Saturday, March 7, 2009

Tales of the Waeguk life

Ok, first of all, I'm sorry for not having the second Seoul post up, I've been extremely busy/lazy as of late. My apologies. This post is done by a guest writer, a friend of mine here in Ulsan. He had this incredible story that I felt you the reader needed to read so I asked him if he could type up his story for you all. So no Seoul post today but you do get a special guest blogger. Enjoy!

Well, let me preface this by saying I’m generally not one for telling stories- at least not any of my own- but Chris liked this one and I suppose it can at least serve as a testament- or cautionary tale- for the tenets of spontaneity here in Korea.
I feel like being a waegook here must be paired with a certain kind of suggestibility; a willingness to dive into an endeavor blindly, for the sake of growth and experience. It’s this kind of attitude that buoys you to trying strange, new foods, seeing different places and meeting interesting people. For the most part, it’s a sound principle to live by.
Where this convention perhaps leads to a dilemma is when you find yourself employing it after imbibing some seven screwdrivers and an indiscernible amount of beers, as was the case for me Saturday night at Benchwarmer‘s.
As the bar is emptying out, I’m approached by a few guys I know asking me if I’d maybe want to go a casino.
“Where?” I ask.
“In Busan.” Brian says.
“Cool,” I say. “When?”
“Now,” Nathan says.
Without thinking that it’s four in the morning, or how I rarely gamble and am terrible at it, I readily accept.
Brian drives us there in his car.
The ride to Busan is long, much longer than I would’ve imagined it to be had I imagined anything at all when I accepted. Drunk and tired, I fall asleep in the car, leaving the guys to think I may not even make it to the tables.
At first, it seems that it would’ve been far better for me to have stayed in the car. I lose much of my money playing blackjack, and in the most deflating ways possible, always ending with the dealer robbing me of my chips with that cold distant stare that every dealer in the world seems to practice in front of a mirror. Casually and unapologetically, they drag your chips away from you and deal out the next hand.
For me, there’s no greater self-loathing than the feeling of gambling my money away. I feel weak-willed and bitter against the world.
By around five thirty in the morning, I’m out three hundred dollars, and finished.
“I’ll never gamble again,” I’m thinking to myself.
I sulk in a corner near the slot machines for hours while I wait for everyone to finish, depressed, defeated and still drunk.
At around nine thirty I make my way back to the tables to check on the guys. They’ve moved to three card poker, and they’re doing well enough to where they won’t be leaving any time soon. I sit down and watch and, soon enough, I’m tempted to join once more. I exchange 100,000 more won and watch as my sensible stack is, once again, bled away.
Down to my last chip of 10,000 W, I toss it in pathetically and sink in my chair.
When the dealer hands me my three cards, I’m already expecting to lose. Or- even worse- to get a low pair that will string me along and raise my spirits only long enough to crush them once more.
What I do see when I finally turn them over both chills me and makes my heart race- a strange dual feeling, perhaps due to my fleeting drunkenness and exhaustion.
In my hands I hold a 7, 8, and 9 of diamonds, beaming at me in sequential order so as to remove all doubt that I indeed had a straight flush.
When the dealer sees it, her humor almost seems to change, that coldness leaving her eyes, replaced subtly by a sympathetic glimmer. For a moment, she almost seems happy for me.
Acknowledging my victory, she screams out, “Straight flush-uh!” She calls for her supervisor to watch as she counts out four chips of 100,000 W for me.
Four little chips.
I gladly take them from the dealer, gam-sa-ham-nee-da her a million times over and cash out. Wait- first, I play the last 10,000 W chip once more, hoping for that absurd luck to strike once again which, of course, it doesn’t.
In hindsight, I probably ought to have kept the chip as a nice memento of the night. Something I could carry around and use to remind myself of the merits of pragmatism and restraint here in Korea, maybe even take it out as a conversation piece with a girl at a party someday.
But things like that aren’t always well thought out with me. Many things here, for better or worse I guess, aren’t.