Saturday, April 17, 2010

It's been a great week

or however long it's been since I wrote last. But I'm talking especially about the last 168 hours. Ready to dive in with me? The water's warm. Here we go.

Last weekend, Mi Sun's friend Ji Sun got married. I caught a bus early Saturday morning and met up with the girl at the bus terminal near her village... we drove toward Yeoju and picked up her friend, whose name I've completely forgotten but was cute and very eager to speak her limited English with me in between catching up with Mi Sun. I guess they hadn't seen each other in like 7 years, so they were all chatty gabby on the drive. It took about 2 and a half hours to get to Gangneung on the East Sea (or Sea of Japan, as it's known everywhere else in the world. But trust me, don't bring that up to a Korean). The drive was beautiful. Fields, forests, rivers and mountains rolled past, unheralded, like an old-timey film turning to reveal each new scene. We arrived in Gangneung about an hour before the wedding, and it quickly became apparent that neither of my car-buddies knew where in the hell we were supposed to go. After many (many) phone calls and a couple stops to ask directions, we eventually found our way to the wedding hall. There were several weddings scheduled for the day, so it took us a while to find the correct chapel(? Actually, they weren't really churches. Just wedding halls. But anyway). After going into the bridal display room... I have know idea what it was called, but for hours before the service the bride has to sit on a couch in a little room while people come in to gawk at and take pictures with her. Then lunch. I don't recall the name of the noodle, but it was a plain noodle in salty broth, and is a traditional celebration food in Korea.

Next we went to the service. We walked in about 10 minutes after it started, and then stood in the back and chatted (well, they chatted, I just stood there awkwardly and smiled for some pictures and took others). Most people paid no attention to the service whatsoever. I asked Mi Sun if we weren't being rude, and she said "yeah, but it's really boring." I couldn't disagree. Anyway, after the service it was picture time for the bride and groom, then with both families (Moms wearing hanbok, Korean traditional dress... dads wearing suits), then with all their friends. I hung back to take pictures, and got to see Mi Sun catch the bouquet. Know, it's not at all like we do this particular part of the festivities. People say that Koreans acquired all of our driving laws without the etiquette or rationale to back it up -- red lights are mere suggestions, lane lines mean nothing... Korean behavior takes over when they're actually driving, regardless of the civilized laws that are supposed to govern behavior. Well, this was similar: they knew about tossing the bouquet, and they knew that it should have some significance. However, instead of the bridesmaid catfight we've all come to know and love, they simply decided that Mi Sun would catch the bouquet, brought her out in front of everyone, and then let the bride toss her the bouquet. 3 times. Because the camera guy screwed up once and then the bride threw it too far the second time. Cracked me up. Anyway.

After the wedding we went to a restaurant owned by a friend of the groom. Before entering, I got to witness a Gangneung tradition. Upon getting married, a guy gets his ass beat by his friends, apparently. So, before we went into the restaurant, his friends made him take off his shoes and then tied a giant pink bow around his waist. He was then put in a harness and tied to the back of a van. As the van started driving, he had to run along behind it while his friends sat in the back of the van and smacked his legs with long wooden sticks. I mean, it would have been brutal if it had continued much longer, but I think they only went around the block. So, back to groom's-friend's restaurant. This guy could throw down, and he wasn't screwing around. We had like a 5 course meal accompanied by beer, wine, soju, and several other liquors. Raw fish salad, chile-fried shrimp, pork that was coated in donut-batter and deep fried with candy sprinkles, plus a few other things that I don't even remember. At some point during the meal, the groom took off his shoes and socks and his buddy picked him up over his shoulder. Another friend recited what sounded like a litany of blessings while repeatedly smacking the bottom of his feet with another cane. Ji Sun, the bride, looked scared. Everyone else laughed. I joined in... what else could I do, right?

Next -- the noraebang. The best man decided on a game. After singing, you get a score from the computer; each person who scored over 90 had to donate 10 bucks to the pot... each person who scored under 90 had to be a backup dancer for the next person to sing. I only did one song (guess which one?) and I duly paid my 10,000won. A drunk guy fell on the floor; a drunk girl fell onto me, twice. I'd have thought she was sending me some kinda signal if I thought she had any idea what the hell she was doing, but sadly, there's no way that was true. Finally, we ended up at a raw-fish restaurant (we were on the coast, after all) for a shitload of fish, oysters, clams, crab, mussels, and several things that we don't have words for in English, but are all mostly just horrifying monsters anyway, so it's probably for the best. All raw, except the clams, which were delicious and in a nice brothy soup. I mean, everything I tried was good. Like sushi (sorta) without the rice, seaweed wrap, vegetables, or any pretense of being anything but raw fish. Also, there was soju; I think I mentioned that. That helps.

Went back to the hotel (with ocean-view rooms, according to the sign... although you had to practically climb out the window to see the water) and crashed. Next morning we went out for tofu soup, which is the other specialty of Gangneung... it's not bad. Just has very little flavor. Once you add soy sauce and chili paste, and eat a bunch of kimchi dipped in it, it's quite good. Had some coffee... walked to the beach, and took some random pictures while watching the waves crash in. There are lots of big rocks dotting the coast there, and some solid surf. So there were lots of those "ooooh" moments when a big wave crashed against a big rock and sent up a spray of white foamy surf. And that was the weekend. Highlight of the trip home -- Mi Sun was sleepy (from my snoring, apparently? shocked? haha) and let me drive all the way home. I succeeded. Even managed to negotiate a crazy Korean rest stop for cookies, chips, and coffee to keep me awake (also from my snoring, I have a feeling. It's a curse, I tells ya).

The rest of the week was tame: work, lessons, working out, dinners with the girl. She came over and cooked me this awesome like... meat thing last night. Not sure how to explain it: ground pork and beef with scallions, sesame oil, soy sauce, and diced mushrooms, all mixed up with salt and pepper and pressed into little mini-burgers and then fried. Served over rice with more sauteed mushrooms. It was awesome, whatever it was. I had the leftovers with a fried egg on a sandwich this morning, and also with rice for dinner tonight. Watched the Cards game today (Go Lopex! Grand Salami baby!) and went to the gym... tonight I've just been studying Korean and I'm going to bed soon. Actually, I think I'm gonna call my mom first. So mom, if you're reading this, it was (preemptively) nice talking to you this weekend!

A good night to all, and to all a good night.