Sunday, June 7, 2009

By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea

I played tourist this weekend, and that combined with general discombobulation is why things have been quiet around here. They probably will continue so for a few days more, since I'm planning to travel outside Seoul again tomorrow. When I get back, I hope to be more productive.

Yesterday a friend took me with him to Jebu Island, just off the western coast of South Korea. (Not to be confused with Jeju [also spelled Cheju] Island, to the south.) He was meeting some friends he'd known since elementary school there. They're all in their mid-40s now. One of them has run a hotel on Jebu for about ten years, and the friends gather there three times a year. This impresses me, because I'm not in touch with anyone from my elementary school years.

I'd been to Jebu once before, about five years ago. It's an island you don't need a ferry ride to visit: instead there's a raised, winding road that takes you through the tidal flats that surround the island, a road that is covered when the tide is high. (Photo of the submerged road here.) You have to check the times when the road is above water. It's not the most picturesque scenery, with hundreds of yards of mud on either side. We passed other tourists as we neared the island itself, wearing boots as they dug in the mud for shellfish, squids, and whatever else they could find. Since it was a long holiday weekend, we found a line of cars ahead of us when we turned onto the approach to the island, and progress was slow.

It wasn't a big reunion, just eight or nine of my friend's classmates and their wives and children, but (or maybe because of that) it was fun: lots of food, lots of soju (Korean rice vodka), lots of conversation, lots of karaoke. (The soju commercial below has been inescapable while I've been here; featuring the pop singer Lee Hyori.) Several people spoke at least some English, and the others were patient and encouraging about my fumbling, inadequate Korean.

After breakfast this morning, under gray skies and occasional drizzle, a bunch of hotel guests rode out to the edge of the tidal flats to see what were in the hotelier's nets there. We put on borrowed / rented boots and disposable plastic raincoats and climbed onto the back of three vehicles like the one below:

Driven by the hotelier and two of his workers, they took us out to check the nets. We collected an octopus, some clams and crabs, and some small fish. (Or rather, the other folks did. I just wandered around a bit, distracted by a very hot fisherman I found it hard not to keep looking at, and who does not appear in these photos.*)

The fish were cleaned and eaten fresh and raw, with soju, where we were.

After which we rode back to the hotel, the tide slowly rising behind us, for a hot lunch.

One of my host's friends is a Harley-Davidson enthusiast, and as we were finishing our meal a bunch of people he knew rode up.

Very nice, friendly people. The first bikers I've encountered in Korea, some of them smoking the first cigars I've seen being smoked here. They all sat down to lunch too. Shortly afterward my host and I returned to Seoul.

*It may be worth mentioning, considering questions I've occasionally been asked and a complaint I've received, that despite the title of this blog, not everything or everyone it discusses is gay. The fact that I was drooling over this fisherman, for example, doesn't mean he drooled back. (Even if he were gay, he probably wouldn't.) This is a misapprehension of which I've often run afoul in the 30-odd years since I came out: straights and gays alike tend to assume that everyone I know must be gay (and that I'm having sex with all the gay ones), even though both groups should know better. The straights who know me, after all, have themselves as evidence that not everyone I know is gay, and the gays (who aren't sleeping with me) have straight friends themselves. Being openly gay has meant that I've blended the two populations together most of the time without much thought. Often it's the very people who gripe about queers ghettoizing ourselves who assume that the wall of separation is high and unbreachable. So, verb. sap.