Last night while gazing into the eyes of the woman who works at the nice green teahouse in Nampo-dong I offered my friend a whiff of cinnamon. He was sniffing his bowl of apple tea and pining for the ingredients—lush pink scattered with slices of fruit—and I told him that I had a little can of spice sitting in my cupboard back home which had no real purpose in this city of fish and noodles but that of sitting in dark, lonely, useless, silence. I myself have much in common with this cinnamon. He declined my offer like a man who secretly hoards vast troves of spice, packing his ceilings and his floors with barrels of glittering saffron.
But this teahouse is characterized by far more than merely stimulating conversation, by far more than merely the most beautiful woman in the city of Busan. You escape the stagnation of neon and cement and grimed plastic by sitting in the light of its candles and in the aura of its stucco walls, its tables of elemental wood, its paper screens and glazed ceramic cups. Pablo Casals was thrumming from hidden speakers and the little golden spoons seemed to have been snatched from a Viking barrow—how could this ever be Busan, city of alcoholic vomit, city perfumed with carcinogens! No throbbing KPOP, no droning fruit trucks, no honking horns; the windows were kept shut.
If Busan were more like this place I would not be so desperate to leave. As it is, I spend a few seconds every day raising my fist to heaven and declaring that I will one day escape.
Some of the subway stops on the way to Jagalchi have a heroic sound to them:
Busanjin, Son-of-Kettle-Mountain, Plucker-Outer of Foreign Eyeballs, De-Nosifier;
To get to this Teahouse, leap off the soul-suffocating subway at Jagalchi and walk to the PIFF Square, which on rainy nights “out-Blade Runners Blade Runner”; bang a rosco (go right) after you get past the cinema and the indoor parking lot with the attendants waving the crowds out of the way for the automobiles of the wealthy (ranks as #73 on the “Jobs Your Alcoholic Relatives Warned You About” list); walk a few minutes until you get to some CD store, turn left, and you’re more or less there—look for a green sign, and, once inside, greet the brightest angel you’ve ever seen.