Monthly Archives: October 2013

Secondhand sound in Seoul


Seoul Incheon airport is now at the top of my list for airports to sleep in. Seriously.

Having gone to sleep at 2am in this sophisticated, calm, open, hyper-modern mansion, I awoke at 7am with the sense that there were thousands of people around me. I sat up, pulled off my eye cover and indeed there were! 

I see people moving in every direction with this kind of hustle-waddle walk. I see managers of duty-free stores opening up for the day, and cleaning ladies on electric carts (like those that elders sometimes use to get around) laden with baskets of gloves, sprays, and other cleaning supplies. They’ve got with broom attachments on the front and the sides to sweep as they go along. 

As I sit here next to one of the ubiquitous cellphone/computer charging stations, I can hear the secondhand sound of a myriad of videos playing on iphones. I used to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings. I wonder what they’re watching.

Today is the day.My time in Korea will be jammed packed, so I don’t even mind that my initial connection in the city for a party and place to stay last night upon arrival fell through (her phone died so I couldn’t get through to her; my plane arrived four hours late anyhow). This allows me to take things really slowly.  I did, and strolled through the late-night-quiet airport to stash the 2,000 flyers I brought for the CPT Exhibit at the World Council of Churches event.

But then things got fast again when I hooked up to the “super-quick-and-completely-free” wireless internet and took a few hours to catch up on email.

It does feel odd at times to write emails in Detroit, USA, get on a plane, catapult across the sky while sleeping, eat three meals, learn some Korean vocab from my seatmate, meditate, wake up, go through Customs and Immigration, then get off the plane, hook into the internet and keep writing emails as if nothing has changed.  But such is work-life when you can have an office anywhere you can find Cloud cover.

I’ve already learned from my seatmate (while and how they were teaching me vocabulary) that there are some fierce media-generated stereotypes about African-Americans that Koreans have.  I’m not particularly happy about that…will learn more. I already learned that here is a mental pattern from their own history that coloration relates to economic class as those people who were darker were those who labored in the sun all day, workers.  I remember a Jewish genius-friend of mine in Los Angeles wrote an entire PhD thesis about images of African-Americans and Latinos held by Korean, Chinese, and Japanese exchange students at UCLA.  So there is definitely more to learn.

I wonder how this place will react to a meeting of the GLOBAL church here in the southern part of South Korea, Busan.  Hopefully we can bust all types of stereotypes. The theme of this 10th World Council of Churches meeting is “God of Life, Lead Us to Justice and Peace.” At the same time that the US mega-military and imperial economic strategy is making a “Pacific pivot,” I pray that the church’s presence here scrambles that all up, showing a very different way of what it means to share the world and its resources.

Now off to Capoeira class here with Mestre Zumbi, that always renews my s(e)oul and gets me in the correct time zone: the Present.