Friday, October 11, 2013

getting to the cinema: a comedy of errors

I got to see "Rush" at the time I'd wanted to see it—5:10PM this past Wednesday—but getting to the cinema was a comedy of errors, some of which were my fault, and some of which weren't. is one of Korea's two huge portal sites. It's an omnibus website filled stem to stern with links to topics of interest ranging from news to sports to movies. (There are even links to an impressively comprehensive online dictionary, as well as to a Google Maps analogue.*) I used Naver in the hopes of finding the best public-transportation route to the theater, Lotte Cinema, because I'd never gone there before. According to Naver, after I had plugged in my neighborhood as the starting point and Lotte Cinema in Gyeongsan City as my destination, I needed to take the 803 bus into town, and it would drop me at "Pyeonhan Saesang Geon-neo," i.e., a point across from a place called Pyeonhan Saesang (Convenient/Comfortable World—probably a shop or something). Naver predicted that the bus ride would last 56 minutes. Click on the map image below to enlarge:

So I went out to my neighborhood's bus stop, Hayang Station, and waited for the 803. It came within five minutes, at around 3:05PM. I got on and rode the bus for about twenty minutes... which is when I noticed that the scenery, far from becoming more citified, was becoming more countrified. I was heading in the wrong direction: I should have waited at the bus stop across the street. My stupid mistake made me kick myself: I normally ask the bus driver which way he's going. I didn't do that this time, and I paid for my lapse in judgment.

I got off the 803 at a random stop somewhere in the mountains and crossed the road to the opposite 803 bus stop, finding myself next to a weird little place that seemed to be passing itself off as a Buddhist temple—Seongbul-sa, or Attain-Buddhahood Temple. Sutra chanting, boosted to high volume by mikes and speakers, boomed out of the little building. Cartoonish Dalma-do, brush paintings of Bodhidharma, the Indian monk who brought Zen and kung fu to China, hung in a row outside the building. I waited another twenty minutes for the bus; this was the country, not Hayang, so I didn't expect the buses to come by nearly as frequently as they would in town. Some pics of the "temple" follow; click to enlarge:

Around 3:45PM, I got on the next 803, now confident that I was heading in the right direction. Frustratingly, the bus-route maps inside the bus didn't show every single stop; as was typical for Korean buses everywhere, they showed only the major stops, leaving a person to guess where, on the route, his particular jump-off point might be. By the time we reached Gyeongsan City, I was again antsy: the bus was empty except for me, with no Pyeonhan Saesang Geon-neo stop in sight. When we stopped at one traffic light, I lumbered up to the driver and asked him whether he was heading toward Lotte Cinema. His brow furrowed and he shook his head, then he told me that we had just passed that area. I mentioned the name of the bus stop I'd wanted to go to; he shook his head again and said the 803 didn't go there (so much for Naver's guidance). Miffed, I told the driver I'd get off at the next stop. Seeing the look on my face, the driver let me off then and there, at the traffic light, pointing me to a bus stop across the street.

I got off the bus, crossed the street, stared at the bus-route signs, then decided Fuck it and hailed a cab. The cabbie was a stern-looking gent with short-cropped, military-style hair. He turned out to be friendly, though. For three-quarters of the trip, he was convinced I was Korean, so when he turned around to receive the cash I paid him, he was startled to see I wasn't the full Korean he'd been expecting. He complimented my Korean-speaking skills; I brushed the compliment off by noting I still had a lot to learn. The fare was only W2800, which was the base fare: we didn't have to drive far to find the movie theater. I paid the cabbie W3000 and told him to keep the change; we wished each other a good day.

Somehow, miraculously, it was 4:50PM when I entered the Lotte building and took the escalators up to the fourth-floor ticket area. The ticket counters worked according to a take-a-number system; I pulled Number 59, all while looking at the scrolling movie charts for the movie I wanted to see: "Rush." I found a title with a 17:10 showtime; in Korean, the title read "Reo-shi deo ra-i." Huh? "Rush, the Rye"? Was this, in fact, Ron Howard's "Rush," or was I in for some children's cartoon? I saw no movie posters for "Rush" anywhere; it was October 9, and "Rush" had just come out in Korea that very day. Shouldn't they have been advertising it? It wasn't until I saw my movie ticket that I understood what had happened: "Reo-shi deo ra-i" was one syllable short of the full Korean title: "Reo-shi deo ra-i-beul." In other words, "Rush: The Rivals." That made more sense, since I knew the film was about two rivals.

I watched and enjoyed the movie (reviewed here), then went out to the bus stop next to the Lotte building and saw that I should have taken the 809 bus, not the 803. 809 goes all the way from my neighborhood in Hayang right to the Lotte building. Well, damn. Of course, the 809 bus stop going toward Hayang wasn't located in front of Lotte; it was across the street. I crossed the street, waited a bit, and took the 809 all the way home.

Quite an adventure, that. I had made the fatal mistake of getting on the wrong bus and wasting the better part of an hour; Naver didn't help by putting me on the wrong bus line to begin with. We often learn from our mistakes. That day, I learned a good bit about certain bus routes between Hayang and Gyeongsan City.** And since there's no chance that I'll be leading a mistake-free existence from now on, the learning will surely continue.

*Koreans Koreanize. When Google Maps came out, of course Koreans had to make their own version: reinventing the wheel, but in a Korean-accented way, is a national pastime. When Doritos chips came to Korea, the idea was quickly seized upon and converted into the Korean version of Doritos. There's a good bit of nationalistic subtext behind this, but at heart the dynamic is little different from Food Lion's creating house-brand versions of popular products, using designs and color schemes that bear an uncomfortable resemblance to those of the big brands. Food Lion's version of Mountain Dew, for example, is called Mountain Lion and features a greenish logo. Its version of Dr. Pepper is called Dr. Perky and has a reddish logo. Food Lion's Coke/Pepsi analogue has a blue, Pepsi-like logo. Turning our attention back to Korea: how many Korean coffee-shop chains have concentric-circle logos that resemble the Starbucks symbol?

**The 803 passes Gyeongsan Station. To visit Daegu Haany University, where I have a friendly acquaintance, I would get off the 803 at Gyeongsan Station, then grab the 100 bus and take it all the way to the terminus. The trip would be around an hour or so, depending on traffic and wait time.


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