Saturday, October 13, 2007

Too Young

It's Friday night. I'm sitting inside a posh bar at the base of my building. My new Korean friend John J, who lived in Australia since he was 5, just excused himself and his coworker to get a private booth. The fact that he moved literally ten feet over from the bar to a table meant nothing to me. To his boss who would arrive shortly this signified respect. "I'm sorry, it's the Korean culture", explained JJ. The PricewaterhouseCoopers accounting manager was doing what was expected of him by purchasing a $100 bottle of wine and entertaining his boss.

In front of me might have been the best chicken fingers and fries I'd ever had. Minutes ago my new friend James, who plays for the Army band, escorted me two doors down and placed the order to be delivered to the bar. James has been in Korea a year and a half, but can sling the 'Gul with the best of 'em. He's very white but once you hear the Korean come out of his mouth you'd swear he was a local. Even John couldn't believe it. But James is a special case - like the Japanese language geek, Wayne (Nathan) from my freshman dorm. James began with 2 semesters of Korean here, had several tutors, and consistently studies vocabulary 3-4 times every week for at least an hour. He explained to me that tipping isn't part of their culture and it's often considered to be rude. The thing to do is thank them a lot for thanking you for thanking them and give/accept everything with both hands, one supporting the other - it's a sort of submissive/humble gesture.

I was sitting in front of the real reason I wandered into the bar. The bartender was cute and eager to converse. She spoke a little English but Korean was more fun. I ran upstairs to my apartment to bring my Survival Korean phrasebook and she helped me pronounce things. I'm not positive about this, but I swear she said her name was, "Tu Yung". The next natural question revealed that she was in fact 20. Good times - I'll have to check up on Tu sometime ;-)

I forgot to mention that James married a Korean girl. He and his friends hyped up various (non-Itaewon) areas. John agreed - in fact, he said that he's been around: New York, LA, UK, and Australia and he claims Korea's where it's at!

John's wife was expecting him home so he helped me get a taxi. He instructed the driver to send me to Shin Chon, which was a couple of miles away. I wandered around for about an before heading back. I think it's next to a college district because there were lots of youngins around - not nearly as many foreigners (Americans) as Itaewon. I'm interested in going back with someone who knows their way around.

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