Escape – Back to Busan Day 1

Okay, I usually do not post things that are inappropriate, but this person I saw on the subway in Seoul the other day represents the way I feel about this big city right now. This guy on the subway and pushed his way through the people so he could position himself in a prime spot. I probably wouldn’t have noticed him because this happens all of the time in South Korea, but his coat brushed up against my hand, and I couldn’t believe that I had felt a fur coat in this day and age. But there it was, and when I saw what was printed on the back of it, I had to chuckle. I do not know if the guy knew what it said, or believed the sentiment. But he did pull out a fan, so he could cool himself off as he took the train back to his neighborhood. He was basically just trying to look good in front of a bunch of strangers. Why else would he show off the amount of money he was willing to blow on a coat that he could have easily taken off to cool down. He also wanted to highlight the fact that he was able to wear the trendy English that is all the rage in Seoul right now. I just shook my head at the absurdity, and realized that I needed to get out of town before the never-stop pace consumed me.

Luckily, there is a city a short two hour train away that has a completely different vibe to it, Busan. I was also given a couple of days off in order to celebrate an American holiday, Thanksgiving. I took this opportunity to get away from the I need to look good, I need to show off my money, and I need to make mark on society attitude that permeates through Seoul. Busan has a feeling to it that is more like a beach. If it happens today that is great, but eventually we will get around to it. In the meantime, let us enjoy the moment.

I am not quite sure if this is always the case here, but both times I have been down here, I have felt like this was the case. I instantly felt it when I got on the subway. Whereas, just two days earlier, I was pushed out of the way by some guy wearing an expensive coat that expressed how much he loved people, I was greeted by a Korean wearing a worn-down hoodie and greeting smile. People are not in a rush here. They are not trying to show everybody how great they are, or how much money they make. My sanity needed this change of attitude, and it allowed me to enjoy Black Friday the way that I know how, ignoring the shoppers, and eating at as many establishments as I can find.

Busan does not really buy into this crazy shopping day anyway, but I feel like I took something back from a society that demands that I spend money to make other people happy. I would rather get together with my friends and enjoy good beer and good food. The best way to do this if you do not have a stove big enough to cook a turkey in, or live in a culture that doesn’t even really sell turkeys in the market anyway is to hop from restaurant to restaurant, grabbing a bite to eat in each one. It allowed me to feel that there are more important things in this world than having a look that makes everybody turn their attention over to me. It is not about what others think about me, but instead of what I think about the moment, and I am going to make sure that it is a great one.

Subway Culture versus Car Culture

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I am sure I will be accused of oversimplifying things again, but I do believe that there might be some truth about my thoughts. These notions bounced around my head over the weekend as I took many different subways to different locations all over Seoul to enjoy the Lunar New Year holiday. Does the mode of transportation that a city encourages its citizens to take help to create the personality of that community? Do we start to have a different mentality because we have chosen to drive a car as opposed to taking a subway?

If you think about it, there is a different point of view citizens have when being forced to travel under the ground as opposed to above on the streets. A strange thing happens when you walk down into those caverns. You leave behind a sunny day in a familiar territory, and take a series of tubes to find yourself emerging somewhere new a half an hour to an hour later in another part of that same sunny day. Where you left is hustling and bustling because it is situated at a subway station, and where you emerge has the same feeling because once again it is at an another important subway station. It makes you feel as if the town is always in motion.

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For some of the bigger cities in the world this might be the case. There might be so many people out there that there will always be somebody that will be wandering around the streets, no matter what time of day or night it is.

You don’t have this same feeling when you travel around in a car. Granted, there are times when you find yourself in the middle of a mad rush hour as you slowly push your car closer to its destination. As you get closer to where it is you are going to, you have to start taking the side streets to get there. The crowds slowly get smaller, and smaller until you find yourself all by your self.

There is also the distinct advantage of finding yourself above ground. There is a whole world around you that you can enjoy. The scenery isn’t just the long tunnel that takes you from one place to another. It give you context to how you got from one place to another. You do not feel like you have been magically transported to some other place in the city; instead, you took a journey to get there.

You are also in control of your route when you take a car. Granted the more complicated subway systems will give you a few options of how to get from point A to point B, but it is still through a tunnel that is as straight as day. There is no option to take a side path if you feel that it might get you there quicker, or make the trip more enjoyable. There is only one path that you can take in a subway.

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With all of these advantages a car has to offer, why would anybody choose to live in a subway community? What could it possibly have to offer that would rival the ones rules by the automobile?

There is a peace of mind that comes from riding on a subway, as opposed to driving a car. You no longer have to worry about how to get to the destination; you just let the train whisk you off to it. And in the meantime you can enjoy the ride there. Whether this is reading a book, or playing your favorite video game on your phone, you are not forced to experience the stress traveling by car can give you. Add on to the fact that traffic can be one of the worst things possible to experience, and you will relish every moment you get to spend on the relaxing subway.

But this is not the best part of a subway society. When you are on a subway, you are forced to interact with your fellow human beings. In a car, you are in isolation. In America, on the rare occasion that you are in the car with another individual, it is still somebody that you are so comfortable with that you usually spend the time in the car in silence. On a subway, you are forced to be right next to complete strangers and try to find a way to get along during the short time you are on the train together.

If you start to think about it, how does this constant connection with our community affect our perspective on life?

In the car culture, do we hide in our automobiles even more? Are we willing to let more people into our lives, or do we only allow the ones we feel comfortable with into our little box? How does the world look from behind a bullet proof windshield?

Or do we engage in the unknown every time we move from one location to another? Do with look with anticipation every time the door of our vehicle opens to see who might enter into our world? Are we willing to let those people into our lives just so we can share the joy of being alive?

How far does this go? Do we scream from our computer screens or do we engage in conversation with our neighbor? Do we hide behind our walls, or do we open our borders to new ideas?

It sometimes strange the things we think about while we are on a subway.

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