Dante's Inferno

Can you stop the cavalry?

Christmas Day in a Buddhist household be a rather anti-climactic affair so rather than stay in all day reading or watching TV, and considering that I'd already done the Kosin University Christmas Tree Festival two years ago, I planned to go to the Nampodong district, where we could have a quick look around the new Lotte Department Store before finding somewhere nice to eat in the shopping district. But leaving Korean Mother at home on her own on Christmas Day was deemed to be to awkward, even if she was a Buddhist, so she was invited along, and it became a fully-fledged shopping trip.

Christmas Lights

As we entered the main shopping area of Nampodong the hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel echoed around the streets. It was easy to believe for a moment that the sound emanated from one of the many nearby stores, which are never averse to using external speakers to capture the attention of those nearby, but this time the sound had a vastness to it belying a merely local source. Every street lamp for half-a-mile had a speaker, and every one played Emmanuel.

Off Screen

We travelled all over Busan looking for a television, but it rapidly began to feel like there were only three types of stores - the official manufacturer outlets of Samsung and LG, the second-tier electrical stores Hi-Mart and Etland, and the third tier volume discounters E-Mart and Tesco Home plus (sic). And this pretty much summed up the price differences as well, so inevitably it wasn't long before we had worked our way down the pricing scale and were honing in on buying from 'Home plus'.

Zoom Suit

For the first time since I was 18, following the great purge of my possessions known as emigrating, I found myself without a suit to my name. So rather than just buy some casual trousers for our friend's upcoming wedding, slumming it a bit on the day and looking like I don't fit it - again - I instead decided to go hunting for more formal attire.


In Korea, mobile phones are called '핸드폰', or 'hand-phones', and it seemed that now I was living in Korea I had to have one. The search began soon after my arrival. It proved to be a monumentally frustrating experience, so a friend loaned me an 'old' Samsung SPH-M4655 as an interim measure. I carried it around for a while, but found it slow, and the on-screen keyboard was too frustrating for my main intended purpose, which was making various notes while I was out, such as Korean words I saw and their translations.

The Couch

Our search for a couch had ground to a halt. The prices on Furniture Mountain had generally started at 800,000 won (£421/$688) for anything comfortable, and this seemed high compared to some of the local stores we'd visited, so we resolved to try again later.

Unfortunately the first opportunity which really arose was the one Sunday in three when a lot of stores seem to be closed, which meant our browsing choices were limited, and when we arrived at the store where we'd bought our desks, the owner was nowhere to be found even though it was open. I tried out the couches and the office chairs, waited, went outside, stared up and down the street, and marvelled at the evident lack of crime - or fear of it- which allowed a business owner to desert his premises on a regular basis. I suspected he was out delivering to a customer.

Desk Set

When we first came to Busan, we'd bought a couple of small desks for our small one-room apartment, which allowed us enough space for one computer monitor each and a third shared screen to display certain stock market data. This was a big downgrade from the six screens we'd had back in the UK, so now that we were back here to stay, we wanted to get back to having the kind of larger desks which would support more monitors.

Shi gan

My wife planned to buy her best friend a relatively expensive watch for her upcoming wedding as a special gift, but somewhere along the way it was decided that while the budget might remain the same, it would be better if 'couples' watches were purchased. I had a feeling that someone got the casting vote in that decision amongst the electorate of two.

Koreans readily embrace the 'couples' concept - which can mean having the same style of watches, wearing exactly the same style of clothes, phones and anything else which occurs as a possibility. It is some disturbingly outward sign of their homogeneity in an already dangerously homogeneous society.

Roman Candles

I left the apartment early this morning to find a cake for my wife's birthday before she woke up, and discovered that my favourite local bakery didn't open until 9am. I'm used to Koreans working very long hours, and since many British bakeries are open much earlier in the day, I'd assumed the same would be true here, but it isn't.

Avoiding the Paris Baguette chain as being too manufactured and clichéd, I located an alternative that was open, and for once was rather glad to have a staff member hover over me while I made a selection from a large array of choices. My new best friend ventured to tell me the ingredients which met with my approval, and after telling her "I'd like to buy this one", we proceeded to the checkout.

The Couch Trip

The centre of the city where I used to live had a lot of retail stores as you might expect, but beyond that lay an urban residential sprawl punctuated by pockets of small shops and the occasional supermarket. So when I reached Busan I was immediately taken aback to discover that it was not so much the residential areas which seemed endless - although apartment blocks are everywhere you look - but

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