An Evening with Mr. Park
People in big cities tend to have big city personalities. Daegu is no exception. Some of the complaints we’ve read online from other English teachers are about how rude people are in Daegu. It’s true, Daegu natives can be quick to bump into you, cut you in line, or shoot you a dirty look, but I prefer it this way. Rudeness is honest. It’s when people start acting too friendly that I become suspicious. Maybe that sort of thinking is a product of growing up in a big city. But sometimes, when you have a chance to really spend time with a Korean, you learn that they can be genuinely friendly and caring people. Then again, sometimes they just want to molest you.
Saturday afternoon we met up with some friends at the Daegu Lions baseball game. Koreans are passionate about their baseball, so it was a packed house and we found ourselves standing behind the last row of seats in center field. The stadium isn’t too big, so we still had a good view and plenty of cold maekjus (beers) to get us through the day. Korean baseball games are optional BYOB events, which is nice.
After a few innings and some exciting moments in the game, we started chatting with a group of young guys sitting in front of us. It began innocently enough with the usual “Canadian? No, American. Like soju? Yes we like soju.” We traded beers and they laughed at our brand of choice (one of three in Korea, which all taste the same.) They commented on how handsome we all were. The entire time we were trying to figure out if these guys were gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
One thing you should know about Korea is that your gaydar will be completely useless. Men have a strange relationship with one another that would never fly in the states. The only way to describe it is way WAY too touchy-feely. Even boys and teenagers clamor all over each other in displays of male bonding and affection. It weirded us out at first, but it’s perfectly normal to see two boys quietly doing their work in class and holding hands. Just holding hands.
So the ringleader of the drunken high-fiving and cultural exchange introduced himself as Mr. Park. He quickly learned Ji-na, had some trouble with our friend Ro-ren (Loren), and just settled at Jo for me.
Korean baseball games have superfans that designate themselves the cheerleaders for entire sections of the stadium. Our guy was in a very fashionable snow leopard print military suit and was constantly walking up and down the aisles shouting commands. For what, I don’t know. At one point we met eyes across the section and both came to the same conclusion – point and yell “Woooo!”
What happened next created a turn of events that will scar us for life. As I yelled to the superfan and we communicated through sign language, apparently my shirt rose up just a bit, revealing my belly. Mr. Park took notice of the hair on my stomach and was very, very impressed. Koreans, except for their heads, are pretty much hairless. Immediately he commented with great enthusiasm, which lead him to notice my arms and my chest as well. He said I looked like a lion, a Daegu lion, and proceeded to make lion roars at me.
After the game, Mr. Park, his very nice and non-gropey friend Paul, and the rest of their group invited the three of us to dinner. Morbid curiosity beat out fear, and we agreed. As we walked out of the stadium, one of the fans jumped over the fence onto center field to take a picture and smoke a cigarette. Nobody seemed to mind. As we walked through back alleys to Paul’s car, I held Gina close…for my own protection. Mr. Park decided it was a good time to hold my hand, interlocked fingers and all. He was also kind enough to blow on them to help warm them up.
We got into Paul’s car and were off to some unknown part of town. Loren and I discussed the proper technique for jumping out of a moving vehicle.
“So uh…where are we going?”
“Makcheon, makcheon. BBQ pig intestine,” they answered. “Would you also like to have dinner on Thursday?”
Jesus guy, let’s get through tonight first. We’re already regretting this.
Gina noticed that Mr. Park was wearing what looked like an engagement ring and asked him about it. He told us that it’s a promise ring to a girl that’s still in university, but he doesn’t like her. Then in a flash, he remembered what he does like. My chest hair. He reached into the back seat, giggling like a school girl, and tried to scrape his fingers down my chest. I froze up like an altar boy and Gina came to my rescue by trying to block his path. He slapped Gina’s hand in a cat fight sort of way and demanded access. This went on for a few minutes and eventually he diverted the attention directly onto Gina. After discovering that we don’t have any wedding plans, he decided to make Gina his wife. Thankfully, we arrived at the restaurant.
Fortunately, they took us to a typical Korean BBQ joint in what looked like a nice part of town. As I needed a break from Mr. Park, Loren sat between us, which was enough to make him the focus of Mr. Park’s advances. He put his hands on Loren’s face and gently massaged his cheeks. This dinner was going to require a lot of soju. The makcheon was actually pretty tasty – just crispy pork fat like the chinchulines you would have at an Argentine steak house. But it was hard to enjoy dinner with Mr. Park spilling every liquid within a 3 foot radius. Within minutes of us sitting down, he fell in love with our waitress and attacked. Needless to say, we didn’t get much service.
We exchanged numbers at the table for our supposed Thursday meet-up, which I have a feeling might turn into a more regular gathering than we would care to have. What took place outside of the restaurant was nothing less than an epic grope-fest on all parties involved. Paul, the even-keeled chaperone throughout the whole evening, had had enough and offered to drive us back downtown. As we got into the car, Mr. Park ran back inside as if he had forgotten something. Seconds later, the waitress came running out at full speed and ducked behind a Christmas tree next to the front door (Koreans seem to like to have Christmas decorations up year-round). Mr. Park looked around for a bit, then just got in the car.
We dropped Mr. Park off at his place because he had a wedding to go to the next morning. Loren got out to jump in the front seat and had to fight off the strongest advances of the night in the form of awkward man-hug and near kisses. Mr. Park then ducked his head into the backseat in attempts to kiss Gina. We got him the hell out of there and got back to downtown alive. Abused and violated but with one hell of a story.
Note: Thanks to Roren for the pics.