After class on Friday one of the Korean students, Kim, invited the SSU students to go down to Jeju City with her and her roommate. We gladly accepted their invitation; it would be nice to know what we were looking at rather than just stumbling around the city guessing what and where things are. Also it would be the first time that we would be able to interact and get to know our Korean classmates outside of the classroom.
When we met up the rain was coming down hard. I didn’t bring an umbrella because I didn’t properly research what the weather was like here so I sort of just walked out of the dorm with my hood flipped on my head hoping for the rain to stop. I was prepared to just walk through the downpour without an umbrella, but luckily Holly had nice purple spare umbrella for me to use. The purple really spiced up my usual color choices for clothes which typically include shades rather than colors. It was probably 73 degrees out as we walked down to the bus stop. I have never really been in a place that is humid and the way that everyone who I asked described humidity as being sticky and hard to breathe. This is completely accurate. On the bus ride I especially noticed it, I felt as though each breath I was taken in was taking in more water than air. It kind of gave me a rush of anxiety to be aware of how thick the air was. It is suffocating.
As we rode the bus Kim asked us what we thought was most different about Korea compared to the United States of America. I thought for a moment, it was hard to narrow it down to a single difference. Everything is different here. From the food you eat, the cell phones used, the language spoken, the clothing style, the rules of etiquette, the chaos of the roads, the architecture, the people, everything is different. I tried to express the vastness of the difference but I sort of just mumbled something about the number of difference. I finally responded with cup sizes. It seems odd but in my everyday life here that is the biggest difference that has affected me. All the cup sizes are like 8oz rather than 32oz or whatever insane vessels us Americans use to store our sugar water in. I really liked the question and it got my mind thinking about the vastness of the simple differences between Korea and the United States.
Our first stop was Samseonghyeol (삼성혈) which is in the center of Jeju City and is a cultural site surrounding three holes where according to legend the three Gods of Jeju Island emerged from. The entire complex is walled in with a very beautiful traditional style. When we walked through the gates we were immediately greeted by a peaceful forest like park which had monuments and buildings scattered throughout with marauding paths cutting through the park. It is a very serene and peaceful place. The simple act of listening to the rain drip down onto the branches of the trees patter downwards towards the next leaf is incredibly peaceful. It was easy to forget that we were right next to a bustling city. The walls dampened any sound from the street. We walked around the museum and soaked up the scenery. Kim’s roommate Mini also brought this delicious bean cake dessert thing which had this gooey center of sugar and deliciousness.
|Sign explaining Samseonghyeol|
|The wandering wet paths through the forest of discovery. I am going overboard now.|
|I loved the root systems of these trees. They looked like they were ancient hands grabbing the ground. Very cool up close as well.|
|Area to pay homage to the gods|
|We ate those delicious gooballs under this neat gazebo type thing. This is the roof.|
|Me, Holly and Erica. The purple umbrella fits my swag.|
After the museum Kim and Mini took us to this street which was known for the noodle restaurants on the street. As we walked down the street Kim would point out different areas that she would visit when she was younger as she has lived on Jeju her entire life. She told us that it was common for people to go to university where they had grown up and that usually they will continue to live at home during their years at university. I got the impression that there is a much stronger tie to geographic location in Korea then there is in America. It is routine for families to live on opposite sides of the country and to move all across the country while growing up. There is much less of a generational tie to a geographic location.
We got to the noodle restaurant and I ordered some sort of delicious noodle dish. Most of my food descriptions are basically going to come down to “some tasty ass dish” I don’t know what I am eating and when I get told the name of the dish I forget it instantly because Korean is incredibly hard for me to remember. Kim and Mini kept trying to help us with how to properly use chopsticks and then laughing at our awkward inability to master the method. I thought I had it down pretty well but then I kept thinking about it and kept doing this weird grip that had my fingers contorted in a bizarre and mangled fashion. But we all stuck through it and nobody folded and used a fork. It becomes a matter of pride for me when I go to a restaurant and they ask me if I want a fork I am like “nah I got this” then I struggle for the entire meal.
Once we had our bellies filled with noodles and soup we made our way to the next stop, a traditional Korean Pub.
|Erica and Kim, probably discussing chopstick technique|
|This is me staring at other food on the table even though I already have food.|
|Holly and Mini posing it up|
|This cute little kid kept trying to make a run for the park but his Mom wasn't having none of that.|
We headed back down to the City Hall area and made a quick left at another narrow ally which was framed by bright vertical neon signs that were just beginning to turn on as the sun began to set. When we walked inside the first thing I noticed was the sweet smell of cedar and real wood. The lay out of the pub was a serious of long wooden tables and accompanied by matching wooden benches. It was incredibly pleasant and peaceful. Mini went and ordered this side dish which is like a pancake but its stuffed with vegetables and made with crushed beans and is amazingly delicious. I will edit in the name of it when I figure it out. Mini also ordered a bottle of makgeolli which is this carbonated rice wine that is weaker than regular rice wine and very sweet and dry. It was served in a teapot like vessel which is poured into shallow bowls. It is served cold and it is so nice and refreshing, especially after walking around in the hot and humid air for a couple of hours. The rain outside made the pub that much more cozy and it was a perfect place to finish the tour of the city.
|The inside of the traditional bar. Cozy as a sheepskin jacket.|
|Bowls of makgeolli I didn't get a dish of that awesome fried bean sprout pancake thing, I guess I will just have to go and get some more.|
|It was 73 degrees when I took this. I can't get over hot rain.|
When I got back to the dorm I saw that Ethan had gone out. I figured he and Professor McCuan had gone out exploring the city. I got ready for a quieter Friday night; I was exhausted anyways so I didn’t really mind. But then I got a knock on my door, it was the Deleware State guys next door who were on the phone with Ko trying to get some details for the events the following day. After we hammered out the details I asked them what they were doing tonight, they told me they wanted to explore the nightlife and asked me if I wanted to go. I happily agreed even though we all had to get up at 8AM the next morning to hike around. You are only in Korea once I thought to myself, YOIKO.
We went down to the City Hall region of Jeju City, one of the guys Chrishod had spent a year in Korea and knew enough Korean to give instructions to the taxi driver. We get to City Hall and we don’t really know where to go. We know of one club in the area so we try to navigate the crooked streets to try and find the club. It was fun to watch the droves of drunken people wander around the streets. Koreans were much more eager to practice their English with us when they were drunk, but this creates a Catch-22 because their ability to speak English also decreases when they get drunk. It was truly a different place at night. There was an electricity of excitement generated by all of the different things happening, it was truly mesmerizing just people watching.
When we finally found the club that we were looking for and Chrishod goes and asks the bouncer how much it will cost. The bouncer says 8,000 WON which is about 8 USD. Chrishod then asks him how many people are in the club and the bouncer tells us very few. Then the bouncer gives us an address of another club which is about a 10 minute cab ride away and guaranteed to have a large crowd. I am completely baffled by having a bouncer tell the truth about the mediocrity of the crowd at his own club and then recommending another club to go to. We are all still very excited about discovering a new area of the city so we flag down and pile into a cab and we were on our way.
We get to the club and is clearly more fun than the dingy expat club downtown. The building is massive with a giant flashing LED sign playing visualizations of the clubs name. We get in line to get our IDs checked but are quickly escorted to the side, Mini had told me earlier that they don’t card foreigners often because they can’t tell our age and often don’t feel like the hassle of trying to get someone to show their ID without using a common language. We get taken upstairs and into this massive auditorium with hundreds of tables with red lamps matched with puffy red chairs. The auditorium is easily four stories tall with a ceiling that clearly can open up to the sky. All of the tables were facing the stage which was backlit with a series of complicated LEDs and clearly was movable. As we are sitting down loud music starts to play and a band is slowly lowered from the ceiling down to the stage. They are not actually playing anything rather miming playing instruments to LMFAO’s “I am sexy and I know it” while the singer sings the lyrics he knows and also shouts out random Korean phrases. It was just very surreal. After the band finished “performing” very somber piano music played and everybody who was on the dance floor slowly walked back to their tables to rest and wait for the next set.
We stayed for almost the whole night it was terrific fun. The DJs would often not actually mix and just pump up the crowd sing certain lyrics and yell things in Korean. The mixing style of the DJs was insane they would jump from playing hip-hop to suddenly shifting and playing happy hardcore it was very jarring but the Koreans didn’t seem to mind. I, Elijah and Chrishod were literally the only foreigners in the place. This gave us a lot of attention especially from people who had overindulged. This older drunk Korean guy kept coming up to us and giving us hugs and trying to get us in farther into the dance floor, encouraging us to dance with the biggest grin on his face.
I felt like I experienced a very genuine example of Korean nightlife and it is very interesting to watch people and compare how their interactions are different from American nightclubs. One stark difference is that the people at the Korean club were actually dancing. In American nightclubs people tend to just grind on strangers pelvises on a dance floor so crowded it is hard to stand straight. In Korea everyone danced and everyone was good at it. On the dance floor there was a dance team performing complex organized sets. During certain songs everyone would start doing a step pattern, kind of like line dancing and it was incredibly difficult to try and follow along. The social interaction was very group oriented, this was a place where you would go with your friends, and there was not that much intermingling. There is an interesting service that this club and many other Korean clubs offer where groups of males will rent a private room upstairs and servers will go and find women so that the guys can buy the girls a drink and get to know them. It was a common site to see a club server holding a giggle girls hand to walk her to meet upstairs to do a blind meet and greet. It was an interesting cultural practice to watch and I honestly think going to a nightclub gives a really snapshot of what the younger generation is like of a different culture. Everyone is drunk and disinhibited and you can really watch how people interact in a very tribal group setting. Despite having a blast dancing and watching the insane theatrics I truly think it added to my knowledge of contemporary Korean culture. And that’s not just some bullshit I am spewing to try and skew my night of going into the clubs as some sort of quest for understanding aspects of culture, it just happened to be a side effect of a fun night out.
When we finally made it back to the dorms we realized we needed to get up in about three hours to go on a day long excursion throughout Jeju so we quickly tried to grab the precious few hours we could get. Saturday was just as long and fun as Friday.
This site goes into more detail about the club and the processes of "booking"
|Chrishod navigating, WiFi access here is great.|
|Inside of the arcade that I went in to use the restroom|
Koreans playing this arcade game that measure the force of your kick. Looks fun I think I would end up kicking the rusting metal case and breaking every bone in my foot though.
|The lightening made it hard to take good photos, here are some long exposure shots taken from our table.|
|On top of one of the balconies looking at the stage|