Vic Rattlehead rising, memories of an old jacket

An old piece of clothing can evoke memories of a childhood, or period of your life that has past. Viewing the piece of clothing again, can bring up those memories. I had an old Megadeth t-shirt with the band’s  mascot, Vic Rattlehead rising out of a crater filled with toxic sludge while chem-suited men (who were supposedly dumping the toxic waste) ran head long from the rising menace. I have to say that my cousin got me interested in heavy metal, and that I had to wait ages for the actual t-shirt to come into the the record shop. It was a good sturdy piece of clothing, it held it’s shape even after I was dripping in sweat after fencing all day.

Fast forward 5 years, and I’m at university about to go to Auckland to hang out with my then girlfriend’s sister and her boyfriend. Buying this ski jacket was just simply “keeping up with the Jones”. I grudgingly bought it but hardly wore it. Simply put, I had other clothes to wear.

It wasn’t until I went to South Korea to teach English, and, experience snow and some utterly bitterly cold temperatures that I appreciated it more. In a lot of ways I had gotten used to using and wearing this jacket. As far as Winter clothing went, it was de-rigueur. I even went skiing with it once.  Only then did I find out why skiers wear something akin to  lined waders. The higher waistline helps keep the snow out of your underwear.

It had a lot of pockets, and, being an asthmatic I put my inhalers in my chest pocket My cellphone usually went in there too. The other pockets were filled up nicely with my wallet and sometimes, my gloved hands. Despite multiple washings  at the dry cleaners, it still survived. Overtime, the only thing that really failed was the plastic tag that helped pull the zipper, and also the partially melted polyester filling from contact from drycleaning fluid, it was fine.  I replaced the plastic tag with a zip-tie. Looped it through and cut off at the appropriate length it worked just fine. Just a bit time worn, it had a decent burial, with me depositing it into the second-hand clothing bin out on the kerb, near my apartment. At least it can go on keeping someone else warm.

Maximising STT, failure within earshot

IMG_20120217_155054While I was in Shenyang, I got to spend a lot of time in one of the local Starbucks. To paint the scene, the first thing you hit after you’ve gone through the revolving doors is the counter. You’re greeted (in Chinese of course) by the staff. I stroll up to the counter and order my usual hot chocolate, grande’ size. The shop is normally crowded but I’m usually able to find a seat. Coffee shops tend to be places where all sorts of people meet. Not uncommon that I’ve seen foreigners congregate here for whatever reasons. I’ve seen a bible club run, meetings occur (locals and foreigners alike) and of course the 1 to 1 English lesson. I have to say that this guy was talking way too much. When I took my CELTA training, the specific teaching footnote was to maximise student talk time (STT). They are afterall, there to practise their English, not to sit and hear someone preach. Having to sit in close proximity to the ‘1 to 1’ couple, was annoying. CELTA, I think, had turned me into a stern critic of English teaching. This way or nothing. To be fair, the student did look on the shy side, or heaven forbid was seeking advice, but there’s always room for improvement, on both sides of the fence.

Mis-leading signposts, ends in artificial limbs

One thing that could be said about the walk that Ben I had just done was that it was boring. Sorry, but that is the pick of it. It all started at the station. On walking out, we came upon a corner of the station that was taped off. As in, work under construction taped off. Upon examination we struggled to see why it was in the state it was. Maybe something was taken away later. In retrospect, this was a foretelling of what was to come, that is, absolutely nothing.

We had randomly chosen a metro station, close to central Seoul. The local area had signposted, sites of significance. Park, Chung-hee‘s former house. 500 metres later there was no indication or sign of it. Later on another signpost directing us to “500m Seoul folk flea market”.

Anticipating a whole lot less, the sign did this time, did not disappoint. As we saw later, the market was built up around a road, later closed off. The only thing left of the road was a judder bar. Looking around the market place, there were no surprises. Food stalls selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to cooked food and the like. For some inextricable reason, throughout the hike there were a high proportion of men touting beards and mustaches. Had we stumbled into the suburb that shavers and razors had been either banned or forgotten about?

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Exiting the marketplace we read another sign directing us to a fortress trail. This time we found it. After the passage of time had been done, there wasn’t much left of the fortress but a well preserved siding of the wall and the actual gate or door.

Finally we hit Seoul station. This station was built by the Japanese colonial administration and as far as I know is in original condition. The other factoid about Seoul station is the population of bums. Entering the concourse leading to the station we passed two women playing instruments. Not sure if they were busking and it’s not something that’s done in Korea. Opposite them was a man sketching them in a folio book. I’m not sure if they were all together. Passing by Seoul station we did see the bums that Seoul station is known for. I observed two of them sharing food together. Every meal a banquet, every windfall a fortune.

A little way down from the station we came across a line of men, bums without thinking into it too much. They were lined up for something, perhaps a meal, provided by some NGO perhaps. Lastly we passed a number of shops where you could be fitted out with an artificial limb or limbs if you so preferred. Finally something of interest and a look at how somethings work in Korea.