Sunday, 18 January 2004

Soju, Rice Wine, Hiking, Haeinsa and Bad Behaviour

I had a number of reasons for wanting to leave Scotland for Korea, one of them being that I thought it would curtail my drinking. It's fair to say that in Scotland I was a most excellent drinker, but at the back of my mind was an awareness that each week 90% of my wages were spent on alcohol and some weeks I wouldn't have a sober evening and I knew this wasn't hugely healthy. In Korea, I reckoned, I could cut down on the alcohol a little.

But from the evidence of the booze soaked weekend I'm just emerging from, this may not turn quite as anticipated.

On Friday night, John - the Scottish English teacher at my school - invited me out for a meal at Mr Noh's house. Mr Noh was a friend of Josh's (my predecessor at the school) and had got to John a little too. As his English is patchy, I think John wanted me as back-up.

This wasn't required, in the end, as a friend of Mr Noh's was there and was fluent in French and so they talked deeply about politics and other weighty issues while me and Mr Noh knocked back the soju and wine at an admirable pace. Any language barrier was soon forgotten and me and Mr Noh were jabbering away about God knows what. Very likely about entirely different subject matters.

The next thing I know I'm waking up at 7am on Mr Noh's sofa. I have no memory of how the night ended so I have to speculate that I passed out quite abruptly and they just left me. From what I've been told about Koreans, Mr Noh would probably have been delighted to have drank a Westerner to unconsciousness. Though I can't imagine he was in too healthy a state.

I quickly got up and headed back to my apartment, to get a couple hours rest, for Saturday was to be a big day. Mik had invited me, along with a number of others (including Matt) hiking in a national park about 2 hours away, staying in a village called Haeinsa. So I met him and Matt at the bus station at 11am, joined by two people I'd not met before - an Australian with a ginger moustache called Tom, and an American girl in her first week in Korea called Kristi.

The hiking was fun. We went past some mountain temples and up a snow-covered trail to a giant stone carving of a Buddha. Tom was fairly quiet but seemed decent, but Kristi made a good impression. She knew Mik from an English teaching course in Madrid and had recently travelled in Ethiopia and Eritrea, two countries I'm intrigued by.

Anyway, that evening we went out for a meal, joined by a number of others: a couple, English James and Rhiannon who were very likeable, John who was a friend of Matt and Kristi's also from the Madrid course, two Canadian girls I didn't see much of, and a decidely odd looking American guy called um... dammit, it's slipped my mind. Him and his (male) Korean "friend". This American guy looked like a cartoon, with giant glasses and a peculiar body shape that made his body and head look like a giant balloon, with his legs hanging like strange spindles. His Korean manfriend had some nonsense name, and later became very affectionate with me and Matt, stroking our buttocks at every opportunity.

The meal was good, and copious amount of rice wine - a foul tasting liquid - was downed. We became more and more raucous and our behaviour at the subsequent Norebang (Korean karaoke rooms) was very badly behaved. We were guzzling beer like twisted little monkeys, and collectively singing with a frightening disregard for self respect. The tambourines were in heavy usage, including being walloped against the wall to make as much noise as possible. Everyone was all over the place, and it was a hilarious night.

I sang "Creep" by Radiohead in a duet with Kristi, which my memory has as the most tuneful moment of the night.

Haze envelopes the end of the night, but I know there was a degree of misbehaving. I recall being in bed with Matt and three girls (Kristi, Rhiannon and a Canadian girl who, as Rhiannon sagely observed, look like one of the pig-nosed met from The League of Gentlemen) but I passed out before I could turn this situation to my advantage. Oh well.

Back in Daegu for the afternoon today then. I'm soon meeting Matt and Kristi in town to see a film.

Oh yeah. Mr Noh works in a hospital, as some kind of manager/advisor. So a way, he could be called "Dr No". Thereby being the first James Bond villain I've ever known.


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