Monday, March 25, 2013

Seoul: There and Back Again

My recruiting company, KorVia, always throws these parties around the start of each semester. And this one happened to be this past Saturday night (3/23). At first I wasn't sure I wanted to go. At first glance, it didn't sound that appealing, especially after spending 3 days away from my place already. I didn't know anybody, and their biggest selling point was making the tallest tower out of toothpicks and cheeseballs.

But then the orientation happened, and some plans changed.

The plan was for new-friend Tim (if you read the last post, this is Tim #2, who shall heretofore just be known as Tim) and I to head to the party together. He'd get to my place about 4 (which unfortunately would take him a 2-hour bus ride plus a 15-minute train ride just to get here). We would then take the train(s) to Seoul and pick up a friend of his from uni days who lives there, and then the three of us all go to the party in Itaewon.

But things happened and we got a bit behind schedule, and we didn't end up leaving until about 5:30 or so. Oh, and his friend had to cancel, so we would just go straight to Itaewon. But they made plans to meet up in Seoul again on Sunday so she could show him around. So instead of traveling 2+ hours back to his place and then another 3 hours back to Seoul the next day, I was gonna let him crash at my place that night.
(And yes, that whole part of the story is important.)

We start our journey via subway. We know we'll have to make a few transfers, so we have maps and everything so we don't get lost. The first stop was easy--it was just one stop over and the next train was immediately across the platform. This train, however, was much longer. There were about 14 stops until our next transfer, which was the bulk of the 50-minute train journey. And at one point, we thought it got pretty packed. People were pretty crammed in.

 But then… this happened.

This was bad. It was even worse than the picture shows. There were people literally being uncomfortably pressed between others. There wasn't an inch of wiggle room. Tim and I were smashed against the back door to the next car (which appeared to be equally crammed). And this wasn't a normal occurrence. This was so crazy full, even the Koreans on the train were freaking out and taking pictures of it. And this went on for a handful of stops. It was hilarious when the majority finally exited, because every person left on the train, Korean or foreigner, gave a massive sigh of relief at the same time.

When we got off at our next stop, we had to walk quite a distance to get to the next train (it was almost like an airport terminal, it was so big). And the last train was easy, as it was just two stops over to Itaewon. And then we realized… we had no idea where we were going. We knew the name of the pub the party was at, but no idea how to get there. So we stood around as Tim tried to look up a map, and I took the following pictures of the area right outside the subway exit.

We wandered around for a while until we finally found the place, which was tucked away in some back alley (well, it was a street, but it's what most Americans would consider an alley). And we made our way a few flights up to Scrooge's Pub. It was a tiny place with way more people than could really fit in there.

When we first walked in, we're bombarded with so much stuff. One guy is giving us orange juice or apple juice (which was donated by a company). Another guy is giving us an pamphlet on their company for Korean Safari and something for the Cherry Blossoms Festival coming up. Then somebody else was giving us stickers for nametags. And another guy was giving these complimentary containers with dentist stuff, as apparently they are the only dental care place in the area that specifically serves foreigners. And then as soon as I have all of this, I'm pulled into a corner where I finally got to meet Sasha, my recruiter from KorVia, who was really nice.

After this, we're trying to figure out the food situation and even ask at the bar downstairs, but we're told there's actually going to be a buffet thing at the party, so we just go up, find a table, and wait (the buffet wasn't much, but it was filling enough… and it was western food, which was a nice change). And that's when the young woman from the train station the day before, Kyla, shows up, and we start talking.

This was us a little later.
 We also got to build our epic cheeseball towers, though our group didn't win.

It just wasn't good enough.
But the cheeseballs actually served endless entertainment afterwards, as Kyla made a plethora things, including this great Eiffel Tower.

It took a while, but it came out great.

They also had some trivia games they were playing up front, which were entertaining. 

A crowd watching the trivia games going on.
And it was at this point I realized a certain person was at this party, as well… when you're prepping for Korea, you look up all the information you can. And I spent endless hours watching videos on YouTube and whatnot getting a lot of people's perspectives. But there was one girl, Chelsea, who had a ton of really interesting videos that I watched quite a bit. And lo and behold, she was at the party! Unfortunately I never got a chance to actually meet her due to the big crowd (which she always seemed to be in the middle of), but it was at least cool to see her in person.

Soon after that whole thing ended, Kyla went to go talk to I think her recruiter, and I hung out with Tim and another young woman, Kira, who turned out to be really cool, too. But about 9:30, Tim got a text from his friend in Seoul saying she wouldn't be able to meet on Sunday, and there was some "misunderstanding" about the whole thing, so there was no reason he needed to stay at my place that night. But it was right on the line around when buses toward his place might stop. So we decided it was time to head out and see if we could make it back in time--though he also realized his backpack was still at my place and the internal struggle began on whether to leave it and get it next weekend or just stay the night on my incredibly hard and uncomfortable couch.

Kira came with us since she was going good distance, too, and we just kinda hung out on the train for a little bit as we tried to figure out what to do. Long story short, Tim decided to come back to my place to at least get his stuff and see what time it was and whether or not he wanted to attempt the journey back home tonight. Eventually we parted ways with Kira, who had to take a different route, and Tim and I made our way back to my place.

We tried checking information on bus routes and when they stop/start, but couldn't find anything. So he just decided to stay (and left about 5 AM, which I don't exactly blame him with that couch of mine).

We may or may not meet up in Seoul again next weekend; we talked about it, but it's all on how we're feeling at the time. But let's just say after all this time with people at the orientation and then the KorVia party, it's nice to have a little alone time. Although it's also great I've made some cool new friends.

Kira, me, and Tim

(And here's a video KorVia put together from pictures of the night:)


  1. wow loved the blog update along with all the pictures....looks like it was a good time, but i don't think i could handle that train/subway...yikers...i'm way to claustrophobic for that...i'd be freaking out too....but it looked like a good time was had by glad you are meeting people and having fun.

  2. Wow, what an experience you're having! Keep 'em coming. :)

  3. Did they have "people-pushers" at the train station? They have those at certain stations in Japan during rush hour to aid in cramming in as many people as possible... Sounds like you're having a great time -- keep the updates comin'!

    1. Not that I'm aware of. At least none that I've seen so far.