I lived in Daegu for my year of teaching. I started out knowing exactly zero people and finished the year with more friends than I could make time to hang out with, which brings me to another observation on Korea. If you can’t make friends there you either stink to high hell, look like a murderer or have a truly rancid personality.
The first friend I made was Gyeong-sok, a 28 year-old who was employed with Chungdahm. His job was helping foreigners settle in and it turned out we both liked playing cards so I taught him poker and he taught me go-stop. This led me to become friends with his wife. Then the other foreigner in my office, Mike, invited me down for dinner. He mentioned his project writing a novel so we started a writer’s group which attracted fellow writer Jake from two stories up in the apartment building. Jake introduced me to all his coworkers, among them my good friend Melissa, and his Korean friends, who I befriended. One of them was Hyo-jung. Hyo-jung became one of my best friends and of course introduced me into her social circle. Then I met Kim Yong-woo on the subway. He wanted to open a language academy and thought it would be good to practice on me. I agreed, he taught me Korean and I helped him with his English. This connection led to several private tutoring lessons and acquaintances. Then I had weekly coffee with my Korean coworkers Min-sung, Andrew and Hae-yun. The friendliness grew so intense that after about two months, I had to start cutting people off.
Which brings me to the ladies you’ll encounter in Korea. Daegu, the city I lived, seemed to have only two types. Most were modest, classically good girls who wanted marriage and children and a good education. Then there were the streetwalkers. Some worked in “massage parlors” and some strolled town looking for johns and some made the rounds everyday “delivering coffee” to the businessmen. Of course there were also establishments that combined karaoke and hookers and, I shit you not, barber shops that offered oral sex in addition to hair cuts.
Speaking of vice, Korea’s two most common liquors are soju and mugguli. They are both tasty, they are both 30-40 proof and they both cost about the same as bottled water. To illustrate the potency and attainability of soju let me offer this anecdote, before I left the United States I had never experienced a hangover. By the time I returned I’d worked my way up into the double digits. If you want to be an alcoholic but can’t afford it Korea is the place to go.
All this stuff kept me busy. I regularly had barbeques on the roof, card-nights, norae-bang sessions (think karaoke but in a private room with disco balls on the ceiling), writer’s group meetings and hiking trips. And then of course I got hammered a couple (dozen) times, none of which, I can assure you, involved me applying jujitsu choke holds on my female friends’ frightened love interests.
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