Sunday, August 31, 2008
so, i'm illiterate. after my co-teacher left, i decided (after putzing around my place, putting things away, etc) to go walk around and see what is in my neighborhood. i did this in part because i knew i had things to do today (i wanted to go out with some of my co-teachers, now that they can consciously be edited, but the last train back would only give me about two hours).
wandering around in a city where you don't know where anything is fun. wandering a city wherein you don't speak the language, is disorienting. and fun.
when i was walking to and from the subway with my co-teacher i would look in windows and the like to see what was the business inside. (ross, i guy i trained with, and i joked that for the first couple of weeks shop keepers will look up and see a bunch of white faces pressed against the glass trying to peak inside.) i remembered seeing a bar or two, and, well, since i can smoke in them, why not*? also, i was kinda hungry for a snack, and since one gets charged by how much waste they produce, why not go to a bar? korean law, or at least korean custom, dictates that when you drink in a bar they must provide you with snacks. often quite good food.
i went down a street where i remember seeing some bars and then see a few beer signs in a window. i walk in, but it is all tables, no bar, and, well, i didn't want to do that. so i went two doors down and there was a bar. i walk in, and the bartender gets up from a group of friends and pulls out the stool for me. she asks me (i assume) what i want to drink. 'whiskey'. they don't has whiskey, so i get a cass. (cass, hite, and ob seem to be the beers here. hite is shite, ob is like coors light. cass is okay.) she pours me a draft and makes a snack plate of sunflower feeds, peanuts, popcorn, and spicky rice rings. also, a few grapes and two slices of american cheese. before she sits down she holds up this bottle, that i thought was whiskey from the get go, and makes the shot motion. fuck it, why not. she pours two shots. i assumed this was going to be my first drink with a korean. nope, both for me.
at this point i was a smidge nervous as i only had about 25000 on me, and while at the convenience stores, etc, that i have been to a beer tops out at around 3500, i was now in the capital city and drank two shots of whiskey(?). but when all this went down i put my money on the bar, to kind of let her know.
before rejoining her friends, she changed from her shorts into a skirt, but she was short enough the bar blocked everything, so i thought that it was odd, but not unreasonable for this to occur. what the hell do i know? i'm eating processed cheese with whiskey and grapes.
the bar isn't at all crowded. just me, korean tv (i was given the remote), the table of 4 when i walked in (the bartender, another girl, an older guy and son(?)). at the table behind them is a couple. in the back room there is a guy eating some bbq. on her way back to the table of four, the bartender stopped in the backroom and talked to the guy for a minute, then rejoined her table.
i am just taking it all in with my processed cheese and popcorn.
the bartender went outside once to say hello to a guy in the street, he gave her a big grin. i am beginning to get what i now think is reasonably suspicious about this place, then suddenly the table of four leaves, but only the guys go. the girls remain.
at this point i have drank both shots, and am about to finish my beer (for the two shots and the beer was 5000, about $5) but think the entire situation is so hysterical that i order another beer. the couple in the middle section of the place gets up, and he sits next to me at the bar. he and my 'bartender' chat for a few minutes, out of the corner of my eye, i know i am the subject for at least a few sentences.
the younger girl from the table of four comes behind the bar and goes through a few different shirts and heads off to change. when she comes back out, she heads to the back room where the guy is still eating bbq.
another man walks in, looks at me and kinda smirks. he and the bartender are clearly talking about me, as they speak they both occasionally look right at me. i imagine the conversation went something like this:
'does he speak korean?'
'what's he doing in here, eating cheese?'
'has he tried to set anything up?'
'what a moron'
'i know, but at least i can over-charge him for drinks'
i'm feeling uncomfortable, no longer just amused, as this man is standing pretty close, and i know they are talking about me. i'm debating if i should try and figure out how to enter this conversation while i am finishing my beer. it could end up being a rather interesting talk, putting these two people in a position wherein they have to pretend that this bar is not what i clearly know it is.
i finish my beer and take out my money and think about what to do next when the back room door shuts and the light goes out. i pay for my drink and go home, stopping off at the convenience store right outside my building to have one more beer with billy, who is quite nice, but can't really speak english.
*my cigarette consumption since being in korea is incredible, to be fair, they are only 2.50 US per pack. i seem to have settled on CIGAR NO.5. i was smoking NO.6 for a while, but they are too strong i think, for my current rate of consumption. every package of Bohem's CIGAR says pour homme.