Bit of a full weekend! Signed up for Korean classes, Andrea came to visit from Munmak-eup, and we partied up the night real good. But let’s go in order (don’t worry, there are lots of pictures):
While I’ve been enjoying Korea very much, the one thing that I’ve been left for wanting is company. My co-teachers and the rest of the school staff are lovely, but at the end of the day it gets lonely being the only foreigner in Uam-dong (my district of Cheongju). My flailing struggles around the language barrier haven’t been helping either, of course.
SO, after much encouragement from C. and remembering an invite for Korean classes I was emailed back when I arrived, I flipped the smooth stone of proaction in my palm while looking squarely at the two birds in front of me that needed killing.
Korean classes are at the YMCA and will last for the full year. Only bummer is it’s at 10am on Saturday morning so I’ll have to sacrifice any regular debaucherous behaviour on Friday nights – but all the better for my wallet anyway.
Anyway along with learning how to order food in a restaurant (handy!), they also held a birthday party. Apparently it’s tradition at the beginning of every month to celebrate all in one shot for everyone who’s having a cakeday that month. It was complete with tables laden with grapes, cookies, salad, and two cakes topped with candles.
While munching cake (eaten with chopsticks!!), I got to meet a bunch of people, including one guy who was part of my EPIK intake (let’s call him MA), and a guy from London (let’s call him DL). I left with a full belly, some phone numbers, and a couple of invites for barhopping/seeing a band that night.
At home I did some last minute tidying for Andrea’s arrival (so stoked for the Martandrea to be reunited!!) and with minimal problems she successfully managed to navigate to Cheongju. First things first: food.
I’ve been wanting to try a bunch of restaurants, but Korea has a very prevalent couple culture – both in the gf/bf sense (I’ll probably blog about this later too) and in the very general no-one-seems-to-go-anywhere-alone sense. Besties, bros, mother/daughter, large groups, small groups – even those who are alone are either 1) walking with purpose and direction, or 2) talking/texting on their cellphones. Mixed with the fact that I can’t really blend in on the nature of me sticking out like a sore Aryan thumb, I’ve felt weird lingering anywhere too long by my lonesome let alone going for a sit down dinner without company. Now with Andrea, I was excited to start chowing down with reckless abandon.
Our one goal was to find somewhere with meat. We decided this place would do the job. (Think it’s called yuk-sham-neng-myeon).
It was all the way upstairs, nice and cozy with a look of Korean meets cabin-in-the-deeps-of-Ontario-wilderness.
Dishes came with a side of grilled, thin sliced meet, and despite the sticky heat we were both tempted to go for soup. To our surprise, one of them turned out to be a cold soup! We shared bowls and it was the perfect combo of refreshing.
Andrea’s cold soup, mul-neng-myeon, broth poured on crushed ice, served with cucumbers, pickled radish, and half a boiled egg on top.
My hot udon soup, steaming and hearty.
Grilled meat ohmigodsotenderandtasty.
After that we wandered the area, got some coffee, and in general showed my brain twin around Cheongju. We came across a very big spider on the bridge…
…and took our first selfie in Korea…
…and watched a beautiful orange sunset.
Then I got a text from MA asking if we were down to hang out tonight. I let him know about DL’s invitation to a show his friend was playing at in the Chungdae University area, which DL had said was the area with all the foreigner bars and the best nightlife in Cheongju. MA was game, so we made our way to Chungdae’s Soundgarden, a bar renowned for being the best venue for live music.
The inside was dim, casual and comfortable with a good selection of Western alcohols (not sure if that’s because this is an area frequented by foreigners or because that’s what your average Korean bar is like). The only thing that I find needs some adjusting to is that smoking is okay indoors.
And indeed, as DL promised, there were many foreigners. Despite being told fairly often before arriving that it’s better to hang out in local bars and make friends with Koreans as opposed to foreigners (on the logic that you get to know the culture better, which certainly is sound advice), I have to say that after over a week of a bare minimum of social interaction, I thoroughly enjoyed the community feeling of meeting other ESL teachers.
We swapped stories, drank beer and rum and cokes and did a few rounds of tequila shots with the bar tender. Andrea got a grape cider which I tried and will certainly get in the future. Around then the band started up and played some excellent covers including Come Together and Walking on Sunshine.
We stayed fairly long, powering through conversations like champs despite the speakers being right by our stools, and watched DL do some magic tricks. Eventually we headed up to Buzz, another bar, and had tequila sunrises, a few rounds of red headed sluts (a delicious sweet shot). It was pretty empty when we got there, but picked up not long after. Foosball and pool tables took up most of the room, but there were still lots of couches on the edges to lounge in, and of course our stools we warmed by the bar for the better part of an hour.
By the time we left, Chungdae was in its full Saturday neon nightlife swing.
Although after we drank soju and orange juice from a 7 Eleven (on some steps somewhere because drinking in public’s fine here), the scene started to look a little more like this…
We wanted to go to a norae-bang (Korean karaoke rooms), but they were a little pricey. MA wisely decided to call it a night, it being about 2:30 in the morning at this point, but we recklessly decided to party on! We went to MJ’s, a bar we were told only picks up between 4-6 am, but we had a round of jagermeister shots anyway (a mistake) and rum and coke chasers (probably also a bad idea). It was loud and friendly with dartboards and couches.
By about 4 am, we agreed that we’d milked the night for all it was worth and headed to Lotteria, a kind of burger chain restaurant, and had wild shrimp burgers. Best decision.
Then we parted ways with DL and cabbed it home, passing out happily and waking up without our livers giving us too hard of a time for all the abuse we’d done to them.