I must say it's getting easier to figure out how to hang out comfortably with everyone. Last weekend I managed to go clubbing with some friends without drinking. It feels so nice being able to do that, to make friends and spend time with them without feeling like a burden (of some sort). Honestly, I worry about that sometimes. My decision not to drink (unless I have to) during social situations is sure to cause a bit of concern, and maybe a little fuss. I was determined to show people that I could still have fun with them, even if I didn't do all the things they did. So, as long as I'm willing, I don't mind hanging out with these new people while they get drunk, especially if there's other things to do like dance and mingle with random people.
I went to my first club (ever) about two weekends ago, and last week joined the same friends again for a night of dancing. Actually, we were supposed to go bowling, which is why I showed up in the first place. I was already on that side of Korea (more or less), and I rarely get a chance to hang out with people I meet in Seoul a second time. Also, I was so happy that my friend set up a bowling outing. I love it when friends can gather to do more than just sit and drink. It's so rare (at least, among people my age) for there to be anything else. I absolutely had to go.
On Friday after school, I went to Jochiwon to visit an old friend and her son. These two people are probably the first Korean friends I made once I arrived in Korea. The lady is the nurse who works at the TaLK orientation. I became friends with her and her son during my orientation and have kept up the relationship ever since. While there, I also caught up with some other 8th generation TaLK scholars who were visiting the 9th gen orientation for various reasons. We all spent time playing with the nurse's son. I spent the night there, and the next day, while waiting for my train, I spent the morning chatting and eating with the nurse and her son.
I took an afternoon train to Seoul and, after some texting and a phone call, took the subway to the northern side of the city. There I explored a subway station while waiting for my friend to arrive. To my surprise there was a bookstore underground in the subway. Language has no boundaries when it comes to me and bookstores. I'd realized just how deprived I'd been when my friend Jessica and I went to the Kyobo bookstore in Gangnam a weekend ago. When I saw this bookstore, I ran in. I searched for "common ground"= the manga (manhwa in Korean) section and began browsing. I ended up perusing the rest of the store, making my way through computer programming books and language dictionaries. I stumbled upon a fashion design book that held my attention until my friend arrived. Honestly, despite the books being in Korean, I really want to visit that bookstore again. I don't even know if there are large bookstores like that in my town. I only ever see the small magazine shops, and those aren't appealing. :(
Back to the main story! My friend and I finally met up and we headed to Insa-dong. We picked up another friend and headed into the shops. The plan was to take pictures while wearing hanbok. These pictures were the kind that you take in those fancy picture booths. The asian ones are sooooo much cooler than ones in America. After you take 5 or 6 pictures, you go to a screen outside the booth and proceed to draw on and decorate the pictures before they're printed out. The couple running the booth had control over the timer so my friends and I spent a lot of time (probably more than he wanted to give us) adding funny things to the pictures.
After taking pictures, we made our way south to Gangnam to go bowling. Crazy things happend from that point on. We arrived only an hour after this bowling alley/bar/restaurant (yes, 3-in-one) opened, yet it was super busy. The man at the counter told us the wait for one lane would be 2 hours. It was still early in the evening, and my friend thought that more people would join us later, so we decided to wait. I got hungry at this time, and we considered leaving to eat somewhere cheaper to kill time and save money. As we headed to the exit, another man stopped us and told us that if we left, our names would be taken off the waiting list. Feeling dismay, we headed for the nearest table and cracked open the menu. Of course, everything was expensive. We shared a pizza and decided to play some of the games around the room. We played a really short (and expensive) game of air hockey (for 1000 won, we got about 3 minutes of play time). Next, we tried to play pool, but another man came out of nowhere and shooed us away, saying that there was a waiting list for the pool tables. How long, we asked. 2 hours. We laughed to ourselves and moved back to our table. After chatting a bit more... really, we were shouting above the loud dance music (there was a DJ at this bowling alley), we decided to make a move toward the dart boards. One group of people sat down and let us take over their board. There was a coin slot for keeping score and maintaining records, but were able to play the game without paying anything. I've never really played darts before, but in the first round I scored a bull's eye. After that, my shots landed all over the board. We even took turns having our darts bounce off the board and fly back to us. It was the most entertaining part of the time spent there.
Soon our guy friend said that some of his friends wanted to join us. We waited for them in the noisy room, getting sleepy from the onsetting boredom. Our guy friend spent most of this time walking in and out of the building to make or answer phone calls, or borrow my friend's phone when his started to die. Eventually the others showed up. I'd met one of them at last week's party, and he instantly remembered me. I met the other two, a girl from Canada and a girl from Japan (who might be Chinese, Taiwanese, or Hong Kong...inese lol). Let me say that during this entire time, we'd been checking in with the guy at the counter, asking how many more teams were in front of us. The wait seemed endless, so we reluctantly decided to leave the bowling alley and do something else.
My friend and our guy friend discovered that they'd be going to the same Eminem concert the next day, so when the other friends showed up, one of them said that Eminem would be doing a quick show at a club nearby in a few minutes. We decided to head for that club and try to get in. Actually, we tried this kind of plan several times that night. The idea was to get into a club before a certain time so that we wouldn't have to pay. Luck was not on our side that night. For Eminem's performance, we missed it completely because of waiting at the bowling alley for too long and making our way to the venue too late. We did, however, pick up another friend to join the group. At the next location, we had coupons to get in, but ... well, I'm still not quite sure what happened. My guess is that, I and our guy friend weren't dressed for the "occasion". One person in our group jokingly said I should wear his shorts and he should wear my jeans so we could get in. Honestly though, the line was so long that it wrapped around the block of this huge hotel, plus the buildings behind it. Waiting in that line again was definitely not worth it. After talking about it for awhile, we decided on a new destination. A smallish club that we were sure to get into. What was intersting about this club was that the pool table was turned into a regular table, and the workers put games like Jenga out for everyone to play. We had an enjoyable night hanging out, playing games, and dancing. I hadn't planned on spending the night in Seoul, but wasn't really surprised when it happened. I went to a jimjilbang (sauna, or spa) for the first time with my friend. I don't know how most look, but the one I went to was pretty nice-looking.
On Sunday morning, I ate a nice (and spicy ><) Korean meal at the jimjilbang with my friend, and then took off for the nearest subway station exit, which turned out to be a long long walk away. I'd forgotten that we'd been taking taxis all night. It hadn't dawned on me the true reason for doing so. It wasn't really to stick together or get to places in a timely manner; it was because the exits were all super far away. I finally came across a subway exit after walking for about 20 minutes, but I did manage to get a good look at part of Gangnam. I walked past some expensive car dealerships. There was also probably a fashion institute somewhere near my path (I saw a sign). I also passed by a museum or two. One of the nice things about walking around a city in the early morning is that there's not too many people around, no rushing, and the weather is still nice so walking up a hill doesn't seem so bad.
Well, 'til next time!