Monday, January 4, 2010

Rice/Czechs and ice cream

Oh, almost forgot to tell about this...

On New Year's Eve, Chris, Lauren, and I went to Gangnam, the ritzy shopping area three or four miles from home. They wanted to go to a Chinese restaurant, so we did; they shared a multicourse meal consisting mostly of strange and somewhat offputting sea creatures, totalling 100,000 Won (85 bucks); I searched for something, anything, I could eat and found "Rice with bean curd and beef". We had a nice waitress who seemed to speak English pretty well, so I asked for it "gogi upseoyo" (without beef). I figured rice and tofu would be fine. Well, when it came, I didn't find and tofu, but I did find a whole bunch of little shrimp. Since I was already about two courses behind Lauren and Chris, I gulped, tried not to worry about what was in the sauce, and gave my friends the shrimp, which ironically were the most normal-looking things they ate in the whole meal.

Then we went to a nice coffeehouse. I'd made my resolution to lay off sweets completely for the month of January, at least, so I had to back up and get a running start; I had Americano and "ice cream wapple". (Korean has no "f"s.) That was whipped cream, chocolate, two scoops of ice cream and a Belgian... um... wapple. But it's now the evening of January 4 and I've kept my resolution in 2010! Of course, that could be because I'm still not hungry after New Year's Eve.

Finally, we went to Castle Praha, a very neat old-world pub with their own in-house draft beers, made with equipment imported from the Czech Republic, with ingredients ditto. It's a little place paneled in dark wood, very much like the hofbrauhauses I remember from 40-plus years ago in Munich. (Yes, I know Munich is not in the Czech Republic.) The tv's were playing a K-pop concert, kind of the equivalent of Dick Clark's Rockin' Eve. K-pop music is like cotton candy; a little bit is fun, but too much and you get a bit queasy.

At about 11:58, the tv cut over to downtown Seoul, where they had a countdown to midnight (Yeol... aho.. yeodol... ilgo... yeoseot... daseot... sa.. SAM... EE... IL... HOPPY NEW YIEO!) They repeatedly swung the big battering ram into the huge bell , we all clinked glasses back in our little hof, and oddly, things looked about the same as they had a couple of minutes before. The house did treat us all to bottles of good Czech beer, which was nice.

A couple came over and was eager to talk with us; he's Chinese (his name is CheolGang Yoon, by the way; say hi for me if you see him) and she's Korean. They both work for IBM in someplace called Dalian in China. We didn't talk of anything important, but everyone was full of New Lang Syne and chatted amiably and animatedly for awhile and exchanged business cards.

And then we caught the last bus home. If we'd missed it, we would have had a 75-minute, cold, cold walk; the taxis won't take us home (barring a huge overcharge) because they'd rather wait for longer rides, bigger fares, and drunker passengers.

You know, it seems as if every year I can remember, on New Year's Eve we all think, "That was sure a crummy year; this one's got to be better." Well, my personal 2009 was fine, but as for the world... this one's got to be better.

Happy Year, everyone!

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