Another week of working has passed at an alarmingly fast rate, and with now 5 weeks of teaching under my belt that means that I've more or less completed 10% of the contract that I signed. If the next 90% goes at this rate then I feel like I might have moved through the space-time continuum so quickly that I'll come back a year younger than I was, rather than year older. Spending the days with youngsters certainly adds to this feeling of gaining youthfulness. On the other hand, the amount of alcohol consumed regularly has the opposite effect, and the two most interesting stories from this week revolve around that.
Upon talking to my co-worker Celine on Monday morning and discussing our weekends I mentioned that I had a pretty nice group of friends out here in Daegu already, but I would like to meet more people, especially locals (and especially because this was Jamie's last week in town - but we'll get to that later). She asked me if I'd like to meet her friends some time and I heartily said that I would.
On Thursday night it was set that she and I would meet her friend and go for a couple of drinks. Following the end of work at 9.30 we headed for the subway and caught it just a couple of stops to Shingi. I was under the impression that there wasn't much to be seen or done between where we live and work in Gaksan almost at the very end of the subway, and the downtown part of Daegu in the centre, but thinking about this now it seems utterly preposterous, as I soon found out upon our ascent out of Shingi station.
We met Celine's friend Eunae at the top of the stairs where we were introduced. Now, there was one small problem: Eunae doesn't speak English, and as I keep weakly admonishing myself for on this blog, I don't speak any of the local language, which I really really need to rectify. This left Celine in the role of translator for the evening, which started out fairly awkward but she was a good sport at it and certainly more than competent, as her English is very good and she and Eunae have been best friends since a very young age and have that kind of ability to communicate easily with each other, and as I observed them I felt a part of the conversation even if I had no idea what they were saying.
Eunae was unwilling to try any of the English phrases that Celine tried to get her to say, but I was more than happy to ask Celine to help me out in trying to say a few little things and over the course of the night I picked up some useful words and phrases. And, as the night wore on and we became more comfortable with the dynamics of the situation Eunae started to throw in a little bit of English that she knew.
We headed to an area with a lot of bars that seemed quite trendy and popular amongst the locals and which I'd like to head to again some time. We went to a bar that is renowned for its cheesesticks, of which we had a couple of orders with our delicious and rather cheap cream beers. Celine and I discussed our job and the children that we teach and found that we have rather different viewpoints on them; she tending more towards feeling the need for disciplining them, whereas I find them just fun to teach. But, as I said in a previous blog, the native English speakers definitely get to be the "good cop" in the teaching dynamic, the way it's set up, so I'm not surprised that she feels differently to me. And, in fact, I'm impressed that she manages to take such a hard line with them and make them work when she's such a kind and sweet person outside of the classroom. We talked about how teaching is a lot like acting sometimes, having to pretend we're tougher than we are or that the subject matter is more interesting or important than it truly is.
We also kept Eunae in the conversation, and the language barrier was helped a lot by flicking through the photos on our phones and discussing them, helping to get to know each other, with the aid of Celine translating any questions and answers we may have had about each others' pictures. We also took a lot of pictures of the three of us to commemorate the occasion.
After a couple of drinks the clock was just about ticking past midnight and we thought we'd better head off. I got in a taxi, leaving the other two, but not before thanking them for a really fun night and for the little bit of Hangul that they'd taught me. I hope we'll get to repeat the occasion some more in the near future, and maybe I'll learn even more.
Friday night was a much-less casual and relaxed event. We went out with one express purpose: to get fucked up. As I mentioned earlier, this week was Jamie's last in Korea and we felt we had to give him a proper send off with a regular Daegu night out.
Post-work on Friday Jamie and I headed straight over to Craig and Eric's (picking up a beer on the way) to meet them and Suzie, drink a little bit of soju and then head downtown.
Before getting on the subway we picked up another beer each and a bottle of soju to drink on the ride downtown. This made us unpopular, to be sure, garnering a few glares and looks of disapproval on the ride, but we were in high spirits and not paying any attention. The only time when anyone spoke out was when they felt we were making too much noise, but this was just one brief outburst from us probably in answer to a joke or something, and the guy who scolded us just came across as a bit of a dick, to be honest.
Upon reaching downtown we headed to the Japanese restaurant TODOMARU where we hoped to dine before hitting some bars, but seeing as it's a small place and it was a friday night, it was unsurprisingly packed to the gills and we were turned away. Instead we headed for our back up plan to the barbecue place that does meat by the kilo instead.
Over the course of the next two hours we gorged ourselves on two kilos of pork between the five of us (though I was so full after I'm sure I ate much more than my fair share), drank plenty more beer and soju, had plenty of laughs and even made friends with the table of Koreans sitting next to us, who shared some of their meat and alcohol with us. By the time we left just before 2am we were all feeling extremely merry in every way possible.
From there we headed straight to what I think we can officially call our favourite bar, Who's Bob?, where we spent the next couple of hours drinking beers and jaeger bombs, chatting to many random people, dancing on my own if the urge took me ( I was unable to help myself when Beck's "New Pollution" and Arcade Fire's "Reflektor" came on) and playing several games of pool. It's all a bit of a blur in my mind now, but fun was had - I'm sure of that.
Continuing on from there we went to that most seediest of locales once again (if you don't know what I'm talking about you'll have to go back and read the older blogs), on this occasion having no trouble getting the taxi driver to take us where we wanted to go.
This time we were a bit earlier than on our last visit and it was still dark outside. We found the business owners to be much less amenable to us Westerners on this occasion, which left us wandering around hopelessly and doing laps several laps of the place in the rain. Luckily there are a couple of 24 hour stores there so we could continue to drink beers and eat snacks while we made the rounds. The sun was slowly rising as we walked and the whole event now has a strange and eerie post-apocalyptic feel to it when I look back. What I see in my mind is a lot of desperate people milling around in the light but warm rain, in a strange and unwelcoming area where they feel completely alienated, while the cold grey light slowly grows stronger shedding clarity upon the whole unbelievable experience, seen through the eyes of a really rather drunk person, whose banger of a hangover is setting in before he's even managed to get to sleep. The bizarre and surreal nature of reliving the memories of that time in my head has planted some seeds for a new idea for a story though, so I'm excited to see if those flourish into anything.
Once our business was done we caught a taxi back home, where my head hit the pillow at 7am and stuck solidly there for several hours.
When I woke at gone 2pm my head still felt like lead and was extremely hard to lift. I put on The Beatles to soothe it and waited to hear from the others, since we had planned to head downtown to run some errands. Jamie called me after 3 but we couldn't get in contact with Craig. Eventually Jamie ran round to his place and found him still sound asleep at gone 4pm.
By the time we all finally managed to rally ourselves and just about get our heads straight and get on the subway it was already well into the early evening. Upon our walk to the subway I remarked upon how this same hungover walk seems to have become a feature of pretty much every weekend I've had here - although it was said not with a note of regret but with a strange sort of happiness for the sign of the good times and the good friends I've made.
There was a strange and beautiful orange glow over Daegu that evening and it certainly warmed my aching eyeballs nicely as we set about our errands; Jamie buying his bus ticket to Seoul airport and Craig and I buying our train tickets to Busan where we'll be spending Chuseok holiday this coming week (and should make for an interesting blog next time out.)
We then continued on downtown where we managed get the Japanese that we'd wanted the night before, gorging ourselves on bacon-wrapped quail eggs, bacon-wrapped asparagus, bacon-wrapped shrimp and more, while also replenishing our stocks with some sweet coca-cola (alcohol was going nowhere near our lips on this occasion). Although the service was terrible, which really played on our fraught nerves, the food was as divine as we'd hoped and afterward we were beginning to feel whole again.
The end of the night was brought by heading back home to play some cards and watch some football, before ducking into bed for much more well-needed sleep.
Today was a quiet day spent playing more cards and saying our final farewells to Jamie (although I will see him briefly tomorrow morning when he has to drop off his keys with me). I'm really quite sad to see him go, as it is massively thanks to him that I have settled into life here so well and made the friends that I've made. I've seen him almost every day I've been here so for him to be gone will be strange indeed. He hopes to return in the new year though, which will be good.
On the bright side, there is a new teacher coming to replace him soon enough, and I'm heading to Busan this week to meet my friend Chase in real life for the first time, so there's plenty of potential for new friends and opportunities on the horizon.
I'll tell you more about them next time.
P.S. I had a pretty strange dream after the heavy night out. I wrote about it here.
Currently reading: For Whom The Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway - Hemingway's novelised account of four days and one mission of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War is detailed and emotional and shows a love for the language, the people and the cause (Hemingway actually participated in this war). I'm only a quarter of the way in but I'm completely engrossed; the density of the detail in his writing is easy to handle because of its beauty and believability, I'm engaged with these characters and seriously worried about their fate.
Currently listening to:
Holy Ghost! - Dynamics - Holy Ghost!'s second album picks up where they left off on their debut, enhancing their modern-disco sound and combining it with emotion-packed lyrics hanging on devilishly catchy hooks. I hope to write a full review of this for BPM this week.
MGMT - MGMT - The third album from MGMT sees them going full off the deep end in their psych-rock exploration. Long gone are the days of the catchy radio hits. I'm still finding it a bit hard to penetrate, but certain songs like "Alien Days" and "Introspection" are killer.
Janelle Monáe - The Electric Lady - The second album from alt-R&B's brightest young star is as ambitious, colourful, catchy, beautiful and fun as its predecessor. I don't think anyone can listen to this album and not have a really good time.
A song for this blog post:
MGMT - "Alien Days"