Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas at Bench

On the 20th of December, Benchwarmers, one of the waeguk pubs in my neighborhood, had a formal Christmas dinner. The dinner started off with appetizers like pasta salad, veggie trays, deviled eggs and moving onto the main course there was chicken, turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, roast potatoes, cranberry sauce and most importantly the desserts included mini cheesecakes, mini pecan pies, ginger cookies and more. After dinner, we went to the downtown area and sang Christmas carols in various establishments and the Koreans loved it. Here are some pics and vids from the event. Sorry for the shoddy camera work, I was several drinks deep into the night and also trying to walk and film at the same time. Also, I apologize for the singing for the aforementioned reasons.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Most Glorious Day in Korea so Far.

My experience in Korea has been marked by a lot of ups and downs, with the ups coming mostly on Friday-Sunday and the downs from Monday to Thursday. Oh, I'm just kidding, for the most part. Anyways, this past Saturday was the best day I've had in Korea so far so i have a kind of running diary for the day, albeit written the day after. Enjoy!

The day starts with me waking up at quarter to 11:00 and rushing to get my things together to play some soccer. It was a real struggle to do this easy task, mostly because it's so cold outside of my sheets in the morning and I was going off of 5 hours of sleep (I'll leave the explanation to your imagination). Manage to get my things together, get a papa roti bun and some gatorade and water from a nearby 7/11 all in time to meet with some members of the Wonshot Wanderers, a pub soccer team formed by a group of foreigners and koreans by 11:45.

So I meet these two waeguk (korean word for foreigners) guys waiting outside of the local pub and then a van shows up to take us to the sports complex. On a sidenote, to all Callanan/Sepe family members reading this, you'll be happy to know that one of the waeguks, Tom, is from Kingstown Rhode Island. So the van takes the 3 of us, plus 5 korean guys on a 25 minute ride to the sport complex, and to be honest it was the most I had seen of Korea thus far, scenery speaking.

We ended up scrimmaging two teams in a format where we would play one team, then break for a little bit then scrimmage the next, for a good two hours or so. Until this point I have ran once, my third day in Korea, and had not played soccer in some 4 weeks. Needless to say I was a bit gassed and my play, while not horrible, was not superb in anyway. We, as a team, did fairly well, not losing a game all day although to be fair, one of the teams was filled with mostly middle aged men and we're mostly young guys with a few "more experienced" players here and there.

During the 25 minute ride back to the downtown area, I was chatting with Alick (pronounced Alec), the other waeguk in the van, about a turkish-middle eastern restaurant in Samsung Dong, which striked his interest so we decided to give it a try that night. Later on I get a call from Alick and he said that him and some of his British friends were going out to eat and he invited me to come with.

So I meet up with Alick and his two mates, and we go to a Korean kind of B.B.Q place. I was quite content to go to one because I pass by these kinds of restaurants all the time but never go because they're very communal (not all Korean Restos are that way, but the b.b.q places are) and well I'm usually eating out by myself or with Craig, the other waeguk teacher at my school, and he is pescatarian (which means he only eats fish and seafood, no b.b.q). Do you know how hard it is to walk by all these restaurants that look so good but know that you can't eat there? I imagine it would be similar to a lactose intolerant person walking by a bunch of baskin robbins or something, but I digress.........

So the way things go out at this restaurant is you sit around a burner and they bring out the meats that you order and you cook them, wrap them in a leaf (either a leafy romaine lettuce leaf or mint leaf that they call a sesame leaf), put in some b.b.q sauce or chili paste, maybe part of a garlic clove in there, and then eat it fajita style. And to make the experience even better, they brought us these little orange aprins that served as bibs and we wore them as a joke, what a sight! To start, we ordered some tiny thin beef strips and a big thick pork cut which was later cut into tiny little cuts and we continued with the pork rib for the rest of the time there. It was glorious!!

Originally, when thinking about writing this post, I planned on just writing about the soccer and possibly the dinner, but I feel like this next part is classic, and quite essential to my experience, so I can't rob you of this one. After finishing dinner around maybe 9:30, deciding it's way too early to call an end to our Saturday night, we do what any 4 young gentleman would do. Hit the bars!

Starting off we hit up some tiny bar, drink a beer there and then to the next. We then hit up two chain bars which are set up in a western setting, or they call them western bars (but they're not waeguk bars, or owned by foreigners).

After doing the bars we decided to move on to the clubs, Club Orangi to be precise, or maybe it's spelled Orangey, not sure exactly. The club was quite a riot to be honest. The first thing that stuck out was it's like a restaurant in the sense that 90% of the club is booths set up for you to sit down, drink, be merry, etc. The other 10% is a stage and a small dance floor. Then they will play for music 20 minutes, take a break and people will go sit down for a bit until the music starts up again. Kind of different no? Awesome observation #2, this was the only club I've ever been to where they serve you fruit. How crazy/amazing is that? It's like what would go well with this beer, hmm, half a banana, a slice of apple and some watermelon, yes, that's what I was looking for. Only in Korea (one of the most common phrases used by waeguks, or "this is Korea").

We decided to go to the club in hopes of meeting some local friends but the whole language and cultural barrier was....well a barrier. Point in case, there was a group sitting next to us and this girl, Hyun-Cho, struck up a conversation with me, or something close to it. So we try talking for a bit but she knows little English and I know about 4 lines of Korean so our conversation was quite limited. We ended up exchanging phone numbers, so it went pretty well and I was thinking I was looking at my first dip into to the dating world here in Korea. Well, Hyun-Cho called me today and we talked for about 10 minutes and by talk I mean me trying to say that I would like to see her again, if she would like to go out to eat, me saying "hmmm" about 39.5 times and then fumbling through a dictionary to try and look up restaurant, or dinner, or something along those lines, only to get a little frustrated and have the phone call come to a halt. I think I'll try sending her a text but I'm not too sure if much will change which has led me to realize that my pool of ladies to choose from will be rather minimal, from Koreans that can speak English at a good level or waeguks. I guess I thought most of the adult population, well educated, had a good working knowledge of English, not the case. The good news is that I have an extra motivation to learn the language, the bad news is that my learning tool is a book that teaches me things like "how much is this?" and "do you have any milk?". Why can't they teach me useful stuff like "would you like to go out sometime?" or "do you have a boyfriend?" etc........Thanks Arirang (the group that wrote my language book)!!!

Anyways, this post has gone on for far too long so I will let you enjoy the rest of your Sunday. Hope all is well stateside, or wherever you're reading this. Peace!