Sunday, August 30, 2009

Frank post about alcohol. Don't think I'm an alcoholic, grandma

Considering my last melodramatic mini-post, I feel like I need to explain a few things about Korea, and booze, and me boozing in Korea.

Most of you probably know that I'm not a big drinker, in that I don't particularly relish getting drunk to the point of not remembering things.

I am a drinker, however, in that I love gin, wine, cocktails, beer--there's really no alcohol I don't like or refuse to drink. I like parties, I like drinking with meals, and I like happy hour. But I really am a one (or on occasionally, two) drink per evening kind of girl. Save the occasional rough day at school/work, nothing really prompts me to think to myself, "I wish I was so drunk the entire room was spinning and I was slurring my words" frequently. I'm a fan of the comfortable buzz that comes with drinking, not the raging headache/inevitable lethargy that comes with drinking too much. And anyone that has drunk with me will tell you that I am a terribly responsible/prudish drinker. I am the girl who has one cocktail at the beginning of the evening, then drives her too-drunk friends through the drive-through of the fast-food restaurant of their choosing four hours later.

That said, things have been different here in Korea. Suddenly, I have been thrown into a culture where absurd crunkness is the norm. Why is Korea so crazy for the sauce, you might ask?
1) Alcohol is CHEAP. Soju, the local rice spirit, costs about the equivalent of $1 for six drinks of forty-proof alcohol. No wonder most Koreans average about 54 bottles of soju per year: it's almost cheaper than water.
2)Alcohol is EVERYWHERE. Seven-Eleven has a multitude of soju/wine/beer available at all hours of the day.
3) Alcohol is celebrated by those young and old. Adults bring their babies to the bar with them, old men drink outside of the convenience store at three in the afternoon. Whole offices go out for booze-fueled dinners which last for HOURS.

Which brings me to this past Friday night. As a way to legitimize not paying their employees overtime for teaching extra classes favor to us, the owners of our hagwan (Korean private school) decided to take us out for a company dinner on Friday. They payed for everything: all of the expensive roasted duck and we could eat/all of the beer/soju we could drink.



So there was already some pressure to really makes our bosses wish they had paid us overtime take advantage of the Lee's hospitality. Did I also mention that when a superior offers you more alcohol in Korea, it's considered supremely rude to decline a refill? Of course, I ended up sitting directly across from Mr. Lee at dinner, who seemed to be waiting with baited breath for my shot glass of soju to be empty so he could immediately refill it. Needless to say, after three shots of soju each, Mr. Lee(who speaks not a lick of English, mind you) was telling me (vis a vis English-speaking manager Michael) that he wanted to be like a father to me in Korea, and I was shouting back at Michael "TELL HIM WE WILL BE HIS AMERICAN/CANADIAN CHILDREN." My soju cup continued to be refilled by Mr. Lee, who leaned upon my co-worker Katherine for support and wrapped his arms around her for scores of pictures that someone kept taking. As I took each shot of booze from Mr. Lee, all I could think (absurdly, I know) was he'snotthebossofmethisdoesn'tcomeclosetowhatheowesmeinovertime.

Needless to say, it was the drunkest I've been in Korea. After what seemed like an eternity at the duck restaurant, the party moved to our local noraebang, where I preformed what I thought was a pitch perfect version of the Cranberries "Zombie". Also, I screamed along to the hook of Puff Daddy's "I'll Be Missing You" with Michael.

Though it was a fun night, I woke up the next morning feeling way bummed. Alcohol is a depressant, and I know I just can't continue to drink four nights a week and simultaneously be a functioning, happy member of society: my body chemistry just doesn't work that way. I become mopey and pathetic and insufferable. So new rule for me: one crazy night of drinking per week, max. For all other alcoholic occasions: one to two drinks, then I'm switching to mul (water).

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