Saturday, September 1, 2007

Introvert--who? me?

I was supposed to have an adventure to downtown Daegu with Gwen yesterday, but the weather sucked very much. It's been alternating between torrential downpour and light drizzle since Tuesday night, with very little let up. Gwen kindly gave me an old umbrella on the first day, which I have since usurped as my own (with her permission, of course), but I have not left the house without it even once.

Disappointed that we couldn't get out downtown and that without a drying rack to put on my balcony yet, doing laundry would be a little pointless, I went out shopping at Nais Mart. I was going to venture further out to E-Mart because I needed some non-grocery items, but I thought I'd see what Nais Mart had first. I'm glad I did! This store is very comprehensive--I got both the scale I needed to work on the weight loss thing more seriously and a cute wallet (it's red and looks like a butterfly) because I left mine back in Maryland. And I got many delicious groceries for this week. At the rate I'm going, I'm going to become a pretty awesome cook over here in Korea. It's much more fun experimenting here--partly because sometimes you buy something not knowing what it is because you can't read the label in Korean! I suppose once I start learning to read the labels, it will be less "exciting" but by then I'll probably just want to finish grocery shopping quickly and get what I want no fuss anyhow.

I got restless later on. I had been so looking forward to going downtown. So I decided to venture off for the evening. Sure, it was raining and I'd never been into the city, even in daylight, but I didn't drag myself halfway around the world to sit in my living room wishing I could be out trying something new! I did a little research online and decided to try to find Thunderbird Lounge in the district near the 삼덕소방서 (sahm-deok-soh-bahng-seo--Samdeok Fire Station), which seems to be where many expats congregate downtown.

I took the subway in. It was the first time I've ever been one of two races on a subway, and the only one of my race in my car (and seemingly on the train). I'm used to subways being the mixing bowl of cities--I think I'm beginning to get an idea now of how homogeneous Korea really is! I've always been around pretty diverse areas, so this is very new. St. Mary's College even feels diverse by comparison.

Despite writing down the directions for myself, it took me a good 40 minutes of wandering around the Rodeo street area to get my bearings enough to find the bar (it was sort of tiny and out of the way, too, so that made it a bit harder). This turned out to be pretty cool, actually, because there was a lot to see and take in. I found all the "Western dining" establishments like Burger King, Dunkin Donuts, and Bennigans and a movie theater that was showing at least one English film (with Korean subtitles, of course!). It was disorienting to hear Justin Timberlake or Neo pumping out of the stores and clubs, mixing with the Korean pop music and neon insanity of it all. I wish the weather had been nice enough for me to photograph because it was kind of like a carnival attraction version of a US downtown--like excessively bright and "trendy" but without as much risk of being shot, offered drugs, or raped in one of the back alleys. Kind of how the "It's a Small World" ride at Disneyworld "represents" the world... So very bizarre.

Anyways, I found the bar. The bartenders were very nice, and I had the "teacher special" which was Canadian Club and Ginger Ale (yummy! Imported goodness!) and met a bunch of cool people from all over the world and played foosball (and lost... but only by one point). While there were a few scary teacher in Korea stereotypes (like the drunk ex-frat boy who got angry at his friend for playing another round of foosball because he'd picked up two "hot Asian chicks" for whatever), it was a much more laid back scene than I expected. Which was good for me because I'm still very shy and nervous about approaching people I don't know, but I do like having friends and meeting people. It was a decent enough place, and I'd be willing to go back there again sometime.

After I left, the real adventure began... getting home! It was around 12:30, so the subway had stopped running. I waved down a few taxis and tried to say the name of the station near my house (cab drivers don't really speak English much here). It's pronounced Shin-Gi, but I was stupidly pronouncing it Shing-ee. Finally, I mentioned Ansim (An-Shim), the district it was near, and found a nice cabbie who nodded and agreed to take me to Singi. He tried to have a conversation with me, but his English was about as good as my Korean, so it was a no-go. He dropped me off somewhere, and I thanked him and paid. The trouble was, it looked like I was still downtown, in the wrong area. I found a sign and located myself and determined I was definitely too far away to walk. So much for the nice cabbie!

I hailed another cab, and this guy seemed about to drive off in frustration at my piss-poor Korean, when I pulled out the paper where I'd written the name of the station in Hanguel. He laughed, corrected my pronunciation and took me there (the right place this time). My detour cost me time and a few extra thousand won, but I got home just fine--all by myself!

I deem this evening to be one small step for me, one giant leap for introverts everywhere. Or something.


  1. heh heh - that kind of taxi misadventure happened to me all the time on my first trip here in '01. eventually you'll get the hang of it. also, sometimes you'll find that taxi drivers downtown aren't that familiar w/ the outlying areas, so you might have to tell them Ansim, Gaksan, Banyawol, Singi in order to get them going the right direction!

  2. Thanks for the tip! I had planned to leave in time to catch the subway back, but I took so long to find the place I would have had to leave as soon as I got there. Fortunately, I bothered to write down the station name or Gwen might have gotten a random call in the middle of the night...



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