Apr 14, 2006

Dispatch from Korea, Day 4 "The President Goes Ballistic"

Monday, March 27, 2006

Again we leave the guesthouse late. So late that we have to change our plans. It’s too late in the day to go to the Korean Folk Village located about a hour and half train ride outside of Seoul. So instead we went to Kyeongbokung Palace. We tried to get there for the noon guided tour in English, but we ran into Ms. L, a former teacher at our school in the subway station. She had been visiting her fiancé in the Philippines and had a 14 hour layover in Seoul on her way back to the U.S. mainland. She was meeting a friend for lunch and we just happened to run into her. What are the odds? The students had a giggly blast taking snaps with her.

The girls loved the tour and kept the guide after the tour was over for an extra 20 minutes asking questions about Queen Min, the heroine of “The Last Empress.” It was something to stand on the very grounds where she lived and died. We visited the National Folk Museum on the grounds of the palace, and it was like most musueums—more to see than you could ever have time for. Museums always leave me vaguely frustrated that I’m missing out on something since I can’t see it all.

After that it was off to Dongdaemun, one of the major shopping districts of Seoul. Rows of booths with sellers hawking sunglasses, jewelry, baseball caps, belts, socks (socks are really popular in Korea. There are little stands all over Seoul selling socks like hot dogs sell in New York City), clothing of all sorts, shoes wrapped in clear plastic, fake Louis Vuitton handbags, men’s and women’s underwear (especially popular were the impossibly small-sized bra and panty sets), watches, and much more. Interspersed with the merchandise booths were food stand selling hot chestnuts, kabobs, sushi, and these strange hot-dog-and-french fries-deep-fried-on-a-stick and drizzled in ketchup. Towering above all this are high rise shopping malls all glaring, flashing neon and chrome with names like Doota! and Migliore!

It was here in the warrens of Dongdaemun that the Vice President lost it. First she lost (or was pick pocketed) her wallet. Second, she lost her mind. She just went ballistic. She stalked off, shouting at anyone who talked to her, lashing out at anything and anyone. We basically followed her around as she stalked about manically looking for a wallet that was long, long gone. She demanded to go back to Saipan. Now. She demanded to call her mom. Now. She told my wife to shut up when she tried to talk to her. She refused to eat. She raged, sulked, pouted, and eventually rested in sulleness.

We went home subdued.

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