Shincheon and dinner in Itaewon

This weekend was all about eating and merriment.  On Saturday I joined some friends for galbi barbeque in Shincheon, one of Seoul’s livelier club and noraebang (karaoke) districts.  One friend celebrated his birthday, and we toasted him with soju and beer over delicious grilled galbi, kimchi, rice, and side dishes.  Galbi (갈비), or Korean barbequed-style pork ribs, is one of Korea’s most popular dishes.  Galbi usually goes hand in hand with bulgogi, or barbequed beef.  We had a number of side dishes to choose from as well as a healthy helping of cabbage kimchi.  I discovered that grilled kimchi is absolutely delicious.  Someone told me that kimchi tastes really good if you put it on the grill for about half a minute.  I grilled both sides of the cabbage and tasted it.  You need to enjoy eating kimchi to appreciate the taste of grilled kimchi–if you do, you’ll love the taste of grilled kimchi.  The meal was one of the best I have eaten since I arrived in Korea.  I was hoping to lose weight while living abroad, but Korean food is much too delicious, and too many activities here seem to center around food.  After our meal we sang "Happy Birthday" to one of our friends and ate some tiramisu cake.  Fun was had by all.

After dinner we headed to Hongdae, another Seoul club district.  We went to M2, one of Seoul’s more popular nightclubs.  I met the manager, a Canadian chap from Victoria, British Columbia.  He’s been instrumental if giving the club a Western feel.  The staff was friendly and appeared to enjoy in the fun despite having to work.  We stayed for awhile, drinking and dancing.  We danced together in a big group.  We tried to invite some locals to join our circle, but no one took us up on our offer.  A couple Korean friends told me that this is because Koreans tend to spend time with friends they know well and are not as open to meeting strangers.  It could be that we were so obviously different as Westerners that we were almost misfits.  The Koreans there may have also been uncomfortable interacting in English.  They apparently assumed that we do not know Korean and that they will have to speak English.  I did have a chance to meet and speak in Korean with a couple of people, including a Korean guy whose English was very good.  Perhaps a nightclub is not the best place for striking up conversations, but it would have been fun to mingle with the locals.  As the club grew more and more crowded with Koreans, we decided to call it a night and went home. 

Tonight I joined a couple of colleagues and their spouses for a Korean dinner in Itaewon.  One colleague arrived from Beijing today and will be here for two weeks; the other I’ve met a couple of times since he arrived from Taipei.  Our dinner consisted primarily of banchan (반잔), or side dishes, and Korean tofu soup.  We drank makkoli (막고리), one of the few Korean alcohols I don’t really enjoy drinking.  (Makkoli is a milky, unprocessed rice alcohol with a bitter, acquired taste.  There are two types of people in this world–those who like drinking makkoli and those who do not)  I wasn’t very hungry and didn’t eat much tonight.  I’m happy to meet up with another colleague I knew while living in Washington, D.C.  He has been in Beijing with his wife since early last year.  We had a great time and enjoyed good conversation.  We sat on the floor on mats at a Korean-style table.  Unfortunately, the floor was heated, and it was much too hot for comfort.  I fidgeted the entire time, trying to cool my overheated legs and feet.  I added more mats, but it didn’t help.  I felt like I was sitting on a galbi grill!  Korean-style dining on a heated floor is usually a pleasant experience, but not tonight.

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