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Birthday boy

Well, it was my birthday last Monday – I was 33. (33 is the age at which Jesus is supposed to have been crucified. I mention this because I’ve been growing a beard again for the past couple of weeks; so, now I have a certain messianic aspect.) On Monday itself I went down to Gyeongju for my ‘winter’ holiday (ie, holiday to make up for the fact that the hagwon didn’t give us a real winter break), and I only came back on Friday night. Thus, Saturday the 9th May was the night for my birthday do.

Before I went away Habiba gave me a couple of presents: some cactuses in a heart-shaped pot and a towel (to use at her place). She has also been working on some embroidery on a pair of my boxer shorts, but I haven’t seen that yet.

My plan for Saturday was as follows: film, meal, drinks, noraebang (karaoke) and possibly a club. And things went pretty much according to that plan.

Habiba had to leave early on Saturday morning to go to a Korean-foreigner friendship festival. I got up a couple of hours later – it was just like a normal weekday when I spend the night at hers. When she came back we headed out to Konkuk University subway station and to a nearby coffee shop, where I was to meet Ji-hyeon for my language exchange. Habiba removed herself to a different coffee shop with outside seating.

Ji-hyeon surprised me with a birthday present – a lilac and purple traditional Korean cloth. I don’t know what the material is, but it’s smooth like silk or satin, yet quite stiff. Our exchange was a lot shorter than usual – we met a little after three and had to finish to meet other people at four.

These people were Habiba’s friend Ksan (who got me some fair trade coffee in a very manly black and red box), and my friend Paul and his girlfriend Kyoung-hee. We gathered at the Lotte Cinema near the subway station to see Son of Rambow. If you haven’t see this film, you should. It’s set in the early eighties (at the height of the new romantic period) and is about two boys – one a naïve son of a Plymouth Brethren family (think British Amish) who is highly imaginative; the other is a street-smart tearaway who makes pirate videos for his older brother. Inspired by First Blood, they team up to make a film for the TV programme Screentest: Son of Rambow.

We all agreed that it was a wonderful film. It was funny and clever, slightly surreal and utterly heart-warming.

Once the movie was over we went in search of food and discovered Star Kitchen – one of many restaurants in the Lotte Department Store complex. We were joined by Bo (who got me a bottle of wine … which he kept in his bag for safekeeping and still has) and Habiba’s friend Charlie, my colleague Yu-jeong and Kyoung-hee’s friend … who must have a name, but I don’t know what it is.

The meal was fine – my dish was a spicy spaghetti. Ji-hyeon asked me several times if I was sure it wouldn’t be too hot – on a nearby chalkboard display it was depicted with three chili peppers. When I got it, it turned not to be that hot at all. At one point Habiba and Ji-hyeon disappeared for a strangely long time. They surprised and embarrassed me by coming back with a cake with lighted candles (three big ones, three small ones). Everyone sang ‘Happy Birthday’.

After the meal Paul and co, and Yu-jeong and Ji-hyeon left us. I would have liked them all to stay around for longer, but never mind. On the plus side, Travis joined the party at this point. Bo suggested we buy beer and go and sit by the river (the Hangang, Seoul’s ‘Thames’). And that’s pretty much what we did, except that we went to the university campus and found somewhere to sit by the small lake there. We played I Spy, and at one point fireworks shot up from the amphitheatre behind us to the sound of the Star Wars theme.

When we moved on, Ksan left us; as did Charlie, but not before she led us to a bar called Woodstock. This place played some decent music, although the interior was a little too nice – it looked more like a coffee shop. Still Bo, Travis, Habiba and I had drinks (tequila sunrises for me) and played further games. And from there we went on to a noraebang.

It was a good day; we all had fun and people were very nice to me. I wasn’t really expecting presents, but it was lovely to get them. Thank you, everyone.

Categories: Arts & Entertainment, Life
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