Another in the list of Korean contridictions (so far we're at kimchi vs. instant noodles and fanatic exercise vs. air pollution) is the quality of the Western treats you can buy just about anywhere.
My friend Shane bought what looked like a pecan pie but turned out to be filled with red-bean paste. I bought what I imagined to be a peach pastry, but was misled by the illustration on the package and bit into what was essentially a dinner roll crammed with pumpkin. The Korean take on coleslaw is chinese cabbage with ketchup on top. You become wary very easily. This is why delights like Lucy's Pie Kitchen quickly become Grails in the urban sea of Seoul. Our friend Edison first discovered this place, and has since taken every foreigner he knows there. So he, Shane, myself, and another aquaintance from King's found ourselves in Lucy's on a Sunday afternoon and saw first hand, what FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Twin Peaks; watch it) once described as, "where pies go when they die." While the pie could never best my step-mum's blackberry, it was still a miracle to find such foodstuffs here. My fork quavered as I pushed the lemon merangue towards my tongue, instinctively expecting it to secretly be green-tea compote, some form of glutinous rice paste, or a special kind of yellow jellyfish which is only delicious when scared. It was so good I almost fainted. Plus there was unlimited free coffee, which made my heart sing. I can't find the real stuff in Siheung, so I cry a little into my cup of pixie-stick sealed instant "mocha gold" every morning.
The shop appears to take it's name from the dozens of pictures of Lucille Ball hung up on the pink walls inside. She should be proud. I'm serious.
The other big adventure of last weekend was visiting the COEX in Samseong. This was a seriously huge mall, and Shane and I spent the better part of two hours wandering around, eating ice cream and oggling the latest electronic offerings from Samsung in a room that looked a bit out of place on Earth.
I saw a squid stand in the movie theatre, and an unscale smoothie shop called "Le Crapeau." The sales culture in Korea is really a thing to behold. When we walked through a swanky food and department store in the COEX we wondered how they could make enough money to sustain the hundreds of salespeople they seemed to employ. Every few feet, seemingly near every distinct product, is a different person trying to convince you to buy it. Be it coffee presses, decorative rice cakes, or yes, a suitcase full of shrink-wrapped Shiitake mushrooms. Willy Loman might have learned a few things from these guys. A man stopped to check out a display of leather jackets and the saleswoman took one off the rack and started to put his arms through it, as if to convice him that it was in fact the perfect fit and the world would end if he didn't drop some mad won on it.
If this was ever the proverbial "Hermit Kingdom," then the commercial sector has come miles out of its shell.
More to come...
...and pictures once I get my laptop online.
A Canadian writer teaches English and finds out what it's like to be a foreigner.