December was quite the month for celebrating and in ways I’ve never experience before: another birthday bash, Hanukkah, and Christmas.
Daegu tends to be the popular spot for birthdays (given the province that I’m in), so that’s where I headed to meet up with some friends for this birthday. There were a lot of new faces and most of them will remain just faces. ^.^ Well anyway, we went to an excellent Korean BBQ where we ate amazing and delicious Sam-gyeop-sal (fatty pig belly-nom nom). There were 4 tables stacked as one and I was in charge of cooking the meat at my table: I blame it on boys being lazy, but I got the best pieces because I had 1st access. Mwahaha. After the delicious dinner, we went to a bar for some alcoholic refreshments and then headed to a club. Korean clubs are SO much different from America clubs but they do play some American music. Lol. The dancing and club were great until the birthday boy and another guy in the party got sucker-punched by some Koreans for no apparent reason. So after the boys cooled down we headed to a bar and many of us left for the night after about an hour (it was almost 4am).
I’m not Jewish and my knowledge of Hanukkah has been acquired through books and movies. This year was my first year to actually learn more about the holiday and to watch someone perform the lighting of the menorah. I got to hear the background story to the holiday, which is about a miracle when the Jews needed oil for the menorah (for a temple cleansing) but there was only enough for one day and it would take 8 days to get more oil. The great miracle was that the oil lasted 8 days; long enough for the new oil to arrive. As it has been reiterated to me by several Jews, Hanukkah is not a very important holiday but it is a holiday nonetheless.
As I’ve said before, if there’s a party or gathering of foreigners…it’s probably going to be in Daegu. So this is where I headed for the 2nd time in December. The party was going to be originally for foreigners with a gift exchange. Apparently, the host got drunk and decided to also invite a bunch of Koreans from an English club (basically Koreans get together to practice English). Therefore, walking into the ‘large’ apartment (3 bedrooms but only 1 of them was open for the party) with about 30 people was quite a surprise. There was very little walking space when we were all sitting on the floor. About 50 people probably came to attend (some people left early and some people came late—the place was crowded pretty much the entire time). Anyway, this was one of the most bizarre celebrations I’d ever been to.
The main host, who is English, didn’t exactly ‘host’ the party; one of the Koreans (who gave himself the English name Stylish) was the one who organized games and activities for everyone to do. There was a game with a Pepero stick (a Korean version of the Japanese Pocky stick) where you passed it off from one person to the next down a line with no hands-just your mouth—competing against another team. There was also a drinking game (in a line) where one takes a shot, then the next, etc. Then some balloons were busted out—some that were your normal round balloons and then quite a few elongated balloons (kind of like what you can use to make animal balloons) which were ribbed and about 2 feet long when blown up. So there was a sort of game of using your bat-like balloon to keep the round ones in the air and then the game turned into hitting people with balloons. Turkey was ordered for dinner which was a new experience for the Koreans (turkey is very expensive, available only in cities, and most Koreans never eat it). There was also a Korean soup-type dish served with it (ddeokbokki 떡볶이). After dinner, everyone did a card exchange (pick a person and write a message on a Christmas card); the host picked me and I picked a Korean that I had just met who was a very nice guy (Gi Hyeok 기혁). Only about 10 of us participated in the “white elephant” gift exchange which was okay—I ended up with a USB wall adapter (and I use it! So far I’ve charged my kindle and iPod on it a couple times.)
Most of the Koreans left by 11pm, so the remaining foreigners (about 14 of us) decided to go to a bar. We had to take a subway to get downtown and BOY WAS IT COLD OUTSIDE! The bar was pretty cold too, but we all sat around a huge table and in the table was ice with a variety of beers/wine coolers in it. Most of them ordered and split just big pitchers of beer. When we left, I nominated myself in charge of taking to the total and dividing the bill amongst us (I think because I was probably the most sober). After that, we headed to a club…because well one of the foreigners who joined us at the bar kept saying that he wanted to go to a club until he got everyone’s attention. Lol. The club was, again, a lot of fun, but I ended up leaving earlier than most of the foreigners but it was already 3am, about 15 degrees outside, and I still had to walk about a quarter of a mile to get to my hotel.