Thursday, April 28, 2005

Hi-De-Seoul, Hi-De-Hi . . .

My wife and I were discussing the "Hi Seoul" slogan over coffee this morning.

What sort of coffee, you say?

Why, thanks for asking. Arabic.

I learned to make it during our time in Jerusalem when I had a Golda Meir Fellowship for postdoctoral research at Hebrew University's Mt. Scopus campus for the academic year of 1998-99.

That was an interesting year. My daughter, Sa-Rah, learned Hebrew at an Orthodox Jewish Daycare run by Yona Weiss, and my wife (pregnant with our son, En-Uk) narrowly escaped being blown up by a terrorist bomb in the Mahaneh Yehudah Market. She ran from the explosion, then finished her marketing. One tough woman.

As for me, I had an easy life sequestered in the Mt. Scopus Library, doing research in obscure texts on even more obscure topics. Occasionally, I would emerge to attend a high-powered seminar that invariably overstimulated my brain.

Speaking of stimulation, I do brew a mean cup of Arabic coffee. How? Well, take one heaping spoonful of freshly ground coffee, dump it into a mug, and add boiling water. Let the grounds settle, then taste. If it's not mean enough, add more coffee grounds -- next time. You can try adding the extra grounds immediately, but that never seems to work very well.

The Arabs I knew in the Old City of Jerusalem would always add a lot of sugar. That reduces the coffee's meanness level, however, and I like a really mean coffee.

Which brings me . . . somehow . . . back to the "Hi Seoul" slogan. What does it mean? According to the official website:

"The city of Seoul has adopted a new slogan that symbolizes the dynamic image of the city and promotes its bright and friendly spirit to the world. 'Hi Seoul!,' a slogan representing the city's dynamic new image, is an easy and familiar greeting, expressing the warmth and friendliness of the citizens and embodying Seoul's 'high' visions."

The problem is this: Who's greeting whom here? If I were arriving as a tourist, I might expect to be greeted by the city of Seoul:

Seoul: "HI JEFFERY!"

Me: "Ahhh!"

Okay, a massive turnout of Seoul citizenry to greet my arrival at the airport might be rather frightening, but it would definitely express "the warmth and friendliness of the citizens."

Seoul's slogan, however, seems to force me to greet the city of Seoul first:

Me, reading the slogan on a banner: "Hi Seoul!"

No answer.

Me again: "Uh . . . 'Hi Seoul.'"

No answer.

Me again: "Um . . . hello . . . Seoul?"

No answer.

Me (muttering): "Well, it's a stupid slogan anyway. No wonder nobody answers."

And I wander off into Korea, softly singing . . .

"Hi de Seoul
Hi de hi
Gonna get me
A piece of moon pie
Gonna get me
Some of that old sweet roll
Singin' Hi de hi de hi de hi de Seoul . . ."


At 3:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was great to reminisce about my own visits to Israel a few years back. I haven't heard anyone say "Mount Scopus campus" in a long time. I never actually went there, but I did do a three week stint on a dig at Hazor under HUJ's Amnon ben-Tor, a thoroughly likable man. I also remember how the Arabs sweetened the tea--I'd swear it was the best tea I've had--there was more sugar than tea! Gosh, now I'm getting nostalgic for Israel; it's fortunate that I live in Seoul, where I'm not bored.

At 9:52 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I genuinely enjoyed and greatly benefitted from my year in Jerusalem. Moreover, my son was born there -- in a Palestinian hospital since the cost was far lower, and we were on a pretty strict budget. We felt safe in the city despite my wife's close call in the marketplace. We'll probably never go back since our lives are headed in such a different direction now.


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