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Monday, October 24, 2005 |
Memories of Seoul: Church of the Alien
The Looooooooooong Version I'm mainstream Catholic, which is to say that I mean to go to church every week, and constantly fail. I hold deep religious beliefs, but am rather lax about saying anything about them (or acting upon them). And I'm far more tolerant of those heathen Protestants then they are of I. Which means that when cousin Kiwi wonders if I'd like to go to church with her, I'm more then game. Sounds like a bit of fun at that. Except the part when I'm informed that church is at Seoul National University, which is clear on the other side of town. But even this, this is actually good, as I'm always intently curious as to how people I'm close to live their lives. My dream vacation is following friends and family as they live their normal lives, like a National Geographic nature photographer peeking out from behind my cubicle blind or dressed in my Living Room camaflogue outfit. The University is suprisingly far from mass transit, and is suprisingly dumpy for the top university in the nation. The bus ride was most uncomfortable, as while the buses are fairly new, they are still designed around a sub 6 foot average passanger height. What is nice is that, like the subways, you can pay the fare via an RFID card; or lacking that, paper bills with automatic change dispensers and receipts for every fare. What sucks is that, like the subways, you have to pass your card again over the RFID pad to exit, which means that it takes one non-functional card to prevent the entire bus from exiting. Kinda stupid. Hikers jammed all the buses, as the mountains are all around the university. It's rather fun to see everybody in their hiking gear, complete with vests and hiking poles and spandex bodysuits. It's more or a costume then serving any function purpose, much like how Michigan suburbanites drive pickup trucks to the video store. We had a minute or three before church, so we stopped by the library for a quick break from the hot sun. The library was interesting for a number of reasons, the first being that there are no books that I could see. The only thing occupying the massive structure was row after row of study tables, and students caught between studying or sleeping on their books. The upper floors were especially fun, as students had created entire mini-cublicles of their stacks of books, and were nearly all taking naps on their piles. They all looked too peaceful for me to disturb with my camera. Church itself was classic Protestant service, praise, sermon, and communion (which threw me for a large loop), all within a university lecture hall. Spent most of the time trying to be good, as the sarcasm-o meter was off the charts at times, followed by an intense period of deep deep concentration as I debated whether or not it was kosher for me to partake of their communion (I decided not to, as having an overactive sarcasm-o meter during service would normally disqualify me from taking Communion in a proper Catholic service.). The interesting part, however, was that the service was in English. That and the fact that most of the participants were not Korean. This was the International Students service, which for me made sense, as I'm not really Korean (I'm Twinkie). However, as Kiwi speaks Korean and now temporarily resides in Korea, this was a rather interesting choice of service. Turns out, as I should have suspected, she's not really feeling all that Korean either, which really should not have been much of a suprise at all. Koreans are very tribal, VERY parochial, even when you fit it, you don't fit in. It gets tiring after a while, and you'll never find more friendly welcoming people then International Students, because they're sick and tired of being ostracized too. The fellowship after service was nice, as it featured food (I embarassingly thought it was lunch, so I ate much more then everyone else), and a bit of chatting with some of the church members. The room itself was in the student center, where various clubs have entire rooms to themselves, which was very very nice. The Christian room was divided amongst four seperate clubs (CCC, Harvest, etc.), but as nobody else was there on Sunday (huh?) we took most of it over. Many Mongolians were present, and they were quite the friendly, if not that talkative. Otherwise, it was a bit stilted in the conversation, which the pastor was quick to point out and casually dismiss, because he's cool like that. Lunch was suprisingly cheap, as the student cafeteria is subsidized. A generous lunch of soup and rice and assorted veggies was only $2 (or maybe $3), and I quickly understood why Kiwi eats most of her meals there instead of at home. What I don't understand is why napkins only come at the end of the meal, as I was making a mess all over the table and had to constantly head to the exit to get napkins. And in putting away the trays after we were done, I made the mistake of leaving the napkins on the tray, which is never ever done. There seems to be a certain unease Koreans have with disposable paper cleaning products, a theme which will have to be it's own post soon. And then we just killed time. We were waiting for the regular service to end, so we could talk with our cousin's husband, a physics professor at SNU, a relation I didn't know I had until that very moment. It was off to raid the uncle's office for internet usage. For some reason, I didn't post these blog entries then. Or any entries at all, I think. Kiwi was rushing me. Which turned out to be a mistake, as the service was going on and on and on and on. We helped the Pastor's wife set up the snack table. We laughed at the kids playing around with said snack table. We chatted idly with a person or two. And then I died of boredom. And when it was done, I was somehow recruited into taking some group photographs for something or other. Only I was using someone else's camera, so I have no pics of the event (although I have a pic of the camera). And in keeping with that theme, I also failed to get pics of Sarah's friends whom I chatted with after the service. The whole picture taking thing prety much stopped right there, so I have only hazy recollections happened after that. I'm pretty sure we met the cousin's husband, and he was very nice. I chatted with him for a bit, and he wanted to have dinner with us later in the week. I tried to chat with Sarah's friends, but their English was failing them at the moment. And then I ran out of all my stores of charm and conversation (I only really have only half an hour in me), which was OK as it was time to go home. The only other remarkable thing about the day, other then the fact that we used it all up at SNU and waiting for church, was that I ran across Bubble Bobble 3 on the street, and had to play a few rounds, because Bubble Bobble is the BESTEST. GAME. EVER. At that point I could have hopped a plane and come home, because that might just have been the best part of the whole trip. And so ended Day 3.

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