Getting Weird in Gangjin (Part Two)

After exploring what was either an active or retired helicopter, our next stop was one of Scrabbles’ favorite restaurants.  She is not fond of Korean food so naturally, they served pasta and salads.  I tried the Cajun chicken salad. The King dined on some stir-fried beef and rice while Potato enjoyed some cream-sauced carbonara drowned in sauce.  (It is becoming a pattern. Many Korean pasta dishes have an absurd amount of sauce.)

After satiating ourselves, we decided to try the Gangjin Art Hall.

“This place is definitely closed,” said The King.

“I don’t know.  Let’s go in and try,” countered Scrabbles.

So I followed Scrabbles and Potato inside while The King remained outside, presumably to preserve his dignity.

To put it nicely, Scrabbles doesn’t know a ton of Korean.  To be fair, neither do I. However, the way she approached the elderly security guard seared itself into the annals of memory.

She started by speaking slow English and gesturing her hands.

“Are you open?  Art hall. Is it open?”

She received nothing but a blank stare.

“Here.  Open?”

Blank stare.  Aware of the stalled situation, Scrabbles reached for the foreigner’s best friend in language emergencies – Papago.  

But she did much more than just type.  She went the extra distance of pressing the speech function.  She pointed her phone at the nonplussed guard as a deep Korean voice read Scrabbles’ translation is a slow monotone drawl.  I thought I was going to wet myself laughing. Potato struggled to contain herself. The King pretended not to know us.

Finally, Guard waved his hands in an expansive gesture.  Whether due to ignorance or the confirmation bias, Scrabbles took it as a sign that everything was open.  The King had his doubts.

“Let’s just look around until they kick us out.”

You have to love foreigner logic.

So we walked up the stairs, looking around the dark hallways.  However, one room had light – a coffee shop. I entered. It was deserted, until-

“Oh-seo-oh-say-oh” (Welcome).

An adorably diminutive woman appeared as if she had ascended a hidden staircase.  I startled. She appeared equally confused.

We struggled to ask if the gallery was open.  She appeared equally confused as Guard. Finally, she procured a spreadsheet listing the dates that the art hall was open.  We finally understood what The King suspected all along. The gallery was closed.

Dismayed but not unbowed, we exited the coffee shop and redirected to a new landmark – some tall hotel the name of which I forgot.

We ascended an elevator to a ninth-floor café.  I drank an Americano (per usual), while The King sipped on what looked like whipped flavored milk.  We took in the view of Gangjin while laughing our collective asses off.  The sheer level of trespassing, strange situations, and cultural misunderstandings officially had me shook.

Soon night became last-bus-of-the-night time.  Potato decided to crash on Scrabbles’ floor while The King and I waited for the last bus.  I munched on some ice cream and 300-won coffee (I have a serious problem).

30 minutes later, our bus careened down side roads piercing an otherwise silent night.  We could see nothing and therefore did the only logical thing w could think of – have a conversation.

Apparently, that was a mistake.

Halfway back to Mokpo – the bus stops in the middle of the road.  The bus driver pipes up with words I could not comprehend. He repeated himself.

Confused, I looked around.  He couldn’t be talking to us.  Was he?

He was.  His attention shifted to The King.  His Hong Kong background can give many Koreans the impression that he is a native Korean speaker.

(In Korean)

Bus Driver:  Are you a Korean person?

The King:  I am a foreigner.

Bus Driver:  A foreigner?

The King:  Yes.

Bus Driver:  Please be quiet.

The King:  What?

Bus Driver:  Please be quiet.

At that moment, we turned to our right.  A fellow bus-goer put a finger to his lips – the universal polite sign for “please shut the hell up.”

It was the perfect punctuation on a peculiar day.  We tread through farmland, became Korean ship crew, took a multitude of photos, possibly illegally boarded a helicopter, got kicked out two different facilities, and were properly told to “shut up” by a bus driver.  I doubt I will experience a stranger Valentine’s Day as long as I live.

Photo Corner


I appreciate the opportunity to spread my wings here in Korea.  I can only hope the next six months are just as rewarding.


It was a hazy day in Suncheon, but I still appreciated the view.


Korean Farmer:  “Would you like a sugar cube?”

Korean Horse:  “Neigh.”


The flowers began blooming.  I am so ready for spring.


My school is too cool for nets.


Yolo is the neighbor or Sacramento County.  It is amazing how far they have spread in such a short time.


I’m not sure if The Bard was taking hostages with a sensual finger gun or asking the man to smell his finger.  But I am sure that the all-you-can-drink wine and buffet at Ashley’s is a hell of a deal in U-Square.

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