Take last Monday for example.
I met an older Korean man, or "Hyung-Nim" as they're called, on a Sunday night fishing excursion. He invited me to a game of soccer the next morning. Though we're likely close in age, I felt the social leverage kick in and hesitantly agreed.
I didn't strictly agree to play out of social pressure, I genuinely wanted to play, but my eagerness turned to disappointment when this guy came to pick me up in his van. I wasn't disappointed by the van though, it was all black and could carry about 15 people, fully equipped with police sirens, too. I was disappointed because only 3 people were in the van, far too few for a game of soccer.
Back to the van. It had tinted windows, and on the each side "Korea Body Guard" and "Hapkeido" were printed in English. Hapkeido is an ancient Korean martial art, and I made the deduction this guy was a master. So not only was he older than me, but my Hyung-Nim could also kill me at any point in time. This meant I had absolutely no say in what we did for the rest of the day.
We drove around Uljin in this van, looking for more people to play soccer. I texted my unemployed friend "Bum" to play, but he must have found a job because he replied "no soccer, atomic energy work."
The others were texting too, and they recruited a few players. We pulled into apartment complexes to pick up the new recruits, also known as random children. If you've ever picked up children in a black van maybe you can relate to this, or maybe you should turn yourself in, but it's not a comfortable thing to be a part of. Especially if you're an elementary school teacher.
We found about 4 or 5 middle school aged kids, but still needed more for a full game. Out of desperation we started aimlessly cruising the streets, pulling over at the site of any able bodied person. Able to play sports that is, for those of you who pick up kids in black vans.
Eventually we garnered enough people for a game, but no one brought a ball. Hapkeido Hyung-Nim then forced all of the younger kids he'd been collecting to sprint in every direction to find one. The kids returned with a ball and our long-delayed pick up game started alas. It was a normal game until people started doing back flips because they knew Hapkeido. All this did was make me more scared of Hapkeido Hyung-Nim.
After we finished, my Hyung-Nim invited me out for drinks. It was about 11 a.m. and I can't say no to people, so I agreed to join him for pumpkin makgeoli. Over a bowl of makgeoli he made the first in a series of outrageous statements, claiming "alcohol decreases aging."
Following lunch and drinks, the obvious next stop for us would be to get naked together at a spa up the road. Being a foreigner, sometimes locals assume you know nothing about Korean culture, so although I'd been to plenty of spas I was given a step by step tutorial by Hapkeido Hyung-Nim.
This guy made me test all the different pools with him, then gargle salt for 90 seconds. In between those events he added to the growing list of ridiculous claims:
Outrageous claim 2: "That guy has number one Korea forehead."
Outrageous claim 3: "Sunlight plus lemon is good for stamina."
Outrageous claim 4: "I have nuclear penis."
Lastly, he told me his tattoo meant "one punch one kill" and we left the spa. I've lived here long enough to know if you make one specific plan, many will follow; but after soccer, lunch, and the spa I thought our day was coming to an end.
That was when Hapkeido Hyung-Nim offered to take me to a Hapkeido class. It was an offer I couldn't refuse, literally, I can't say no. But first we had to pick up the other students, ages 4-10. For the second time that day I drove around in a black van picking up kids I didn't know, while a Korean song titled "Birthday Sex" played through the car's stereo.
After numerous stops our diverse clan arrived at the Hapkeido studio, and I relaxed in my Hyung-Nim's office before class. This gave me plenty of time to admire the many plaques and awards lining the office walls. When I saw the "Hapkeido Spare Time Good Use Certificate of Dan" I knew he was the real deal.
About 5 minutes into class, Hapkeido Hyung-Nim left the students and told me to follow him into the bathroom. Here I stood next to him in a stall while he secretly smoked a cigarette, using air freshener and a fan to cover the evidence before returning to give me a crash course in nun-chucks. I practiced, surrounded by people 15% of my age. My little bother Kevin can relate to feeling out of place in a class, he took children's ballet at age 20 so my niece wouldn't be nervous going alone.
I had such a great time that the next time someone older invites me to spend a day with them, I'll know exactly what to say.