It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost exactly two weeks since I touched down in Busan and was escorted to my apartment by my new employer and her sister. Harder still to believe that a month ago I was sunning myself on the beach in Fiji with an ice cold Vonu in hand and the promise of a night’s drinking ahead of me. It couldn’t be much father removed from the icy wind that has been near constant since I arrived in Korea.
My new life here has gotten off to a really positive start. While I am currently battling the arbitrary case of the flu that seems to be Korea’s welcome gift to any newly arrived foreigner, I’ve managed to have a lot of fun and meet dozens of fantastic new people in a pretty small amount of time.
Night One in Busan
My friends here in Korea didn’t give me much time to settle down upon my arrival. A few hours after I’d been left to acclimatize to my new apartment, I met up with my old friend Marilize in Haeundae – Busan’s most famous beach-side suburb and the home of one of its larger night life districts.
A dinner of delicious Korean food was followed by drinks at the newly opened Busan wing of the successful Wolfhound Bar, and after that we headed to the fourteenth floor Rock Bar to watch the Socceroos play Uzbekistan and admire the views of windswept Haeundae beach. Too many beers and far too many jaegarmeister shots were had, and to say I was hungover the following day would be an understatement. I didn’t manage to drag myself out of bed until close to 6pm.
Monday saw me up bright and early for my first day of teaching. With the Korean public schools currently on winter vacation our schedule had moved from the 1pm-8pm I had expected to a more normal (and thus anti-Chris) 9am-5pm schedule. It was tough adjusting to early mornings again after a few weeks of sleeping in, but the enthusiasm and intelligence of my new students meant that the days actually moved by fairly quickly. Having an organized school and intelligent kids is definitely a change to my previous two employers, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the week and a half of teaching I’ve already had.
A week and a half? I’m lucky enough that I arrived just one week before the Korean Lunar New Year, which means I worked a two day week and have now been enjoying some lazy days. I’m back to work on Monday but the 1pm-8pm schedule is far more suited to my nocturnal, occasionally alcoholic existence.
Five Crazy Nights
It’s safe to say that drunk Chris has been rarely sighted since the early days of 2009. Back then I was single and enjoying my return to Gwangju with some of the best wingmen the city had to offer, but it’s fair to state that relationship Chris was considerably less of a party animal.
With my newfound freedom and an aching need to meet new people, I headed out on Friday evening with my neighbor Matt, who is also dealing with a recent break-up and made for a good drinking buddy as we haunted Metal City in Seomyeon. Metal City is nothing like its name might insinuate – more of a sports bar than a metal club. Several beers and several games of darts killed time until the midnight rush brought hordes of foreigners to the bar, and I soon found myself following a pretty Welsh girl and a cheerful American lad from Metal City across to the seedier surrounds of KSU’s Kino Eye.
My first experience with Kino Eye was apparently pretty typical of the place – with an Indonesian man offering to give me a hand-job under the table after I’d rejected his original offer of a bathroom blowjob.
It was 4am by this point and I was headed for home when some other new friends insisted I hop a cab up to Pusan National University in the north of the city. A few hours of drunken karaoke and somek (soju mixed with beer) saw me home with the sunrise, and somewhat doubting my promise to get to Gwangju by the afternoon.
I did make it to Gwangju, but it was a few hours after I’d promised. It was surreal to be playing drinking games with the old crew again – and soon we were at the Speakeasy as if the last two years had barely happened. We were drunkenly bellowing out the words to whatever the DJ cared to play, eyeing off potential cuties to talk to, and making occasional excursions next door to the German Bar to see if it was happening. It wasn’t. Some things have to change.
After the Speakeasy it was time to check out Gwangju’s newest hot spot, the oddly named Bubble Bar. It’s little more than a hole in the wall by the much better sign-posted Soul Train, but its got a friendly staff of English speaking Koreans and seems to be the new place to be. Dancing and mystery shots from my old friend Jae Hie meant I had a good time – and even managed to return home with some digits. I’d consider the evening a great success.
A night off on Sunday and then I found myself back at Kino Eye on Monday night. The break-up has not always been easy for me, and I was lucky enough to have my friends Leanne and Anne meet me at the bar to cheer me up with some conversation and a few too many beers. With a 9am start at work I stumbled home at 3.30 and felt the full force of my stupidity as I sleep-walked through Tuesday’s classes with the knowledge that I’d have five days of sleeping in ahead to make up for the poor decision.
Tuesday found me out at the mysterious ‘cave bar’ in Beomil. Outside of Busan’s better known foreigner haunts (Seomyeon, Haeundae, KSU, and PNU) – the cave bar is in an actual cave, so my belongings didn’t escape the place as dry as they’d gone in. Still, they served up good makali (rice wine) and nice food, and it was a good start to our night before we headed to Thursday Party in nearby KSU. My friend Anne is lucky enough to be friends with the owner of the widespread Thursday Party chain (as well as individual store managers) and so we got the VIP treatment as we sunk beers, played darts and beer pong, and sang ourselves hoarse at the popular Western bar.
Wednesday still found me in bed at 4pm when an online friend texted to see if I could meet her after her friends disappeared, and so I tugged on some clothes and headed down to Seomyeon where our quiet dinner turned into a night of drinks at Metal City to celebrate a friend’s birthday. From there we progressed to Eva’s in KSU (a Western bar offering tacos and poutine) and finished things at a very crowded Ol’ 55. The open mic here in Busan is clearly a lot more popular than its Gwangju equivalent.
My past few days have been substantially quieter. I’ve watched a lot of movies and TV, visited a seaside temple (a separate entry to follow), and basically tried not to make my cold any worse than it is. With tomorrow being the day of my medical check and Ultimate Frisbee a distinct possibility in the afternoon, I might just spend this particular Saturday evening snuggled up in my bed with a few good movies for company.
Busan has been very good to me so far. My new job has been a lot of fun, my new apartment is small but modern, and I’m making new friends far quicker than I’d initially imagined. And while I have my homesick days and my sad days as I deal with the end of a near two year relationship, things are only getting better. I hope the same is true for all of my readers back home in Australia and abroad.