Thursday, 25 February 2010

Korea - The first noraebang

Hello everyone!

So it wasn't just Tuesday that I had off. I managed to persuade Mr. Kim that, as all the students would have graduated, there was little point me trying to teach anything substantive to the students, and that it was in everyone's interests if they just watched films. He eventually agreed, and I subsequently had the rest of the week off. Still got the charm.

Wednesday night was my first experience of ddak galbi. It's not like the normal galbi. Firstly, you don't cook it yourself. Rather, it is brought out ready-cooked in a big hot plate which is put into the middle of the table, and then you share it around. The other big difference is the meat. It's chicken. It also has potatoes and lots of other vegetables in it. It reminded me of pasta bake, and it was ridiculously good. I think I've found my new favourite Korean food.

Thursday we made a plan to go down to Vontees for a few drinks, the main reason being to meet a new Westerner in Siheung, called Tom. Before that, however, I had a rendezvous. A while ago, when I couldn't find any English-speaking people in the area, I had responded to a facebook advert from a Korean guy called Taehoon, who wanted to do some sort of language exchange. It took a while, but last week he got back to me in an email, asking to meet up. It would be nice to have Korean friends as well as Western friends, and also I might pick up a bit more Korean, or at least enough to hold a basic conversation with someone, so I agreed, and we went to get some dinner.

We went to the bulgogi place I had been taken to on my first night in Siheung. Aah, memories of when I couldn't hold the metal chopsticks to save my life. Taehoon is a fascinating guy, who hadn't actually lived in Korea for the past two years. Most men do national service, but he got lucky and was instead chosen to do voluntary work. In Bangladesh. He said that although the population density was very high, he really enjoyed it out there, so I'm going to put it on my hitlist of countries to get to. He goes to university in Hongdae, but didn't strike me as much of a party animal. Still, nice person. We will probably meet up when he gets back from, of all the places, Thailand. He got there a day after I left. Oooooh spooky...

A couple of hours later I was down at Vontees. Tom had only flown in that day, and made the schoolboy error of falling asleep from midday until about 9pm. He was going to be up for a long time. We stuck to Vontees for a bit before someone suggested we visit a Korean institution - the noraebang.

Sounds exotic, but it's easily explained. 'bang' is basically Korean for 'room'. 'norae' is along the lines of 'music'. So 'music-room' - kareoke. Koreans LOVE this stuff, and I'm stunned that it took this long for me to be taken to one. There are noraebangs everywhere, even one at the bottom of my apartment complex. So, feeling rather merry, five of us went along to a noraebang opposite Vontees.

It's not like traditional British kareoke. The place resembles the booths they have in clubs like Tiger Tiger. You aren't singing in front of strangers (well Tom kinda was I guess, but you know what I mean), it is just you and your friends in a room. The volume of songs, in English, Korean and other languages, was frightening. As were some of our song choices. It's safe to say I will never again willingly duet on Barbie Girl by Aqua. Come on Barbie, let's go party. Other classics I took part in included It's Not Unusual by Tom Jones, Lou Bega's epic Mambo No. 5, and my personal favourite of the night...Rollin' by Limp Bizkit. Complete with steering wheel dance moves.

Noraebangs are great fun. The next day wasn't so hot. During the previous night I had made a bet that I would run 10k before I went to Thailand, which left me with this solitary hangover-filled day to achieve this optimistic goal. I told myself that I would sign up for the half-marathon if I could do it. It wasn't fun. I think I stopped sweating solely because my body ran out of water. Nonetheless, 52 minutes down the line, I had somehow completed 10,000 metres on a treadmill. Half-marathon is on April 25, and training will begin in earnest when I am back from Thailand. I made the rather sensible decision to pack that night, rather than wait for the morning.

So my next couple of blogs are going to have a twist. They won't have the word Korea in the title! The epic tales of Thailand are soon to be broadcast to the world...and there are some stories there. Believe the hype!

Love you all


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