Hello, good-bye Incheon

A recent hike through the Incheon station area, located, not unsurprisingly at the end of the Incheon line. The station had the usual refinements, being an above ground station, it was a simple matter of walking out the doors. Putting on sunscreen (and later a hat) inside of the station seems normal enough. Only it attracted an unwanted stare from some older-middle aged Korean man. I stared back, he kept starring back, I turned, only to check later if he was still starring. Essh. What a cycle. Welcome to Incheon, home of the xenophobic throwback Korean men.

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The odd contrast to this initiation was the Chinatown that had been build. It was plush. Cobble-stoned streets and preserved buildings from Koreans’ colonial era. Ben and I made a bee-line for Jayu park. This is significant for the fact that it holds a statue of Douglas MacArthur, and other adornments celebrating the Korean war and (surprisingly) Americans. Found in the park were two rather esoteric sculptures. One of them under certain conditions could look like giant turd. Personally I found the graffiti that was on it a more interesting composition than the inscription found across the square from the sculpture. Built to commemorate Korean-American cooperation during the war. Well, something like that. Further inside the park there was a life sized bronze statue of MacArthur himself. Mounted on a pillar no less. Beside it was something more interesting, a wall frieze of MacArthur and his staff making for the beach. Presumably during the historically notable Incheon landings, you could actually see MacArthur’s bronze hand showing signs of wear, that it had been touched, and ‘shaken’. For an expression of appreciation or just a chance to even come close to a man of such reputation I can only speculate.

Onwards and downwards to the Chinatown. Exiting the park, we both noted elderly people that seemed to congregate in the park. I noted the same thing too in China. My walking companion observed that the old people there are more appreciative foreigners since, they would have seen and experienced the Korean war, unlike their younger, fellow citizens born after the war. Maybe the ajossi at the train station could do with a change in attitude.

The Chinatown had cobble-stoned streets and was well taken care of. Perhaps falling under the influence of Jayu park above it. Very much a show piece of Incheon, it was part tourist trap (there were tourist shops on every street, and on almost every corner), and historical site with the actual Chinatown having many buildings from the period of colonization from the Japanese. Ben and I went into a former bank to have a look, but also with the ulterior motive was to get out of the sun and cool off. The museum/ 1st bank of Japan was wonderfully air-conditioned. It has massively thick walls, arranged in what seemed to amount to a maze of rooms. I had my photo taken infront of a stage set, of the street, as it was back when the bank was constructed. The one and only helper at the front desk was mature, pretty and very helpful. Exiting, Ben and I gave the donation box some notes.

Back to wandering through the streets, a school kid started to speak to us in English. I blew him off, but Ben being more patient, answered his questions while I hurried around the corner of a building and onto the main road.

Leaving behind the Incheon station and into more conventional streets, I took a photograph of a ‘shop’ that sold just anchor chains. Looking at the amount of heavy metal he had, I’d say he’d cornered the market comprehensively. I didn’t see a shop that sold only anchors, but would have been very pleased if I did!

After all that, walking toward Bupyeong station was all a bit of an anti-climax. To cap off the walk, we went through Dong-Incheon underground shopping center. Corridor on corridor of mindless crap that I personally could never think of buying. I’d always thought that underground shopping centers and even the underground subway lines in Seoul also serve a dual purpose of acting like bomb shelters a’la the London blitz of world war two. Would they, could they, withstand a direct hit? Would the North Koreans use gas in their warheads? What’s more would the gas be heavy, and go down, into the subways? Would there be enough kim-chi to out-last the siege? Ben and I walked out and onward to our final destinations.

Broken down, deplorable behaviour

What a bunch of losers. A car had broken down at an intersection.  Hazard lights blinking. A woman sat behind the wheel, telephoning for assistance. I’ve always known that Koreans can be ego-centric, but this was the worst display of “me first, fuck everyone else” I’ve seen in a long time. Honking, looking back with aggressive stares as they drove past, and all the while no-one thought to help he push her car out of the way. Sometimes she would step out of the car an usher people on. If it as obvious to me that the car had broken down, how obvious was it to other people and other drivers?

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Making a comparison for the worst, people in New Zealand would have helped her, if only to get the car out of the flow of traffic. Sometimes you’d have someone that could actually get your car going so that you could get to a garage..

When the repair vehicle arrived with so much blaring of it’s sirens and horns, all it took was a man to lift the bonnet and one minute to get the car started. It’s at times like this, I’m proud to be a Kiwi. God help these guys if there’s a genuine emergency and you have to think.

Only falling out of your chair is more difficult

P110712001I have to admit that the students have done well so far. The lesson plan was based on TPR, or, total physical respsonse. I had a box of realia for the students to act out a character. An over-sized toy hammer, a fly-swat, a hula-hoop, an empty beer bottle, an old cricket ball and a rubber chicken.

So far, the students have role-played stabbing a monster with a hammer cum crucifixes, lobbed grenades-cricket balls to cries of “fire in the hole!”, flipped burger patties with a fly-swat, stabbed other students with fictitiously broken bottles, and the jewel in the crown: a student giving CPR to a chicken. He was eliciting a paramedic. The only object they found difficult was the hula-hoop. I found myself climbing out of make-believe manholes and playing the lion tamer to invisible lions. Though innovative and witty, this lesson didn’t fit everyone. Using a different mode of input/ output didn’t suit all of the students though. Some of the more bookish students drew a blank, while the more physically inclined students did well. It takes all sorts.

Super-duper, done in 20 minutes

This has got to be the Rolls-Royce of rice cookers. Essentially a pressure cooker with a pocket calculator strapped to the front for ease of use. It goes with the bali-bali culture, as it can knock out a serving of rice in about 20 minutes. The ‘bowl’ is teflon coated and gasket sealed. It even talks to you; though thankfully it comes with a volume control.

Koreans certainly go all-out when it comes to the cooking of rice. In fact anything you can bung into the bowl, can be cooked. Tonight we even had sam-kye tang. Before this, we used to cook rice in a pot, on the gas range. Now its two taps on the buttons, 20 minutes and viola! Freshly steamed rice, ideal for the rice connoisseur in any Korean family.

Member of Olympic sleeping team, gone rogue

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What always flabbergasts me, is, why can’t they wait until they get home? Chosen to take a nap outside of Onyangcheon train station, the pavement is fortunately covered in recycled rubber, softening the asphalt.

No sense of decorum; a bench would be more appropriate, as he ‘lies’ not far from the escalators that lead up to the station. Though, it does makes a funny photograph.