It’s not often when a last-minute change in a touring schedule works in your favour, but in our case, it got us a first-class ticket on a 17-hour flight. When we got an offer to perform at the Seoul International A Cappella Festival, we couldn’t turn it down… even though we had already booked our flight to Hong Kong. The last-minute flight change meant that the only tickets left were (sigh) first class. They were surprisingly cheap, and our presenter picked up the change in fare, which meant a free upgrade for us. Bring it on!

Suba enjoys a glass of champagne in her pod… and Dylan puts his feet up with a beer

First class was awesome. We can see why business execs fly this way… not just because of the luxury, but because you can do a 17-hour flight and still be relatively refreshed when you land. If I had a guy doing a multi-bazillion-dollar deal on behalf of my company, I’d want him walking into the meeting feeling refreshed and alert!

It was a good thing for us, since we had to go from a 17-hour flight straight to the venue for a soundcheck, quick meal of noodles and kimchi (spicy Korean marinated cabbage: delicious, and Dylan’s not normally a big cabbage-guy), and then our performance. Whew!

We weren’t the only folks on the bill. We shared the stage with Metro, a US-based group living in Hong Kong; Suade, an excellent and funny group from Australia, and a group of Mongolian throat singers: haunting and uniquely beautiful. We’re glad we didn’t have to do the whole concert ourselves: during the last act, we were falling asleep in our seats.

The next day we decided to get out and do a couple of hours of sightseeing, as our time in Korea was all too short, less than 48 hours. We still managed to see a few beautiful parks, a royal palace, and some slices of everyday Korean life.

one of several royal palaces in central Seoul

Nice outfit. I’m pretty sure this is Kim Jong Il, president of North Korea.

Then, it was off to our next venue for the next show, with the same performers but a different venue. The crowd was small but enthusiastic.

At this point, our presenters wanted to take us out for the usual post-show drink and snack. We had an early flight, up at 5am, so we planned on a polite beer and an early night. It didn’t turn out that way, and we learned a valuable lesson.

Never play drinking games with Australians.

The boys in Suade are fun guys to hang with, but they’re devious. Mysterious pitchers of beer kept magically appearing, and their drinking-game rules kept getting more complicated (we’re sure that was it…). Our polite beer-and-bed-by-midnight turned into a close-the-place-down, righteous hang. We got about an hour’s nap before we had to turn around at 5am, heads still reeling, and head to the airport for a four-hour flight to Hong Kong, a ferry to Macau… and another straight-to-the-venue soundcheck, show and workshop.

But before we get there, a few words about Korean semiotics… from the point of view of ignorant Westerners. We’ve all seen the cute-but-strange, anime-meets-Hello-Kitty style of Asian signs: in multicultural Toronto, you can see them anywhere. But Korea has them all beat.

Most instructional/informational signs here seem to be explained by crazy little cartoon characters, saying the strangest things. Add a less-than-stellar English translation to that, and you get a whole new layer of absurdity.

Take a look at this. Believe it or not, it’s a map of the hotel. Now, our hotel looks like a typical 20-story building. What we get is this. It doesn’t show in the photo, but the legend is entitled “Welcome To My Spaceship.” Read it all!

OK… so we’ve got, from top to bottom:

– the strange puffy guy with the tongue (no name)
– the bon-bon cat
– the Macaron [sic] Queen
– The Duchess of Éclair (who appears to be a five-legged pet of some sort)

In the fitness area we have, naturally, the Cupcake Twins, skipping rope and lifting weights.

In the banquet hall we have our personal favourite, Josephina in the Elizabethan collar. Watch our for her: she makes an extra-special appearance elsewhere.

We conclude our tour with the Rabbit Teapot. Yes, my friends… we’ve officially jumped through the looking glass. Or taken some sort of substance. What was in that kimchi, anyways?

We also have instructions on how to use the elevator:

… but this panel takes the cake:

You go, Josephine!

Up Next… Chapter 2: Macau and Singapore. Join Dylan and Suba as they spend 20 hours in one country, teach a cappella reggae to teenagers, and see the Real Group live.

Europe 2011 Tour Blog

Dylan and Suba just returned from a month-long European Tour. Check out our travels here on our blog! Thanks to the Ontario Arts Council for their generous support of this tour. There is no way that we (or our international presenters) could have made this a reality without the Ontario Arts Council’s support, and for that, we are so grateful.

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