Friday, March 5: ON DVD-BANGS: On our first Friday night after we settle in Daegu, Myrna and I have some dinner at the adorable restaurant on the bottom floor of our apartment building. The entire menu is in Korean, so we have no idea what we are ordering. Finally we agree on something the waitress, who also speaks little English, describes as “egg roll.” It’s nothing like what we imagine it will be.
After dinner, Myrna and I check out videos in a DVD-bang (pronounced bong). This particular DVD-bang is like a cozy version of Blockbuster…. It’s dimly lit, but inviting. Someone with a sense of style, an artistic flair, has definitely had a hand in creating this hole in the wall… Myrna and I wander in, browse the video titles, and rent a movie, Vicky Christina Barcelona, which also happens to come with a private room. The room has a big screen TV, a couch built for two, and a big fuzzy blanket with a picture of a tiger on it. It also has its own special heater that looks like what in the US is a rotating fan, but it actually puts out heat….. It is so cozy in there, Myrna almost falls asleep during the movie.
Later, I tell some of my Korean friends that Myrna and I went to a DVD bang. They find this hilarious beyond belief: This place is supposed to be for couples who want to be alone!! It’s like a drive-in movie without the car and a lot more privacy! The people who run this bang must be wondering about these two foreign girls who come in to watch movies on Friday nights. I even went one night by myself…. that must have been truly baffling to them.
This is the amazing thing. We CAN baffle. We can confuse people or make them scratch their heads in wonder. We are in a foreign land!! We get to experience foreign things…. People might think us odd, but they will forgive us because we’re “aliens.” We can create the selves we want to be!! We can be oddballs; we can be nerds, we can be cool; we can be anyone or anything we want. Thus we venture into strange and unusual places…. including the world of the bangs…
A “bang” is simply a specialized room. Wikipedia describes bangs as such: In modern South Korea, the concept of a bang has expanded and diversified from being merely a walled segment in a domestic space, to include buildings or enterprises in commercial, urban, space. Some examples are a PC bang (internet cafe), a noraebang (a karaoke, or “singing,” room), sojubang (a soju room, i.e. a pub), manwhabang (“manwha room”, where people read or borrow manwha – comic books) and a jjimjilbang (elaborate Korean public bathhouse).
Monday, March 8: ON NORAEBANGS: On Monday night of our second week of school, all of the teachers of Chojeon Elementary go out for a teacher dinner. The principal and the vice principal, in fact everyone, keeps busy filling my glass with soju, or beer, or Fanta. Other teachers pile reams of barbequed duck on my plate. Mimi, the young woman who runs the school cafeteria, painstakingly tells me the Korean names for each and every food, which I can’t understand, and even when I do, I promptly forget them.
After drinks and dinner, we all go to a private room called noraebang, the “singing” room. Everyone takes turns singing Korean songs, some rockin’, some lovely ballads, some classical songs. I try my voice out as well… botching terribly the Doobie Brothers’ Listen to the Music. I thought I knew that song, but apparently not!! My words are something like… blah blah blah, listen to the music, duh duh duh, listen to the music….
Later, after another beer and a little more soju, I sing Maggie May and Hoobastank’s The Reason. I don’t think these are half bad…. lol…. who knows what the Koreans think. I even get a serenade by Coffee-J: Top of the World. All the while, everyone who isn’t singing dances and plays tambourines around the periphery of the room.
Wednesday, March 17: ON PC BANGS: Finally, my most frequent bang experience has been the PC bang. I go to the PC Palace, on the 5th floor of a dirty building around the corner from DaVinci Coffee and about 2 blocks from my apartment. It is a dark and noisy and smoky room filled with brand spankin’ new computers, purple pumpkin-shaped lanterns, white brick walls, gleaming glass cubicles and shiny red grottoes filled with vases of pussy willows. It’s filled mostly with college kids from Keimyung University right across the street, and with teenage boys playing loud video games. Because I haven’t had internet in my apartment for over two weeks, this is the place I frequent for my internet fix. I am by far the oldest one in here… but alas, this seems to be the story of my life!! I actually feel quite young and hip here:-)