Posts Tagged ‘busan’

Smokers need to clean up their act – or die faster

July 20, 2012

Sometimes it takes going to a different place to clear your head of all the bad things to which you’ve simply become habituated. Like waste, and inconsiderate, dirty cigarette smokers. A recent trip to Busan, South Korea, opened my eyes to what proper enforcement and government action can achieve.

Busan is a surprisingly clean city. Surprisingly because it’s not like a US city where there are rules about EVERYTHING from the height and spacing of stairs, to where you may and may not smoke. The air is clean despite the huge condensed population thanks to great public transport. And although Koreans smoke about as much as South Africans, smoking is not permitted everywhere: Not in public parks, not on beaches, not in restaurants (but in bars and Karaoke places it’s okay).

A beautiful beach. Reminded me of beaches in KwaZulu-Natal except for something important: It was perfectly clean. No glass. Clear water. Very safe – even though there were few bathers for some reason there were life guards all along it. I wonder if they stop people tossing cigarette buts? If only our fearless leader would have let us swim…

Do the drains run to the sea as they do in California? I hope not, because people do toss their cigarettes there. Not the way USA smokers do – as if it’s a gesture that represents freedom and democracy or something – but pretty regularly. Still the reminders not to smoke are more than just signs. They’re huge and unmistakeable.

I got it! But give me a few drinks and I might forget once a month.

As gaudy as the signs were, they seemed to work.

… and there’s a lot of beauty to protect.

At the entrance to the park, collections of garbage remind you not leave it lying around. Some garbage cans – trash bins – would be nice though. At the same location where vending machines sell drinks there are none. Sadly, this rocky outcrop, one of the most beautiful, is also the most littered with chip packets, cigarette butts and other debris of what we call “civilisation”.

Made me think back to a walk in a park in California with one of my favorite people in the world. We were having a great day, so I didn’t say anything. I also didn’t say anything because I’m so used to the things smokers do, all of which I hate so much that it’s a physical effort not to shout at random strangers. But he kept tossing his cigarettes. And I didn’t know how to deal with it. I still think about it.

Dear Smokers: I hate it when smokers…

1. Sit right next to me on a bench and smoke, when they could walk away.
I’ma former smoker. Smoking right on top of me is like me putting just a dash of vodka in an alcoholic’s coke. Not very cool at all.

2. Leave a dirty tray of cigarette butt my house
I was nice enough to let you smoke on my balcony. So put it in the trash, ffs. It smells, and I don’t want to clean it up.

3. Toss your cigarettes all over the place
It’s shameful to pollute a beautiful place, or even a random street or apartment block with your but ends. How much more effort does it take to step on it, then pick it up? Yes we know they’re disgusting and you want it to get away from you as soon as you’ve satisfied your craving. But that doesn’t mean we should all have to clean up after you. It doesn’t mean we want your buts in the ocean next time we swim. It’s like pooping, okay. Put your toilet paper in the toilet after you wipe. Or, or if you’re in Korea, in the little basket next to the toilet. God, at least poop is bio-degradable.

That’s my rant for today.

Just because smokers are destined to die of cancer doesn’t mean the should get to annoy us all while they’re still alive. I used to smoke. I may not have been perfect, but I never tossed my but ends out on the street. That’s the bottom line.

Eating Everything in Busan, South Korea.

July 14, 2012

I feel a sense of wellbeing that I’d forgotten feeling. Sure, I’m exhausted from walking up and down hills, sunburned because everything you put on, you sweat right off in the humidity. And… no that’s about it! I’m really happy here. It’s a lot more like South Africa than America is. A big part of what I’m loving wasn’t familiar – the food.


Kimbap! This, believe it or not, is breakfast. The roll has sushi rice, veggies, flat slices of fried egg, and pickles. Sounds weird? I adore it. This was the breakfast our hosts from Dongseo University’s film department gave us every morning in the bus on the way to the film set.

I think part of the reason I am so happy eating here is that I love, love, love rice. I may also secretly adore MSG, which is in everything, and glutin, which is in everything too. Our team’s producer is gluten-intolerant and has been struggling. The Koreans have never heard of this problem and think she’s just a very fussy eater. Poor girl.

This pig wants you to eat her.

Although I eat pescatarian in the USA, mostly, I have abandoned that here as have all other veggies on our crew. It would deprive me of almost everything as pork is used a lot in cooking and flavoring the food. Koreans have a friendly and humorous relationship with the animals they eat. The pigs are excited to die. The fish are displayed in tanks outside restaurants. They’re alive, and you can pick out what you want. Talk about “fresh”…

The little picture of the pig and the cow means that those are their specialties. The animals have dialog: “We taste good!”

Wait… I think (I hope) that this isn’t a restaurant. Mostly because I’ve heard cats taste terrible. As far as I’m concerned, either all animals are food, or none are. In my opinion, cows and pigs are just as loveable as dogs and cats.

It’s wonderful to get away from the franchise culture that’s making American eating less and less interesting by the day. The fear of eating anything that might cause stomach issues means many people won’t eat somewhere that doesn’t have an “A” health rating. My feeling is they probably just eat too much for their body to process. I eat everywhere (I’m currently working my way through the mexican hole-in-the-walls on Tustin street, with the goal of trying them all). And I am fine, I swear. Here, small, cheap eateries become famous for their food and will be busy all day until they closing time.

KFC? This is actually a regular Korean restaurant; just the branding is definitely a reference. I don’t miss that kind of food, at all (not that I ate it in the USA). Or hosts graciously gave us deep fried breaded chicken for dinner one night, to give us a break from rice. It seemed tasteless and poisonous by comparison to the food we’ve been enjoying.

If the person in the picture above the door and the person in the doorway look similar, it’s because they’re the same person! This is fairly common in Korea. I find it really charming. We actually ate next door, where the owner / cook was about 80 and had bright purple hair.

This place specialises in late night octopus stir fries. We hit it after set one night. Yummy. The cinnamon tea was the nightlight for me though. It’s made with cinnamon, sugar, and honey. Boiled. Cooled with chunks of ice. Helps takes the heat off the spicy red bean sauce you stir into your meal.

Celebrities cash in on their fame by lending their picture to food joints. This is a rare thing: a franchise. The lady in the photo is a well known actress. Korea has a thriving national cinema. The government encourages it and protects it from American encroachment. It’s really inspiring – and the movies are great.

Unless you’re getting take-out, the food is served in china or metal bowls, and you’re provided metal chopsticks (in one fancy place, silver!) and a spoon to eat with, as well as jugs of water and small cups about the size of American shotglasses. I love it and it’s a great relief after the wastefulness of American eateries. I feel excited and blessed and renewed by Busan. It’s most similar (for me) to Antananarivo in Madagascar, just much bigger and very high-tech. I could live here – I really, really could.

PS: I’ll add more pictures of cool restaurant signs in the next few days. I have to leave now to go on a mystery trip to a mountain.