Sunday, August 24, 2014

a peek around the neighborhood

I've been actively exploring my new neighborhood, which is a strange, liminal demimonde in the mysterious beating heart of Seoul, hovering at the civilizational edge where white-collar and blue-collar realities interact. Within a hundred-meter radius of my yeogwan, it's all blue collar: gearhead shops devoted to motorcycles coexist with print shops of all shapes and capacities. The syncopated chunk-chunk-chunk of printing presses during the day defines the rhythm of my new chosen existence. Beyond that ambit, though, the transition to white-collar life is almost startling. Fifteen minutes of walking along one axis, and I find myself in the Jongno/Gwanghwamun/Myeongdong area. Fifteen minutes along another axis, and I find myself staring at the new, UFO-shaped Dongdaemun Design Plaza—also just a stroll away. I'm incredibly well-placed, it would seem: some of the best parts of Seoul are accessible to me through that most primitive means of travel: my own two feet.

Below, a picture of Jinheung Used Furniture—the store, not 500 meters from where I live, where I bought my large and small bookshelves and Tom bought his two huge cabinets.

Next is a picture of a mun-gu, ostensibly a stationery store, but more of an "everything" store, really. The lady whom I've seen in that store is very nice, but a bit forgetful. I had asked her this past Thursday about the price of a shower caddy I'd seen in her stock; she didn't know it but had promised to check. When I came to her store on Friday, I asked her again about the shower caddy, and the best she could do was to give me an apologetic look and promise, again, to get back to me the following day. "Just buy the same thing cheaper at Daiso," Tom quipped. There's apparently a Daiso around Jongno 2-ga, roughly across from the YMCA building. I just might have to take Tom's advice.

Below, a picture of the cathedral-like Joongbu Shijang (shijang = market). I'm captivated by the scaffolding and hope it never comes down. It lends the market character, in my opinion. Joongbu is the place to go to get dried seafood. I'm tempted to buy the huge one-kilogram packages of juipo I've seen on sale there, but I'm worried about what might happen if I decided to grill the juipo inside my yeogwan room: things would get smoky pretty quickly, and I'm not sure whether my room has a fire alarm. I'd hate to be the asshole who forced everyone to evacuate the building.

Below, a picture of one of the entrances to Joongbu Shijang. The other entrance has the same sort of sign.

Below, a wide shot of Jinheung Used Furniture.

When you come out of Joongbu Shijang, you find yourself across the street from Bangsan Shijang, the market devoted to printed products, boxes, bags, etc. My buddy Tom visits this market about once a month to procure printed bags that he uses for distributing courtesy items to people—souvenirs and such. Don't ask: Tom's a natural marketer, is all I can say, and he's got his fingers in many different pies, which is one reason why I don't write his last name here.

This final photo, below, shows Joongbu Shijang at night when it's a lot emptier. Most of the market is closed by about 8PM, the merchants having worked there all day long, starting from very early in the morning. I think the market's a good place to go for dried seafood, but I'm not so sure I'd buy the fresh seafood sold here. The fresh seafood doesn't strike me as all that fresh. No pun intended, but there's something fishy about it.


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