My Kind of Tour Guide

I was really looking forward to finding out what Young-sook meant by “play all night.” That next Thursday after work we met at 흑백 for dinner. 흑백 is near KHI Institute and close to Young-sook’s neighborhood. We had some pork cutlet with steamed rice and a couple OB lagers. After dinner she suggested we take a walk and we set off in the direction of her parent’s house. I started to get bummed out because I thought she had changed her mind about “all night” because “all night” usually meant downtown and downtown is the other direction. The more we walked the more I moped along. Then out of the blue she asks, “Have you ever seen a traditional Korean 여관?

“I’ll take you on a tour of one.” I remember her exact words: “구경시켜 줄께.”


She turned us down a sidestreet and wordlessly steered us into 세종관 여관. Up the stairs I followed, she said something to the owner and handed him what looked to be a single 만원자리. He, in turn, handed over a room key. I got the distinct impression she had done this all before.

There was no bed in the room. A thin pad on the floor and two hard block pillows. While I puzzled and giggled to myself, she disappeared into the bathroom. When she returned she was wearing a long-sleeved button-up dress shirt over her panties. Where that shirt came from I have no idea.

The next morning, for some reason that I myself cannot explain, I left Young-sook at the 세종관 very early to go teach my morning “free-talking” class. My most hated class.

I had pretty much understood a 여관 to be a cheap, no frills motel, but I didn’t grasp the unspoken significance of 여관 in Korean culture until many years later. Many years after my first all-night guided tour of one with Spa Shopping Levi’s Corner’s Kim Young-sook. She was a true ambassador of Korean culture and I celebrate her to this day.

No comments: