Monday, July 27, 2009

Scar Tissue

On my first full day in Korea I went out with my girlfriend and her mother to look for furniture to buy for our rented apartment, which didn’t have any aside from a bed which had been bought for us beforehand. After several stores in the afternoon, jet-lag caught up with me and I stayed outside the next store on the itinerary to rest against a tree and breathe in as much fresh air amidst the pollution as I could to keep me awake. It was my first time alone in Korea, and perhaps I had that fresh-off-the-boat look, because two proselytising Christians descended on me to try and convert me away from the evil ways of Catholicism. Unfortunately, the gift of speaking in tongues had failed them and the only words I eventually understood were "American" and "English", which were not likely to lead to any Road to Damascus revelations on my part.

Just as I had them tagged as Christians – even with a language barrier there’s something eerily international in the vague waving of books in the hand while speaking through a fixed smile for far too long – they pressed a plastic envelope containing tissues into my hand, leaving me wondering if in fact this was some form of advertising. Well it was, but my first suspicion had been correct; after my girlfriend came out of the store to rescue me I turned over the tissue package which had been pressed into my startled hands to see a rather long-armed but nevertheless unmistakable God-type figure embracing people with the English words "God is Love" above it.

Given that this was my first solo experience in the country, I remember thinking that this type of thing was possibly going to happen a lot, but actually it never did again. At least, not on the street – we still had plenty of Christians, Buddhists and Shamanistic-type people knocking on the door of our apartment, which soon stayed closed after I learned that opening the door to these people was like opening a portal to the Twilight Zone.

I intended to take photos of the Christian tissues so I could write about them, but after my new life in Korea had calmed down sufficiently I couldn’t find them. Almost three years later, half a world away, and several months into a bad case of writer's block which has prompted people to ask me if I’ve abandoned this blog, they fell out of a suitcase and gave me something to write about again. Perhaps the Universe moves in mysterious ways after all, or maybe I’m just hopelessly disorganised.

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