Hooker Hill

I didn’t go to Pusan today as planned.  Instead, I made quite an unexpected detour to an infamous place in Seoul–"Hooker Hill," a narrow alleyway one block south of Itaewon’s main drag.  You can guess why they call it "Hooker Hill."  Yes, work took me there, and no, it is not a place I frequent.  I had to go there to secure some belongings for an American who had been staying there but could not retrieve their personal belongings.  I went with a Korean colleague who helped me with Korean translation.  We found the "hotel," a seedy place set back from the small bars lining both sides of the street, most of which really serve as fronts for prostitution.  Sure, you can order beer there.  But the couches and back rooms give away their other services.  The bars feature a variety of English names, including "Club Friend," "Grand Ole Opry," and "Texas Bar."  "Hooker Hill" is not the only Red Light District in Korea, let alone Seoul, but it is the one most frequented by foreigners.
My colleague and I waited on the Hill for a couple of hours until it was late enough for the establishments along the street to open (most clientele come in the evening and at night).  The "ajuma," an older lady who owned this particular hotel was not there when we arrived, and we had to talk to neighboring businesses to find that she usually arrived each night around 6 p.m.  We stood near the top of the hill, looking down at the two-block length of street lined with a hodge podge of bars and brothels featuring dated, kitschy decor.  After 5 o’clock, a couple of the scantily-clad "hostesses" came out of some of the bars to wait at the door for clientele to pass by.  I definitely felt out of place loitering across from the hotel, dressed in a suit, not far from where the hostesses waited.  Military police occasionally wander the Hill looking for GIs who break the rules and go to "off-limits" establishments, so it’s not uncommon to see official-looking people hanging out at the Hill.  I wasn’t wearing a uniform, but I imagine that not too many men who frequent Hooker Hill come wearing a business suit.
Sure enough, around 6 p.m. the ajuma arrived.  We talked to her and explained her in a mixture of English and Korean that we were there to retrieve someone’s belongings.  She knew who we were talking about and dug out a couple of suitcases that had been put into storage.  (The American had left behind their belongings and had been absent for several weeks–fortunately, the ajuma had not thrown them away.  I think she was holding them as colleteral.)  The ajuma voluntarily gave us the luggage so we could give them back to the American.  Mission accomplished.  We left soon thereafter with our prize.  The outing gave me a chance to legitimately visit a place that you hear about from time to time in foreign conversations about Seoul.  Most people, especially men, won’t admit to visiting "Hooker Hill," even just to look around, because they don’t want to be accused of impropriety.  My two hours on the Hill, surveying this place, gave me a chance to observe a side of life that is so different from my own.  I really didn’t know what to think.  Men and women, old and young, involved in one of the world’s oldest professions, a carefully orchestrated business where clientele are willing to pay big bucks, and workers are willing to do just about anything to earn big bucks.  Fascinating.

43 more hits

I need just 43 more hits to reach 3,000 for the month of August.  Visit early, visit often!  Help push World Adventurers over 3,000 hits in August.  If you really like this blog, you’re also welcome to submit it as a candidate for "The Best of MSN Spaces."  I definitely would not mind that at all.  I’m not too proud to ask for a little campaigning from dear readers like you.  Thanks for putting in a good word for me.
I ended up not going to Pusan today after all.  The situation resolved itself.  Instead, I will be out and about in Seoul today and will head to Daejeon again next week.  That’s OK.  I did get some sleep last night, but I still have a bit of a head cold.  I would prefer not to fly until I’m completely better.
I will try to write again tonight.  I have some thoughts on the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina I’d like to share.


Last night I couldn’t sleep. 
I went to bed around midnight.
I tossed and turned until about 2 a.m.
I willed myself to sleep.  No such luck.
By 3:30 a.m., I started to worry.
I knew by then I wasn’t going to get much sleep.
At 4:30 a.m., I gave up trying to sleep.
I almost got up, but thought better of it.
Around 5 a.m., I think I went to sleep.
At about 6:15 a.m., I looked at the clock again.
I got up at 7:10 a.m. this morning.
I was surprisingly awake and alert in spite of myself.
I was fine all day until this evening, when I was exhausted.
Have you ever had a night or nights like that?  I have them from time to time.  Sleepless nights are caused by a variety of factors.  Sometimes it’s chronic.  Sometimes it’s caused by young children.  Fortunately, in my case, it never lasts more than a night or two.  Usually my insomnia is brought on whenever I have a lot on my mind.  Last night, I believe that the combination of illness, muggy weather, and heavy activity just before bedtime caused me to have insomnia.  I felt much better last evening and really wanted to do something different for a change, so I worked out on our treadmill.  (Working out is one of the crazy aftermaths of my recent "Whole Life Model" blog entry.)  I told myself, Self, why do you spend so much time at the computer?  There’s so much more to life than blogging or staring at a computer model.  So I did something different for a change.  Unfortunately, I worked out much too late.  My body was much too awake and alert after working out.  I know what you’re thinkiing–Mike, what are you doing working out when you’re sick?   Oh, I don’t know why.  Maybe I just got carried away because I thought I’d finally conquered this infernal bug.  It’s too bad something good (working out) resulted in such dire consequences.  I am not a morning person and cannot work out in the morning.  I’ll have to figure out a way to work out without bringing on sleeplessness. 
After I finished working out, I wound down and talked to my wife for awhile, then I read a bit, and finally headed off to bed.  The lingering illness and workout must have raised my body temperature substantially.  The room was warm and muggy, leaving me very comfortable.  It didn’t help that I couldn’t turn on the air conditioning, because it would pump cold air into my son’s room.  I settled on using an electric fan, but the fan’s oscillations left me either too hot or too cold.  It was miserable lying in bed.  The more I thought about how uncomfortable it was, the less likely I was to sleep.  After awhile, worry took over.  Oh man, I’ll never get to sleep.  I’m not going to be able to keep my eyes open at work tomorrow, I thought.  Fortunately, for some strange reason I felt strangely awake this morning and had a fairly productive day at work.  Perhaps I slept more than I realized, albeit in short increments.  I did fine today in spite of myself.  Nevertheless, when I got home tonight, I crashed for a couple of hours and slept very well.  I hope that I can sleep tonight.  I have to, because I need to go to Pusan tomorrow.  I’ll let you know how it goes tomorrow, dear reader.