A Travellerspoint blog

March 2006

The K-Punk Scene

who'da thunk? Oi!

After our classy and overpriced bottle of wine, we went to Hongdae for a punk show at a club called "Skunk Hell." Intimidating, yes?

First. Let me say I have never been to a punk show before. In America, in Spain, nowhere. I am not a punk rocker, nor do I claim to be. (And my family is very happy about this, even though I have tattoos, nose piercing, etc...I don't have a mohawk and except for one time in high school when I had blue streaks in my hair, I have never had a radically strange hair color...also, except for going from natural blonde to almost black...) However, the nightlife in Korea is usually full of danceclubs or bars, playing either techno, American rock, or pop. So the punk scene is something I was anxious to see.

So first, we had to find it. It was hidden away in what looked like a residential district. The show started around 7pm, and finished around 10-11 pm because they often receive noise complaints. The outside made it look like an unassuming little bar, except for the sign that said "Skunk Hell."

However, here is what I saw when I first walked in:

Graffiti everywhere. Punk rockers everywhere.

Then, like with any live band, my ears were assaulted by loud angry music. I have just begun to enjoy punk music, thanks to my friend Isaac, who gave me some CDs by The Clash, The Buzzcocks, Violent Femmes, etc. Then when I was in Japan, I bought two J-Punk CDs by 50 Kaiten and Ken Yokoyama. So I guess you could say I got a late start...people usually listen to this kind of music early on and then maybe outgrow it, or evolve, or whatever else.

The club was small, hot, and loud. It was BYOB, so we brought in cans of Hite beer, which was on sale for less than $2 for a big can at the 7-11 across the street. It's a good thing as well that there was no smoking in there, or else it would have been much harder to handle.

Some more pictures:

The ceiling and walls were covered in these paper fliers.

The first band and all the thrashers in the front.

The first band outside. The singer (with his tongue out) had a studded eyepatch. And he drank continuously onstage. Good times!

This man was from the second band. Nothing says punk like an accordion! Or a little flute, which he broke out later in the show. And apparently he looks like the guy from "Goldfinger," which I've never seen, so I take Isaac's word on this.

The singer from the second band, in the heat of the moment. While I was "thrashing" to the third band, this man actually stagedove onto my head. No worries, I just incurred a minor bruise/bump that has already gone away less than a week later.

The third and final band, hailing from Japan. Typically, Koreans hate the Japanese, so it was nice to see that these guys got so much approval. They were actually the most..."on" I guess in that they played very well.

It was quite a night, with going to Manhattan and seeing a side of Korea I never expected to see. I had a pretty great time, and Isaac and Scott really seemed to enjoy themselves. I may go back eventually, but not for awhile I think. It was pretty intense!

Posted by lrbergen 22:25 Archived in South Korea Comments (0)

Our Day in Manhattan

manhattan?! i meant to say yeouido...

Last weekend, my friends Isaac, Natalie, Scott and myself went into Seoul to Yeouido, the "Manhattan of Seoul." Why it is called that, I have no idea. We went to the 63 Building, called that because of its 63 floors, 3 of which are underground.

It took us about an hour and a half altogether to get there. See, we had to take the bus to Gwanghwamun, and since we had to wait about 20 minutes for a bus, we got on the first one that came along and had to stand. It was hot and cramped and stuffy and generally uncomfortable.

View from Gwanghwamun, at the Sejong Performing Arts Center.

So then we got off the bus and got onto the subway, which of course, being in Seoul, was filled to the rafters. Er...whatever. Then after 6 stops, we had to walk about 15 minutes to the actual building.

The Empire State Building of Seoul.

Look how carefree we are! We think we're getting in!

So when we arrived and the woman politely told us the observation deck was closed until July and could we please come back then...well I think it goes without saying that we were disappointed. Scott offered her money, his backpack, among other things, but to no avail. So he dragged us to the elevator, claiming that we were going to go as high as possible.

So we eventually got to floor 59, a very expensive and high-class restaurant/bar. Of course we had not dressed for the occasion, mostly because a) we're American English teachers and 2) we were headed to a punk show that night. The maitre d' was very kind in letting us sneak a peek out the window. We just happened to catch a glance at the wine menu and the cheapest was 50,000 won a bottle (about $50).

After a lot of arm-twisting and begging and pleading, I finally got everyone to agree to just do it, to shell out the money that we might have spent going to the observation deck anyway, and stay. So I won and we did.

It was kind of a smoggy day, the pollution content/density must have been pretty high. I guess though during the summer you can't see anything because it's so hazy. Also, not many of the pictures came out very well because we got there kind of late, and there was a pretty bad glare from the restaurant.
So without further ado, some pictures:

We were on the other side of the Han. This is the view of Seoul from ground level.

Here's one of the roads far, far below. Also, the Han River.

The actual restaurant, Walking on the Cloud (remember, no 'S'!)

"I think I see my dad..."

Me, Natalie, Scott, Isaac. We agreed that since we were pretty much never going back, we could have the waiter take our picture.

Seoul at night. Kind of. It's the best I could do.


Stay tuned for the next blog, about my experience as a Korean punk rocker. Hooray.

Posted by lrbergen 17:49 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)


wow...THAT was creative.

I had been thinking about doing a food blog for some time as I seem to have accumulated more pictures of food than a person needs. And let me tell you why:

My theory is that food can make women so happy that they near tears. That they can discuss, in detail, their favorite dish for possibly 20 minutes (that's my record time, but I'm sure more can talk for longer). I love food plain and simple, and I know my friend Rebecca here does too. There is an Indian restaurant in Seoul that literally, everytime I go, makes me sick. Not because the food is questionable in its healthiness or free-from-salmonella...ness...but because I just can't stop eating. Maybe there's something wrong with me on that account, and maybe it's because I have no will power, but I will eat until I make myself sick because it is so delicious. While Rebecca and I eat our meals and marvel over how delicious they are, we talk about meals past that have made us this happy.

While James sits eating quietly. It could be that he's just a quiet guy (which ...he is) but I suspect if we had another one of our guy friends along (except Paul, who can talk at length about any subject ... :) ) we would elicit the same reaction. When Walid took me to eat Middle Eastern food (tabouli, hummus), he was more than amused at how happy I was. I think that guys, in general, don't care about food as much as women do. This is a theory and so far I have not been proven wrong.
So this is the food blog and now I am going to post my various food pictures.

First, from the good old USA. When I went home, one of my favorite things (aside from seeing my friends and family, of course) was EATING. All the food I can't have here. Such as:

This was the first meal I had in America. Let me tell you, I almost died because I ate so much and it isn't possible to be as happy as I was. There is no cheese in Korea...just the processed Kraft singles.

My side dish. There is no maple syrup here either...just some weird rice syrup, but I stocked up before I came back.

This is the homemade lasagna, homemade sausage and all, by my favorite Siciliano, Kirk. Again. Near tears it was so good.

Master chef.
(*Note: I think I have a new theory with my women-love-food-too-much...I am near tears remembering and missing this food.)

Taquitos at La Esperanza. Again, impossible to find Mexican food here. They have it, but there are weird Korean sauces in there. This was my final meal. I pine.

Now the food from Japan
I was not really taken with the food there. Maybe because food was kind of an afterthought...in my haste of seeing everything, it was eat out of necessity. Nevertheless, I had some pretty good stuff.

A bakery in Gion. Pick up a tray and some tongs and fill up. I should have taken a picture of what I ate...it was some delicious cream..thing. The pastries in Korea are not impressive. Which is a good thing.

When I went to Okochi Sanso, the old actor's home, afterward, I received this bowl of green tea along with a little sweet cake. It was nice for sipping in the mountains of Arashiyama.

A buckwheat noodle concoction, with tofu in the upper left corner, and huge balls of rice below it. It was good, but not spectacular. Again with the green tea.

Cassie and I wandered into this restaurant thinking they had real food, which they didn't, so we were forced (lots of arm-twisting) to eat this tasty green tea and vanilla ice cream and wafers and ...beans? and rice balls? thing. Good.

I did frequent a McDonald's, but only because I was so hungry I was going to pass out, I swear. This was Japan's modification, the fried shrimp burger. Didn't get to try it, but...hmm. Korea has a kimchi burger.

At a restaurant Cassie, Giordan and I went to, their walls were wallpapered with paper photos of the dishes they offered. I was so hungry.

Do you see? Do you see how happy this food makes me? It's sad, really.

Now, Korean food.
I don't have pictures of my absolute favorite dishes. Only some of them.

Bulgogi, one of Korea's most famous dishes. Marinated beef served in a soup with mushrooms, clear noodles, and onions...with rice. Then side dishes: odeng (fish paste..in solid form), spinach, and kimchi.

Kalbi, or Korean barbecue. A variety of marinated meats to choose from, all grilled by you, and cut with scissors.

Sushi. I love it. This was especially delicious. Also frightening.

Kalbi, only with squid. Here's soju, and Cass beer too, along with the sidedishes.

On Korean Independence Day, I invited most of the gang to my apartment to use up some of the ingredients I had bought at home to make breakfast. We had breakfast burritos, hash browns, and pancakes. SO TASTY.

Scott pouring Valentina sauce, the best hot sauce known to man.

Mi Hee trying to navigate her way around a flour tortilla.

That's all the food I have for now. Next time I'm taking a picture of the Indian food!

Posted by lrbergen 17:31 Archived in South Korea Comments (1)

Melting Pot

pot o' culture shock!

One thing that I love about living in Korea is meeting so many different kinds of people. I meet people from different countries everytime I go out, and I work with an assortment of Canadians and Americans. I dated a Korean guy for a few weeks and then as you know, dated Walid from Libya for maybe 2 months or so. And yes, I wrote that correctly, it is in the past tense.

Even people from Canada or America can offer up new perspectives and points of view you never would have thought of. You're forced into contact with people that maybe in a "normal" (by that I mean, at home or at school, or whatever) setting you would never get to know. I have always enjoyed my coworkers (most of the time) because you probably normally wouldn't happen to be friends with these people, but sometimes people can shock you. Generally I have liked most of the people I have come across and appreciated their view on things. However, there have been some exceptions.

For example. Dating a Libyan Muslim is quite an experience. Going into it, I didn't want a boyfriend at all, but he insisted so I swayed my vote and decided it was ok. That was a big change for me, and a sacrifice I believe. It's interesting though how different we are. He is a very devout Muslim and calls his mother every day. I am no religion and very rarely call home. He doesn't eat meat because it is not prepared in the Muslim fashion. This is all fine and good with me. These minor differences are great and refreshing. But then he started saying things like, only Muslims go to paradise. It's true because it's in the Koran. Women have a place and that place is in the home. Married women cannot travel alone, and most importantly, men and women are not equal.

If you know me at all, you know that this does not fly right with me. I, who was a political science major from an all-girl Catholic college that stresses feminism. We had many a discussion, maybe argument, about these points. I flat out told him that I didn't agree and if he was ok with my perspective and respected my thoughts, then I would do likewise. In so many words because there's also the language barrier to worry about. But it ended in a smoldering blaze sometime this week after he just stopped calling me. My friend Scott is friends with him and called and found out from Walid that he will not be calling me to tell me this because our thinking is different.

So long story short, I got dumped (more or less) because I think that men and women are equal. And that maybe there is no Allah, maybe the Koran is imperfect because it was written by imperfect man, and maybe if there is a paradise, why can't everyone go. Because I forced him to see another perspective. Why are people so averse to change? I don't mean people as in other than me, because I know I am too. But change happens to be a really great thing.

Also, what is with this macho caveman thinking? If this was the 1950s, or even 60s, I can see it. But hello? 2006? Libyan society is incredibly restricted because of Qaddafi (sp) and I know that Islam in general isn't too keen on women's rights. And apparently people like Walid are not ok with letting people having opinions different than their own.

I guess I didn't expect this in Korea...and by this I would even go so far as to say just dating a Muslim Libyan in general. He's gorgeous, but it's difficult to be with someone who thinks that you should rely on him and only him for everything. Who has to know your whereabouts at all times. I guess it has done me some good also because now I know that people like him really do exist. And there's some background for my next encounter.

Sorry this was a little long-winded! I'm just confused and a little hurt right now and trying to put things into perspective without being bitter or angry. I was going to write about this sweet little girl on the subway but that can wait. And as to not be disappointed there are no pictures, here is one of my classes and I:


L-R: Suzy, Jin-Ho, Andrew, Sue, Jim, Me, Jenny Kim

Posted by lrbergen 04:00 Archived in South Korea Tagged women Comments (1)

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