I live in the shadow of the Hotel Bellagio, or the Ho_el Bellagio as the night lights spell it with a burnt-out 'T.' The building looms up over the neighbourhood like the most inappropriate of landmarks. Coming home from the subway station it always feels strange to tell cabbies "Hotel Bellagio, Hajungdong." But its red and blue neon sign stands out like a lighthouse beacon among the hangul shop signs and the winking cartoon pig stencils on the windows of BBQ restaurants, urging you to come on in and devour their chums. Sadists.
Tonight I couldn't sleep so I took a walk through the neighbourhood. Everything was quiet until I heard some rowdy shouts coming from one street over. I peeked my head through one of the building alleys, expecting to see some high school kids arsing around in front of the local Family Mart.
There were five, middle-aged men crowded around an old, chipped-yellow skill crane machine, drinking beer, smoking and trying their luck. Since anyone can wander into a convenience store and buy a bottle of soju, scotch, or Beaujolais Nouveau, and there are no laws against drinking in public, this is really a lot less strange than it sounds. That said, it really wasn't what I expected to discover on a stroll through the environs at a quarter after one. The picture is crummy, but I had to be covert. One never knows the etiquette for things like that. It wasn't exactly a case study in photojournalism.
I left the men to wile away their pre-twilight years in the midnight hours winning plush toys and lighters, and stopped by the Family Mart for something the package described as a "Volume Up Ham Sandwish." Famously described by the Red King in Through the Looking Glass as a cure for feeling faint, I expected this particular ham sandwich would do the trick famously. Perhaps by screaming at me when I opened up the package, or summoning up rock music, cranked to 11. However my sandwishes were far from answered, since it turns out that "volume up" simply refers to a third, middle sandwich triangle filled with macaroni salad. It's so obvious in retrospect....
I leave you tonight with this image of the Hotel Bellagio's neon lights, as reflected backwards in the window of the Methodist Church on the hill at the end of the street.
A Canadian writer teaches English and finds out what it's like to be a foreigner.