Welcome to my world…
Yayy! We have successfully completed our first week of summer classes and a group of students have organized a celebratory get together at a Korean bar called Tanks. At first, the girls and I were not going to go. The excuses we gave each other was that we were too tired, and more hungry. So we left the dorm at 8:00pm. I was wearing a sweat shirt and some capris sweat pants, Mari was wearing long sweat pants and a cardigan, and Hue was wearing a light North-Face jacket and some running shorts. We already stick out like a sore thumb because we are American, but Korean women typically step out the house as if they were late to a photo shoot. They are fashionable and fabulous no matter where they go, literally.
Any who, we walk to a nice japanese restaurant and enjoy our meal, afterwards we stopped by local beauty shops and I purchased random cosmetics. After we were through shopping we decided to head over to Tanks to show our face and partake in the merriment. We walk into this regular ol bar and the host pointed us towards the back where all the ruckus was taking place. Immediately, I am ready to go, but we keep walking anyway. We see our classmates having a good time, drinking and smoking. Unless restaurants specifically state “do not smoke here”, you are allowed to smoke. We say hi to our friends and someone informs us that “for 10,000 won ($10 USD) you get unlimited beer and (green) soju. I do not drink beer, ever, and I don’t care for green liquids. All of us agree that spending the 10 bucks here was not worth it, so we said bye and head out. Disappointed, we did not want our night to end, Hue says “lets do noraebang!” Which is the korean phrase for karaoke. We skip to one of the many Karaoke places on our current block, pay 20,000 won for an hour and get to singing. Since we all have different tastes in music, we all agreed to stick to songs made in the 90’s and the early 2000s. We were singing the Backstreet Boys, N’sync, Christina Aguilera, Toni Braxton and more. It was not until we all sang “Un-break my heart” (which is my go-to song for karaoke) I was in dire need of some water. So I walk outside our karaoke room, I see two asian men smoking cigarettes sitting on a bench right next to the cashier.
1st Gentleman says: “Where are you from?”
1st Gentleman: “Wooow, where?”
1st Gentleman: “Wooooow really? Please do not get me wrong I am korean, and I love Korea, but why are you here? Do you like Korea?”
I looked at him, smiled and said “ Who me?! I LOVE Korea, there is no place I’d rather be, in fact I LOVE kimchi.”
The Asian man and his friend smiled and laughed and we are all giving high fives to each other.
I turn around and pay for three waters, and then he asks for my name, I said its Vicky. He said “Your name and you are very beautiful.” I thank him give him a slight bow and proceed to my karaoke room.
After our hour was up, we decided to hit up another karaoke bar, this one was far more interactive. We pay our 20,000 won and the cashier handed us three mics. At both Karaoke bars, on the top right hand side of the screen there was a timer that told us how much time we had left on the hour. At the second place, we notice that after every few songs, more time was added back on. I realized if we receive above a 95 out of a 100, they added a couple of minutes to our clock. That amped up the competitiveness in us. We were there for about an hour and a half. At this point there were 5 minutes left on the clock and Hue, decides that she wants to sing “Hero”, by Maria Carey. I said “oh no, her notes are too high for me, this is a solo”. While I sit back and listen to her sing, I pull out my iPad to take a photo and I glanced at the time. Its 1:50 am “OH CRAP!” I said. Hue said “What?! Whats wrong.” “Its 1:50am, we have to go right now”.
Background information- The day we moved into the dorms at SKKU, we all had to sign a contract to abide by the following rules : no overnight guests, no members of the opposite sex in your room, no visitors past 8pm, blah blah blah…, 12:00am curfew Monday thru Thursday, and the weekend, and 2am curfew on Fridays (doors will be locked). Back to the story.
My friends and I quickly returned the mics and start running. From were we were its a 10 to 15 min walk from our dorms. My friends and I got there in five mins. We were running through the streets of South Korea like crazy women in jogging suits, crossing streets dangerously, running in between people, jumping over random objects and such, my heart was racing because I knew that we were late and they would lock the doors and if the door man went home we would have to crash at one the 24 hour coffee shops till 5 in the morning (when they open the doors). We reached the door at exactly at 2:00am, and guess what the doors were locked. I walked outside of the doorman’s office and peaked through the window, and he is collecting his things as if he was ready to leave for the day. I knock on the window really loudly, and he eventually makes his way to the front door, this guy looks pissed, and sleepy as heck. I felt bad, like a teenager who just got caught by their parents because they came home after the street lights came on. That feeling quickly left because I forgot… I am a GROWN woman, in grad school for goodness sakes I have not had a curfew in over 8 years. So I pridefully did my walk of shame to the elevator, and we all start busting out laughing while inside. I told the ladies, “we would have made it in time, if we all sucked at Karaoke.”