Vast Visions

a year abroad in south korea


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Food and Dranks – The Good, The Bad, and The 무료

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Yet another eventful weekend has passed, and part of me is glad that it’s getting a bit colder so that I (might) have an excuse to stay in. When you emerge from a basement karaoke and the daylight that is 7am hits your eyes, all you can do is send a squinty look to your bros and subtly nod; yeah, I think we just survived that.

Allow me to backtrack a bit. On Friday, after hanging with some peeps in the daytime, I went in search of a bagged drink at nightfall. However, my sense of direction being irreconcilably bad, I ended up getting lost somehow downtown. On this night, there were a lot of military dudes out, and around here they have something of a bad reputation. And, not to disappoint, I had the few with the bad rep following/catcalling me. After a few good paces, I dipped into a coffee shop and got some hot tea in case I needed to use it as an element of surprise and run/scream in the other direction. Thankfully it didn’t get to that point, and due to how long I was walking they gave up after a while (whew). Eventually I made it to Gogo’s thanks to a friend and the night kicked off. After a “sexy painting” bagged drink, I ended up hitting Who’s Bob, a hip hop club (JEEEP?) and my favorite place for some free drinks, Bombay. Some of my friends were celebrating their birthdays so the shots kept flowing. Too many of them…on our way out, the owner stopped us with another round of shots. AHHHH. After dancing like a maniac and a few drinks, somehow my night ended around 3-4am.

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Saturday I met up with some good friends from far away to see the Daegu Colors parade. It was fun to see everyone lined up in the streets, and many of the performers were kids from the local schools. Some dressed in colorful, showy outfits and some with traditional Korean wear on, they were all adorable~ As we were waiting for the parade to start, one boy from the parade line took up his chance to speak to me in English, but what he said, all in one breath, was “Can I have you number? Sorry!” LOL~~ Off to a good start with the English, little dude.

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There were quite a few characters in this parade, and what my friend noticed was how revealing some of the outfits were. For a conservative culture, there were women with body paint parading, plenty of belly dancer outfits, and a stripper pole on a truck, complete with pole dancers, awkwardly swinging around as the truck jolted forward through the parade. It was the best kind of unintentional humor.

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Maybe an hour into the parade we started getting hungry and we had a craving for some 감자탕 [Gamjatang], which is an absolutely delicious pork bone soup/stew (it’s also pretty fun to say~). Before we could find a place, we stopped into a curious little shop on the street called 마약빵 which translates to “Drug Bread” LOLWHAT. Apparently the little shop was featured on TV so it was pretty legit. There was a line of locals going out the door, and luckily we snagged a few rolls from the last batch they made before closing! :D So what the heck is “drug bread”? It’s a warm, freshly baked roll with a powdery crumb topping that has a sweet corn and some kind of sauce filling. More on the savory side, it was great for staving off the hunger as we looked for some gamjatang. It might be called drug bread because when you’re finished with a roll, you end up looking like a crackhead with crumb powder all over XD

We finally found a place near the military-styled seafood place that I visited before, and ordered a large pot of steaming, fall-off-the-bone pork goodness. It was huge, filling, and we stayed for a while just trying to finish it up. When you get gamjatang, they place a little stovetop on your table and give you the huge pot of stew with vegetables and partially cooked meat inside, and you cook it for a while before sharing the stew. We tempered the meal with some shots of soju, glasses of beer, and good conversation. That bowl of steaming Korean soul food is going to be my go-to in the colder months.

Afterwards it was Gogo’s round 2 for me, and you’d think that I would remember how to get there this time around. I was there yesterday! I confidently led the group to the street that I KNEW had Gogo’s but…if there were tumbleweeds in Korea they would have rolled past. -___-‘ We found the place eventually thanks to some well dressed Korean dudes on the street (seriously, suit and tie…) and Gogo’s once again kicks off the nightlife. Word to the wise, the mojitos are notoriously bad, as my friend had the misfortune of getting one, artificial mint juice and all. Or, a word to the wiser, just don’t get addicted to these cheap bagged drinks full of as much alcohol as you want… x___x

After Gogo’s met up with some frands at MF Bar and wiled away the hours with more drinks (of course), beer pong and merriment. A few punishing rounds later and some pretty awful beer in our stomachs, we headed to Thursday Party. So if you’ve been keeping tabs, at this point I’m pretty much refusing any alcohol being placed in front of me and even though a friend bought me a gin and tonic, I had to set it aside. We were prepared to leave when my friend suggested that I give the drink to someone. I chose this hipster looking Korean dude outside Thursday Party and handed him the drink. All I could say in Korean was “free” (무료) to explain to the bewildered guy why I was handing him a drink. Somehow or another, we started talking with him and one of my friends that speaks Korean helped the conversation along. This guy ended up being really chill and we ended up having kebabs and going to a few restaurants that he liked in the area. Nothing beats locals~

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But now it’s like, late, and when he offers to take us to a 노래방 to get some food (because all the kitchens are unsurprisingly closed, it’s 4:50-something am) we just say “sure” and go with it. One person from the group KO’ed while my friend and I norae’d with the cool Korean hipster dude “Sean”. He knew a little bit of English and he had a cool perspective on life to offer. Admittedly, I think I was nodding off right in front of him while he was saying something but…it was all really insightful I’m sure. He must have smoked an entire pack while we were there though. Still airing out my leather jacket from that. After a few mysterious phone calls he invites his Scotch-Korean friend Bobby (I kid you not, I actually met a Scotch Korean) to the motley crew. He was really good at rapping in Korean, and he had the chains/bracelets/suit jacket on so he was p. stylin’. After a few songs and waking up our sleeping bro, we emerged from (Carouse?) noraebang into the crisp morning air. We parted ways shortly after, I said hi to someone else in the downtown area, nodded off in the subway and FINALLY made it back to my apartment. Another all nighter, another group of rad peeps, another crazy slew of events. And ya girl is keepin it going~ ;]

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Busan Trippin’ Part I

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Well it’s a Monday and after this past weekend I really have to stop making “staying out all night, coming back at dawn” a thing. What was supposed to be a Saturday daytrip to Busan ended up being an all night meander through Haeundae, soju sippin’ at seaside, spicy seafood stew-eating shore side. What is sleep even, right?CAM00050

First stop in Busan was the famed Jalgachi fish market, a few subway stops from Haeundae. This one was much more expansive than the one in Haeundae, and there was so much to see it was hard not to get distracted. Splashing fish! Writhing eels! And…is that octopus actually trying to get away rn?! (Seriously, octopi just suction-cupping their way out of the buckets that they’re in and crossing the walkway! o__o Sorry little dude, but you’re a little too far from the ocean at this point to make a clean getaway.) At this market one of the things you can get is 회 (hweh) which is raw fish snatched out of the water, de-boned and jaggedly cut, perfect for making lettuce wraps with. Dipped it in some sweet spicy sauce and it was delicious! So good in fact that I didn’t bother instagramming the meal beforehand. Maybe next time you’ll get a picture. Maybe.

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After eating some amazing seafood and browsing the oddities of the seafood market, we headed into the main event of the day. The reason I went to Busan was for the International Film Fest, an event that hosts directors and movies from around the world. I had never been to a film festival before but I know it’s a big “to do” when they’re around. I also hoped to catch a glimpse of TOP (my favorite KPOP star), a rapper who dabbles in acting. He was promoting his new movie coming out in November so I got to visit the little booth on the beach and get some promotional swag but no sign of him :( The event’s outdoor areas featured a screen playing KPOP and various food stands with a mix of western and Korean food. Since I got ddeokbokki (spicy rice cakes, my fave) the stand owner gave me a whole other dish of various fried things – 서비스!! Service!! When you get things for free, little extras like a side dish, a pack of tissues, a cup of coffee at the bank, it’s called “service” and it is one cultural perk that I thoroughly enjoy :DCAM00077

If you haven’t noticed it yet…well what’s wrong with you, Korea’s architecture is off the chain! This is the outside/inside space of the building that we viewed the movie at. The ceiling/overhang features lights that emulate a more colorful aurora borealis, seamlessly mixing sharp lines and organic forms, sheltered spaces and open air. Despite it’s mass, the building resembles a pile of delicately balanced feathers, fragile with a sense of intrinsic order.CAM00075

At around 8pm we finally arrive at the theater. So what was the movie that you think we went all the way to Busan to see? A modern Korean thriller? Contemporary Iranian comedy? No – we watched a movie called “One-armed Swordsman” a throwback kung fu movie with all of the unintentional hilarity, awkward romance, and superhuman building jumps that define the genre. There is literally a scene where there is severed arm on the ground and a stolid conversation taking place. There’s an arm there, you know…you really haven’t noticed the arm yet?!CAM00088

So after that wonderfully hilarious, quintessentially “kung fu” movie, we found ourselves at the impossibility of catching the last train at 11:00 pm. Instead, we got some soju and shared a few drinks at the seaside. I always love looking out into the ocean at night, where the horizon line is imperceptible, and all you can see is the infinite blackness of the sea and sky combined. We also had some nice weather despite the occasional mist. We went to several restaurants throughout the night as well, eating some spicy octopus stew, having some dranks, moving to another location, eating some 김치전 (kimchi pancakes, also my fave), drinking more dranks, stopping by a convenience store, dranks, I think you get the pattern here. Somehow we couldn’t find a 24-hr cafe anywhere, but by 4 something in the morning we didn’t expect much of anything to be open, really. There were restaurants still working into the wee hours of the night, but five meals into the day we were way too full to get anything else. We caught the 6am train out after that, and by the time I got back to my apartment it was around 10am.  Whew! Another 24+ hours of non-stop fun in Korea and I’m so glad that I spent it in Busan! Here’s to the next trip out sometime in the near future!