The Blues Bar

"It's 106 miles to Chicago, we've got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses. "
The Blues Brothers

So it's creeping up on 5am, and I'm in a PC room (Konglish for "Internet Cafe").    I've no money, besides the thousand won (86cent) I used to get into this place.    I have no idea where I am, besides being in Korea's second city, Busan.    I've lost my friends, I'm more than mildly drunk, but I've no idea what to do now.

How did I get here?    The night started well with a trip out of our "countryside" city of Changwon and down to the comparatively cosmopolitan metropolis of Busan.    We stopped in at a Korean restaurant in a fashionable part of town, had fantastic food, met some nice people at the table next to us.    Well, they were Canadain, but perfectly nice.    Despite this:
I'm quitting my Hogwon (school) job even though I have only two months left in my contract.
Because I have exciting things to do with my life.
Like what?!? ("exciting things" - typically Canadian)
We're going to cycle our tandem bicycle from Vladivostok to Madrid.
This in such a matter-of-fact tone that it makes my own pie-in-the-sky plans to hike the Appalachian Trail seem positively realistic. :-)

Then off to a Blues Cafe for an open mike night of poetry and music.    Unfortunately, as I entered the bar and made myself comfortable the guy on stage dressed head to toe in black leather - and topped it all off with a nice black beret.    His "poem", was more like performance art than anything I'd recognise as poetry.    From imperfect memory, he seemed to drone somthing like this: The Wall, The Wall... it is The Wall.    We face it, we face away, we all have walls.    Then he hit the wall, then walked off.

However, the next few pieces were much better, and I began to relax into it, and not feel pretentious for attending a poetry night in a blues cafe.    Some of the poems or "prose poems" (whatever they are), were really entertaining, witty, clever, insightful and just fun to listen to.    My experiences of going out in Changwon revolve around a place called the International Pub , and being in a totally different scene just made me realise how strange life is for us in our cramped little foreigner enclave within Changwon proper.

None of us are living in the real world, and so, naturally enough, none of us are following the rules of the real world.    Two incidents from the people I met tonight reminded me of just how bizzare things can get here.   

  • One is that I met a casual acquaintance of mine who I thought had been pretty ill, but who seemed just fine tonight.    I congratulated him on his speedy recovery only to be told that he was still sick, but that he couldn't take any alcohol with the course of antibiotics he was on.    Fair enough, he can still have his fun without alcohol.    Nope.    He's off his medication for the three-day weekend, and will start again next Monday.    Afterall, you can get better during the week, but the weekend's the weekend, and he's drinking.    No one else at the table seemed to think this behaviour insane.

  • Later, at another table, I was talking to some friends when another guy arrived and it turns out I'd been sitting in his seat whilst he was off in the restrooms.    "Ah!", I said, not entirely trustingly, "So how come you're carrying that huge heavy bag with you?    Did you need to bring that to the bathroom with you?"    Nope.    It turns out that back at his apartment he somehow broke the top of his toilet's cistern in half.    So in the club, inspiration struck.    He emptied the contents of his backpack into his friends bag, and then went to the washrooms with his empty bag... took the top off one of the toilets, and carried it back with him to the bar.    Ah yes, of course, why didn't I think of that?   
Perfectly normal!    Or at least it is from the make-believe world of some english teachers in Korea.    Not that back home people are totally adverse to ridiculous consumption of alchool, and not that strange things don't happen in such circumstances, but at least back home they are still regarded as strange.    Also, I'm in no position to criticise.    There were shots of soju (korean... vodka? I guess) being consumed by me as well as the rest of the gang, and by the time we fell out of the Jazz club and into the dance club we were feeling pretty merry.   

Inside another surprise.    Back home (eh, in Changwon that is), if I see an unfamiliar foreigner on the street I'll go over and say hello and introduce myself and maybe help the newcomer out with whatever they're trying to do.    It's a small community and everyone knows everyone else pretty much, and least know them by sight or reputation if not by name.    In the dance club it was like the IP, but on a grand scale.    Foreigners everywhere.    Indians, blacks, Europeans, Ozzies, Americans, the lot.    No one was being especially social to anyone else just because they were also foreign.    It was like being in a club back home.    You might run into someone you know but generally you just end up hanging around with the people you came along with.    It was great just getting lost in that sea of foreign faces and relaxing in an out-of-Korea experience.    Don't get me wrong, I love Korea, but a little escapism never hurts.    Then the ultimate in escapism...

Somehow amidst the noise and the babble of conversation I heard a familiar accent.    An Irish girl was sitting at the next table, talking to her Irish friends.    "It's good to touch the green green grass of home", especially considering that this is the closest I'll come to St. Patricks's Day.    And who was the girl?    The same girl I ran into last weekend in Seoul on a DMZ tour.    It's a small little world, especially when her friend turns out to be from a little seaside fishing village whose beach I used to cycle out to when I was a kid.    I decided I'd have my own little St. Patrick's Day festival right there and then.   

After some chatter we went dancing.    Now I can't dance well at all, but with plenty of enthusiasm I was out there for a little while certainly.    I haven't said anything about Korean girls in my diary entries yet, but oh my god, if you took the bunch that were there tonight and transplanted thm to a club back home.. they'd have to beat the guys off with sticks.    Koreans are traditionally very slim, and it suits them.    Plus the clothes they were wearing - well, Korea didn't seem like such a conservative country at all.    The Soju must have been stronger than I thought because I actually found myself having to resist the urge to dance with them.    In the end I was content to simply gaze in admiration - or hopefully a stealthy version of a lustful gaze, but I doubt it was too covert.    I don't want to sound like a total male pig, but, to be honest, they were hot!

There was a lot of dancing and then I went to find the friends I'd come with.    Despite looking around for ages, I couldn't seem to find them at all, so I just went back to the Irish I'd met.    Typically, they'd disappeared, like the useless Irish individuals they were, and so I was left on my own.    No problem, just gotta retrieve my bag.    It's been taken by my teacher friends who must have assumed I'd already left and forgotten it.    This is the bag with my bank card in it.   

It's after five in the morning, I've a few pence in my pockets, and a beer glass too (?), and I'm sitting in a PC room wondering what the hell to do next.    Learn not to drink so much, and co-ordinate with my friends better in the future I guess.    Still, I've derived some little satisfaction from the fact that I've typed this whilst drunk, and I'm living such a sober life here, I reckon one drunken night doesn't hurt - especially since I avoided ending up in a Noribang (karioke).    Best of all that quote from the Blues Brothers struck me as I was walking around wondering what to do, so now I'm sitting here listening to Blues Brothers music, feeling very pleased with myself, and not at all worried about how to get home.

G'night folks, or as Elwood Blues would say:

Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration, don't fail us now! They're not gonna catch us. We're on a mission from God.


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