Posts Tagged ‘fat’

Finally, spring has sprung and we no longer have to wear our entire wardrobe before braving the outside world. These past few weeks have seen some glorious spring days with temperatures over 16°C. As the buds begin to open and the blossoms begin to bloom we prepare ourselves for the unbearably hot, sticky summer in the concrete urban jungle.
Meanwhile, the next few cooler spring months are welcoming after the torturously barbaric winter. It was during this weather transition that I was introduced to a strange Korean custom. Travelling shoulder to shoulder with complete strangers in a moving airless box is already uncomfortable, but when you add heat into the equation you get meals on wheels. You would think that opening a window to let a breeze in and the air circulate is a completely natural
reaction. However, keeping a window open as a bus makes its approach to a tunnel creates an awkward atmosphere. Almost perfectly synced it is like observing some ancient ritualistic tradition as the click of locking windows is heard around the bus.

Should one window be open, mad hysteria ensues. People work together in an effort to close it; bodies move and invade personal space whilst attempting to reach their goal. I was blissfully unaware of this tradition and almost made a 16-stone (224lbs) man cry as I fought with him to keep my window open. Sadly, the whiney voice that came out of the mouth of this mature man in his mid-30s was too much for me. It was a sound that reminded me of a half-dead animal, whimpering to be put out of its misery. Pity and weariness took over and for the next peaceful thirty seconds the window remained closed.

When my stop came up, I fiendishly made sure to open the window before I left the bus. As I walked away, I couldn’t help feeling perplexed by the whole fraught experience. I thought why do South Koreans react in this way? Was their some arcane science that passengers would be sucked from the bus as it reached high speed in a tunnel? Could the wind cause uncontrollable resistance to the degree that the bus driver could do nothing to avoid a crash, with the hope that the passengers would survive?

I could not fathom any reasonable explanation for this bizarre ingrained behaviour. After some detective work I found that the Koreans are fearful of the toxic fumes thriving in the tunnel and that inhalation could potentially be fatal.

My girlfriend told me of another false belief currently circulating. With Seoul being 700 miles from Tokyo, concerns about radioactivity have been in the news. Apparently, one questionable way to stop the radiation is to ingest some salt as doing so will offer protection from radioactive iodine. Unfortunately, the large amount of iodised salt (at least 1.5 kg) needed to bring about this ‘protection’ would be enough to put the believer into intensive care, or worse.

Another protective notion relating to radiation and that is actually instructed by her school is to shut all the windows to keep the radiation from entering the building. I’m not a scientist, but if glass had the capability to stop radiation wouldn’t it have made sense for the Japanese to have built a glass nuclear reactor? Whether or not my partner’s co-workers and students had complete faith in the protection of glass I don’t know, but I do know that they became increasingly disgruntled as they slowly suffocated in their ‘radiation-free’ classroom.

So if you don’t want to cause offence in Korea – don’t open a window.

© John Brownlie 2011

See  Death by Fan for another strange belief.

On a trip to Daegu last year I was fortunate enough to catch a street performance. The entertainers were all between the ages of five and ten years old. And each one of these youngsters was involved in either singing or dancing. I must have arrived shortly after their performance had begun as they had already attracted quite a crowd. About one hundred people surrounded a tiny stage in the middle of the high street, with the entertainment in full swing. The crowd was bouncing merrily to the music and I couldn’t resist bobbing my head accordingly as I strained to find a gap that would let me get a glimpse of the antics. Looking around, I saw that one man had anticipated this throng and had brought a step ladder with him in preparation. In a sense, he became part of the performance with his balancing act on the ladder. One hand clutched a small digital camcorder while the other steadied him from falling among the spectators. All he needed was an anorak.

Pushing my way closer to the front, I saw what was getting the crowd so excited. The children were wearing tight leather costumes that hugged their pre-pubescent bodies. The costumes ranged from mini-skirts to what can only be described as gimp costumes for the under-twelves. Amongst the children it was the unfortunate fat boy who caught my eye. He was either a last minute recruit or, more likely had not shed enough pounds for the ‘big’ day. He was now shuffling uncomfortably at the back of the stage wearing the same size outfit as his peers.

A group of boys and girls moved on to the stage clad in full dominatrix, thrusting, gyrating, spinning and splitting. Using moves that Britney Spears and the Pussy Cat Dolls would be proud of. I looked on in wonderment and disbelief at the exposed legs and midriffs visible to the audience.

Oblivious to this paedophile’s dream, the audience clapped their hands in time with the beat. Laughing and howling as one provocative action followed another. I found this level of naivety disturbing and it made me feel somewhat uneasy. Following the song; screaming, stomping and shouting started; conveying the unanimous euphoric feeling of the watchers.

The next act was the fat boy and his crew. He walked to the stage with the enthusiasm of a stone. The front of his belly, hanging over his tight leather trousers, rippled with each step he took. As the new performers stood in their starting positions, there was a moment of muttering in the crowd. You could almost interpret it as a collective whisper of a prayer for the overweight youth. A baby cried, perhaps sensing that in a few years time it would be its turn up there on the stage. The crowd, over-baited in anticipation, waited. Suddenly the sound erupted from the speakers and it began. Surprisingly, the fat boy could move, but not in time with the music and the other performers.

The audience gave the same vocal support as before. Whooping and hollering as more obscene moves were exhibited. I’m certainly no prude but I couldn’t help shaking my head in pity and despair at this display and turned to walk away. As I did so, I caught a glimpse of the man on the ladder. He seemed happy. Seemingly in his own world. Smiling as he looked through the lens, knowing that this spectacle could be replayed over and over again in the privacy of his own room. And who knows with what salacious thoughts attached to those captured images of innocent child performers.

© John Brownlie 2010