06 February, 2006

First night out

I had heard rumors of other foreigners in Gangneung but had not seen hide nor hair of any such foreigners until last night. Joseph keeps mostly to himself and hangs out with his Korean girlfriend, and since I didn't have a predecessor, I have had to rely on Liz's knowledge of the foreign crowd, passed on to her by her predecessor Anita. Liz, however, did not hit it off too well with Anita's friends, and I feared that her inability to get along with people had isolated me. Fortunately Morven, an English girl, gave her another chance, inviting both of us out for dinner last night.

We met at the McDonald's downtown and were joined by some teachers from Seoul who had come over for the skiing, a couple of guys from Gangneung, and a Korean guy and girl. To my relief, the McDonald's was simply a meeting place (apparently they didn't mind the small host of mi-gook loitering in the corner) and we proceeded to overwhelm a small dakgalbi restaurant with our throng and feasted for an inordinate amount of time on something similar to what I had with Joseph last week.

Picture: Clockwise: Liz sticking out her tongue, Chris and Darren from Seoul, Min-Jhong, Morven

Then it was off to a jazz club--translation: small
restaurant with recorded jazz playing and wall decor of ancient horns and album covers. We spent too long there for my taste as well, partially because I wasn't too keen on the snacks. I've run into these several places, and they're just not right. They look like crinkle-cut fries, but they have the texture of a Cheeto, and they're 'shrimp' flavored. I can't think of anything worse.

Pictures: Morven and I; Morven, Niki, Min-Jhong, Darren

Last stop--Bumpin. When our crowd arrived, there were already fifteen or so foreigners crammed in the long narrow room, and we brought it to about twenty-five. I managed to meet a few new people, no thanks to the impossibly loud music and all the other people yelling to be heard above it. I finally found a free seat, and the Korean guy--he told me to call him Niki--with our group struck up a conversation with me. It was quite comical, really, with his marginal English skills, my lack of understanding for all words Korean, and the truly 'Bumpin' music. He would say something, I would say 'What?', and he would shout it again directly into my ear. Then I would reply, he would frown and lean forward, and I'd shout it again directly into his ear. I don't think we really knew what the other was saying, but we managed to have a fairly lengthy conversation in this fashion. As a testament to the fact that I genuinely did not understand all that was being said, I somehow ended up in his debt. Another guy explained to me that since Niki had done me a favor (huh?), I now owed him something--nothing big, just something silly. I asked what I should do, and he replied that I should let him teach me how to snowboard at Yongpyeong where he is an instructor. I considered this and came up with three reasons it was a good idea: one, I've been wanting to go snowboarding but have had no good contacts or resources to do so (it doesn't get any better than a 50% employee discount); two, Yongpyeong is a world-class facility, narrowly missing out on hosting the 2010 Olympics; and three, I wouldn't mind seeing the look on this guy's face when I give him a run for his money... So I agreed, and thus ended my first night out in Gangneung. Now if Niki and I can actually say enough of the right words to each other to make the plans, I'll have another great story to relate.

Pictures: Taylor and Gene from Gangneung; the bathroom at Bumpin.

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