My Brilliant Korea

A persistent Nigerian, a slurry American, and an Aussie

South Korea | September 20, 2009

In one corner was the persistent Nigerian.

The Nigerian had attached himself to me somewhere between my subway station and the "cesspit of filth" (otherwise known as Itaewon- the place where American marines and other foreign misfits often head for a big night).

I had been unable to shake the Nigerian and, as a result, I found myself standing next to him on a bustling street at precisely 6.58pm on a recent Friday.

In the other corner was the slobbery American.

I would estimate this particular slobbery American had consumed at least two bottles of Jack Daniels liquor before our paths crossed at precisely 6.59pm.

"Eversy 100th perzon haz ta payza toll," the slobbery American slurred at me as I exited the Itaewon subway station.

I could feel my lip curl in disdain.

"I'm not paying a toll," I told him.

"Mayyybe ze tollz jusht a smile," he continued.

"I don't want to smile at you."

Without warning, his mood shifted.

"Whyyy are you beingz such an ARSHEHOLE?" he yelled.

"I'm not being an arsehole, you're the arsehole mate," I replied calmly.

The Nigerian stepped in.

"Just ignore him, don't speak to him," the Nigerian told me.

The American lurched himself at me, his mouth centimetres from my face.

"Whoooo are you callings ze ARSHEHOLE??" he continued.

"You."

"Don't speak to him," the Nigerian said again.

"You're the FUCKING ARSEHOLE!!" screamed the American as his foul breath hit my face.

"And you're drezzed like a fuckingz shlut!

"Anyone want to fuck her??

"You can fuck her because she's a fuckingzz shlut!!

The American turned to the Nigerian.

"And you're being an ARSHEHOLE becaauze you wanna fuck her!

"You wanna fuck the FUCKING SHLUT!"

With that the American stumbled backwards, turned and staggered down the street.

The dozen or so foreigners who had slowed down to watch the drama unfold continued with their evenings like nothing had happened.

I looked down at my black satin jumpsuit and knee high cowboy boots.

Suddenly, I did not feel so good.

I did not feel too good at all.

In fact, I felt like a "fucking shlut".

The Nigerian sensed an opportunity.

"Come on, let's get out of here. Let's go somewhere quiet," he said.

"I don't want to go somewhere quiet, " I replied.

"Can you please just go away now? Please?"

Finally, the Nigerian disappeared into the night and I was alone again.

My friends arrived at precisely 7.03pm.

This incident is an example of a low point, or a "valley" I have experienced in Seoul.

Half an hour after this particular exchange, I found myself sitting in a beach-style bar, my bare toes tracing through sand, and my fingers firmly clamped around a Long Island iced tea.

This is an example of a high point, or a "peak".

Other "valleys" or low points have included:

1. The time I was innocently minding my own business at a subway station when an elderly Korean gentleman walked up, yelled something in Korean, and then hit me with his umbrella (for reasons unknown).

2. The time I was innocently minding my own business at a subway station when a toothless young gentleman walked up, pointed to my dress, and slurred "sluuuut".

3. The time Amy and I trekked through monsoonal rain for hours to find an elusive bar, only to discover we were the only people in our group of friends who had made it there.

4. The time I watched one of the male teachers at my school grab the hair of a female student, and punch her in the head.

5. The time my co-teacher laughed when I tried to report the teacher who had punched the student in the head.

High points, or "peaks" have included:

1. Telling off an elderly Korean gentleman after he was obscenely rude to me.

2. Telling off a young toothless gentleman after he was obscenely rude to me (nothing like standing up for yourself to feel good).

3. Walking out of an elusive bar with Amy at 1am after our friends did not show up, and discovering a gorgeous vintage shop was still open and ready for business.

4. Being told 87 times a day by my students and co-workers that I look "beautiful", "so pretty", "like a movie star", "like a model", "like a mannequin".

5. Being given a lovely compliment from one of my co-teachers, who said I was "born to be a teacher".

6. Managing to convince the naughtiest student in the naughtiest class to participate in an activity after making her laugh.

7. Finally being able to say "you're not in Kansas anymore" to someone from Kansas.

8. Taking a chance on a Korean hairdresser, who did not speak any English, and being pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

9. Finding a food I have dubbed "the balls of deliciousness" at my subway stop.

10. Walking home from my subway stop at dusk, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of Seoul and feeling happier and more contented than I could remember.

Before I go, I will once again leave you with a couple of bizarre Korean facts.

About 25,000 American marines are currently based in Seoul. Many of them can be found intoxicated at Itaeweon on Friday and Saturday nights. Incidentally, the National War Museum in Seoul has a shooting gallery, where children can learn how to fire guns(seriously). Russian prostitues can easily obtain short-term "entertainment" visas in South Korea, and as a result, many foreign women are presumed to be "shluts". It is legal to use a 70cm stick to discipline students in South Korea. It is not legal to punch a student in the head.


Comments

1. bay on September 20, 2009

It seems you encounter a lot of unsavoury incidents in and around subway stations, so I'm thinking you could avoid some such incidents by avoiding subway stations. But, I'm also thinking it probably isn't practical to do so. Therefore, you should always walk around with a large umbrella to do battle with other umbrella-weilding people, to prod unpleasant, drunk people, and to ward off persistant Nigerians. Or maybe you could get yourself one of those 70cm sticks? Not for the students of course.

Miss you tonnes Blythe...

2. Nikki on September 20, 2009

I've always thought you had movie star qualities, Blythe. x

3. embryo on October 14, 2009

Your articles remind me so much of my frustrating time in South Korea also teaching English. I still have no idea what I was doing there and of all the places to escape, Korea is the worst choice. I am so glad you are documenting these events. My friends have no idea what a crazy country it is. I look forward to reading more. Thanks for the contributions and bringing back funny, sad and good memories.

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About Blythe Seinor

When Blythe was a journalism student at the Queensland University of Technology she interviewed the former Indonesian president, Abdurrahman Wahid.
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