Fireworks Weekend – Part 3: Making Friends

No, this post isn’t over yet. Sometimes I feel like I’m setting myself up for guilt and a sense of failure when I write multi-part posts. But I couldn’t skip over the last part of this weekend. So exactly one month after the event, here is the conclusion of Fireworks Weekend.

I didn’t end up saying much about the actual jjimjilbang (remember, that time with my host family was just a mogyoktang), but my friend Nadia and I ended up getting to the jjimjilbang right after they’d closed down the showers. So we changed into our jjimjilbang attire, scoped out the area and went straight to bed.

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Before hitting the jjimjilbang, we ate at this fantastic place. The first time I’ve had a real burrito since coming here…

 

The next day, after what was for me an uncomfortable night (with thin blankets and a steady amount of light and noise from other people), we actually jjimjilbang-ed. This involved having delicious orange juice (made with a whole orange right before our eyes) and misutgaru/미숫가루 (a drink made from a multigrain powder), showering, soaking, and briefly trying some of the saunas. We came to the conclusion that Korean ajummas have skin of steel after trying to stand under a vicious downpour of water that was intended to massage your back. I couldn’t take more than a few seconds at a time.

We left the jjimjilbang refreshed and walked to the Jaigalchi Fish Market, a famous site in Busan, stopped by the petting zoo on the top of a Lotte Department Store, and made our way to a dog cafe near Haeundae that we had both been really excited to try.

Octopods and a statue of a fisherwoman at Jaigalchi:

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Cats and dogs

The cafe we tried was located in the second floor of a pet store (probably a wise business decision). It was 8,000 won to get in, with one drink included. There were also complimentary snacks periodically brought out by the hosts. While dogs and food don’t seem like they’d mix, here they didn’t need to; the dogs were sectioned off in a large pen, and to the back were cute tables and chairs (and cats).

Overall it was fun to play with the dogs, but they were usually only interested in me for a few seconds at a time. The food, on the other hand, had their undivided attention. I’d be interested in trying another dog cafe to see if there’s much of a difference. I’d imagine going with your own dog(s) would also be more fun.

While the dogs (and two cats) were cute, the best part was the spontaneity that followed.

One of the other customers was a young woman there with her adorable two-year old son and another young woman. She was tall, thin and very stylish; she wore two hats, but somehow pulled it off. Her son’s outfit was no less fashionable, with an adorable red sweater and boots. I don’t remember why we started speaking, though it was most likely through her son, who kept dropping his toy train. Suddenly, she told us “I’m not Korean, I’m Chinese” and after learning that her English was very good, our conversation took off from there, and we made a new friend.

As we chatted, Nadia and I mentioned our plans to see the fireworks that night. But we didn’t expect to get close enough to have a good view. At that point it was 2pm, but people who were serious about the fireworks festival would already have their spots saved on the beach. It’s a big affair, and Busan is the second largest city in Korea, so popular events require a lot of planning and foresight.

Here was the subway station after the fireworks:

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Long story short, we joined up with another ETA, dropped the woman’s son off at home, and the five of us saw the fireworks together…from a norebang (singing room – think karaoke, but with privacy) on the 14th floor of a building. But that was only after visiting our new friend’s home (and not-so-sneakily picking persimmons from the surrounding trees), sightseeing and taking pictures in the area, having coffee, and eating a delicious samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup) dinner.

We didn’t end up seeing much of the fireworks, but it didn’t matter. We sang until our throats were sore and spent quality time with new friends. Today people normally aren’t willing to open up so much and so quickly to strangers, but I’m glad ChoHee was.

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