Monday, December 25, 2006

Ceremonies of Light and Dark

Steam rises up from the street vendors selling food in the cold night air outside the cinema at Nampo-dong. Christmas lights hang from trees but are often obscured by the pixelated chaos of a thousand Korean shops all vying for attention. As you try to navigate your way through the sea of humanity and occasional pavement-mounted motorcycle that is a evening's shopping in Busan, you know how a salmon feels trying to swim upstream. Shop owners beg for your attention, loudspeakers drown out those who have not escalated their technique, and for a moment you begin to believe that you will never know peace again, before you let the unreality of it all wash over you.

We join a long queue in Krispy Kreme but near the counter they give us some small doughnuts because we've waited a couple of
minutes so we walk off eating them. A heady mix of the aroma of food is punctuated by the occasional overwhelming stench of Busan's sewer system with its all-too-many open grates. Teenage girls wearing immodest Santa outfits try to sell you bread outside Paris Baguette while pleading for attention in squeaky voices via microphone. Where there is a space, there is someone selling something, no matter how humble their stall or their wares. Braving the cold, a heavily-padded 80-something woman sits by a makeshift table in the gutter with her hand frozen to the remote control of a small car which shoots from one end to the other. I can not tell you whether her disinterest or sadness is greater. Behind her, a shop sells £500 designer watches. Nearby, a man tries to sell baby rabbits which are so young that they still cannot walk and they lie on a hardboard table struggling to make sense of their new legs while shivering uncontrollably. There is no mother.

You continue to fight your way through the stream of designer labels which trickle around the small rocks of poverty whil
e hoping that you'll never learn to swim. A Buddhist temple sits wedged between the concrete boxes down a small side street. If you didn't look up you probably wouldn't even see it.

No comments:

Post a Comment