First night out

For everyone that’s been asking, I finally had a night out.  Not wild and crazy like I was accustomed to prior leaving Rip City, but dinner and drinks with some of the co-workers.

It’s Friday night, and the close of my first official week as a teacher.  I’ve been feeling kind of under the weather (jet lag, pollution, adjusting to new food, being around kids all day), a little frustrated with a few of my classes, and was really looking forward to heading home, checking my emails, and getting to bed early.  However, for the first time since I’ve been at work, most of the teachers left at the same time.  As we walked outside, they asked if I had plans, and if not I should join them for dinner.  Of course I have no plans, I don’t know anyone, and although I’m not feeling great, this was something I definitely shouldn’t pass up.  From what I understand, this kind of thing is a big deal here.  So I gladly accept and join 3 girls and 1 other guy.

As we are walking towards the restaurant we get hijacked by this older dude, kinda wasted already.  It’s about 9pm.  Dude is shaking the other guy’s hand and patting him aggressively on the back.  Now I recognize him as the father of our branch manager, I had met him earlier in the week.  He sees me and gets all excited, grabbing my arm and pulling me up the street, telling the others to follow.  He wants to take us all to dinner, especially me because I am the new guy.  By observing the body language it seemed like the others were not all that excited about the sudden change of plans and that they were planning a way out. And because dude doesn’t speak English, they were able to slip me a sentence here and there letting me know about their plans to come up with an excuse.  However, unable to fend off his persistence, we all change direction, and are herded by dude, pulling us all up the street and in to the restaurant of his choice.  In a blur, I’m at a restaurant that I walk by everyday (that is usually full), and sitting at a table with a few of my co-workers and a very happy dude who is a little tipsy.

Dude's Restaurant

Dude wants me to drink, pouring soju freely and insisting that beer after beer be brought to the table.  I rarely say no, so it’s OK with me.  I think the others were not sure how I would react, but I just went with it.  I’m twice his size, so I figure I can power down some soju, and I do.

Dinner was good.  Korean BBQ, beef ribs, on the grill, you cook it yourself.  Also tons of side dishes like strips of pickled and sweetened radish, kimchi, some kind of grass like thing with onions that is spicy and marinated crab to name a few.  There was also a spicy thick sauce and a sweet runny sauce.  Wrap whatever you want in lettuce or just dip and eat.  Next course was chewy super thin cold noodles in a red spicy sauce, with various veggies and half a hardboiled egg on top.  Way hard to eat with chopsticks.  All followed by a porridge of rice and hot water (supposedly acts as a digestive) and this awesome sweet drink which was described as plum juice.  Not sure it was made from plums, but it was delicious.

During dinner, dude asked me every 5 minutes or so if I liked what I was eating, if I liked Korea, if liked the women and if I wanted more booz.  He also went out of his way to explain what it was we were eating, and why the courses were in that order.  My poor co-workers had to interpret everything, and all of my responses to him were followed by his huge grin and thumbs up.  All in all it was a very nice gesture by him to invite us all and pick up the bill.

Kingstraw

After dinner we say goodbye, make sure dude is going one direction, and we all go the other direction to a bar.  I’m stoked they wanna show me more traditional Korean cuisine and drinks.  We order a pitcher of soju mixed with grape juice and drink it out of little tiny glasses, and they order some more food.  While we’re waiting for the food, the few of them that speak English start asking if I’m OK to try anything, and if I’m scared of weird food.  I say I’ll try anything once, which apparently was the right answer.

Dish #1 shows up and it’s scalding hot, still bubbling furiously.  We let it cool a little, dip the spoon in…and before I take bite I notice it’s some kind of larvae that was cooked in a super spicy broth.  So I eat a few bites, and truthfully, it’s not horrible.  Not something I would eat all of the time, but I can understand how in the old days, when money and food were hard to come by, why people might eat something like this.  So then I ask and they explain that it’s silk worm larvae.

Dish #2 is a plate of corn in a creamy white sauce, with melted cheese and some sort of herb on top.  Pretty good stuff.  Unlike the larvae, we picked at this one all night.

This is what I learned:

  • Everything is communal.  Help yourself to anything on the table, and reaching is no big deal.  Everyone eats off the grill, out of the same little bowls the side dishes are served in, and out of each other’s individual bowls of soup and whatnot. Even larger glasses of water that were brought to the table and placed in front of someone, other people will grab and start drinking, or poor a little bit in to their smaller glass.
  • There is tons of toasting.  Not every time you drink, but about every 3-4 minutes we were clinking glasses and taking a sip, or if you’re the dude you pound it.
  • Even at a school that teaches English, not everyone speaks English.  So while at drinks after dinner, especially when it got later and a few of the English speakers left, leaving only one other English speaker and myself, you can’t understand a damn thing of what’s being said, for minutes at a time.  Thankfully the other English speaker would tell me what they are talking about every once and a while, and every so often they would throw a question my way.  If it’s anything like my time in Denmark, around the 6 month mark you can actually start picking up a little of what’s being said, even if you can’t say it back.

7-11

And at the end of the night, before we part ways, everyone runs in to a 7-11, I’m not sure why so I just stay outside.  One of them pokes his out and says we’re all getting drinks, he’s buying, grab something if you want it.  Me being me, thinking drinks, and looking at the small group of girls sitting outside the store drinking brew, I grab a can of beer for when I get home.  I look up as we’re walking out and they have juice, milk and soda, and kind of look up at me with a look of…OK, whatever floats your boat man.

Now I need to floss my teeth.

Learn Korean with KoreanClass101.com

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~ by ripcitytoseoul on May 9, 2009.

3 Responses to “First night out”

  1. Oh, D, you made my day with that last comment! 😉

    Did I tell you I sent your blog to Mark’s little sister, Anne? She’s adopted from Korea, is a junior at UC Davis and has a great sense of humor, so I knew she’d like it. She posted on my wall how much she likes it, you should friend her and tell her you’re D, ya see?

  2. You’ve never been one to fuss about new experiences. I guess I’m like that too. Probably learned it from you.

    You didn’t really go in to what the larvae soup actually tasted like. Is it comparable to anything in the States?

  3. Find a Party Bus D!! You’ll be the King of Korea yo!

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