27 September 2008

To the Reft, to the Reft

"How long should I cook this chicken for?"

That was the simple call from my neighbor Shauna, a great girl who lives upstairs and can only cook spaghetti.  She was cooking a chicken for some reason, and had no idea what to do.

I had been planning a quiet Saturday, since all week was pretty hectic at work.  I had gotten up early to watch the debate, but now I was going to hang out and read and listen to music.  Then maybe Sunday I would go for a hike, since the weather has become simply beautiful here.  A cold front came in late in the week, and the air was crisp and cool, lifting the veils of fog on the mountains away like the touch of the groom at a wedding.

But hey, I know how to cook a chicken.  So I pulled on pants, much to my displeasure, and walked upstairs.

Shauna was fussing around in the kitchen with a very pretty Korean girl who was introduced to me as Becky.  Stepping carefully around the enormous jigsaw puzzle that Shauna and I had been assembling over the past three weeks, I greeted Becky and asked what was the deal with the chicken.

As it turns out, they were trying to throw a birthday party for their pal 미나.  They wanted two chickens and mashed potatoes and vegetables and a cake and balloons.  But it was 4:30 and the party was supposed to start at 7:00.  I didn't know exactly when Shauna went completely insane, but apparently it was in full bloom.  She had a tiny stovetop oven that could barely fit one of the chickens, and didn't know where to start.  Becky was not much more help, since she didn't seem to have any notion of how to cook Western-style food like this.

Well, we got into action.  I showed them how to rub down a chicken with some spices, rather than just shoving it in the oven, told them how long to cook it, and got it ready.  Then we got to work on balloons while Shauna started chopping vegetables.  I washed potatoes, then returned so they could be chopped and taped up the balloons around the apartment.  Wendy had tried to tape up some of the balloons, but one of them had popped and she was too afraid to really do any more.

Many preparations later, the place was looking ship-shape and a big meal was done - on time!  A few other people had arrived, some of whom I knew, and I was invited to stay for the party.  I think they felt a little guilty at the prospect of me helping get everything ready and then not attend.  I agreed, since it seemed like it would be fun and the birthday girl, 미나, was reportedly very laid-back and didn't seem like she would mind a new person at the party.

As it turns out, it was a lot of fun.  미나 was good to know, and everyone ate and drank and enjoyed themselves.  Oddly, there seem to be relatively few Americans around Yeosu; there was only one other a party with six foreigners.  Canadians and South Africans, instead.

Afterwards, we went out to a bar called 엘러이, a pretty fun place I have been to a few times already.  It's one of two popular "foreigner bars," so the regulars are either wayguk or else people who want to hang out with wayguk.  We hung out there and drank, and mingled with some people whom I am steadily getting to know.  Really, it's a small city.

When that started to get old, there was some discussion, then a few of us piled into a car and drove twenty minutes north to 슨첸, a slightly larger city inland.  슨첸, you see, has the virtue of superior nightclubs.  And a Korean nightclub was something I wanted to see.

As it turns out, they're pretty awesome.  Well, I thought so anyway.  There are rows and rows of tables, without a bar really, which was unusual.  Harried waiters in glitter-covered suitjackets, lit up by glowsticks in their pockets, ushered people around and served beer and fruit to the tables.  The stage was huge, with big light-works along the back that flashed on and off in patterns or strobed in time to the music.  The music itself changed every two minutes, as the DJ (playing on a turntable lowered from the ceiling) cut into each song to try to seamlessly segue into the next.  They would alternate with a couple of fast dance sessions - everyone out on the dance floor, shuffling and jiving - and then they would do one slow dance.  The slow dances generally had only one or two couples out there, and most people seemed to view them as just changes to rest.

Every half hour or so, they had a floor show on the stage with dancers.  We were there for just under an hour and a half, so I got to see three of them, and they were all different.  The first was just a trio of dancers on the stage, dancing along with perfect synchronicity to the music that was playing.  It was pretty impressive, but they had some amateur rivals in the audience with a group of teenaged "b-boy" dancers who clearly spent way too much time practicing.  The second show was one of the female dancers in a string bikini, dancing to a slower song under a big shower-contraption that they wheeled out onto the stage.  It was pretty damn hot, and a little funny when she put on a frumpy flowered housecoat after the song was over and scurried off the stage, naked butt bobbing.  The third show was a full band of eight people that alternated between either playing songs or pretending to play songs, and they were just okay.

At some point, I just burst out into laughter when I thought about where I was a year ago.  Could I ever have fathomed myself watching a girl shower on stage in a Korean nightclub?  Seems a little far-fetched.  Even now, although I just saw it yesterday.

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