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Korea, June 3, 2000

Squeeze Those Seeds

sesame seeds are worth their weight in gold

All aboard the slow boat from Qingdao
Sesame Oil by the Container
Nutting to do but majong it to Korea
Ma Jong-ing it to Korea
Did you think duck tongue was weird? Wait till you take the ferry I did last week. No, the food on board wasn't all that odd, standard Korean fare really; it was the luggage that surprised me.

Needing to get a new Chinese visa, I waited four hours, in three lines, for my ferry ticket from Qingdao, China, to Inch'on, South Korea, and even played a little baseball before our departure time. All expected and normal chaos in the Middle Kingdom. The surprise came when we all lined up to go through customs.

Seems there must be a Korea-wide shortage for sesame seed oil by the way returning South Koreans were lugging it up the gangway by the six-pack. Oh, and we're not talking can or bottle six-packs, we're talking gallon jug six-packs pulling at each arm of countless old ladies and strong young lads on a hot summer afternoon.

Of the sesame seed oil, I was sure, but what could a woman half my size want in a bag that clearly weighed more than her, and took all her might to drag along, is beyond me. Also, I could be wrong, though I am sure several boxes contained river stones by their weight and noise.

I was at a loss to why Koreans would head to China for such common goods till I waltzed through customs on the Korean side. At first glance, South Korea sure looks like the Asian First World that I've seen in Hong Kong and Singapore, and I'd imagine Japan would be. All new, modern, and shockingly expensive for me, I'm enjoying my stay and I've already found myself an adventure worthy of the Belly Button Window.

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