Friday, April 9, 2010

Annyong Gyeseyo!

Much like the Friday of my actual Korea trip, I can’t believe this drinking recap is almost over. Although unlike my Korea trip, I’m sort of glad this recap is coming to end. While I’m having fun reliving all of my Tongyeong adventures, I’ve done some serious beer drinking this week that would have been fun to talk about. However, due to my general laziness and my not wanting to complete bog down my precious readers, I’ll have to skip it. At the end of this post I’ll put up my numbers for the week and you’ll think, “My God, that’s an absurd number of beers. I’ve been supportive of your adventure up to this point but you have to slow down.” To which I respond: 1) Most of these days have been while I was still on vacation. 2) One of the days my good friend Joe was in town. A couple points to know about Joe. Joe lived with Greg and I our senior year of college and was by far the biggest drinker out of the three of us. Also, he’s in the Navy and is currently on leave having just served the last year in Afghanistan. He’s moving to California literally today, after which he deploys back to the Middle East. So suffice it to say, his one day stop in NYC, which coincided with me being on vacation, prompted the perfect storm of drinking. 3) My law school’s annual giant, fancy party was this Thursday. This giant, fancy party had an open bar.

All of this is to say that I really didn’t mean to drink so much this week. It just sort of happened. I mean a Joe visit and an open bar would generally each take up a week on their own. It just so happened they happened within days of each other. And you should know that my drinking is going to slow down considerably, and I mean considerably, in the upcoming month. I have the build of up to finals and the actual finals weeks themselves. There’s a period of time where I have three 8:30 in the morning finals three days in a row. Do you think I’m having any beer then? I don’t think so my friends. I know these numbers are too high, even for a man who’s on a mission to drink 1000 beers in a year. But they will come back down to earth, and quite soon.

Well sorry for the divergence there. Back to Korea! Ok, so Thursday it was still raining, but Liz and I had to get to an island so we braved the storm and went out anyway. I believe the island was called Hasando, but I could be wrong about that. We walked around as much as possible in the rain, but then ended up just hanging out under a gazebo splitting a Hite and watching the fog roll off the mountains. Thursday night, however, was when the real drinking adventure.

I'm not sure how many beers to count for Thursday night. The number could be as low as 2 and as high as 8,000. It all depends on how you want to want to count Somek. Somek, you see, is a drink Koreans enjoy. It involves dumping a bottle of soju into a pitcher of beer. I'm not talking about a sake bomb or anything like that. A whole bottle into a whole pitcher. It's crazy. I intentionally avoided trying it till the last possible moment, which would be Thursday night. We went bowling with a big group of westerners and brought in some beer and some soju (bringing your own alcohol to a bowling alley is pretty awesome). Making the soju involves getting a "pitcher" of beer, pictured here:

drinking about a third of it, pouring in the bottle of soju, and then carefully mixing it. Due to both Hite's and soju's lack of any real flavor, mixing the two isn't as gross as it might sound. As a result, somek tastes like a slightly grosser version of Hite. Think Natty Ice. While bowling, Greg, Britney, and I split a bottle of somek. You know what? For the sake of brutal authenticity in the final numbers, I am not going to count any somek in my totals. I wouldn't count a sake bomb as a beer, so I think it follows that I shouldn't count somek. Let no one say I half-assed this thing.

After bowling, the group of us partook in the finest and most traditional of Korean past-times: karaoke-ing at a norebang! A norebang is a small room with a couch and a karaoke set up where you go and essentially just sing with and to your friends. While I guess some could do this sober, I just can't understand the circumstances under which that would be enjoyable. So while norebanging it up, we order some more somek ingredients. Here's what they bring into our room:

Those aren't water bottles. Those are bottles filled with soju. More somek abounded. I know I wanted to keep my identity a secret, but here's a picture of me singing a Meatloaf song after a couple of rounds of somek:

I should also mention that the norebangs supply a litany of costumes and props (this beaver mask included) to accompany your singing. So we leave the norebang at about three in the morning (there are several other rooms filled with people still going strong when we leave) and head to a 24 hour gimbop nara, what is essentially a Korean fast food restaurant, and I have the best ramyen I've had in my life. In Tongyeong it's essentially impossible to get any food that isn't Korean food. While this generally would be a bad thing, it's pretty awesome being able to get food at 4 in the morning that isn't diner food. But what I want to emphasize here, my total beer count for the evening (excluding the one I had during the day): Zero.

On Friday we sadly say goodbye to Greg and Britney and boarded a bus for Seoul. We're pretty exhausted at this point, so we just spend the afternoon/evening wandering around Seoul and seeing the sites. We were tempted to go into one of the many Hofs in the city, but our exhaustion won out. Instead, after our wandering around, we split a bottle of Cass (The Sound of Vitality!) in our hotel room and passed out by 10.

Saturday we woke up, went to this giant palace in Seoul, walked around a bit more, had our last Korean lunch, and then went to the airport. At the airport we have a legitimate soju emergency. So we've got about 20,000 won left (about 18 U.S. dollars). It costs seven bucks to exchange the money so we figure we'll just spend it all in the airport. We pick up four bottles of soju to bring back to the states for friends. I put them in my backpack and we start to board the plane. Problem. There is a second security check right before you enter the door of plane. Turns out, you can't bring ANY liquids on board with you. The Korean security agent takes my four bottles of soju out of backpack and gives me this sort of sad-dog look. She's about to chuck the bottles, but then asks if I want to check my bag. After thinking about it for a second, I take out my ipod and book and say sure. She then escorts me out of the line into a special elevator, all while I'm holding these bottles of soju with the whole line of passengers looking at me, and back up to the gate to check the bag. I get back on the plane and then we start to take off. It's at this point and time that I realize that my keys and phone are in my backpack and if I the bag doesn't get on the plane, there is no way for me to get into my apartment. I subsequently spend the next thirteen hours freaking out about this. Although it was all for not. My bag was the first off the conveyor and the soju bottles (and my keys) made it safely back to the states.

Final Korea thoughts: It was a lot of fun. I'm unsure if I'll ever get back but I really enjoyed my time there. It was great seeing Greg and Britney and diving into a completely unknown-to-me culture was a great experience. I know I only talked about the drinking here, but we really did have a lot of great non-alcohol related experiences out there.

And now the moment of truth. The numbers. Did I make it? Well let's recap. Sunday: 1 beer. Monday: 6 beers. Tuesday: 8 beers. Wednesday: 3 beers. Thursday: 1 beer. Friday: 1 Beer. Saturday: 0 beers. Total beers in Korea: 20

Total Beers After Korea: 266

Where I Should Be After Korea: 254.794


Ok, briefly what I've drank since I've been home. Sunday: 2 beers (Ommegang Wite at Dutchboy Burgers, Ithica Ground Break Saison at Bierkraft). Monday (the "Joe Day"): 8 beers (spread out over 9 hours, fyi, Heartland Belgian Lager at Heartland Brewery, Coney Island Lager, Old Speckled Hen, Defiant Lager, Pork Slap Pale Ale at Franklin Park, 1 PBR at Prospect Pond, 2 PBRs at home). Tuesday: Zero beers. Wednesday: 5 beers (2 Sixpoint Bark Red Ales at Bark, 3 Nebraska Infinite Wits at home). Thursday: 3 beers (3 Heinekens at Crimson, the law school party). Total Beers: 18

So the final numbers:

Total Beers: 284

Where I Should Be: 268.493

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