Korea Burn ’14 – a sneak peek!

All I have to say is “wow!”  Words can’t describe how amazing Korea Burn was.  The art exhibits and costumes were just the icing on a cake of amazing people and personalities that came together in a fantastically beautiful beach weekend!  Enjoy this sneak peek and stay tuned for the rest of the photos.

(NSFW warning: some of these photos might not be safe for work)

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Dodgeball Tournament!

Dodgeball Tournament!

Korea Burn '14-16

Happy July 4th!

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Getting ready to burn the man!

Getting ready to burn the man!

A night out in Mokdong

Last night I cheated.  I’ve been so good these last 2 weeks but last night I had a lapse.  Okay, maybe there was some peer pressure involved.  I swear it was for a good cause though!

Let me back up a minute.  I proclaimed December to be a special month, one that I dubbed “Don’t Drink December.”  Feel free to read more about it on my previous post but basically instead of drinking I am collecting funds to donate to the Philippines Red Cross for Supertyphoon Haiyan relief.  I’ve been going strong so far and raised $70!

Well anyway back to last night.  I was supposed to get dinner with some Korean friends but plans changed after fencing practice and I found myself meeting Brian and Susan (2 coworkers) at a Makeoli and Pajeon restaurant down the road.  I sat down and had a bite of the delicious Korean pancake ignoring the bowl of yellow rice wine in front of me.

Susan commented “Oh I totally forgot you aren’t drinking!  Sorry I poured you a bowl.”

She grabbed the bowl and asked “What would it take for you to drink tonight?”

I laughed.  We’ve been down this road a few times this month and I tell her I’m fine not drinking and the conversation goes back to how delicious the pajeon is and how excited we are at the new jobs & apartment.  A few moments later Sara joins us as we pay and I’m struck by a brilliant idea.

“I tell you what.  Since we are celebrating all four of us signing a new lease tonight I think I can make an exception.  But there’s a catch.  I will drink tonight if you donate to the Philippines Red Cross.”

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I guess I must be a fun party-goer because I immediately was presented with $20 in donations as we walked into a Korean Barbeque.  Sara had been here before with Sejun and we are assured they have excellent Samgyupsal (pork).  I declare that I want to try a new cut of meat as we order Soju, Mekju and a thinkly sliced pile of pork.

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Gangnam to Hongdae, hookah, eating, drinking and dancing!

Saturday I got a text from an “old” friend, Sarah.  We met a little over a month ago at K-Cook delight and I immediately hit it off with her group of friends: Ciara, Taem, Elly, & Yi Young.  Unfortunately they live on the other side of Seoul and I haven’t had a chance to see them so when she told me tonight was her birthday party I knew I had to be there!

We met at Gangnam station before heading to Rainbow Hookah Bar.  Rainbow is an adorable basement lounge with a hippie decor starting when you walk in through a peace sign on the front door.  They’ve got everything from dream catchers to tie dye and rainbows around the walls with everyone seated on the floor enjoying middle eastern flavors fused with a modern flair that provides a smokey aroma.  We got great seats in a “loft” just behind the band.  Wait, there’s a band?  Sweet, I knew this night was going to be fun!

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The evening started with a rum bucket, an ice mint hookah and cuban mojito hookah.  Taking puffs of the flavored tobacco we caught up and I filled them in on the recent fiascoes at my job.  Luckily I got the letter of release yesterday so I was basically celebrating my new job tonight (I’m expecting to get the contract early this week!)  The other good news is if I get this new job I’ll be working at the same subway stop as them!

Before long the band started setting up.  The hippie troupe was composed of assorted drums, didgeridoos, a guitar, bass and a drum set.  Their sound was phenomenal and filled the room as everyone swayed to the rhythm.

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The band kept jamming as a saxophone came out and solo’d in between one of the drummers taking to a microphone for psuedo-scat that sounded like Korean chanting I’ve heard in Buddhist temples.  In between songs they invited everyone to come grab an instrument and join in.  I was tempted but thought I’d have some more liquid courage first.  Unfortunately their set ended before I worked up the balls to join them so I just played around with the didgeridoo while the DJ spun in the background.

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My first Korean Class

After an awful day at work I was happy to join my first Korean class through CulCom (Culture Community).  It was just 2 subway stops past my apartment and although I was late from talking with my principal I caught right up.

The first class consisted solely of the Korean alphabet, Hangul.  I had already studied this on my own and was able to read most words (even if it was beneath a Kindergarten pace).  In spite of my previous knowledge I found this class quite helpful because I got practice writing with immediately feedback on my pronunciation.

Owen, my teacher and the leader of CulCom, did a great job explaining some of the harder sounds and I think I actually understand the double letters now!  There are a few general rules about which vowels can be paired with others to make a double vowel and we went through the actual name of each letter.  Suddenly our class was over and it was time for me to meet my Korean students.

At CulCom you get “free” Korean lessons but need to stay and teach English to a small group of Koreans.  I didn’t mind, especially when I found out all I do is sit there and help them understand the few pages provided by CulCom.  My group had two girls: Raan & Lydia, and four boys: myself, KJ, Sam and another gentleman who didn’t join us for dinner & drinks where I learned everyone’s name (sorry for misspelling the names!).

Speaking of dinner and drinks, the chicken, mekju and games were the best part of my day.  I definitely needed some relaxation after such a crappy day and was happy to teach everyone Kings.  They loved it and I realized how useful it was for their English practice.  They had to practice rhyming, categories, saying “never have I evers” and more.  Maybe I can turn this into a classroom friendly game somehow?

Before we finished the deck Owen strolled in and grabbed a shot glass for soju.  Fried chicken arrived while we were chowing down on the banchan in between turns.  We quickly finished kings and they taught me an updated version of Daegi.  Instead of simply saying Daegi however many times you had to say someone’s name and a number; they had to repeat their name the appropriate number of times in tempo with their claps before saying another name and number.

We played a few rounds before they ordered another dish.  It came with cold noodles, a ton of spicy red sauce, veggies and

“What is that?” I asked.

“sea bugs? No that’s not it,” they said.
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The only white-man at dinner… again

After a kick ass fencing tournament my club went out to get some samgyupsal (pork korean barbeque).  Last time we went out it was an amazing combination of great food, mekju (beer) and soju (rice wine) combined to make SoMek.  Tonight was an excellent recreation with a few surprises.

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We arrived at the restaurant on the rainy Sunday night and were quickly ushered into a back room with our massive group.  The banchan (sides) were already on the table and soup was boiling away in the grill.  They provided bags for our wet coats and pillows to sit on; sitting cross legged on the floor takes some getting used to but can be quite fun!  Within a few moments the meat arrived and that wonderful aroma filled our room.CAM00929

The Korean conversation overpowered my naive language skills but I was happy to find a few Koreans with some basic English.  We spoke about fencing, told a few fencing stories and I went through my abbreviated bio.  They were surprised to learn that the “gold medalist” had only been in Korea for a few months and even more impressed that I could 1) use chopsticks 2) eat spicy food and 3) read Korean at a kindergarten level (or perhaps even lower).

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