That soju is dangerous stuff.
I went out on Friday night to celebrate the new year with some colleagues, and I had a great night. Terri had discovered “lemon soju”, which, from what I could tell, is to soju what Smirnoff Ice is to vodka. Lemonade with a hint of alcohol, you know. We downed it in merry shots and toasts all night in the same way that these people do with ordinary soju, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that it didn’t make me start talking nonsense (any more so than usual, I mean) or trying to dance on tabletops.
Unfortunately, it turned out that it wasn’t actually much weaker than ordinary Soju; it just tasted more innocent to fool you into thinking that it wasn’t doing you any harm. I made it through the usual events of a night out in Korea, such as eating octopus tentacles, toasting everything imaginable, and the now routine “let’s set Hails up with a nice young Korean man” embarrassment. I may have accidentally told him that I find Korean food very attractive, when obviously all I meant to say was “I like Kimchi”, but that’s arguably more the fault of the Korean language than the soju.
Anyway, all was fine and I was impressed with my own drinking powers, when all of a sudden I went from being animated and happy to sitting with my head in my hands going “Get me a taxi NOW!”. And I do mean all of a sudden. I believe my previous sentence had been “Let’s go to a noraebang and sing Wham! songs all night!”. Then the Soju Curtain Of Horror descended upon me and I spent all of Saturday in bed with a splitting headache and a 2-litre bottle of water. But not before I’d sung “Total Eclipse of the Heart” to the scared-looking taxi driver, the whole way home. I wish that damn drink would at least have the courtesy to block everything after a certain point out of my memory.
And so that was New Year’s, for the second time this year. It was fun, and I have lots more presents than I did at Christmas. Apparently the principal of the school (who speaks no English, so we never have conversations with her – we just hear what she’s been saying about us) became terribly concerned about her foreign teachers on Friday. “What will they do? They’ll be all alone, they have no family to go to, they’ll spend the holiday all alone and maybe they’ll be terribly homesick!”. This is very nice, of course, but there was none of this sympathy at, say, Christmas, when it would have been a much more realistic concern. “This is just an ordinary weekend for us!”, we tried to explain to the colleague who told us this. “We’re just happy to be getting a lie-in on Monday – don’t worry about us!”. It’s such a major holiday here that I don’t think we managed to convince anyone.
And I suppose it was just a normal weekend. I just wish that normal weekends in this country didn’t have to involve so much singing to taxi drivers and fumbling for painkillers. Stupid soju. Stupid, delicious, easy-to-drink, mood-enhancing soju.