Friday, November 19, 2010

"Pali-Pali" – Hurry Hurry we have shopping to do!

Pali, Pali (hurry, hurry)
“We drive fast, eat fast, do everything fast – we are always in a hurry.”

This was what our Korean tour guide from the DMZ tour had told us about Koreans. It’s a good phrase to know before arriving in Seoul. It gives you a bit of insight into the culture here and definitely clues you in on how the taxi drivers get around the city.

“Excuse me, but did you go to the Pali, Pali taxi drivers school?”
As I mentioned in my previous entry, I heard more horn blowing in the first 24 hours of being in Seoul than I have in the entire last year of living in Japan. The cab drivers in Seoul are crazy! Most were quite nice but they drive like a bat out of hell. Red light ahead? That must mean “floor it.” Car stopped in front of you? That translates into – “Speed up and hope they start moving before you hit them.” Which sadly for us on one of our wild taxi rides the car in front of us did not move quickly enough. After rear-ending the car in front of us and checking to make sure we were all o.k. – our driver asks “is it o.k. if I pull over?” While we were waiting in the taxi for our driver to exchange information we all looked at each other and commented how this would never have happened in Japan. The rest of our taxi rides did not result in any collisions but apparently not for lack of trying – we nearly hit a bike rider in one ride, another the driver decided that going up on part of the sidewalk would help him circumvent some traffic, one member of our party had the horn blown at her for not getting out of the way quick enough (this was from the driver who had not even 60 seconds earlier dropped us off!) and after piling into one cab and telling him where we wanted to go he shooed us all out of his cab.

Namdaemun Market
Our second day in Seoul was earmarked for some shopping and a show. The first stop was Namdaemun Market – a huge, sprawling market that covers over 10 acres in the downtown area and has over 1000 shops. Anything and everything is available here – toys, food, clothes, crafts. I wasn’t in the market for anything in particular – but sure did enjoy looking. I did manage to purchase a few sheets of beautiful Korean paper and a very pretty fur scarf but aside from that my load was light – unlike some of my shopping companions. While my friends were shopping I wandered down an alley and found the Korea Snack Company – the shop owner was very friendly and offered me a sample. Some sort of pounded, puffy rice coated with honey on the inside. Quite tasty. Wandering further along I spied a beautiful display of figs. They looked delicious and I was ready to buy some, but first I wanted to take a picture …

“So were the Koreans rude?”
I was asked this a lot upon my return from Seoul. For the most part I did not find them rude – no more so than what I’d encounter in Washington, D.C. I think it’s part of the Pali, Pali mindset. They have someplace to go, are focused on the job at hand and do not have time to be bothered with tourists. But I did encounter one incredibly ornery elderly grandmother type selling her figs in Namdaemun Market. There are tourists everywhere in Namdaemun Market, so perhaps she’s just tired of them, but she does have her wares set up in the middle of a walking street – out for everyone to see and admire – so I really didn’t think too much about pulling out my camera and taking a few shots. But much to my surprise I got off one picture before she charged at me – this older Korean grandmother could move! I could not understand her anger – showed her the picture, that I hadn’t actually taken a photo of her but of the fig display … but she wasn’t about to listen to a westerner, yelling at me, waving her hands and promptly covered her nice display of figs with a cloth. Clearly, she’s done this before. She sat down behind her covered figs with her arms crossed, glaring at me. Well alrighty then, guess I won’t be buying any of her figs for a snack later … as the Scarecrow said to the apple tree in the Wizard of Oz “they probably had little green worms in them anyways.”

Later that evening we went to see the Korean show called Nanta or “Cookin.” This was a funny show, with audience participation, lots of dancing and percussion – sort of like Stomp taking place in a Korean kitchen. I had read the reviews and the warnings … if you are a Westerner you might want to sit in the middle or further back in the audience to avoid being selected to come up on stage. We arrive after another Pali-Pali taxi ride and start to take our seats – thank you my friends who scurried in front of me, leaving me 3 seats in from the aisle. I’m thinking well, we’re halfway back from the front and I’m not on the end … surely I’m safe. Wrong – at one part of the show the “Sexy Guy” selects me from the audience to come up on stage. Happy … I am not. I am petrified to be in front of people and much prefer to always, always be in the back of a group, behind a camera, basically no where near any attention. Somehow Sexy Guy must have some sort of radar and honed right in on me as a victim. Aside from my “15 minutes of fame” I thoroughly enjoyed the show and for a brief moment at least got to have some contact with a guy who is definitely cut and well deserves his show title as “Sexy Guy.” “Cookin” is an international show and if it happens to come to your town it is well worth seeing. For more information go to:

So, two really busy days down, one more to go. Our final day was spent seeing a bit of culture and getting in a little more shopping. Till next time, sayonara.

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