01 June 2009

Gaming, Drinking and Surfing

It's been a busy, busy weekend. I find that since I started this new job and I'm in a more central neighbourhood, my weekends are pretty full. Almost to the point where going back to work on Monday is a sort of a rest for the next weekend. It makes me happy to be this busy, my health has been improving, I'm gaining back some weight, and I'm getting a lot of fresh air and exercise.
This weekend satisfied both mind and body. Some gaming, some drinking and random nighttime weirdness, and some strenuous physical activity to tear the hell out of me. On Saturday my buddy Frank came down from Pohang, a city up the coast an hour or so by bus. In case I haven't mentioned it before I met Frank via a board game website/forum that I frequent. They have thousands (hundreds of thousands actually) of members and people can contact other gamers in their area to meet and play games. He sent me a "Howdy Neighbour" message when he got to Korea and we arranged to get together for an afternoon of gaming when he was down from Pohang last year. We've gotten together a few times now when he comes down and it's always a good time.
I've been fascinated by all kinds of games since I was a little kid. The artwork, the mental gymnastics and the social interaction involved combine to make gaming one of the most worthwhile hobbies I can think of. If you want to find out more about a game then BoardGameGeek has the information you need. They also have alternative rules, printable rulebooks (for many, not all, games) and other goodies.

Frank and I checked out a neighbourhood board game cafe called Chess. There was a board game craze here a few years ago and there are still a few board game cafes around. You pay an hourly fee of about 1500 won at Chess (which includes a free beverage) and you can play any game in their assortment of games. We played a few that we could easily find English instructions for. Some of the games were European and only had instructions in languages we didn't know. The boxes all have Korean rulebooks (printed from the web) in them. One of the girls working there offered to show us how to play something despite being unable to speak English, which I thought was really sweet but likely to be ultimately frustrating for both groups. So, we stuck to games for which they had English rulebooks. My new co-worker Greg came by after his lunch and played a couple of games with us, it's hard to find many board game nuts in Korea, so it's always nice to get someone new in on the fun.

* * *

Saturday night my friend Lynn and I went out for a night on the town. We ended up in a "Chinese Bar" and drank the better part of a 3 liter pitcher of beer. We were joined by a trio of Korean girls who said they were taking part in some kind of contest. Apparently the contest was "drink the foreigner's beer" because they drank what was left of our pitcher and descended on our hors d'oeuvres like a flock of seagulls. Then they told us they were in high school (students here are in high school 'til they're 19 or so, but it's still illegal for them to drink) and held us hostage for an exhausting hour of "Who Do You Think is Prettiest?". After they left we ran to a little cocktail bar down the road that Lynn liked because it had nice-looking chairs. It was an alright place, I guess, and at least there were no high-school seagull girls to drink our beer and eat our snacks. Had a beer and a few snacky bit and we called it a night.

* * *

Sunday, bloody Sunday. I was hung over a bit from the late night of drinking and hadn't had much sleep. Se-yeong had signed me up for a 'surfing for beginners' thing that the Korea Surfing Federation was sponsoring at Haeundae Beach. Learning to surf is something I've wanted to try for many, many years. I've never bothered to try it before, it just hadn't come up, even though people do surf here.
We hopped on the bus to Haeundae and met up with some of her friends from a college tourism club. I had met some of these folks before, last year when I volunteered to be a Guinea pig for their club trials, although I didn't remember all of them at first. They were probably some of the most laid back, friendly people I've ever met. I hope that I get the chance to hang out with them again soon.

The lesson registration included the wetsuit and board rental: total cost for 2 hours was 5000 won (~ $4CDN). When I get paid again I'm planning to go take a full two day course (100 000 won.) We were given a brief method lesson on the beach and then sent out into the water to paddle around on our boards. I think that I tore a bunch of abdominal muscles during the first half-hour of paddling the board around in the surf, I could actually feel them crunching and popping (I've gotta start going to a gym or something.) but I'm just kinda sore today, nothing too bad, and I won't be doing any surfing for a couple of weeks.

After the first half-hour, one of the instructors called me over to a part of the beach where there was heavier surf, gave me a few instructions, yelled "PADDLE!!" and set me towards the beach on a small wave. After a few runs of this he got me to attempt to stand up, which was moderately successful. I managed to get as far as standing before imstantly wiping out. I asked him a few questions about how long he'd been surfing and stuff. He said it only took him a day or two to learn the basics, which are pretty simple. Balance on a floating thing the size of a big ironing board as it slides ahead of a wave. Easy. Not. I asked him if he had any tips or how I should learn more after having some lessons, he just pointed at the waves said "The ocean will teach you how to surf." I know it sounds corny, like a master to student moment out of a martial arts movie, but he was completely serious and I believe him.

What a hoot it was! I think I probably swallowed a few liters of the Pacific but I haven't done anything that's made me feel quite so alive (and sore) in a while now. Se-yeong took me snowboarding a year and a half ago, which I also found to be quite a rush, but falling on my ass wasn't as much fun as nearly drowning. So, I'm going to go take some more lessons and see how it goes. My instructor told my friends that I was good, and they told me what he said. I didn't really get why but I also realized that they'd only picked a couple of us out for the "paddling down a wave" part. Maybe it's because I was paddling way out into the waves while the others stuck closer to the beach, maybe 'cause I looked like I was having the time of my life (I was, torn rib muscles and all). Some guys like golf, but golf seems more like a really big, really dull board game to me. Now surfing, that's something physical to make you know you're alive (unless you actually drown, I guess.)

After surfing, one of the guys treated us to a hotpot dinner at a Chinese place. Great stuff! They all went drinking after that but I bailed and headed up to my neighbourhood on the bus with Se-yeong, who was headed up there to meet a blind date. I think that if I had gone out I would have had a lot of fun but would have been more busted up today than I am. As it was I fell in bed really early and, aside from waking up from time to time with aching ribs, slept sound as a baby.

Update: Frank said in his last e-mail that he's interested in taking the surfing class, too. I'll keep you posted as to our progress from English teachers to professional beach bums.


  1. You're looking good, and it looks and sounds as though you're enjoying life!! Glad to see you smiling and having fun!! xoxo


  2. Hi sis!

    Yeah, things are pretty good here. Good friends and interesting things to do. Want to see you and Janna next year when I'm home for a holiday. Hope you're enjoying life, too!


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