Sunday, June 01, 2008

Korean Baseball and My Birthday

Sporting events in Korea are always fun to go to. One of Heather's new colleagues got us tickets to a Busan vs. Seoul game so we set out for the stadium on the weekend. This was also where they held some of the games for the 2002 World Cup.

I'm not particularly interested in baseball (although I used to play the old T-ball in elementary school), but I like going to games here. The atmosphere is always very lively and beer is cheap. Ajummas will walk through the crowds selling everything from ice-cream and dried squid to kim-bab and fried chicken.

The crowds are also interesting. At public performances, or at sporting events like these, Korean audiences will always get very involved and see themselves as more than just spectators. Here's a video of the game, showing some of the pom-poms that they make from ripped up newspaper. Heather taught me how to make one too.

Another common occurrence in Busan is that someone will start handing out a lot of orange shopping bags that will get passed through the crowd. People will then fill them with air and tie them onto their heads. Nobody really knows why.

Before long, the stadium is a sea of inflated shopping bags. Each popular baseball player for the home team also has a catchy song that the crowd will sing when they make an appearance. The Busan team ended up losing, but the crowd was defiant until the end.

It was also my birthday the other week, which kind of crept up on me. I've been keeping myself busy as usual and it was only until the week before that I realised I'd be turning 26 fairly soon. On Friday I invited some friends over and we celebrated until the morning.

Some jovial spirits enjoying the mood. These are CDI administration staff from the Gwangan branch.

When the merriment has gone a little too far, it's time to mop up drink spillages with some good old toilet paper. Most houses in Korea have vinyl floors rather than carpet, making cleaning a lot easier.

These are all people I work with. Of particular note is Cassie, in the blue jacket, who I've promised to mention on the blog. Sometimes she teaches me Korean, but most of the time we just talk about the intricate politics of our workplace. Hi Cassie!

On the left is my new flatmate, Maya, getting her hair braided by the ever-talented Jef. Maya is very clever and has been accepted to Harvard medical school, a feat that she modestly downplays whenever you mention it.

Jef and Maya are working together at my old branch, Busanjin, and she's filling in for my other flatmate, John Ngo, while he takes a long vacation to Thailand. He's got his own blog now too, which I've added to my links list on the right.

Logan had been hatching an idea in his head for the past few months. The idea was to get a whole bunch of people down to the cemented river area near Pusan National University and drink makkoli together during the day.

Makkoli is unfiltered rice wine that tastes rather sweet and costs about one dollar per litre. Sometimes it's wonderful and sometimes it isn't. We poured it into a big teapot that Alice named 'Big'. She's a beginner in English and it was the first thing she exclaimed when she saw it.

It kicked off at around 3pm but the gathering slowly increased in size as text messages were pinged around the city. There's Alice on the right, who we went to Jinhae with. Alice wants to live in Australia, which is apparently becoming the new favourite destination for a lot of international students.

Before long, the sound of catch-up chatter and the smell of abundant makkoli attracted some uninvited characters. They were welcomed anyway, and were soon supplied with their own cup of the devil's milk.

Then it was time for some Twister. We'd forgotten the official rules for the game but came up with our own.

We drank until nightfall and then went and ate Turkish food. It was an interesting day, but then again whenever daytime drinking is involved it always is.

Recently my age-old friend from Australia, Daniel Pak arrived to join our company. He had been in Canada for a while but decided to come over when his old job turned out to be less exciting than initially expected. Welcome to Busan, buddy!

We took him out to the Fuzzy Navel bar in Seomyeon. Bars in Korea will always serve interesting side dishes like curried popcorn or these deep-fried spaghetti sticks. They're surprisingly addictive.

Also on the menu were some of my old favourites, deep-fried cheesesticks. They're basically sticks of cheese that have been fried in breadcrumbs.

Bartenders in Korea often have a few tricks up their sleeves. They used to do this kind of thing at the New York Bar before it closed down.

Here's a video of the action. At the end what he's doing is lighting up a stack of glasses filled with spirits. Someone later drank them with a straw.

After that we went to another place. It was all a little too much for poor old Maya, who had a ten minute power nap and then felt like eating ice-cream.

It was also Buddha's birthday not so long ago. A lot of colored lanterns wishing for good fortune were hung up around the city.

We went for a hike on the weekend up near the Busanjin branch. This is the driveway to a temple that's located halfway up the mountain.

I also managed to spot this little fellow on the walk up. He was eating some sort of acorn and dropping a lot of scraps on us.

I've come to learn in Korea that whenever a president is elected, there will always be an anti-president brigade. These guys were holding a protest in downtown Busan, calling for Lee Myung Bak's resignation. I don't know a lot about Korean politics, but I do know that the new president's face looks a little bit like a mouse. That doesn't necessarily make him a bad president though. Or does it?

In equal force were the riot police. There were about two hundred of them surrounding the area. A lot of them are adolescent males who are doing their military service in the police force.

Last week it was the end of the school term and our old branch manager, Julie, said her farewells. In this photo, Claire is pouring her a farewell Coke fountain.

These days our work dinners are on a much larger scale. We now have 23 staff in total.

Here are some new faces and some old ones at our branch. On the bottom right is our new branch manager, Charlie.

After dinner we went for some karaoke over the road. Here's Michelle, Logan and John enjoying the comforts of a king-sized singing room paid for by the company.

The apparent orderly nature present in this photo quietly alludes to the intoxicated festivities that were to occur soon after. It was a good night out and we ended up going through 3 cases of beer. Three cheers for work dinners!

That's all from me this time. I'm in the process of negotiating my third contract year with the same company here in Busan. It's been good living here and I'm happier than I ever expected. Come and join us sometime.



Sarah先生 said...

Hi there!

I enjoyed looking at the pics. I think they're very interesting, and funny.

You seem to be having so much fun.

Feel free to drop by:

Han Won and Hubby said...

Happy belated Birthday, Lee! Looks like you had a blast! :o)

Maya said...

happy birthday my overly joking not self aware "bareum" expert....

Maya said...

frum SwAnIe PrInCeSs <3

Anonymous said...

As always, loving the photos, Lee. Looking forward to visiting Busan again once more settled wherever TY and I live in Seoul! Also, my theory on the orange plastic bags is that they are protecting their heads in case there is a fly ball. Ha ha...just a theory.

Ang said...

Hi Lee

I left a comment on your prev post asking about CDI's response time.

Just wanted to let you know that... I got a job offer! I was going to work for other summer jobs when I got a response after 3 weeks.

Thanks for answering my Q, and keep blogging! :)

Lee Farrand said...

Hehe cool, congratulations.

Better late than never!