Friday, September 15, 2006

An exciting evening among the diplomats

Coat of Arms
(Image from Wikipedia)

Despite the pen name "Gypsy Scholar," I don't get out very much. Last night, however, I braved Seoul's rough streets and made my way utterly on my own toward the Grand Hyatt Hotel to attend a special reception "On the Occasion of the 31st Anniversary of the Independence of Papua New Guinea," personally invited by Ambassador Kuma Aua.

You see, the Gypsy knows people in high places ... even if he doesn't get out very much.

Anyway, I was immensely enjoying the very bearable lightness of being alone until my arrival at the Hyatt, where I followed the directions provided and inadvertently strolled into a wrong room, intially mistaking it for the Regency Ballroom. Finding myself confronted by a long mirror, several sinks, and the instant, unexpected focus of intense female attention -- a strong clue in my case that something is amiss -- I quickly backed out, found the actual ballroom through an entrance a bit further to the right, and drowned my embarrassment with a glass of refreshing white wine that the steward couldn't identify but that I tracked down as a sauvignon blanc from Australia.

One meets all sorts of people at such functions, even outside of women's restrooms. For instance, I met the marketing manager for Arabicas Limited, Eung Joe Bae, who imports coffee beans from Papua New Guinea to South Korea. I told him that if he's introducing Koreans to genuine coffee, then he's doing a commendable thing. He generously offered to supply me with their special roast, which I might take him up on.

I had an even more exciting encounter with a journalist from the Korea IT Times. I happened to be alone for a moment, sipping an Australian shiraz and musing about maybe testing that special Arabicas roast, when a Korean man approached me to introduce himself. He was a perceptive fellow, for he already had me pegged as a professor and asked if I taught literature.

In our ensuing conversation, he learned that I had previously taught at Hanshin University. At this point, he became animated and informed me that he had majored in German at Hanshin. I responded by switching to German, and he impressed me not only by replying in German but also by continuing our talk in that language.

I say "impressed" because many Korean students in Korea are not especially serious about their major, and one often meets people here who know very little about the field that they 'studied.'

Anyway, I was just about to hand him my card, when a rather burly fellow who was clearly deep into his cups came over, grabbed the journalist, spoke some angry words in Korean, and began pushing the poor fellow. Astonished by this sudden irruption, I could only stare as my conversation partner was pushed halfway across the room. Other people intervened to separate the two, the aggressive man was escorted out, and my journalist returned to accept my card and supply his own before exiting with determination in his eyes.

I wonder what that was about ... and what came of it.

A New Zealand couple that I know had been watching the entertainment and asked me if I knew why it had happened. I admitted to my ignorance but observed that although Koreans are generally peaceful, courteous people, they can also suddenly erupt in anger, and turn to violence ... albeit controlled violence. For example, once or twice a year, the political parties in the Korean parliament get angry at each other, square off, and start shoving. Their brawling usually limits itself to that and doesn't degenerate into uncontrolled melees.

The occasional punch, however, does get thrown ... but not last night.

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At 8:36 PM, Blogger jj mollo said...

Wow! Very entertaining evening. Reporters can raise a good crop of antagonism. I suspect he wrote something that offended the man. I remember when I was writing for the school paper I used to get into squabbles with people I didn't even know.

Or maybe he was telling the reporter to stay out of the ladies' room. That would have been an interesting conversation. Did he look at you funny (funnily?) afterwards? I guess we'll know if you don't get invited to the next grande soirée.

It sounds like a relatively healthy environment, though. The man expressed his anger without drawing a weapon, people separated them before any damage could be done, and it wasn't necessary to call the cops.

At 9:04 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JJ, you seem to be the only one entertained by the evening's events. No other commenters, anyway.

I also wondered if the 'attack' occurred because of some article that the journalist wrote ... but I suppose that I'll never know.

I missed some other excitement. There was an unscheduled 'fire dance' that took place when someone's scarf dangled too close to a candle. The lady ripped the scarf off, and some young woman stamped out the flame in her sandled feet.

More effective than stiletto heels, I guess ... even if less fashionable.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:41 AM, Blogger jj mollo said...

Some posts, even though they are interesting, are pretty difficult to respond to. Most of us don't really know what to expect at such an event.

Your story is almost a travelogue. As a matter of fact, it could serve as the opening chapter of an Agatha Christy novel. Did you happen to see a small Belgian man there with an elegant waxed moustache?

At 2:14 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JJ, isn't that "Agatha Christie"?

Which sounds like a code for "Good Christian," doesn't it?

Anyway, perhaps I could turn it into a story...

Jeffery Hodges

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