I know it’s shocking, but I again did not take adequate photos for an interesting blog post. Be warned that I’m about to stroke my ego for probably way too long because that’s what we writers like to do. I apologize sincerely in advance.
A few days ago, I was wasting time on Facebook (another big surprise, I know) when I happened to notice that someone had posted a photo of the Korean poster for The Phantom of the Opera, advertising that the 25th anniversary cast was performing in Daegu, Korea’s third largest city. I won’t lie–I commented pretty quickly. Pretty soon we had collected a group of people dedicated to taking the pilgrimage, and we began plotting. When I say that we went back and forth on whether or not to go, I mean it with all seriousness. I also mean you would have done the same thing if you had been listening to our conversation, something like:
“We can just take KTX, it will only take a couple of hours to get there.”
“Yo, that’s like 40 bucks.”
“Yikes. Let’s take the slow train.”
“Oh cool, $20.”
“Standing room only.”
“Well we can buy a seat.”
“Then why don’t we just take KTX?”
“Yeah, let’s just do that.”
We ended up taking the slower train and leaving around 7:30 on Saturday morning. We arrived about 11:45 at Daegu station and went immediately to the arts center to buy our tickets. Fortunately people spoke English everywhere we went, which made us feel bad except when we could actually hear them talking about us in Korean. Apparently people think if your primary language is English then you must not be able to understand any other words at all. So we didn’t feel sorry for those people.
A word about Daegu–it is much different from Seoul. The accents are very different. There are fewer foreigners. The guys are bigger than the ones in Seoul–either that or they just don’t dress themselves to look like Seoul guys do. The fashion is overall…more lax. That includes the girls, too. I was wondering aloud that it seemed like the girls looked a lot different, and one of my friends pointed out that perhaps they have less plastic surgery there. This point was well-received. The people look shockingly Korean. One more point: the subway doesn’t have protective doors like the ones in Seoul, so I was having flashbacks to that one time in New York. And it seems like there’s not a lot to do there…says the girl from Kentucky.
Anyway, our next mission was to find coffee. This stood to be quite the challenge because one of my friends is not only a vegetarian but is also lactose intolerant like me as well as being allergic to gluten. Korea is a very difficult place for her to exist. Basically the only place with soy milk for coffee in Korea is Starbucks, so, no lie, we found the first white person we saw with coffee and got really excited because we assumed A–they had gotten it from Starbucks and B–they spoke English. As my Dutch friend said, “It was mildly racist of us.” Fortunately, aforementioned white man pointed us in the direction of a Starbucks, though his coffee was not from Starbucks and he did not, in fact, speak English as his first language. He seemed more amused than upset though.
By the time that mess was over, there were only 25 minutes until the start of the play, so we decided to walk back and take our seats. We made the mistake of letting me walk in first, which meant everyone gave me announcements in Korean. Fortunately I got the gist of it (turn off your cell phone, don’t leave until the intermission, etc.) and when the ushers saw my friends who were obviously not Korean they got the run-down in English.
The musical was, suffice it to say, incredible. I cannot stress enough how wonderful it was. As I told my friends later, I felt bad for paying as little as we did. It should have been worth much more. Such an incredible performance. I laughed, I cried, I got in trouble for laughing because it was at a grammar joke and none of the Koreans got it so my friends and I were the only ones laughing. All-in-all, a delightful experience.
Then came the downturn.
We had bought return train tickets while at the station the first time, and presumably because the weather has been nice and people have been taking trips to the south, there were literally no seats on any train back for the rest of the day. This is not one of those times when I say “literally” but actually mean “not literally.” I mean there were actually no seats. So we did the thing–we got standing room only tickets. The first hour of the train ride was spent shuffling around, trying to find a place that was fairly comfortable. We walked up and down the same car several times before settling in between cars, then somehow finding our way into the cafe car. That was the best place to sit because there was carpet, and luckily, there was room for us by the time we discovered this. In the meantime, my Dutch friend gave some poor Korean boy culture shock by standing apparently too close to his face. He was extremely uncomfortable until we began discussing the prospect of her moving. The second she turned her rear away his entire body relaxed. Dear Korean, sorry.
So fortunately for us we only had to sit in the floor for three hours. I joke about how bad it was, but in reality I didn’t mind so much. I think it added a lot to the experience, and especially if your ride is shorter than ours was, I definitely recommend the experience just for the bonding that comes when you realize there are only 30 minutes left so you might as well stay awake even though you are exhausted and delirious. When all was said and done, a good adventure was had by all. Here’s looking to the next one!