Fun Swing in Korea!

June 6, 2009 § 2 Comments

It’s 5:30 am and I just got back from the most fun I have had in Korea thus far.  The night started at 6:00pm when I got ready and left to meet some fellow swing dancers for dinner and dancing.  One stop after I got onto the subway, I wasted about thirty minutes walking around, unable to find the correct transfer.  If you come to Korea, I suggest you never take the subway around 6-7pm.  Because I was so late, I ended up just getting a ride with someone.

Swing dancing is amazing at how it brings people together.  In my experience, swing dancers are so open to exchange, friendly, and generally good people.  I got in touch with some dancers in Korea while I was in the States and yesterday was my first time meeting them in person.  I thought it might be kind of awkward at first but after an hour or so, I felt like I had known them for years!  They were so funny and nice!  There were also some pretty hilarious moments yesterday.  If you go to Korea I highly suggest you contact Min-Q (let me know and I will give you his contact info).  He is a very well traveled, funny, interesting person and there shouldn’t be any language barrier if you speak English or Korean.

I met up with Min-Q and we went to meet up with some other swing dancers, three of whom were visiting from Japan.  Everyone was so nice and cute and it was fun just watching them interact.  During dinner, I heard a lot about another dancer named Adamas (In Korea, the swing dancers all have nicknames.. kind of like the Ultimate frisbee team at UCSD) and how he had a fan club in Japan because of his dancing.  Yumi-chan from Japan kept on giggling whenever anyone would mention his name and it became apparent that she was a fan.  At dinner I met Takeshi-san, Midori-san, Min-Q oppa, Kkotsuni unni, and Neoshin unni.  Kkotsuni and Neoshin are both nicknames (those names would be quite odd in Korea if they were real).

After dinner we went to a swing bar.  I don’t even remember what it was called but it is very close to Dangsan station.  There are FIFTEEN swing bars in Korea!  And they are different from the States in that they are open almost every night.

Swing dancing in Korea with a live band

Swing dancing in Korea with a live band

You can’t really tell from this picture but there were A LOT of people.  It was really crowded.  Apparently this is not one of the better swing clubs but we went there because they had a live band that night.  I’m so glad I got to learn so much more about the Korean, and general Asian, swing dance scene.  Most of the dancers are local and most people know how to dance Lindy, East Coast, Balboa, and Blues.  Also, all the leads I danced with last night were very decent.  Min-Q oppa said that Korea is different in that there is not a big difference between the best swing dancer and worst swing dancer.  Everyones level is about the middle, unlike America where you have champions and complete newbies out on the same dance floor.  I was pleasantly surprised by the good, consistent dancers there.  I felt bad because it was the first time I was dancing since my knee injury and I was so out of practice.  =(  In Korea everyone bows and greets their partners before and after the dance.  It’s like in Spain where they kiss on the cheek twice.  Haha, those two sentences reflect so much about the two different cultures:  Korea-bow, Spain-kiss. It was really awkward dancing blues with complete strangers (I don’t even do that in America) but I just sucked it up and then ran away next time during the bluesy songs.  =)

Anyway, I finally got to meet the famed Adamas at the swing club (they call them bars here though so don’t get confused if they say you are going to a bar).  It was hilarious because right off the bat he asked me why I was calling Min-Q, oppa instead of ajusshi (referring to his older age).  In Korea you usually refer to someone with a generic term like older brother (oppa), sister (unni), uncle (samchoon), aunt (eemo), middle aged lady (ajumma), or middle aged man (ajusshi).  People will also refer to elders as mother, father, grandma, or grandpa if they are the age of their own parents, etc.

WAIT A TICK! I have to write this. I RECENTLY FOUND OUT THAT I AM 23 IN KOREA!!!!  I lost two years of my life in zero seconds.  -_-  In Korea, you age at the beginning of the year (some people use the lunar calendar, others use the western calendar) and you also start out at age 1 when you are born.  My brother said that the reason everyone ages at the same time is so that if you are hanging out with your friends and you are all born the same year, you can do the same things like drink or watch movies without having to wait until your actual birthdays.  Because my birthday is in July, I am still 21 in America but have aged to 23 in Korea.  =(

Anyway, even though I am “23,” I am still younger than all the people I hung out with yesterday.  There were people who were only a few years older than me to people with ~15 year gaps.  However, even though thats not strange at all in the Bay area lindy scene, it was weird here because Korea is a very age-centric culture.  You have to be more respectful to older people and speak to them formally and in general treat them a little better.

Anyway back to last night.  Adamas oppa kept on telling me to call Min-Q, ajusshi.  But Min-Q oppa was like, “PLEASE, DON’T call me ajusshi” so I just called both of them oppa.  Everyone that I met was so nice and they were so sweet to the guests (Midori-san, Takeshi-san, Yumi-chan, me).  They wouldn’t let us pay for anything the whole night!  During the dance, we went out to a convenience store across the street where some of the oppas and unnis drank some beer.  They asked me if I wanted any but I said I don’t drink so they told me to pick an ice cream instead.  =D  Adamas oppa paid for all of that and thus I was inducted into the Adamas fan club.  Min-Q oppa said the ice cream only constituted three hours of fandom though so at 1 am I left the fan club temporarily.

Yesterday I also got to go to a towing garage!  Min-Q oppa accidently parked in a non-parking zone and so his car got towed so I followed him to the garage to see what it was like.  In Korea, ticket fees are not too high but in exchange, you get a lot of them. I thought it would be a couple hundred dollars to get the car out but it was only about $50.  It was exciting seeing a real tow lot! It was also interesting because I found out that not all people bow and greet other in Korea.  I was always taught to do that to anyone older or new but in Korea they usually greet the person when they leave, and not meet.  Korea has kind of the janitor mentality in that you don’t formally greet people who are on the job.  The towing garage ajusshi said that I was the first person who ever greeted him in all the years he worked there and then went on to say how young people nowadays in Korea have no manners.  Hehe.

After dancing we went to eat fatty pork neck, which is the much more delicious alternative to pork belly.  It was my first time eating it and it was REALLY good.  We went to a place in Hongdae which I never actually learned the name of but I took a picture so look for this lady. lol.

Pork neck restaurant

Pork neck restaurant

Pork neck... mmmmm

Pork neck... mmmmm

Link unni (again, nickname) taught me how to eat it and what sauces to dip it in.  All the visitors from Japan called her Link sensai because she kept on teaching us about the area and food.  The general atmosphere was so lively and fun and it was refreshing for me to see real Korean people under the age of 50 interacting and having fun.  Again, even though I had just met them that night, I felt like I had known them for ages.  Thats just how comfortable they make you feel.  There were a lot more unnis and oppas eating with us after dancing but unfortunately I don’t remember all their names.  I only remember Bakka oppa and another unni who went with us to the BB hotel.

Alright, so BB is Min-Q oppa’s nickname and he hosts so many foreign swing dancers that his apartment is called the BB hotel.  After eating the pork neck we decided to go to the BB hotel where people planned on drinking.  I had always heard about 일차,이차,삼차 (basically, first stop, second stop, third stop) where people hang out all night and go home ridiculously late and I was eager to experience it for myself.

I think I wrote a little about drinking in Korea and how ubiqutous it is but I have to say, they are also very understanding and do not pressure you if you choose not to drink.  I mean at first they teased me a bit but not for too long and not very intensely either.  They teased me more for my childlike habits and major pwnage when I went to shake someone’s hand but he didn’t see me and I tried to play it off but Min-Q oppa saw the whole thing and told everyone about it.  lol.  That sentence was so grammatically wrong but I’m not going to bother fixing it.

Some of the unnis and oppas stopped by a convenience store and bought some juice and alcohol and snacks and brought it back to the BB hotel.  There we just sat and chatted and made jokes until everyone pooped out.  We started talking about boshintang (dog meat stew) and Min-Q oppa said that he loves dogs but had to eat it one time because it was at a job interview and how it was really disturbing for him.  Adamas oppa asked me if I ever tried it and if I was open to it and I said that I was.  He knew that I liked dogs and asked if I would be okay and I said, “밥은밥이잖아요” which basically means, food is food.  Everyone burst out laughing and I couldn’t understand why until Neoshin unni basically said that in that one very simple sentence I had described it so accurately.  I think they were laughing because it was so obvious and the sentence structure was so elementary though.  =(  Oh!  My brother told me a sad story of how his girlfriend’s dad gave a dog to a friend as a gift but the friend ended up selling the dog to a boshintang restaurant.  =(  My brother says he doesn’t eat it anymore because he used to think that the dogs were farmed for food but then found out that they just take any old dog and cook it.  I don’t know if I would eat it regularly but I am open to trying it at least once.  No matter how much crap an animal eats, as long as its not diseased, the meat should be okay.  When I went to Longley Way we had some chickens that ate the nastiest things (even cooked chicken) but apparently they were okay to eat.  I just realized that it is a very similar story to the one my brother told me.  When I was in elementary school we raised chicks in my backyard but when we moved we had to give the grown chickens and roosters away.  I was horrified when I found out that one of the people we gave some chickens to, cooked and ate them.  Blah, brings back bad memories.

I wanted to catalogue this night so much more accurately and in detail but I have to get up and get ready to go out again so I’m going to do the things I missed in bullet points.  Today should be fun because I am meeting up and doing some sight-seeing with some people I met yesterday and then I am meeting my Jungwoo oppa for dinner and then maybe meeting up with the swing people again to go dance tonight.

Funny/Random moments and New Things Learned:

  • Much like “don’t count your eggs before they hatch,” there is a Korean phrase that is basically, “don’t drink your kimchi soup first.”  This came up when Adamas oppa kept on saying how I had such good manners and that my parents must have raised me well to be so respectful and that I was a good kid and that there weren’t any girls like me in Korea when Link unni said, “why don’t you just date her then” and he was like, “heck no, she’s way too young” and then I said, “I have a boyfriend,” and he turned to me and said,”I DIDN’T ASK, don’t drink your kimchi soup first.”  I hope that exchange makes sense.  lol.  It’s very early right now.  x_x
  • I am now a member of both the Min-Q and Adamas fan clubs.  Adamas oppa said he would buy me ice cream until my stomach bursts.  =)
  • Apparently the subways in Shanghai and Tokyo are way worse than Seoul.  Ah, I am not looking forward to that.
  • All the swing dancers at the bar I went to had a separate pair of swing shoes.  That’s pretty normal in the States but for some reason I didn’t expect it here.
  • Adamas oppa went to the Frankie Manning workshop in New York a couple weeks ago and Min-Q oppa went to Boogie by the Bay three years ago!
  • There are two swing dance weekends/camps coming up, one in Pusan and one in Jeju Island that I am VERY tempted to come back to Korea for but I doubt I will be able to.
  • Peach yogurtu (aka Milkiss-a certain drink) is good for drinking with spicy foods.  And mixing with soju to make a “Korean cocktail.”
  • They sell pigs feet in to-go packs!

    Pig's feet

    Pig's feet


§ 2 Responses to Fun Swing in Korea!

  • Caroline says:

    At first glance, I decided to skip this entry and just look @ the pictures. Second attempt, I read up to the part where you mention that swing dance people are genuinely nice people and gave up.

    Did read the random things learned today. You need to come back to Los Angeles b/c I think living in Berkeley jaded your Koreaness. B/C about 50% of those you list can be learned here.

    Have fun. When and where’s your next stop. And please when you visit Tokyo can you take a picture with one of those gothic street people.

  • Laura says:

    This is funny. I’m surprised you went out of your way to make Korean swing dancer friends. I’m glad you’re having fun with them. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL
    Yujung thinks boys in Korea are going to like you a lot since you’re cute. As your seester, I have to say…I’m still a bit skeptical of your cuteness.
    Sibling rivalry? piShaw!!!

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