice one but it's not like I'm actively looking or anything (or likely to be doing so, ever). If a Caucasian woman is with a Korean man it is often assumed she is a prostitute--especially if she is significantly prettier than the man. It has nothing to do with what she is wearing. This also goes for a pretty girl hanging out with a guy who is considered less attractive than she is. Now at this point you may wonder 'but how do you know they thought you were a prostitute?' Good question class! In a male dominated society, the waiter always addresses the man at the table. Unless of course the female is obviously a prostitute in which case they address her! So apparently, I was mistaken for a Russian prostitute at the bar we went to. I found it infinitely amusing and a great source for jokes for the rest of the day though R. was less amused by their error since he finds it offensive that they would just assume a woman is a hooker. A friend of his was denied entry to a club because they thought she was a hooker because a pretty girl would not hang out with guys not equally pretty. Because obviously, girls don't have male friends or value people for their minds ever. So they must be prostitutes! I completely agree with R., however, since I've never been mistaken for a Russian prostitute before I was greatly amused.

I enjoyed wandering around Seoul and being a tourist. I really love it here though I wish I had a table in my apartment instead of a TV. I am still brainstorming on tactful ways to tell my supervisor that it's great that they got one for me but really, I don't watch tv, I've never personally owned a tv, and I'd really rather have a place to sit with my books than have a great hulking bit of plastic. The worst bit is that it's slanted on top so I can't even use it as a place to stack my books.

I did nothing but laze around my apartment and read today. Everything is closed for Chusok so I figured I might as well indulge myself.

I promise there will be pictures-as soon as I figure out how to get them from my camera to my computer. It might take awhile at this rate.


Nancy K said...

Did you bring the cord with you? You can download directly if you have the right cord. Name of which eludes me.

Chris said...

Should be called a USB cable.


Baldy said...

Hey Alex, just wanted to tell you about a really cool exhibit that just opened up.
There is a english version of the site(top right corner)

The New Media exhibit is examining Light, Communication, and Time. I know you probably have a million things to do and see, but this is worth a quick peek!

Alex said...

Thanks Gunther! That sounds fantastic! I'm always looking for things to do--none of the guidebooks written on Korea were particularly satisfying.