The Elder Trash Talk

So I'm walking down the street and this guy yells at me. It's a out of the corner of my ear and I turn to get the full version.

"What?" I ask in English.

"Why you no shave it?" an elderly Korean man grumbles back.

"What?" I repeat, somewhat sharply.

He then proceeds to make a shaving motion with his hand on his face.

I chuckled. "Ehh, it's cold outside."

As I turned to continue my walk I realized this moment will forever standout in my beard bearing life. I've had the thing, on and off, since I was 17. I have plenty of stories about it's positives and negatives and this one my friends, is both.

He heckled me for one, and two, he looked terribly disappointed when I answered his question. I could practically hear him calling me dirty western hippie under his breath as he walked away in disgust.

Buuuut, I could also hear myself telling a story about the time got heckled in Korea for having a beard. And that makes me smile. A big, bushy, burly and untamed smile.
{Susan and me eating mandoo. I picked this photo because it looks like we are staring the guy down. Unfortunately, Susan was not there to stick up for me. This pic was taken about three weeks prior to the beard heckle.}

...get Lost my friends.


Costco to Flee Market

A few Saturdays ago Liz and I ventured across Seoul and landed at Costco, then at a flee market. This type of endeavor happens often with us. I am fortunate to be paired up with a mover in life. Liz gets the shakes if inside when the sun is up and the day of the week starts with an 'S'.

I shot this footage with my Lumix GF1 in a very innovative style. I'm something of a pioneer on vimeo. If you look at other videos, they are shot with nice lighting, good angles, smooth transition moments and a general understanding of what pleases the eye.

Ha!...I went a different direction.

I'm using, and again this is my invention, the shaky-handed-frequent-focus-turn-the-camera-for-no-reason-mode. It's wildly entertaining.

Untitled from Mark Ratto on Vimeo.

The music's good though.

...get Lost my friends.


The Stand-off

Everyday I walk home from work and observe. I live in a very dense, old and family oriented part of Seoul which means people of all ages are constantly shuffling through and along the streets and alley ways.

But the most entertaining shufflers are the old guys.

Old guys in Korea are called "a-ja-shees". Considering respect in Korea is given to people older than you, some of these old guys experience nothing but respectful gestures all day because they are the oldest guys around.

But what happens when one old guy confronts another old guy? In my neighborhood, it turns into a good 'ol Mexican standoff.

A few weeks ago on my walk home I notice an ajashee ahead of me walking his bike. He was moving very slowly but with dignity. The kind of dignity that says, "I'm walking slowly because the place I need to be, can wait." However, not in front of him was another ajashee pulling a cart with some recyclables he must have picked up for some extra money.

Both of them were on the same side of the street, both walking fairly slowly and both looking about 86-years-old, or higher.

As I walked I noticed neither was making any move to avert the oncoming old guy. Both stayed the course. And both, with dead set sincerity, were looking the other one directly in the eye. They were headed on a collision course.

(Cart ajashee) (bike ajashee)
---------------> <-----------------

I slowed my walk. I wanted to see this. At ten feet apart, I thought for sure the bike guy would move. No move. At five feet apart I figured, without a doubt, the cart guy would at least pause. No pause.

I was almost caught up with them when they literally bumped into each other and stopped they're forward progress. A yelling match ensued. They're walks were morbidly slow, but the insults flew fast. I am not fluent in Korean, but my best guess at a translation goes as follows:

"Hey, you, get out of my way!"

"Your way? I've lived here for 50 YEARS!"

"Well, I'm older, so move."

"Ooohh no, I'm older. Get out of the way."

"You fool, look at my wrinkles, I have more."

"Don't be an idiot cart puller, my wrinkles are deeper."

"OK, what year were you born? I was born in '21."

"Ha! I was born in '19!"

And that is all it took.

When I passed them they were in full confrontation mode. But once I passed, I looked back and saw the gracious loser. The cart ajashee made the move around the oncoming elder. He even looked back with a smile and a wave.

This story made me laugh but also put many parts of this culture into perspective. It's all about respect and learning when or who to give it to or when and how to receive it graciously.

Cool, huh?

...get Lost my friends.