I live in a quiet little neighbourhood (well… relatively speaking!).
It’s within walking distance of the crazy, bustling, downtown madness, but when you leave the tall buildings and flashing lights and shrieking music behind, you find yourself strolling through quieter, calmer, less crowded streets. Streets where elderly people chat on the stoop of their apartment building. Streets where stray cats amble along, scavenging for food. Streets where little old men pull rickety carts piled high with cardboard for recycling. Streets where schoolchildren dally home kicking a football.
Which is why I was a little startled to hear what I can only describe as Chinese traditional music set to a fierce techno dance beat blasting through the air as I neared home after work this evening. I turned the corner on to my street and discovered that a new restaurant had just opened next to my apartment. They were promoting this event in the usual Korean way: by making a big song and dance about it. Streamers decked the exterior and were draped across the pavement. A full-on sound system took up the entire area outside the restaurant, complete with flashing disco lights and speakers taller than me. And the final Korean advertising necessity: the dancing girls.
I’m so used to this sort of sight now. A huge number of shops and restaurants scream for your attention by blasting deafening music at you and placing dancing girls or bizarre costumed creatures outside. I wouldn’t bat an eyelid if this had been happening downtown. But in my little neighbourhood, with the old woman shelling peas on her doorstep and the man next door doing a spot of weeding in his garden, it was somewhat incongruous.
And yet there they were, dancing provocatively to this bizarre choice of music, on a street that was practically deserted, with the occasional passer-by like myself glancing over at them with a questioning expression before walking onward.
Mind you, it worked. They were still there when Terri and I returned from dinner a few hours later, and we looked at them, pausing briefly in our conversation. We must try that restaurant next week, we remarked seriously for no apparent reason, before continuing home and leaving them to their noisy gyrating. Clearly a simple ad in the newspaper will never be enough for me again, after life in Korea…