This weekend was lovely and peculiar for so many wonderful reasons.
Went to Seodaemun Prison Museum, where Korean prisoners were tortured and brutalized in various terrible ways by the Japanese during WWI/WWII. This should have been a solemn and contemplative visit for Krystafre and I--and it was. To an extent. But even the most poker-faced historian would have to smile at the ridiculously bloodied Korean mannequins and recorded screams, which gave the whole place a Ripley's Believe It or Not! kind of feel. Being as immature as I am, I couldn't stop giggling under my breath.
Clearly, many Koreans have reason to hate the Japanese. I definitely got the sense that the suffering/torture was being slightly over-exaggerated, however, painting the Japanese as soulless rapists of the motherland. One thing that continues to take me aback here is how fiercely nationalistic Koreans are--they LOVE Korea. It is freaky--there is a distinct lack of critical thinking about government. I forget very frequently that thirty years or so ago, South Korea had leaders whom were not much more benevolent/democratic than Kim Jon Ill.
Switching gears: Saturday night.
Rode the bus around Uijeongbu for almost two hours, looking for a local bar/dance club. This sounds like a stupid idea in writing, and it was. We rode the bus to the end of the line...which we figured would take us the Uijeongbu subway station. Nope...in the middle of the pitch black countryside, Krystafre and I were ordered off our empty bus by our dumbfounded and slightly peeved looking driver. Complete terror ensued, much as if we were trapped within a bad road/slasher film.
But fortunately enough, we were picked up by another bus five minutes later, which took us to Uijeongbu proper. After walking around for twenty minutes or so, we were hustled into a dance club by a desperate looking bouncer. The club was about halfway full with women...Korean women. Just ladies. CREEPY. Before we could get weirded out enough to beat it, though, our bouncer friend sent us a huge platter of fruit (ridiculously expensive here, by the way) and beer. For free. And, well, nothing gets me like free produce and booze.
Thankfully, some men began to enter the fray, as did more people in general. But we began to notice that people were being shuffled around us by uniformed waiters...boys being moved to sit with girls and vice versa. Suddenly, it occurred to us...we were at some kind of speed dating club. And clearly, us foreign girls were not being included in the scrim. It was hilarious.
Co-workers, Canadians, and couple(hereafter known as C-cubed. Kidding)Alex and Mark (along with Mark's visiting sister, Alicya) let me tag along with them for a trip to Seoul's highest point, the N'Seoul Tower.
Cable car sardine can.
Click for a panoramic view that I stitched together myself. Yup, I'm tech-hip.
At the top, there was some kind of Korean marital arts display going on, which I know little/nothing about. Instead, I'll just show you some pretty cool pictures, and get back to you later on that subject once I'm a know-it-all...
Now comes the crazy "You did that!?" moment of this post. The part that I've been itching to write about. The part that should move you to get on a plane and come see me in Korea just so you can do it, too.
We went to a spa popularly referred to as "Dr. Fish". Located in the classier part of the city South of the Han River, I was expecting a hygienic, sterile pedicure-salon type atmosphere. What we walked into was more coffee shop than beauty parlor, however--we were obligated to order an expensive coffee-based drink. I had an iced Americano...coffee, especially iced coffee, has become wildly popular in Korea. Our barista asked us, "Fish?" after we ordered, to which we all responded "YES". And then we waited for a half hour.
Finally, it was our turn.
There were hundreds of two inch fish in this spa, which nibbled at your feet, legs, ankles, and toes; supposedly at all of your dead skin. I had worked my face into a grim mask of resolve and determination--all for naught, as I dissolved into uncontrollable giggling after sticking just one toe into the tub. I couldn't stop laughing. After six or so attempts to plunge my feet in through my terrified squeals, I realized the prickling bites weren't so other-worldly if I imagined being caressed by some some of non-living object--a Sharper Image massage machine, for instance. Not hundreds of little sucking, ugly fish, who swirled around each of my toes. Eventually, I lowered both feet into the tub, albeit with continued squirming/the occasional uncontrollable animal noise.
From left, counterclockwise: me, Alex, Mark, Alicya
Were my feet left scale-free upon completion? Maybe? I don't really know. Definitely worth 6,000 won or so, however (about $5.80).
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE come to Korea so we can do it together! I wanna show someone around this place...