Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I'll make him an offer he can't refuse...

I went to a wedding on Sunday. My friend Sonny (the Korean guy who I swap language lessons with) got married in Daegu, a city in the southern part of the country.

I met Betty, one of the bartenders at the place Sonny works, at 9am Sunday morning to go to the wedding with her. I got no idea how to get around this country yet so I still need someone to take me there if I'm leaving Seoul.

Turns out Sonny had a bus rented for his friends in Seoul so the ride was free and really convenient. It took about four hours to get to Daegu and the wedding lasted a little over two hours and then we were back on the bus returning to Seoul.

Weddings here are very different from back in Canada. Sonny got married in a wedding hall, which is typical, so the whole event is rushed and very busy. During the wedding itself, you could hear the all of the commotion from the giant lobby and the ceremony is not nearly as sensitive as a western wedding. Sonny's friends were cheering him on as he walked down the aisle like cheerleaders and everyone else was talking. Very strange.

One cool thing is that when the "wedding" began, Sonny and Ju-mi (his wife) were in a chariot-like cage (hard to describe) about 15 feet in the air. The chariot slowly moved to the back of the hall where the bride and groom came down a set of fancy stairs and then headed down the aisle and tied the knot.

After the ceremony, everyone headed upstairs for dinner, showing our tickets as we walked in the buffet room. I thought the food was good and there was a decent variety but the Koreans I was with said they'd give the food a "C," using the scale "A" to "C."

I thought that was a bit harsh but maybe I'm just getting used to the crappy food at my school. Who knows?

We got back to Seoul at about 8:30 and headed to the Red Dog Bar (Sonny's place of work) for the wedding party. This is where it all started to get interesting.

Once the Koreans got some booze in them they started to talk more English, as usual, and we were soon having a good laugh. One of the guys was doing his mandatory military service and he kinda acted as the slave, cleaning up shit on the bus and clearing empty bottle off the table. Come to think of it, everyone there was particularly diligent in clearing off the tables. It probably had something to do with the fact that 80 percent of the wedding party consisted of bartenders.

But back to the soldier. I learned something very important that night and it went something like this. There are three kinds of people in the world: men, women, and garumbees (or something like that). A garumbee is a soldier.

The guy only had two days left to his service and he seemed quite excited to shed the uniform and everything else that goes along with wearing it.

I soon called my friend Matt and told him he should come out for a few drinks and he arrived about 45 minutes later. By this time I was starting to get drunk because the Koreans were passing around "bombs," which is simply a shot glass of whiskey dropped into a glass of beer, shot glass and all.

And yeah, you gotta drink the thing in one shot.

It was at this time that the quiet, serious looking dude started trying to talk to Matt and me. I don't know his name, but his English wasn't very good. Shin (some Korean dude at the wedding) became our translator and the tough dude was soon telling us that he was a Korean gangster.

The funny thing is that the night before I was online reading about the Korean mafia and then the next night I meet some dude who claims he's a part of it. Crazy.

He was from Ulsan and said his boss was a big mafia man. He never really gave any details but for some reason I believed the dude. He just had that "I don't give a fuck" look in his eyes that most people can't pull off with any conviction.

He was soon tryna get me and Matt to leave the wedding party and go to "his bar." I dunno if he meant he owned the bar or if that was where his "people" hung out so I figured the best thing for me to do was just act confused and not say yes or no.

He was persistent though and I told him I had to stay here at the wedding party at least until Sonny left because I didn't wanna offend my friend. The ggangpae (word for Korean gangster) seemed to respect this and layed off for a while. Loyalty right, that shit's important I suppose?

While I was gone to the bathroom the ggangpae had Matt feeling his muscles to prove how strong he was. He was really hounding Matt to go with him and he even got Matt to pinky swear that he would go to the bar with the ggangpae. Pinking swearing here is some serious shit. Children will lie about just about anything but if you ask them to pinky swear and they don't' do it, you know they're full of shit. I've even heard of some kids who pinky swore claiming they didn't do something and less than a minute after they were crying because they were in fact lying and then they had the balls to pinky swear.

These are just stories I've heard but it makes the pinky swear sound serious so when the ggangpae tried to get me to pinky swear and acted like I didn't understand but Matt went for it.

So as we tore into the night and the party began to slowly thin out the ggangpae was soon at us again to join him at "his bar." I asked a bunch of the other Koreans whether or not we should go with this dude and the consensus answer was no. I dunno if the Koreans just wanted the funny white guys to stay partying with them or if they didn't want us to go with the ggangpae because he was really a ggangpae. It was hard to tell. Mostly they just said "Oh he's really drunk don't go with him."

The ggangpae had a nice suit on and like I've already said, his eyes were made of stone, his face looked hard, and I could definitely see the guy on the Asian version of the Sopranos. Thankfully though, the ggangpae had a little too much to drink and was soon passed out face-down on the bar.

It was at this point when the half-dozen of us who were still around left the Red Dog and headed across the street to a Noribang, also known as a karaoke room. It was now about 3am and yes, I had to work and 8:40 which was quickly approaching. I decided to be semi-responsible and head home at this point and actually attempt to make it work in a few short hours.

I made it home and went straight to bed but when I woke up I was still too drunk to teach so I had to call in sick. Unfortunately, and inconveniently, my cell phone wasn't allowing me to make any outgoing calls so I had to walk to the subway station and call my school on the pay phone to tell them I had diarrhea.

Just in case you didn't already know, diarrhea is the best excuse for getting out of just about anything because no one questions it because everyone’s had to deal with it.

My school was really concerned and I received about half-a-dozen phone calls from various staff at my school, all of them (un)tactfully asking me how I was doing with my diarrhea. My head co-teacher even wanted me to go out for dinner with her after work but I refused because I was cooking dinner when she called. As usual, she was very persistent but I explained to her that I didn't wanna go out and eat Korean food because my stomach still wasn't 100 percent better.

She finally accepted my refusal but insisted that she come visit me after she ate. I couldn't refuse and told her and Kim Dong-sik to swing on by when they were finished. I then had to clean my apartment and do my dishes because my place was kinda a mess.

Seeing I was "sick" and all, I just wanted some peace and quiet but it was not to be. I have to admit I do appreciate her concern at least and she even brought me some bananas, oranges, and some rice soup that is supposed to be good for a stomach ache.

It's still in my fridge.

So my first sick day was a success and I must say that I'm surprised I lasted this long without faking sick. Technically, I had to take the sick day because it probably wouldn't have been a good idea to go to school drunk at 8:40 in the morning. Might give them a slightly bad impression of me.

And to end this post, I have to correct what I learned about there being only three kinds of people in the world. There's actually four.

Men, women, garumbis, and yes, ggangpaes.

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