Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Two Halloween Parties and the Nitty Gritty Bath House.

    My Korean teacher, David, asked me to go with him to a party.  I wasn't completely sure what kind of party, in fact I had no idea what kind of party, but I knew it was at an English cafe, so I kind of assumed that it would be like the one where I study.  It wasn't.  This was a mighty fine shindig.  Wine, candles, the whole nine yards.  And only one other foreigner in the whole place :-)
   I was at David's table, obviously, and the rest of his English club came and sat down as well.  This was most of them:

This is Sun, Cho, Jin and a really, really nice lady that every time she said her name the music was so loud I couldn't hear her.  They were really awesome.  David was sitting on the end, and Penny and Jake were sitting next to Sun. 

Everyone in the previous picture, except now David's in the picture too :-)  Say hello to my wonderful Korean teacher!  :-)
The party was really interesting and I had a lot of fun talking to people.  A couple of people told me that they had never talked to a foreigner before and they were really nervous. . .I guess they don't know that I am the shyest person in the whole world :-)  There were a lot of lovely things to see, a live band, a lot of dancing, games, and it was a good time :-)

Then it was time for the regular group to go out.  Lindie had a plan to be the Queen of Hearts, I had no idea about Albert and had less idea about myself.  Here's how we ended up.  Well, first let me tell you, I was helping Lindie get ready and had my back to the door when suddenly I heard a huge thud behind me, Lindie's face was just frozen and in the reflection of the sliding glass door I saw s a fearsome creature that I did not hear come in and I have to admit I freaked out.  Even though I realized it was Albert but still it scared me so much it was ridiculous. :-)  So, before you see the pictures, be warned, he's scary.

First Halloween.  Still giggling off some of the horror from Albert.

Okay, be serious now, Queen of Hearts.

Terrifying, just look at her face.  Is that a terrified face??

That's better.

Time to find all the crazy foreigners!
 So, we did.  We went to the Old Downtown to where they were having a party for the foreigners with live bands and the whole nine yards, and it was crazy there, so many people dressed up as so many things.  I couldn't manage to get a single picture without a scary clown in it, so I will not be posting them here (as they have been deleted and my eyes have been bleached out.)

The next day it was time for a new experience for all of us.  Bath House.

At the English Cafe where Lindie and I study.  Ji Young was getting her stuff together and Lindie and I were freaking out.

As was Albert.  Doesn't that look just scream "what am I getting myself into?"
Now, I understand that I am probably the last person on the entire planet that you would expect to go to a public bath house, much less actually then admit to it or write about it, but seriously, it's an experience that needs to be documented and since it seems to be quite the past time around here, I believe that I need to share it with you.

You may remember when I told you about the showers that we accidentally went into that one time with Elien in Busan.  Well, that's all I could think about when it came to the bath house.  And I was horrified.  So, Lindie, Albert, Ji Young and I headed off down the street to the largest bath house in Ulsan which just so happens to be in our neighborhood.  It was several stories tall (and I am so glad that Lindie and I had a person guide!)  We kicked Albert out to fend for himself after paying our admission and receiving our sauna uniforms, little blue ones for boys and pink ones for girls :-)  Then Albert went to the boys side and the rest of us walked into the girls room.  I would like to say that the first thing that I noticed once we walked into the room was the about 80 degree balmy air (it was literally like there was lotion in the air) but to be honest it was the nakedness just walking around like it was nothing.  Just naked, babies to the elderly, everywhere you looked.  But, just put that to the back of your mind.  It was a huge room.  On one side there were showers where you would sit and wash yourself (or each other as the case may be) on the other side there were several pools, one large jacuzzi, a freezing pool, and a large pool that had large jets blowing gale force winds into people's faces.  We sat in the jacuzzi for a bit and only attracted minimal attention, much to my relief.  Then it was back to the showers before hitting the sauna.  Ji Young handed us these scrubbing mits and we started scrubbing, but we were obviously not scrubbing hard enough and poor Lindie was the first to be made an example of.  I'm pretty sure that she was lucky to still have a tattoo by the end of it, but I know we both ended up losing a lot of skin :-)  And even though it stung like a good thing, my skin feels amazing still two days later.  :-)  So, after the second shower and the skinning it was time to change into our uniforms and find a sauna. 

I love saunas, but I have never seen anything like this before in my life.  We walked out of the huge shower room into the common area which was a quiet and peaceful brown stone room, absolutely huge and complete with a restaurant.   This is where we met up with Albert.  From this common area you could get into a bunch of different sauna rooms, all different temperatures and decorations.  The first one that we went into was breathtaking.  The floors, walls, and ceiling were made up of large slices of bold, polished geodes.  Beautiful!  And the ceiling had some unpolished quartz and geodes as well.  Gorgeous.  We stayed in there for a little while but it wasn't really very warm so we left to find Ji Young's favorite room, the Gold Room.  It was MUCH hotter and had gold flecks on the floor, ceiling and walls.  There was a mat in the middle of the room with little neck supporting pillows and we all conked out to enjoy the warmth.  We were in the for a little while before Ji Young left to get a snack.  She brought back popcicles for all of us, and a big jug of water, and chicken eggs that were roasted on a rock.  These eggs were interesting, they looked like boiled eggs but they weren't they were roasted and that made the white turn brown, they were dryer than boiled eggs and the yolk was delicious.  Those were, however, the greatest popcicles in the whole world, I think it was because we were roasting as well.   :-)  In this room I realized that I lost my locker key somehow. . .it was literally a bracelet and I still have no idea how I lost it, so poor Ji Young went around everywhere with me trying to find it.  And she did, because she's awesome.  Anyway, back to the sauna.  We stayed there and talked about childhoods and different things until we were all sweating pretty good, then we decided it was time to lie on the brown stone floor in the common room for a while, watch TV, and rest. :-)

I'll bet you can't guess what happened after the saunas.  Another shower!  :-)  So it was back to the locker room and back to the showers.  There were several things that we didn't try, but we had a very full experience, I think still.  Interestingly, Lindie and I both really enjoyed ourselves and I'm pretty sure we'll be going back regularly.  It's open 24 hours, so after you pay your $9 admission you could technically spend the night (which I guess people do) which makes it the cheapest hotel ever, and has everything you need!  :-)

So, even though I was incredibly shy, I have to admit that it was a very good experience and a really interesting thing to see.  There were a lot of mothers there with their children, elderly women, cellulite, C-section scars, and every sort of imperfection and no one cared, everyone was just exactly who they were and everyone was just talking and enjoying the relaxing experience of a bath house.  I have to say that I would definitely recommend it at least once (I would never do it at home, but if anyone ever comes to Korea, you should give it a try.  Just remember, if you're ever in doubt of what to do next, take a shower :-)

Obviously, there are no pictures to show you but that was pretty much our experience.  We left feeling incredibly relaxed and my skin looks so nice :-)  I think we may have discovered the secret to their amazing skin!  :-)  Anyway, it was a very cool thing to do and I'm sure we'll do it again. 

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