Alright ya’ll…want to know what happens in Korea? Sit down and take notes, because I CANNOT POSSIBLY make this shit up.
After returning to work this week from our holiday vacation, some co-workers and myself decided to wind down the day at a new sushi restaurant on our walk home. Upon being thoroughly confused by the menu, we concurred with our waitress who strongly suggested…something with fish on the menu. Unbeknownst to us, a meal of innumerable courses was to be served, and obviously our waitress felt obligated to demonstrate the proper way to consume all dishes present (including planting wasabi and ginger on our personally-wrapped sushi rolls). Just to clarify, as foreigners, Koreans assume the right to physically intervene with your meal and make adjustments to how you are consuming your food. We, as foreigners, assume this is in our best interest and done out of joy and kindness from our servers (because what choice do we really have?).
Our meal was indeed delicious and worth the un-determined amount of money it would cost us. As we were finishing the last of our courses, I receive a tap on the shoulder from the woman at the table to my right. She struggled to find the words, then said “beautiful!”, as her table nodded to me in agreement. I laughed and thanked them as my co-workers laughed with me (yet were not startled by this intervention). Once the connection of our two parties was made, the conversation from the Korean table increased; the woman who spoke to me first informed me that her male friend was “solo” and flashed me a thumbs up. The man was clearly embarrassed, but that did not keep him from pouring me some white rice wine and initiating a toast.
Their table was a group of four co-workers, two men and two women who were all in their late 30’s (the man I was being betrothed to was 39, for the record). When I announced that I was only 24, there was a united caw, yet no discouragement. They proceeded to send us a round of sake, more rice wine, and pick up our check.
"Do you have schedule now?", they asked us. We replied no, and were invited to join them to sing at a Nori Bong. For those you who are not aware of the magical creation of Nori Bongs, let me enlighten you. A Nori Bong is a private room with a large screen and a karaoke machine where groups join to get plastered and sing like it’s their job. None of us had been yet, so we accepted this invitation. Honestly, saying no wasn’t an option…
So, at 7:30 on a Friday night, with a light buzz, we accompanied our new Korean friends to the Nori Bong just a few floors above the restaurant. Not a minute after we were escorted to our private room, cans of Cass were served to the seven of us, and the television screen lit up with animated Korean dancers and song suggestions. We continued to drink and converse in broken languages, all while singing Korean ballads and American pop songs. A few ” I love you” confessions floated around and some exchanged information occurred, while my new middle-aged fiancé drank one too many cheap beers next to me. Every few songs were were all ushered to stand up and link arms to sing in harmony (well… in unison). We could not keep from smiling the entire night; was this really fucking happening?!
Although there was some mildly-alerting handsiness and pressure from the Korean women to pursue the said handsy 39 year old “solo” man, the night was a crazy, weird, unforgettable, random success. On top of having our bill paid for by these awesome individuals, they gave us the winnings of a Korean vs. Foreigner sing-off that we DID NOT win (we know the results because the karaoke machine gives a score of the singing ability of its users).
At the end of the night after countless toasts and re-introductions, we parted ways with our new friends. Apparently we’re meeting this time next week…