So my Korean Christmas Day was interesting to say the least.
I took a grueling subway ride to meet Shane in Jamsil in the eastern part of Seoul, about an hour and a half away. The train was packed but that sure didn't stop some guy from hawking his orthopedic insoles, taking up space not only with the box he stored them in, but on the floor space he was using to demonstrate their wonderful uses... like putting in your shoes... yes, we get it! It was especially irritating because symbolically, this was actual foot-shaped space that could be used to get one of the bodies boxing me in on all sides to shuffle out and give some breathing room.
With the long ride over, I met Shane and we headed to Olympic Park.
What an amazing place.
The park was built for the 1988 Summer Olympics; in fact the Olympic torch is still burning at the entrance. Behind the barrier around the torch are scattered a few small coins, so maybe people figure that if you can melt your money with the Olympic flame it's good luck. There was a massive ice skating rink near the Olympic arch, but it was swarming with people so we decided to pass and walk through the massive, and dearly craved open space.
There are hundreds of strange interpretive sculptures from artists all around the world, lining the paths in the park. Some of them are particularly bizarre, like a lotus-legged praying mantis type creature, a bunch of round baboon-faced stones next to safes, and a giant red parking meter-like machine with a crank on one end and what looks like an arse on the other. It was intensely awesome. Of coarse my camera ran out of juice about half way through our adventure so I missed some of the best photo ops. The most notable being this:
We're turning a secluded corner of the park and see a series of hollow, metal statues of a man— fully anatomically correct— which start off dull, and get progressively shinier, until the fourth and final one which has no head.
So we check out some surrounding statues, and a middle-aged man in a black coat comes walking by the statues with his wife (we assume). They admire the work, he even gets her to take a few pictures of him crouching next to the headless one.
Anyway, the wife goes on ahead while the man lags behind. Shane and I are just walking up the path near the statues and we see the guy grab the headless one by the shoulders and give it a little shake. It wobbles but hold fast. Then for some inexplicable reason he grabs the statue's shiny metal member and gives that a shake too. Shane and I both look at each other like "Did you just see that?!" and while we exchange our baffled looks, he does it again to the next statue!
He goes through each of the four statues and shakes their shoulders and their junk, then goes on his merry way to catch up with his wife.
It was surreal. Like one of those dog shows where the judges look the pooch in the mouth and then grab it by the balls. Maybe it was some kind of good luck ritual. Maybe he was trying to see if it was detachable so he could toss it in the Olympic flame to melt for good luck. Maybe he wanted to see if the veins were embossed. These are the things we will never know.
Another of the great mysteries of Christmas.
Stay tuned for Part 2...
A Canadian writer teaches English and finds out what it's like to be a foreigner.