Between, the lines

f/9 1/30 ISO 33200

Pohutukawa tree, A’la urban

20181211_114925 (Pohutukawa, a'la urban)

The New Zealand Christmas tree always blossoms around Christmas time.

Hopscotch, messages

20180731_093235 Cryptic messages on slate grey

Easily read

IMG_1233 Warning, ignored

The wonder of collocates

Wall, calligraphy?

 

IMG_20171031_215918EDIT 1 up Zhong

“One-up-Zhong”

 

Phonemic alphabet, dyslexic graffiti

Graffiti in a form that might befit an Oxford university professor, or an English teacher on his day off. Hanging out at my wife’s university, with no other reason than to soak up the air conditioned air. Talk about a rarefied environment. The English teachers at Hoseo university also have an English camp too, teaching Elementary grade kids. I’ll have my second installment next week, this time at Sunmoon university. I spied on the stairwell walls maxims to encourage the students; poignant reminders that you’re at English camp. As if they’d forget. Still, I felt the need for some harmless graffiti. First of all in phonemic script, and then a slight on the Latin translation, Carpe diem, “Seize the carp.” For so much fish, it could lead to a lot of confusion, but perhaps none on the students part. Do they really read the signs anyhow?

Just an ode, more of a tip of the hat to ‘camps’. I’ve always taken the alternative meaning to the word ‘camp’ just to entertain myself even for just a moment. This is not what flashes through my mind, but more of an extension really.


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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

Up the Bung-hole at the throw of a dice

YOU ARE LOST

But to para-phrase Fred Dagg, “Not only down a hole, but at the very far end of a hole.” This particular hole was Bongwhasan was at the end of line number six, of the Seoul metro line. I called Ben a few expletives for rolling such a distant location. Bongwhasan was closer to Gangwon-do than it was to Seoul, or in our case, Bupyeong in Incheon, which is where we had meet. Travelling to this place might take longer than the actual walk itself, though I don’t remember what time we arrived at Bongwhasan station itself.

Leaving the subway underground we found that the city was surprisingly modern, albeit with an obsession with oddly shaped air-conditioning ducts. Some of them looked quite contemporary, even novelle. But from odd looking a/c ducts to just an unfortunate array of initals. SNUT,which I suppose means Seoul National University of Technology. Maybe.

Having walked from the station of arrival to the next stop in what felt like a few minutes we arrived at the next stop, Hwarangdae, and according to the thumbprint map in the subway, the home of the tombs for the Chuseon royal family. Though significant, they couldn’t be found, and were not evident in the cityscape. Quite possibly a bus ride away. Ben and I didn’t bother, but after a short discussion decided to follow the minor stream that ran more or less along the same route as the expressway that loomed overhead.

The stream is a place to recreate for many Koreans, and geese alike. Spotted along the way were some informational signs warning of falling objects. In walking through it also showed the almost compulsary graffiti under the bridge. Despite Korea’s straight-laced reputation, you can find signs of anarchy in the form of graffiti if you know where to look. Ecclectic messages ranging from ‘dong’ to cryptic references to game over to faces on a wall. It must have amounted to a fair investment of time for the graffitists involved.

As our walk along the stream progressed the actual stream turned into a river, with anglers, some casual and some simply out for their dinner sitting side by side.

A stop by the river for a rest was taken, but the visual entertainment didn’t stop there. While trying to take a photograph of a crane sitting mid-stream, this pre-schooler wandered into view. He was all class. First chasing the pigeons here and there, while almost tripping up on his own feet. To finish his ensemble, he decided to take a piss into the river he was standing adjacent. Ben and I were hoping for some miracle that he might find his way into the river or that a random heavy object would fall from the sky in a similar style of the information signs seen before.

The final lap, or perhaps the last straw was trying to find a way to cross the river, hopefully by bridge, which seemed to not to exist to accomidate pedestrians though. Instead the solution was to find a bus stop and ride the bus to the nearest subway station, which our case was Cheonganyi.

From annoying to really to just plain bothersome, we sat in our wooden panned chairs at Yongsan station when what turned out to be a Mormon. She began trying to win us over to Mormonism, but the sales pitch was falling on deaf ears. A conversation ensued between her and Ben while I say beside Ben, half grinning, half ignoring what was going on. A hard sell both of us, but she was presistent, and found to be lacking the vocabulary of refusal and denial. She finished and went back to her older supervisor. A perfect end to long slog through the bunghole.

Nothing angry, just a load of babble

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Random scrawlings on the wall can be seen in most places in Seoul. Most often for me, captured when walking. It’s all in Korean, but what is in English, is a little incomprehensible. Or even drawings as some of my photos will show.

A sub-category within this is graffiti on the railings of bridges. Someone extolling their love for their beau, or high schoolers recording their passage through national exams. It’s an interesting side of Korean (pop) culture. What it represents to me is a kind of rebellion, someone who has broken the mould, gone against the grain and done more or less something that they shouldn’t have. What the hell, it’s only a piece of public infrastructure made more interesting, or ugly depending on your perspective.

Enter the ping-pong ball, exit covered in four different types of sweat

Ben and I had decided on going for a walk to Seon yu do park, a former sewerage works located on an island next to the Southern bank of the Han. Reformed into some sort of botanical garden, it had the outward appearance that someone had been too lazy to remove the existing sewerage works settling ponds and pipes and instead, tried to cover it up. What made it personally interesting for me was the graffiti written on some of the steelworks.

The weather that day had decided not to rain, but instead had gone on to be incredibly humid. Things started heating up, and pretty soon I was covered in a combination of sweat and sunscreen. Ben more so. Beads of sweat were cascading down his face. He’d looked like he’d just come out of the shower. The result was that his clothes soaked, while I didn’t have the same problem, my underwear was driving itself in a northern direction and generally made a nuisance of itself.

I almost always pack a camera when I go walking; but today I just found that the vistas today, were less than inspiring. This was probably in part because of the fog that was veiling most of Seoul in a brilliant white haze. It was like being on the inside of a large ping-pong ball. This neatly obscured the longer lines of sight; maybe this was a labour-saving phenomenon. The less photos I took, the less I’d have to process later on. Ben and I, had walked most of the Han river, and a good portion of the bits inland of it. I had quite literally taken the photos in the past.