Inspired by missing the St. Patrick's Day Festival in Seoul to spend 9 hours of my Saturday at work (and also by my time here). For the record, I have not embellished.
The stink of garbage cluttering every street of every neighborhood from the most affluent to plywood lean-tos on dirt and rubbish lots, and the warm, wet, choking sewage carried on the breeze.
The acrid smoke of cigarettes burning your eyes, filling your nose, and clinging to your plate of food (which, by the way, should be the least of your worries considering there are no health codes) in many restaurants and cafes, especially in buildings and bathrooms lined with "No Smoking" signs.
A robot drone population in black and black, 4-inch heels, tights, and short skirts for every season with the diversity of two hairstyles: pin straight and half-permed.
Tinny-pitched teenagers joyfully delivering pre-packaged, mass-produced, hyper-saccharin, farcically sexualized songs and dance punctuated by the hawk and spit of old men, young men, and women desecrating the street.
Don't look down because there's spittle enough to disgust even a crude, snuff-chewing churl, but watch your step lest you disturb any number of the myriad vomit puddles dotting the sidewalk, the subway station, and the train itself.
It's gray skies, gray high-rises, bridges, and cities, gray days without end. I thought I saw a smidgen of blue sky once, peeking from between gray clouds, but I couldn't be sure through the perpetual gray haze of pollution.
More than a jostle in a crowd, it's a forceful check in an empty hall because you dared stand where ajosshi intended to walk, and more often it's violent shoves from a 4-foot 8-inch, hunched over ajumma with a "Fuck you" attitude, sharp elbows, and a fierce jab, unexpectedly spry in navigating public transit despite a crooked shuffle in the open.
It's vinegar and brine on your tongue, tempered with fire and garlic if you can take it. Lacking finesse, creativity, and skill in preparation, the cuisine wants for any and every taste except intensity.
Or it's plain: white rice with every meal, morning, noon, and night.
The only outstanding offering is a smorgasbord of mouth-watering international sensations.
The hot, humid, sour fetor of rotten cabbage rotting in bowels and spewing forth from the mouths of 50 other people on the subway crashing against you, drowning in it, inescapable.
Image over substance. Who cares if a child cannot comprehend a single word from her teacher's mouth if moving her to an advanced class looks good on the record, reflects well on the school, and appeases the parents with perceived academic growth? Nobody.
It's no reason to live but to win.
Did you know payment of blood money is not only legal but encouraged and accepted as the norm in place of justice as recourse?