Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wow

That's really the only thing that comes to mind right now. I can't really go into details because we're still in the beginning... but maybe in a couple of months I can divulge more about this little project.

But anyway... wow...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Korean Cultural Experience: The Host Bar

So, I had a very interesting cultural experience last night with my best friend, who has asked to remain anonymous for this little "social experiment". Let's just call her... Minnie. ^_^

Anyway, after a few years of watching Japanese and Korean dramas and hearing stories about hostess bars and host bars, plus talking about it with Minnie, we decided that we wanted to see what they were really like. Of course, we spent a few months just talking about going without every really doing it. I think we said we would do it for our double birthday party and promised that it would be a secret. We planned to save up a lot of money since they are rather expensive. I think we just kept putting it off because we were both a little chicken...

But then last night at work, I got a message from Minnie, saying that she wanted to go somewhere fancy for a couple drinks. I thought maybe she meant a wine bar. But no. She wanted to go to "that" place, as we referred to it in public, because we didn't want those around us to know what we were talking about. She had even researched host bars and picked out two that she thought were nice and not too expensive.

So, I said yes, albeit, a bit hesitantly, and proceeded to tear my room apart for almost an hour after work trying to find something "pretty" and "sexy" as I was ordered to wear. Finally, around 12:45ish, I met up with Minnie at Samseong Station and off we went to Seollung Station (about one station away) where the bar was located. We had considered going to Apgujong, which is known for its expensive and fancy bars, but decided to stick close for convenience.

At first we couldn't find it. The only instructions Minnie had were that it was near Olive Young behind Exit 1. Once there, we were suppose to call one of the boys who would give us more directions. However, when we got there and called, he was apparently "busy" and didn't answer.

We decided to wander around and look for it and after about five minutes, we stood in front of the pink and purple sign. It was called "Loveholic" which seemed a very fitting name for a host bar. It was in the basement, so down the stairs we went. At the door we stopped, suddenly feeling very anxious and silly about going in. After about ten seconds of debating, we pushed through the door, deciding that it didn't matter since we were only there to see what it was like anyway.

The bar was about half full with groups of about four or five girls sitting in booths and tables. A fairly attractive guy came up to us and asked if we minded sitting at the bar, since all the tables were filled. The bar was not your average bar. Instead of stools, there were red loveseats on a raised platform, so you could reach the bar. Behind it were several stools for the guys to sit while they chatted with you. The speakers pumped out R&B, KPop and ballads, though not too loudly so you could still talk. On our way over there, the guy asked if we knew what kind of bar we were in... we said that we did.

The bar itself was very girly looking. Purples and reds were everywhere, with sheer curtains sectioning off the bar and the tables for some privacy. The lights were set low. The guys all seemed to be engaged in flirting and chatting at the tables and were all dressed very stylish. And yes, they were all very handsome, though only a couple I would deem hot.

We got situated at the bar and the main host asked us if we wanted to stay here the whole time or move to a table when one was open. We said we wanted to stay at the bar, mostly because it was cheaper than a table. The way this sort of place is set up is that you pay a set fee for the table (or bar or booth) and then order one bottle of alcohol, like vodka, gin, whisky, wine, etc. No cocktails or single drinks. You had to make them yourself at the table with your liquor. Or you could order a beer set.

We settled on a bottle of white wine, which came to a whopping 90,000 won (About $70-80) on top of the bar fee, which was 15,000 won (about $10). It was the cheapest thing on the menu since most of the wines and liquors were anywhere from 90,000 to 200,000 won ($70-150). A table was 30,000 won ($20ish) and a booth was 40,000 won ($30ish) since it had more privacy. Also, since the bottles of liquor are quite big, if you don't finish it, you can put it on hold and come back as many times as you want until you finish it. Behind the bar were shelves filled with half-empty bottles of alcohol with little name tags wrapped around them.

While we waited for our order, we looked around. Next to us was one girl seated with a cute guy in a blazer and glasses with a huge splay of food and whisky. She kept giggling and flirting with him like they were on a date and pouring him more whisky. He seemed a little bored. Minnie and I giggled at this. This was kind of what we expected to see at this sort of bar.

Other than her, none of the others really fit the stereotype that I thought I would see. It was mostly just group of women who looked kind of like us, who just wanted to go out and see hot guys. Minnie said they were probably mostly women in their late 20s to early 30s who were either too busy to date, or were just out for a girls' night.

Anyway, at this point, our wine had arrived, accompanied by a very cute guy name Myung Ho, who was dressed in black jeans with a white button-up shirt and black tie. Though, the tie was loosened and the top few buttons undone. His hair was slightly long with bangs that he swept across his forehead. Oh, and did I mention he had the best smile? He poured our drinks and took a seat across from us. He looked really nervous at first, since he got stuck with the foreigner who couldn't really speak Korean. But he tried valiantly. We went through the usual pleasantries of saying our ages, where we worked (he thought I was a college student), where I was from, etc. He did say I was pretty, but other that, there was no gushing compliments or crazy flirting like I heard or read about in manga. He was the sort of guy that I wouldn't mind meeting out somewhere and hanging out with. If I spoke better Korean, that is...

We talked about what he was studying at university (he was only 23, probably just finished military a year or two ago) and what working at a host bar was like. Minnie asked how it worked with the guys at the tables.

Basically, according to Myung Ho, the main greeter takes the order and then sends over a guy he thinks would fit in well with the girls (or guys if it's a larger group). They talk for awhile and if the girl isn't impressed, they'll rotate and get a new guy. Or sometimes the guy is called to another table after about an hour or so and a new one comes. At this point, he thought Minnie was asking to switch, which she vehemently denied after blushing and said she just wanted to know since this was our first time there.

I then, tentatively asked him in Korean if it was fun working there. He said sometimes. But a lot of times they get weird customers who come in and drink too much, then are all over the guys, or banging on tables, or throwing up and he has to clean it up. He also said that he was studying during the day and working at night, which meant he only got about two hours of sleep a night.

After about an hour, as our wine was disappearing quickly between the three of us. (Yes, you do have to give them drinks. Thus why the alcohol is so expensive.) Myung Ho said they were about to do an event. This involved some of the guys doing dances and a game called the Pepparo game. They did a few dances from some popular songs. One guy did G-Dragon’s “Heartbreaker” and another did “Rainism” by Rain. Of course, they were all good-looking and very talented, so it was fun to watch.

Then came the Pepparo game. Basically, one girl from each table went up with the guy assigned to them. They put a Pepparo, which is like Pocky, in the guy’s mouth and the girl has to bite off as much as possible without kissing him. Whoever has the shortest wins a free bottle of whisky. After a round of Kai, Bai, Bo (rock, paper, scissors) I lost and had to play the game for our table.

We were third. Down to the center floor we went. Myung Ho grinned as the MC announced “Lucky Myung Ho, he gets a foreigner,” to the crowd. As if I needed to stand out even more. ^_^ I was so nervous that I ended up leaving a big chunk and lost miserably. I think the winning girl had a length of about 2 millimeters. How that was possible, I don’t know.

Minnie and I ended up staying until about 4 a.m. which surprised me. We switch through a couple more guys and then realized that the wine had been gone for about an hour and we had nothing to offer the guys talking to us. We mentioned this to the last guy with us and apologized, saying that we would leave soon. He said it was okay, and that was actually one of the reasons why he was staying with us.

“If you leave, I have to go to another table and they’ll make me drink a lot,” he said. We were a little shocked by this, but in the end it was understandable. They work from about 7 pm to 7 am each night and have a lot to drink, so it makes sense that they would want a break. This guy, Seung Hun, was actually really funny and natural. The first thing he said when he came up to the table was that he heard I was from Russia, which immediately got me and Minnie giggling. I had mentioned to Myung Ho that men often thought I was Russian. Shows how much of a pro Seung Hun was.

He and Minnie ended up talking for a long time and he told us about how he was planning to move to New York so he could be a model. Another guy came up and told me that he was planning to move to New York to study dance on Broadway. (And he could totally make it. He was one of the best dancers.)

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by the whole thing. It wasn’t sleazy or anything. The guys that talked to us didn’t seem fake or lay on the charm. (Well... most of them. There was one who declared that I was "gorgeous" as we were leaving. Probably the only thing he knew how to say in English.) It wasn’t really any different than meeting a random guy at bar and chatting him up. Well, other than the part that we were paying them to talk to us. Though there were definitely some awkward moments when none of us really knew what to say or talk about, but the guys always jumped in there with a question or comment.

When we left at the end of the night, Seung Hun and Myung Ho walked us out and got us into taxis to head home. Seung Hun even asked for our numbers. (Though, I doubt he’ll be calling me. ^_^ Probably only asked for it so I wouldn't feel left out.) We think that we’re going to get a couple of our girl friends together and go back for our birthday party. It’ll be more fun with a group of us. ^_^

And thus, the myths of the host bar have been uncovered...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Something a Bit Different

So, as some of you know, I've been working on a book about my first year in Korea for quite some time. But it's been slow going, mainly because I've been unintentionally unmotivated. So, I've decided that I will post bits on here in the hopes that it will motivate me to write and update it more. Without further ado... here is the first bit.... (Just be aware that it's still a work in progress...)
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She stood in the middle of the sidewalk, staring up at the sunless, gray sky. All around her, people rushed passed barely caring to move out of the way for the odd, young foreigner standing in the middle of the wide walkway. Some watched in anxiety as they rushed passed, wondering if she was mentally off-balanced. Others were more polite, and only glanced occasionally to satisfy their curiosity. And still some stared openly, half gawking at the exotic pale skin, blue eyes and red hair, and half wondering why she was staring straight up into the sky.

But the girl stood still, casually taking in the sky and tops of tall buildings as music pumped through her iPod into her ears. She couldn’t hear the quiet, alien murmurs around her or see the endless stares and looks she was receiving. Nor did she care even though she could still feel their eyes on her. After a month in this strange city, she was starting to not notice them.

The silent vibrating of a cell phone in her pocket broke her reverie, though she stared down at her pocket a moment before reaching in, as if contemplating whether or not she really wanted to answer. But curiosity got the better of her as she pulled the tiny silver piece of technology from its warm haven. The name Hyun was displayed above a number as the phone blinked green. Shrugging she flipped it open with one hand as she casually pulled her ear bud out of her right ear.

“Oppa,” she said brightly. Several people walking passed glanced back at her at the sound of the Korean word coming from the foreign lips. “What’s going on?” She casually started walking down the sidewalk.

“Better watch who you say that around, Nora. People might get the wrong impression,” a slightly accented voice replied lightly. Nora rolled her eyes and sighed.

“Yea, right. You know it tickles your old, Korean ass pink to have an attractive, young American woman calling you oppa,” she said, ignoring the nervous glances from the few people walking around her who could understand English.

“Young and American you may be, but attractive...I think you should seek a second opinion with that mouth,” he said.

“Hey, you swear way more than I do,” she shot back.

“Yes, but not as I’m walking down the sidewalk talking on the phone.” Nora stopped and looked around.

“How did you know I was walking down the sidewalk?” she asked.

“Don’t you have class at 3 p.m.? It’s currently 2:50 p.m, and I’m surprised that I guessed correctly that you were on the sidewalk. Normally you would just be walking out the door,” he said wrily. Nora shook her head and kept walking.

“You know me too well, Hyun. It’s scary sometimes. Are you sure you’re not stalking me?” she asked lightheartedly.

“Oh, yes, because I can do that with all my free time,” he said sarcastically.

“Speaking of which, why are you calling me instead of working?” she asked brightly.

“Wanted to see if you were free for dinner tonight,” he said. Nora paused on the sidewalk to go through her mental to-do list.

“Hmm, I think I’m meeting up with some co-workers tonight,” she said.

“Please tell me you’re not going out drinking again,” he said, resignedly.

“You can always join us,” Nora said suggestively as she continued walking down the sidewalk, vaguely aware that she did have to be somewhere in a relatively short time.

“Hmm, not sure I’m in the mood to baby-sit again tonight. Especially since that’s what I did last weekend,” he said. Nora rolled her eyes.

“Seriously, Hyun. I’m not that bad,” she said defensively. “You only had to help me home once.”

“Sorry, my idea of a fun night doesn’t include watching you edge closer to drinking yourself to oblivion, especially considering that you didn’t drink before you got here,” he said with a sigh.

“Fine,” Nora whined. “Don’t come. It’s a work thing anyway.” Hyun hesitated.

“Will Ann be there?” he asked. “I want to make sure someone is there to keep you out of trouble.” Nora sighed. Sometimes she felt as though he took the big brother thing too far. They hadn’t know each other very long, but already the young executive had taken the na├»ve teacher under his wing and adopted her as his little sister.

“I swear, you’re worse than a real brother,” Nora said, picking up her pace.

“Hey, I want to make sure you end up home safe and not in bed with some loser,” he said, joking but concern was still edging his voice.

“Don’t worry. I’ll be fine,” she said. “Believe me. I don’t want to end up in anyone’s bed any more than you.” Hyun laughed.

“All right. Then enjoy yourself. And make sure you eat a big dinner,” he said. Nora rolled her eyes again.

“Yes, daddy,” she whined as she hung up the phone. Sometimes being friends with Hyun could be a bit smothering. But she couldn’t help but be drawn to him, even though he was five years her senior. Despite his rapidly appearing protective tendencies, Nora always had fun and felt comfortable around him. She found herself meeting him often for dinner or coffee during the week, something that Hyo Son, Hyun’s girlfriend of a year and a half, wasn’t too fond of. She still couldn’t believe that it was nearly a month ago when they met. Thinking about the first time the two met brought a small smile to Nora’s face. Even then they were arguing…

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Week of Crazy

Bleh... so I've had a crazy week...

It started last week. I noticed my sister had a Facebook status message about being shocked from something. I sent her a message asking what it was about, thinking maybe it had something to do with her ex-boyfriend. But then she told me that she was shocked because our real dad had called her after nearly 19 years of no contact. AND he told her that we have an 8-year-old little sister named Haley who wants to see and meet us.

So, that on threw us for a loop. Especially my sister who doesn't remember anything really about our Dad. But I'm dealing with it, and I kind of do want to talk to him and meet our sister. I'm not really sure what to say or anything. Kind of throws life a bit upside down.

In the midst of all this, I tried calling my boyfriend to talk to him and he was busy at work and couldn't meet me. So Thursday I sent him some messages and didn't hear from him. I was out with friends and they wanted to meet him, so I called, but his phone was turned off.

I didn't worry about it, just thought he was in a meeting. Friday comes and I sent him a message wishing him a Happy Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving), but still no reply. I didn't bother with a message on Saturday because I figured he was busy with family stuff. Sent him a message about Chuseok on Sunday and still didn't hear anything. Now I'm thinking something is going on, but I'm not sure what. Monday came, another message and no reply.

By the time Tuesday came around, I'm really starting to worry. The last time I didn't hear anything from him for a few days, his brother had a heartattack. I tried calling, but his phone was still off. By Tuesday night, I'm starting to think something must really be wrong. Either he's in the hospital, his family is in the hospital, or he has decided that he doesn't want to have anything to do with me again... Yea, I had a lot of time to think about the possibly scenarios. I hoped that whatever the case was, that he would eventually call. Especially since everything seemed fine when I talked to him on Wednesday.

Anyway, as a last resort, I sent an email to his work account. Lo and behold, I get a response. He apologizes for making me worry and said that he got robbed and broke his phone in the process this weekend. He'd been so busy at work, he hadn't gotten it fixed yet and was hoping to get it back today.

And since he only had my number in his phone and didn't have my business card, he didn't know how to contact me since he doesn't have Facebook, etc.

Part of me is a bit skeptical, but I have no reason to believe that he would lie to me. However, it is a bit strange that within the time we've been together, he lost his phone, his brother had a heart attack and then he gets robbed and breaks his phone. Anywho, regardless of what happened, I'm just glad he's okay and he's back in contact with me.

So, that was my crazy week... Now, if I would just get my paycheck, I would feel much more at ease...