The Culture Vulture, Part 3

This one’s gonna have to be short. I am in a crowded Starbucks near Seoul Forest. Not sure what that is, to be honest, a park of some sort, I am assuming.

I got here via the yellow line, which goes from Cheongnyangni Station to Incheon. I went to Cheongnyangni (I will check the spelling later on that one) this afternoon to sort of scout things out, because I want to make a solo trip out to Gangchon, an area in Gangwon-do I went a few times with friends years ago.

It took about 45 minutes to get to Cheongnyangni from my apartment, so I may as well figure on an hour traveling time, whenever I decide to make the trip. Might go tomorrow if I am feeling better.

Got kind of a light cold. Got it from coworkers.

Anyway, the train to Ganchon leaves from Cheongnyangni. I know it takes about an hour to get to Cheongnyangni, but it might take another hour to figure out where the right platform is, ha ha. I wandered around for a while there today and didn’t find it.

Matter of fact, I am here at Seoul Forest now because I was looking for the Gangchon train platform. I saw that the yellow line goes through Apgujeong — aka gorgeous Korean lady central — and I had originally decided to go to one of the 4-5 Starbucks there and type this, but when I heard “Seoul Forest” over the subway PA (in the English version of it), I decided to look around for a bit. Gonna finish my cafe latte and do that.

I walked all around Cheongnyangni Station. Like I literally made a loop around it. It’s a pretty big station, connected directly to a Lotte Mall.

The area around the station is more of an “old Seoul” area than anywhere I have been yet. I walked through an “open air” market where all sorts of stuff was for sale — fish of all kinds, kimchi, rice, as well as many different types of meat, many cuts of which still had feet attached to it — and it was a really cool place to walk through. I wore my mask the whole time — I’ve had it on all day, I have it off now to drink my coffee, but I am sitting alone — and I will wear it when I am looking around Seoul Forest.

The open air market is something every foreigner visiting Korea should experience at least once. What’s striking, aside from all the strange food items and interesting smells, is the way order seems to self-generate out of what could easily be abject chaos.

People walk every which way, in close proximity to each other. Buying, selling, carrying armloads of whatever they’re selling… and nobody bumps into each other.

Meanwhile motorcycles, scooters — the moped kind and the “rascal” kind, somebody on a rascal almost hit me but he yelled out just in time for me to move — as well as cars weave in and out of the mass of humanity… and nobody gets run over.

I mean sure, I am sure sometimes there are accidents. But they don’t seem to happen very often, considering how close everyone is to each other, in the purely physical sense.

It’s tempting to attribute this to “Korean people” and some unknown, exotic trait they must have… but I don’t think that’s it.

I think it’s cultural. I think that people in this environment learn from an early age to be considerate of other people, while still making their way through the crowds in a self-interested and even aggressive manner.

Everybody’s got somewhere to be, and they’re making their way there as fast as they can. But at the same time, nobody’s running into each other.

Try this in south Arkansas, and there would be fistfights every five minutes.

Here, everybody moves smoothly through the crowd, ajosshis sitting off to the side under canopies, eating bossam and drinking makgeoli or soju, ajummas arguing over prices, foreigners enchanted with the whole scene, probably sticking out like sore thumbs.

Anyways, I gotta go. Gonna go look around in Seoul forest.

Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *