“애애애애애애애, [I’m] 2NE1”

Date: 1/6/12 [woop woop!]

Location: 부산, South Korea

As the Korean girl group is singing up there, eh eh eh eh eh eh eh, I’m finally twenty-one. Happy birthday to me :D I spent my birthday in Pusan and even though I couldn’t celebrate it with everyone in Gainesville like I usually do, I was in good company and sometimes, contrary to our Japanese textbook, Yookoso, even the 寂しい parties can be the best. My 21st birthday had everything I expected and more. Thanks to everybody who wished me a hurpy burthdurr online and for my friends who celebrated with me in person in Busan. It was superb.

We met with Ji-cheol again in the morning and headed out to Centum City where the Shinsegae Department Store is located. It holds the Guinness Record for being the largest single store in the entire world. It had over 9 floors, a skating rink (where there were a lot of falling children and me taking unwarrantedly sketch stealth shots of said falling children), a cinema, and basically anything you could ever want [except fair pricing]. I settled for finally buying a new set of earphones and also some rubber stamps because Korean things are just so cute [possibly even more so than Japanese items.] Oh but yeah, basically we spent the whole day there. I didn’t mind. You know how I feel about malls.

Other than Shinsegae, Ji-cheol took us to Pusan’s Haeundae Beach, which is really poppin’ from shore to boardwalk during the summer, but during the 30 degree winter, plays host to only flocks of seagulls and sparse flocks of tourists. Being the only ones on the beach, the tourists tend to interact with the seagulls [which are a symbol of Pusan. Who knew?] aka buy a bag of prawn crackers and watch them attack you and each other as they vie for free food. It was really like a scene out of a Hitchcock film [bet you can’t guess which -_-;;]. Everyone either threw the chips at the birds or held them out in their hand, but I got a little creative and had the birds snatch crackers off of the top of my head and also from my mouth. The latter was infinitely scarier, I’d have to say.

Upon returning to Shinsegae, we were ready to partake in one of Busan’s most essential activities. Being in the same geothermal zone as Japan, Korea also enjoys random springs of super-heated water gushing forth from the ground and has developed a nice bath culture over the centuries. One of the greatest spas in all of Busan just happened to be located in the Shinsegae department store. It was a combination co-ed 찜질방 [jjimjilbang = sauna] and gender-separate bathhouse. Due to the nakedness, pictures were probably frowned upon, but here’s the front of the place. It was super classy.

The boys separated and we got changed in the men’s locker room where there were a whole bunch of naked Koreans [and even some foreigners] just milling about, some more attractive than others. And although we couldn’t see it underneath all the winter coats, Ji-cheol’s abs are friggin’ solid. [!] Probably from all that being-in-the-army business. It was a pleasant surprise to say the least. We were clothed for the entire time we went through the saunas where the temperature ranged from 18 degrees Celsius in the “Ice Room” to over 69 degrees Celsius in the Yellow Ocher room. It was pretty crazy how high the temperatures were. I guess it would have to be seeing as Asians tend to not sweat too easily from my experience. Anyway, the rooms were all themed and scented and relaxing and everyone was in the same spa robe so it looked sort of futuristic. We talked a lot with Ji-cheol and noticed that we’d used more Japanese in the two days we spent in Busan than in our entire stay in Tokyo. Hah. I guess that’s what happens when it’s your only common language.

The baths were more primitive feeling only in that everybody was naked and there were no adornments on anything; only the pools with their various temperatures, mineral additives, and massage jets. We soaked for a good amount of time and then showered and were able to use the full array of the spa’s moisturizers and creams and all these other things at the get-ready-to-go-back-to-the-outside-world stations. I’ve never felt so clean in my life, to be honest, and when we met back up with the girls, they seemed to share the same sentiment. They had made a bigger fuss about the fact that we got to see Ji-cheol’s abs…among other things, however. Bahaha.

We headed back to the hostel and Troy and Andrea picked up an ice-cream cake because they’re awesome and then Julia and Andrea picked up beers [Cass Light is the Bud Light of Korea] and we played Ring of Fire in Japanese with Ji-cheol and everyone got sufficiently awesome. Ji-cheol then ordered a pizza which for some reason had potatoes on it and came with two sides of pickles and nobody said anything because it was 1 AM and everybody was too tipsy to care.

Ji-cheol had to leave because it was getting sort of late and it was sad because he was really nice. I mean, who goes “oh, let me just take two days out of my life and show these people I don’t know and have never met around Busan for funsies. And then expect nothing in return. And then celebrate a birthday and also buy the pizza.” x_x So nice. After we said our さよならs, all four of us drunkenly reminisced about the past 36 hours with our tour-guide. It was a fantastically hilarious and sad [as in lame]  forty-five minutes of our lives.

Something Troy said soon afterwards basically summed up my birthday:

Remember that one time when we went to Korea and had a tour guide and we thought he was sort of cute and then we got to see him naked? Happy Birthday, Ryan.”

– Troy

The following morning, I woke up hang-over free and then Julia posted on my wall saying she bought me Oreo-O’s [discontinued in the U.S. for quite some time now] from the store and milk and happy birthday [again]. And things were perfect for a bit longer.

~ ~

Oh, and P.S, my mom sent me an e-mail with pictures from our family’s Christmas celebration. Everyone came over to our house in SoFla and they did the usual like we do every year. I had told her before that I missed the food from home so she sent me a picture of the spread at our Christmas party (typical of any Filipino family gathering) and then she sent me our family Christmas picture where they left a spot open for me. B’awww. They’re cute.

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