Tag Archives: Samgyupsal

Koreans Love Baseball Too

13 Apr

I’ve been anticipating the start of the Korean baseball season pretty much since the end of last season when, due to still being a newbie to Korea, I knew little about it and was likewise unable to secure any tickets to a game here in Busan. It’s a shame because the Busan squad, Lotte Giants, happens to be one of the better squads in league.

At first glance Korean baseball seems somewhat of a joke. The Korean Baseball Organization, the equivalence to the MLB in the states, has only eight teams and several of them adopt their names from the majors (Lotte Giants, Kia Tigers, LG Twins). I also heard that the caliber of play is not comparable to that of the MLB (not that I expected it would be) and that each team is only allowed to have two foreigner players on their roster. Unfortunately the the salary cap for them is so low, teams are rarely able to lure in quality players from abroad.

Still, Koreans take their baseball very seriously. Walk into to any corner store, bar, or galbi joint on game night and there will probably be several televisions tuned into the game. A single mention of the Lotte Giants in my classroom sends the students into a frenzy complete with reenactments of recent home runs and the spouting off of scores and players’ names.  As I’m discussing how to get home opener tickets with other Busan waygooks, a friend of mine tells me he’s been told that many people sleep outside the night before games just to be first in line to purchase tickets after the online seats sells out. I don’t know if this is true or not but if it is, thats the type of fandom I can respect and ultimately want to be a part of (some of you may remember my soju infused Minnesota Twins rant from last year).

Despite the possible odds, I decide to make a go at getting some tickets to the home opener for myself and Kicker Jean. She’s normally a Samsung Lions supporter, but for today at least, she’s sworn allegiance to the Giants.

The Plan is to have a friend who lives by the stadium arrive early and hop in line to secure tickets for himself as well as others who are planning to show up later. I arrive to find him about 15 people from the ticket booth. It looks certain that we’ll be able to get tickets. Right as join him in line, the entire crowd turns around an begins walking away from the ticket booth. We’re less that 20 ft from the counter and the tickets sell out.

Luckily I spot an ajossi ticket scalper nearby. We are absolutely screwed on the price (having to pay double for an otherwise 7,500  Won general admission ticket) but I don’t care. It’s the home opener and the price is still comparable to what I might pay back home for Twins tickets. Unfortunately, my friend who arrived early to stand in line decides not to grab a ticket from the scalper and heads home. I feel bad because he showed earlier than myself and Kicker Jean, yet we were the ones who were getting to see the game. I phone him up and tell him we’ll save him a seat if he wants to try to find a scalper who will sell him a single ticket, but he’s already made it to the subway. There’s nothing else to do but head into the stadium.

Possible the best part about going to a Korean baseball game is that you can bring whatever food and drink you want into the stadium with you. Korean fans seem to take full advantage of this. I see people carrying in whole pizzas, cases of beer, instant noodles, soju, makgoli, kimbap–even fried chicken. Instantly, I fall in love. If you opt to buy your grub at the stadium the possibilities are countless. Instead of  the peanuts and cracker jacks you’d find at an MLB stadium, one can get  dried squid and silkworms. Instead of hot dogs and potato chips, you can enjoy samgyupsal and soon-dae –all of which can be bought either in the stands or at booths around the stadium.

Back in the states, I’m surprised they don’t hand out lube when you purchase a baseball ticket because you definitely get fucked when it comes to game time concessions. $7 bucks for a beer, $5 bucks a hot dog and damn near $10 for a hamburger and fries, and what’s worse, no fried chicken.

After buying a couple jerseys and more food and beer than is probably needed to enjoy nine innings, we take our seats to see the Giants take on the Hanwa Eagles. Before long we’re chanting along with the crowd and high-fiving everyone in the vicinity. I don’t know any of the chants so I simply match the inflections of my voice to that of the crowd. Similar to how people often mumble over the unknown words of a favorite song. From what I can tell, no one notices that I have no idea what the hell I’m saying and the college kids sitting in the same row seem impressed at my participation, so I do my best to keep up with the crowd  Later in the game we end up doing a few cheers together swaying back and forth; arm in arm.

Besides it being my first baseball game in Korea, it would also be the first time I’ve ever witnessed out-of-the-park home run.

The culprit?

Fatty Lotte Giants power slugger Lee Dae-Ho. This man is a beast. Last year he dominated the league in every offensive category except for one: steals. Fatty can hit, but fatty can’t run. Coincidentally, after Lee knocked one out of the park, Kicker Jean points out that I’m actually wearing his jersey (when I bought it, I just picked the biggest size and went with it).  I fight the urge to pretend like I knew who he was the whole time.

The most bizarre momemt in the game comes when, during the seventh or eighth inning every fan in the stadium puts a blown-up orange platic bag on their head. I’ve heard of this a few times, but no one has been able to adequately explain to me what it symbolizes.

My guess is that it’s a method used to rally the team toward a victory when they are losing, and to uphold the victory when they’re winning. Whatever the case, we have a hard time getting our bags inflated and attatched to our heads, but eventually are successful after the people sitting next to us helps us out. My ears are too small to keep the handles around them so I end up deflating it and wrapping it around my head like a bandana.

Many will say that it was sound pitching and home runs that lead the Lotte Giants to a victory that day, bit I like to think that it was the work of our orange rally bags that made it all possible.

I won’t be able to enjoy a Minnesota Twins game for long while yet, but for now I’m content with watching the Giants. At the very least, it will give me some material to chew up class during dull lessons at work.


Kimchi Dreadlocks


Eat and Be Merry

22 Nov

*First off, I should apologize for not posting in nearly two weeks. I wish I could say it’s because I’ve been busy or because I temporarily lost use of my fingers, but this would just be a lie. The truth is I’ve been having a stint of writers block and thus have been spending more time outside of my apartment during the week as opposed to staying in to write. No worries though. The juices are flowing again. Enough said.

Among the perks of teaching in Korea, one of my favorites is the mandatory staff dinners. Unfortunately, I’m not lucky enough to have co-workers that regularly get plastered and spend weeknights slaughtering songs at the local noraebang, so I have to take whatever opportunities I can to cut loose with my fellow teachers.

In my situation, the staff dinners occur with no regularity and–as with everything else that goes on at the school–I’m almost always the last to find out about them, usually just minutes before I make my escape for the day.

Still, I look forward to them. Why?

For starters, we always eat Korean barbeque, but for me it might as well be crack because that shit has me hooked. Ever since my first run-in with it shortly after I arrived in Busan, I’ve been chasing the high.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s bulgogi, samgyupsal, or kalbi; if I go one week without my fix, I damn near experience withdrawal symptoms. My fear is that without it, my co-teachers may have to pay a visit to my apartment after I don’t show up to work and they’ll find me laying naked on the floor in the fetal position shaking, fists tightly clenched around a pair of meat tongs and a clove of garlic. It’s that bad, people.

Additionally, I never have to pay. Not that I’m a cheap bastard, but a free meal is just that–free. There’s no point in shelling out several thousand won (or more if you’re a moron like myself and decide to grocery shop and cook your own food) when your school is more than happy to feed you at their expense.Well, i assume they are more than happy to pay. Usually when the meal is winding down I put a dumb look n my face and try to find a ride home as quickly as possible.

Even for it being free Korean barbeque though, staff dinners have a dangerous side to them as well, and as most of us already teaching in Korea know, that dangerous side is the amount of soju you consume, not by choice per se, but because you usually feel obligated to due to the fact that all of your co-workers (principal and vice principal included) are knocking the shit back as if they’d loose their Korean citizenship if they didn’t. Friends, if you never head any of the bullshit advice I spew on this blog, head this: never attempt to go shot-for-shot drinking soju with Koreans.

This is somewhat hard for me as I rarely get to interact with the men in my school because most of them are homeroom teachers that I don’t see on a normal basis. The staff dinners are really the only time I get to split off from my c0-teachers and other women I work with and shoot the shit with the males. It seems nothing brings them more joy than to plop down next to me with a bottle of soju looking to exchange a few simple words in english along with a few doses of the green bottled monster. Even the principals get in on the action.

During the last dinner, one of the homeroom teachers– we’ll call him Mr. Boastful–decides to come over to my table and share a few shots. Before doing so he announces to the other teachers that he feels like I am a global citizen and that he is quite fond of having me in the school. Naturally I cannot refuse his accompanying offer of soju, right?  After all the man has just given me a compliment. Immediately after we toast and drink, the Vice Principal comes over, holds my hand and proceeds to give his own speech before pouring several more shots. Again am I supposed to tell him no? I’m sure it’s written somewhere in my contract that if the vice principal of your school holds your hand and gives a speech about you in Korean, you have to join him in a celebratory toast of Korea’s most potent adult beverage.

Eventually my co-teachers stand up to leave and tell me they can give me a ride home, when Mr. Boastful interjects, assuring me that help me fetch a cab later if I would opt to stay. Because I’m still a bit hungry and there’s still meat on the grill (and because the soju has me feeling jolly), I accept his offer.

Almost two hours and several soju bottles later we’re at a completely different restaurant eating clams and loudly professing that we are indeed brothers from different mothers.

Through broken Korean and English we discuss some of the reasons I decided to come to Korea and his reasons why Korea is a far better country than China or Japan–boisterous  and a bit crude, but endearing nonetheless.

Before deciding to take off, we finish off one final bottle, and for whatever reason, I decide to pay for the meal which we barely ate. He was quite pleased and my gesture, and I was out 30,000 won–so much for the free meal.

We split a cab and the entire way home Mr. Boastful continuously reminds me of our new found fraternal connection, and that we should soon go mountain climbing as he is an expert.

The next morning I wake up earlier than usual, almost fully clothed, with breath that smells like kimchi sautéed in raw sewage.

Should I be embarrassed by all of this? Maybe, but I’ve since written it off as nothing more than enjoying a Korean cultural experience. Though next time I’ll probably fill my shot glass with water and spare myself the morning poo-poo breath.


Kimchi Dreadlocks

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