The Mapo broadwalk, big contrast

The last time Ben and I walked through Mapo, was about two years ago. Then it was shabby buildings that looked like they’d been bombed by some foreign power. This time, it was quite literally the other side of the railway lines.

What a contrast it was, setting off from the randomised station, we emerged, as it turned out, in the hagwon district of Mapo. Pretty posh, we pasted a Maths hagwon that ‘guaranteeing your grade’. I wonder how hard you’d have to sleep in class to flunk, and then how much more harragging from the mother to get a refund. In big cities, the schools aren’t run by the Principal or the head, they’re run by the parents.

Mapo has streets like any other street in Seoul, this one was clean with the usual stores, apartments and restaurants. Towering above us were candidates for the forth coming local elections. A booty of high pay and perhaps a more reclining lifestyle awaits the individual that champions his cause the best. Maybe not this guy. He needs to review his photos before they go to print on a 10m by 50 meter poster stuck on the side of a prominent building. Wincing your hands isn’t conducive to an image of integrity and honest policies. Even the crowd in my town have a better sense of decorum.

Onwards to what could almost be seen as the “apple cart”. You don’t have to travel far to see signs of Koreas agricultural roots.

It never fails to surprise me how lacking in testosterone men are portrayed in advertisements in Korea. From Boy bands, to selling Nikon camera to showing what the average police graduate might look like. He might look nice, but he doesn’t at all have the image of authority that Mr Plod in New Zealand might have.

I have to comment that the photos of the two police officers are would-be graduates of a Police hagwon. Not, just one, but one of many police hagwons, or ‘academies’. Joke anyone?

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Random walk, ends in a laugh riot

Ben and I had come up with a way to make our regular hikes in Seoul a little more exciting. Each station has a number allocated to them, so what we did was used those numbers to decide where to go. For the generation of our numbers we used a 12 sided dice. The results so far, have been based around the Han river. Something that we’d specifically been trying to get away from.

Jamwon wasn’t exactly close to the Han (nothing really is) but we did end up walking along it and along untrodden ground, and filling in the grey areas that of ground seen, but not covered per se.

I guess the more times I do this sort of thing, the more blasé I get about the whole process of taking photographs. I mean, nothing pegs out my weird-freak-o-meter any more. Walking through Jamwon we discovered it well established, with all the ammenities at hand.

I would have to say that crossing the two-tiered bridge (반포대교) was the most interesting part of the journey. It was colourfull, curved and unusual.

After crossing that bridge, we saw some cops trying to catch traffic violators on camera. So I caught them on my camera. I didn’t think they minded.

Onwards to Yongsan, and by my veto, we walked through some of the more delapidated areas. Ben told me that there had been some riots over surrendering real estate to developers. To which the government, sided with the developers resulting in a rather notable ruckus.

After reaching Yongsan we settled in for some beer sipping and snack munching, all the while fending off bums. This particular one had a shaved head, and perhaps was a monk. I say this because in all the time he worked the area where we sat he didn’t utter a word. To Ben and I, this situation wasn’t new, so we decided to play a game of statues. Ben cast his eyes down, while I naïvely gazed ahead. I had this silly smirk on my face, and the bum though not talking, used gestures amounting to motioning an outstretch palm about the place. The giggles became laughter, and soon the belly laughter was unstoppable. We were lucky that bum/ monk had since gone while Ben and I continued our lapse into insanity for about 5 minutes. Looking at us, Koreans must have perceived foreigners as a little bit stranger that day.

Letters to Felice, Korean style

South Korea’s relation North Korea is troubled, and is often a rocky relationship. I just think that the North is ‘playing hard to get’. Over simplistic, but the North has it’s own ways, and South Korea as a potential suitor, has not yet given up.

To smooth the way, care packages are sent North. How often I’m not exactly sure. But according to statistics found on the BBC website, it’s yearly, measured in thousands of tons of food. That’s a lot even without another statistic to compare it to. Perhaps the total annual rice imports for New Zealand?

The picture, I’m told is part of the package going North to feed the masses. Instead on buying food, the North prefers to buy these and these.

To the casual observer, North Korea is playing hard to get, and at the age of 59, she might be too old to marry, and is heading toward spinstership. South Korea may woo the lady-to-to-be yet. We all live in hope.

Side note: Letters to Felice was a series of love letters written by Franz Kafka. Enagaged twice but never married, he had a troubled character. He died 11 June, 1924.

Biography, Franz Kafka.