Friday, 12 February 2010

Korea - The first drinking contest

Hello everyone!

On Fridays I only have teacher classes. I haven't had to do one yet, which meant that I had nothing to do that day. With that in mind, Mr Kim told me that I didn't have to come in. Awesome. I cannot believe how much I can get away with. It's only until March though, at which point we move to a new office where other people are, so I will be noticed if the one white guy in school is not around.

I did a sprint in the gym and then met Ellen for lunch. As time was tight, I showered in the gym. All I'll say is that the stereotype about Korean men is true. They do stare at me as well. I think they're looking more at my tattoo than any other part of my anatomy, but I'm a strange foreign creature to them, and they may have stereotypes about Westerners that they wish to clarify, I don't know.

What my body probably didn't need after a gym visit was kimchi jjigae, a pretty hot soup with kimchi, some sort of meat or fish (this one was tuna), and other vegetables in it. It's very nice, and it cleans out your sinuses beyond belief. Really cheap as well, and filling, so I wasn't hungry for a while after. That feeling led to me making a mistake further down the line, with unsavoury consequences.

I went to Bucheon in the evening, to the all-you-can-drink-for-2500won place. We made the most of it, but as I hadn't eaten since the soup, I began to feel drunk. At this juncture I want to make a point. A lot of people who read these blogs claim that I spend a lot of time drinking, drunk, and hungover. This is true. But I feel that the stuff I do when I am out and happen to be drinking is more entertaining to write about, and to read about, than the nights in I have, when I watch films or read books or doss around on the internet. Yes? Also, it's not as if the heavy drinking is a change from my time at home, or in uni, or travelling around Europe. It comes with the territory.

Rant over. We moved on from said place to Sky bar, where me and Paul finally got some food. Chicken wings. Not a good base for alcohol. Sky bar's stage was being put to use, with lots of Koreans going up and doing silly stuff. Then all of a sudden the MC pointed at me and Colin. We had to go onto the stage. What were they going to do to us? We joined five young Korean men on the stage, where a small table had been placed.

We were chatting, doing photo shoots and whatnot, when seven beers were placed on the table. Aah, I can see where this is going. A downing contest. Colin tried to get ahead by slurping his beer whilst the instructions were bellowed out in Korean. All I understood was '3,2,1'. I then asked him if he was going to say that bit in Korean, as in 'se-gay, du-gay, hana'. He gave me an odd look, and carried on bellowing.

So 3-2-1-go. We didn't represent Britain all that well. I came a less-than-creditable 6th out of 7, beating...Colin. Well Wales beat England I guess, the only time that that happened on that weekend. Koreans are fiercely competitive, and this obviously extends to chugging beer. I've never been good at that particular sport, but I did at least finish, unlike some...

Still, Colin gained a lot from this night. He is a Newcastle fan, I am a Cardiff fan, and the two teams were playing later that night. We arranged a friendly wager. The team that wins by 1 goal, loser buys winner a drink. 2 goals, loser buys winner dinner. 3 or more goals also meant that the loser had to buy dinner. But not just any dinner. Remember that all-you-can-eat buffet I had on Christmas Day? Yeah, that. Dinner at d'Maris. As if that was going to happen anyway, we thought, so we chatted to the superior Korean drinkers for a while, and the night went on, you know the drill. Apart from this time I really didn't feel good. And didn't look good. I managed to mumble that I needed to go home, which was one of the wiser decisions I have made out here. The fact that everyone else seemed to agree suggested that it was also the right thing to do. Taxi, 15,000w, out of the door...well, you don't need to know the details here. I didn't think that calling this blog 'The first vomiting experience' would have set a nice tone. But it's been done now.

Probably because of this experience, I only slightly felt like death on Saturday. My mood was not helped by checking the football score to see if I had won myself a drink in the bet with Colin. Not quite. Cardiff lost 5-1. I owe Colin a d'Maris. Me and my stupid drunken bets. At least there is no streaking involved this time. But I was conscious, and able to move, so went to play football in Ansan. That was tough, my goodness. My legs were pretty stiff from the day before, and it was COLD. Lots of tackles flying about as well, leading to me cutting my knee and grazing my hip. I wasn't overly bothered, but the Korean players, possibly due to health paranoia, were shocked that I was carrying on. Felt like Terry Butcher. All I needed was a bandage.

One of these tackles hurt me more than I realised, however, and I didn't notice until I took off my trainers at the end of our session that my left sock was soaked in blood. Bizarre that, I hadn't felt anything. It may have been a stud, but also I think my toenail may have cut into another toe, and because I carried on playing the blood kept coming. Not to worry, though, no amputation needed.

After the games I went for a curry with Stevo, where I met the people he lives near. One of them, Dan, is Welsh. I'm pretty sure he's the first Welsh person I've met, how exciting for me. He found out I was Welsh, squinted at me (the BBC accent disguises my heritage) and then said something like, 'Dyw'in siarad Cymraeg?'. I knew that means 'Do you speak Welsh?' and, in spite of my A* at GCSE, I had to say 'nag ydw'. As anyone who has been through the Welsh education system knows, a GCSE in Welsh isn't especially hard to achieve. He has been in Korea for 6 years, which is incredible. The Korean woman probably has something to do with it. He also used to work in Siheung, and knew where the Pizza Hut was, which makes Dan a very rare species indeed.

The curry was really good. It was interesting that the Korean guy with us couldn't handle the food, saying it was too hot for him. I'd heard so much about Korean food being really hot and spicy before coming here, but a lot of what I have seen and eaten suggests that they just can't deal with it themselves. Still, I am a lover of all things hot and spicy. And Dan did ask for the curries to be as spicy as possible.

They offered for me to come back with them to watch the United game, but I had to decline, due to the all-day hangover, tiredness, and the fact that I had plans for Sunday. I met up with Kelly and her friend Phil. Phil teaches in Taiwan, and Kelly had recently gone to visit him, so Phil was returning the favour. Situations like this are good, as we get to do the tourist stuff which otherwise seems strange to do because, well, we live here. We gave him a very Korean experience.

We saw the changing of the guard at a temple. We walked past a guy in a Santa hat and hotpants with music playing out of his bag. He was going at pace, which is why the picture isn't so great. We watched a little girl stranded on one side of a stream because she was too scared to cross to the other side, until her bigger sister showed her how it was done. That was heroic, true sibling love. We wandered down Insadong. In the latter there was a machine which took your photo, and then you could write a message and send it as an email to anyone in the world. I sent it to my mum, but obviously the technology is a work in progress, as it still hasn't reached her yet. Shame, was a funny picture as well.

We also introduced Phil to mandu, in the same place that we had mandu on Boxing Day. Just before this we had stumbled across a group of Koreans in traditional dress with musical instruments. They were setting up, so we hung around for a while, and soon they began. Walking around in a circle, banging their drums, with one guy on the side playing something similar to a flute. It was enchanting and hypnotic, really cool. Big shout out to the guy with the funny hat, who kept flicking his neck to make a large ribbon twirl around. He was hilarious, walking up to kids and shaking his ribbon in their faces. Special guy.

We then moved onto a small palace near Insadong. Being under 26, it cost me a whopping 350w to enter. That's 15p. Believe the hype? It was pretty, but looked like every other palace/temple/old Korean building. But then an old Korean woman comes over and starts talking to us in very broken English. And starts to give us a tour. She was funny as well. At one point she was talking about the heating in the temple, and asked us all about how our homes in our home countries were heated. I tried to explain the concept of electronic radiators to her, and actually had a bit of difficulty. She laughed and said, 'that is good, but i do not think that these things existed 140 years ago. Remember this palace is not new'.
Korean tour guide woman 1-0 Matt. We made the mistake of asking her about kimchi. We didn't get another word into the conversation. Man, she loves her kimchi. She was very knowledgable, and it made our experience much better. She even offered to take a photo of us at the end.

It soon became pretty cold, so we headed across to Apgujeong. This, we were informed, was where all the Korean celebrities like to hang out, and it even has its own 'Rodeo Drive'. This picture is it. I have been to the one in Los Angeles, and they are a bit different. This struck me as being a bit like any Western high street. One other thing about this place is the reputation it holds. A lot of Koreans get work done on their bodies, their faces, just about anything really, and this is the place where it happens. Every poster in the subway exits was to do with some kind of cosmetic 'enhancement'. Fact alert: the most popular surgery is eyelid surgery.

Colin had met us at this point, and we walked around for a while before deciding that we were hungry. I wasn't particularly hungry, but after Friday, any chance to eat a meal needed to be grabbed with two hands and shoved into my mouth. We eventually settled on a small Mexican cafe. Mexican food in Korea. Fine Mexican food as well, a really good quesadilla. Their nearby toilets were a bit odd, as you can see from the ceiling. The mens and womens weren't seregated. I'm all for equality, but some things need to be gender-themed, or at least separated by some sort of door.

Pretty good weekend (well, until I found that my email account had been hacked), and even better news came my way on Monday. Mr Kim said that Tuesday was graduation, meaning that I had the day off! And that normal lessons were not happening on Thursday or Friday, so I didn't have to come in on those days either! I managed to persuade him that the students wouldn't bother paying attention on Wednesday either, and he agreed, so I also scored a day off on Wednesday as well. Needless to say this did not go down well with other foreign teachers when I started bragging about it over the world wide web. But if they were in my (strangely easy) position, I don't think they would complain, and if I was in their position, I would complain.

All of this meant that I only had two lessons to teach, during which I got them to tell me where to go on vacation in Korea and then showed an episode of the Simpsons. Not bad, this teaching gig. Not bad at all.

I'm going to wrap this up as I need to pack for Thailand!!!!!!! Assuming I don't do anything really stupid, I'll write up the rest of this eventful week when I return resembling a lobster. Sa-wat-dee, y'all!

Love you all


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