Location: Seoul, South Korea
The World’s First Solar-Powered Floating Islands.
I wondered what these were when I saw them. Naturally, they are solar-powered floating islands. And of course they’re next to a giant fully-equipped public concert pavilion on the waterfront. Right next to what has to be one of the best-architected systems of recreational bicycle pathways in the world. And you can puke in disgust, now, because it all appears to be clean, public, ad-free infrastructure accessible to all, for the benefit of the commonwealth. Oh yeah, did I mention that there are privately-operated publicly accessible semi-permanent modular restrooms everywhere you want them to be? This partly explains the conspicuous lack of human excrement pretty much everywhere. But to keep things fair, I did see two elderly people (presumed poor) sleeping in subway stations, and a van almost drive into a four-year-old child. So there.
You Always Have a Special Audience (With Breasts).
So what’s a gal gonna do on vacation when it’s six in the morning and already 23 degrees Celsius? Motherfucking hill repeats! Haha! I hit Namsan Park around noon in lady shorts and a Nike Dri-Fit racerback tank from the Goodwill. Who dresses like a champion? I do. Take notes, chumps. I ran the park, which is charming and well-equipped. Planked paths and rugged trails intersect and wind around the base of the mountain, connecting normal stuff (benches and botanical gardens) with gizmos like this.
There were mild, moderate, and “Race to the Top” inclines, so I hit them all, and since I was basically breathing in steam, I wogged to the summit. And what do you guess is up there? A motherfucking mist fountain and some other top-notch awesome shit. Hallelujah. You are not shy about being awesome, Seoul.
So, breasts. Everywhere you go (in a tank top), there they are! What do you do with these things? Korean women definitely show a lot of “Asian wonder-leg” (my uncle’s term), but I don’t see a lot of leering here. I also haven’t seen any butt cleavage, whale tails or even an uncovered bra strap in 3 days. (I have been auditorily impaled by some violently mediocre pop music, however.) Except for the wonderlegs, most of the show is PG; I don’t see men or boys (or anyone) staring at women the way I’m used to. Am I really saying… It’s refreshingly chaste!
Here’s how we do it back home:
I forget how highly sexualized self-presentation is part of how we (as women or bodied persons of any gender) in the states are conditioned to self-oppress, or “play our part” in interactions where our sexual viability is factored into our overall value as people. And for women, more exposure equals more judgment—the more public our lives are, the more intense this sexual examination becomes. This goes for girls playing dominoes on the hoods of cars, and it goes for the District Attorney or the Secretary of State. Privacy from this kind of sexual scrutiny is disdained (“your’re such a prude”) because it signifies agency in the presumed sexual transaction (where consent and sexual cooperation are presumed to be automatic).
*This* is the shit I’m thinking about when I read embarrassment and surprise on the faces of some Korean men while I’m jogging. Maybe this is what respect for body autonomy looks like. Then how’s gal gonna get her jog on (and not commit acts of cultural offense)?
It’s also in my mind when hostel guy buys me a beer and then puts on all the moves in five minutes. Because I’m fucking charming, I give him a tactful lecture on the political implications of coercive physical contact (duh) and say “I’m flattered but not interested.” Mild as it is, contact persists until I physically extract myself. Little known reason why women love shagging lesbians, feminist men, and other sexy winners who are not you, guy: because coercive sexual cultures are retarded. Literally. Rape culture persists in your behavioral schematics because you have not incorporated 40+ years of liberationist ideas into your interactional practices. Start with “no means no” and stop raping people, already.
So Anyway…Ginseng Chicken.
Smart people told me to research this whole travel thing before I hit the road. You know: entrance procedures, visas, blah-blah-blah. Boring! Know what I’d rather be doing? Having dinner with my family and making sweet late breakfast with my lover. Duh! So here’s how my Chinese visa adventures are going.
I traveled at the speed of a lost baby to the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) office near Jonggak station. I won’t tell you how long it took. My transit cards went berserk, my closed umbrella kept willing itself open (because it is broken) and robots kept scolding me, which I dislike. But once I arrived, an extremely cheerful babe in a spectacularly organized office (I don’t think it was actually the KTO) greeted me and chopped it up with myself and two coworkers in English, Chinese, and Korean—and got me the information I needed.
On her instruction, I took two trains to Myeong-dong station and walked up the sexy fried chicken-and-sewage-smelling foothills north of Mount Namsan to the Consular Section of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul! Here’s what I saw when I got there. I smiled the whole way back down the hill. Maybe because I promised myself I could have lunch at this point. Lunch was good. Ginseng Chicken Soup.
How to say “Thank You” in Korean:
- kamsahamnida = COMB-SAW-MEE-DAH
It’s the only thing I can say so far.