Wednesday, March 30, 2011

a crowd of women < one man

A bus stop in old downtown, Ulsan, South Korea around 7 o’clock in the evening.

The curtain opens to a young foreign woman running to try and catch a bus. She soon gives up, takes out her iPod, puts her ear buds in, and shuffles through music while looking down the street for another bus. The following scene takes place with muffled dialog, clouded by Tom Petty.

As she waits for a bus, older Korean women join her at the bus stop. Most women unintentionally keep their distance from her. She is not phased.

Some time passes. There are nearly 15 women at the stop, mostly older than her, but some younger.

Suddenly a short, rounded, stumbling drunk Korean man with a shit-eating grin wanders up to the group. He exudes a wanton air. The group visibly tenses. The man says something he thinks is clever, and the women, not wanting to be rude, half smile, but back away from him. They have forgotten about the foreigner.

Despite his smile, the man’s presence puts all the women on edge. Each woman senses danger and worries she will be the target of the inevitable, crude comments, but he has picked his target: a stylish ajuma (the Korean word for older woman) wearing black and a lovely silk scarf. He compliments her and while she half smiles because of flattery, she politely gestures for him to back off. He doesn’t. Instead, he gently grabs her arm. She twists and strains in reaction, but he continues his proposition. She shakes off his grasp and flat out refuses, probably telling him to go away, and attempts to back into the crowd, but he refuses to give up his pursuit.

The other women, there are even more now, do not interfere. They stand by and watch, shrinking into the safety of the crowd. The man attempts to get closer to the woman, who is practically in the street by now. A backless bench separates him from the woman, and in an attempt to hurdle the bench, he falls. The woman makes her escape to the other side of a telephone pole. The crowd of women watch. No one stoops to help him. No one gives him a lecture or shakes her finger. It feels as if no one has the power. It’s a crowd. Maybe someone else will step in.

The drunken man rolls a bit on the ground and then raises himself just enough to sit on the bench. He is drunkenly brushing dirt off his trousers. The group of women watch, waiting to see what will happen next.

A few minutes pass, and another, taller, more authoritative man walks up, with a woman on his arm. He says something condescending and the drunk laughs. The group of women suddenly relaxes, and a bus arrives. The women all scurry past the drunk, hoping to avoid incident, and get on the bus.

The curtain closes.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Korean Independence Day and some beach garbage ... I mean treasure

I awoke this morning to the sound of wet roads and grey skies. Disappointed in myself for sleeping in, and disappointed in the weather for not cooperating with my plan to head to Haeundae Beach, I decided to head out to Haeundae's distant, neglected, and abused cousin, Ilsan Beach. Possessing all the finer points of a beach -- fine, golden sand, a narrow inlet which creates a protected cove, and beautiful, golden rocks to climb -- Ilsan Beach should be a haven for foreign shipyard workers, foreign English teachers and Koreans, alike.

Unfortunately, the lack of upkeep and the variety of debris left on the beach by beach-goers or washed on shore from freighters and other big ships, create a situation in which the beach is respected by none and enjoyed only by those who have not seen the ocean for a while, have selective vision or ... are kids.

My first encounter with Ilsan met all of these requirements, and it was not until I had glorious Haeundae Beach as a comparison that I realized the magnitude of Ilsan's neglect and abuse.

Yet, like all things, in life, if you dress it up in your best sense of humor, put on your rose-tinted glasses, cock your creative thinking cap to the side, and squint a little ... Ilsan Beach has some treasures to behold.

I have intentionally left these photos without caption. Please feel free to contribute your own narrative as a comment ... Additionally, the sequence of events is merely a suggestion, feel free to rearrange.