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Tat Life: South Korea

First impressions

SOUTH KOREA | Saturday, 3 November 2012 | Views [545]

So I made it! Seoul, South Korea! The flight, though long, was very smooth with a healthy balance of sleep and movie watching. I arrived in Seoul at around 4pm November 1st, having left Toronto at 8:30am October 31st, needless to say I was a bit jet lagged. I had expected to be picked up by my teacher, Master Khan, and his wife, but instead was greeted by my friend BG, who i had the pleasure of meeting this past summer when he and Khan were guest artists at my shop in Toronto, and the other apprentice Donghee. The Seoul subway line connects directly to the international airport and is the easiest way to get into the city centre, for Koreans, and thank god I had 2 escorts because the initial complexity of the subway, having 9 different subway lines all weaving in and out of eachother, i would have been lost for sure. The trip from the airport to the shop was about 40 minutes or so, and i was assured that this was the fastest route due to the "crazy Korean drivers". We arrived at the shop and first impressions were a bit shakey. The shops entrance is basically in an alley off a popular strip, and the buildings exterior was a little rough to say the least. Never the less, after climbing a few flights in a poorly lit stairwell we arrive at a black glass door, the shop.  The buildings exterior had me completely fooled, inside the shop was nothing less than professional, black on black on black on black, leather tattoo chairs, black tiled floors, black tables, black chairs, with a splash of purple 70's glittery wallpaper. After a quick power nap, we ventured out for some dinner and drinks in the neighbourhood of the shop. I'll admit, the details of this night are a little hazy, must have been the long flight, not the Soju.

Day 2:

Woke up feeling a little groggy. Soju, though delightfully inexpensive, comes with a nasty headache the morning after. After a quick shower over the sink (one of the 2 most common methods of cleansing in korea) it was time to work. My apprenticeship began with a familiar task, stencilling old english font sheets, for hours...Lunch time for us in the tat life is usually late afternoon as we dont normally roll out of bed until 10am and work starts at 11. The boys take me out for some Kimchi soup at a great little spot right across from the shop (NOT in the alley, no). Im really into the Korean, Family style eating, basically one main will come with 3 or 4 side dishes of pickled something, usually covered in spicy red pepper sauce(a staple in Korea). After lunch the day at the shop winds down, a cancelled appointment and my jet lag are the perfect excuses to cut out early. Tonight we're off to a big dinner party at the bosses house, so BG suggests a shower. Having not had a proper shower in a few days, i agree, awesome. Little did I know he would be taking me to a Korean style public bath house(the 2nd most common method of cleansing in Korea) We enter, and the bathhouse has a similar set up to a gym, we purchase our locker keys from the front desk and head in. At your locker, it is customary in a Korean bathhouse to strip ALL the way down to the naked truth, so I throw my Western etiquette out the window and strip down. Though initially uncomfortable, what with all the Korean male nudity, the bathhouse is actually a great little spa experience. They have standing showers, sitting wash stations, hot tubs with varying tempetatures, cold pools, sauna rooms, and should you be willing to fork over some extra cash you can even have someone wash and massage you. That last part is not my cup of tea but the rest was very nice. Started with a quick rinse in the shower then into a delightful soak in the medium heat hot tub. After about 15 minutes its into the sauna room for a good sweat followed by a dunk in the cold pool. After all that its back to the shower for a final wash. All in all, about 40 minutes of bathing, much longer than im used to but believe me, you leave the bath house feeling so fresh and so clean. After returning to the shop for a quick change, its off to Master Khan's house, about 20 minutes by cab away from the shop. First impressions of the driving in Seoul? Death defying. A non stop stream of cars and scooters whizzing about, and from what ive seen, the mentality of the common Korean driver is "move it or im gonna hit you and carry on my merry way". Dinner at Khan's is lovely, Family style dining is definately my thing. BBQ'ed beef and chicken, kimchi, shrimp salad, rice, and khan even bought a pizza from costco just incase I didnt like the korean food (i had one slice, only out of respect, the korean food was sensational) After a few jagerbombs amongst new friends, Donghee, B.G., and I headed back to the shop for a good nights rest. My Spartan training begins tomorrow...

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