Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Busan, Korea: A Busan Celebration (ABC): NYE 2012

New Years Eve for me tends to be pretty bitter sweet. I always enjoy looking back fondly upon a year that has passed, but have a strong distaste for the pressure that accumulates upon one momentous night. It reminds me a little bit of a wedding. No matter how hard you plan, something will always go wrong, but in the end it's alright with a little casual inebriation. However, I suppose a major difference would be that sometimes a wedding is blessed with an open bar, whereas New Years tends to make money propel itself out of the confines of your wallet. For all the aforementioned reasons, I was more than happy to be off in Korea for the most recent New Years. I've always enjoyed being away from my home city of Toronto during the New Year. It ensures that I'm not comparing my night to the previous 51 weekends of the year. Whether it is Montreal, Niagara Falls, or a destination even further, I welcome it with open arms. This year, Bri and I were looking into sunset festivals for New Years around Korea when we received an enticing message from some fellow Canadian pals, Jason and Jennifer. My eyes scrolled down the information that was presented before me. I glazed over the words "Busan, party bus, live band, and sunset," and the decision was seemingly made for me. It was time for me to forget about the innumerable previous celebrations I'd had in North America, and see what lay ahead on the road to Busan. In all, there were seven of us. Well, seven seems like a lucky enough number.

It's a little after noon on Saturday, December 31st and we anxiously await the arrival of the bus that will carry our luggage and our hopes to Busan. I had already visited Busan earlier in my year in Korea (, but this trip was a tad less tourist-inclined. I was as keen to participate in the Korean spirit of things, but less likely to find myself at a spiritual temple. Although, it was New Year's, so it's never really fair to make predictions regarding such an unpredicatable night. The interior of the bus was remarkably random, and yet utterly fitting. An array of neon lights adorned the ceiling. Arabianesque curtains found their place on the windows of the Daewoo bus. The interior couldn't have been warmer in contrast to the cold Korean weather. All in all, it was quite comfortable, although a little sweaty. I probably even could have slept if I wasn't too excited by the prospects of the forthcoming evening. However, I quickly learned that I should stop being excited about what lay ahead, and focus on the present time spent in this fine vehicle. A crowd had begun to gradually become louder near the back, and I decided to join in on the festivities. When we heard that the bus was equipped with karaoke and speakers loud enough to disrupt every casual reader on the bus, our fate was sealed, and the fate was also sealed for those poor readers.

The music became gradually louder, and the singers more intense. Our glorious group of seven was up near the front where the action was. Jason, Jennifer, Briana and I occupied one row across which we dubbed "The Canadian Border." People were sure to be aware of extreme politeness when passing aisle 8. The other three individuals, Katie, Dana, and Alice, all happened to be wonderful and hailed from America and New Zealand respectively. Mumblings were heard from the back about the dire need for a bathroom break, and we quickly stopped off at a Korean service center. I'm sure the desire for a toilet and the consumption of alcoholic beverages were completely unrelated. During the break, I encountered three strange creatures. I'm not referring to a species of Korean squirrel or something of that nature, but more a breed of Korean Teletubby. I believe they were promoting a product of some sort; perhaps they were selling childhood dreams like the Teletubbies. Jason and Jennifer are sandwiched between the shrunken-headed carrot and the frog from your worst anime nightmare. I can be seen on the far right snuggling up to the cartoon equivalent of "Mr. Terrifying."
We arrived in Busan some hours later when the darkness began to overpower the light. It may have been symbolic, but again I'm a former English major, so I read into everything (no pun intended. The light/darkness dichotomy was explored about two and a half thousand times during my undergraduate tenor in dozens of different novels by plenty of pleasant professors.) We dropped off our belongings at our motel room. Then, in classic form, Jason and I kindly waited for our lovely ladies to dress up for the night. Before we knew it we were back on the bus and headed towards a dinner that was included in the fairly cheap, all-encompassing price of the trip. We arrived at an anonymous-looking building and walked up the stairs to a third floor that had a delightful makeshift buffet in action. The food was quite good, the drinks were fairly hefty, and the seven of us had founds spots on a surprisingly comfortable variety of couches. Luckily, we found a deck of cards and played a few games that may have included a drinking wager or two. Eventually, the luck from the cards vanished so we went searching for more of it in the eccentric Busan nightlife.
I'm not going to go on explaining every last detail of every bar, because that's simply not New Years. If I could remember each and every detail with unmatched clarity, then I suppose New Years was rather poor this year. I certainly wasn't a drunken mess by any means, but the night of New Years is a time that preexists impending resolutions and allows you to release those pesky inhibitions.

Our first stop was at a smaller venue called "The Vinyl Underground." They had a few intriguing live bands, but ultimately we headed to a nearby club to ring in the New Year. Bass boomed throughout the club and provided a lively atmosphere. 2012 was brought in with roaring applause and it was great to be in wonderful company, in a wonderful country. It was just the way that I wanted to bring in the New Year, and I believe all of us felt that the night had been stellar to that point. After a few drinks, a toast or two, and undoubtedly a few hugs, we headed off to another establishment. It was the always enjoyable chain of Korean bars known as "Ho Bar". There we witnessed a impressive fire show from the bartender. Oddly enough, the last time I witnessed such a feat was also in Busan at "The Fuzzy Navel," on Haeundae Beach. Eventually (and I stress that), we made our way back Gwangalli Beach which was right near our motel. The sun was rearing it's familiar head in the sky and that meant that it was soon time to head off to Busan's famous Gwangan Bridge. As per Korean tradition, it was important for me to see the first sunrise of the year. What better place to see it than among thousands of Koreans on a beguiling bridge? We caught the bus again and arrived on site with a buzz in the air. The bridge was closed off and the senses were re-awakened. Watching the sun slowly lift the haze from the bridge was what really felt like the beginning of the year. It was the first sunrise of the New Year, and the dawn of another set of adventures. South Korean helicopters flew by as if in salute of those who woke up early, or stayed up late.
For those who woke up, for those who stayed up, for foreigners, and for residents, it was 2012. There was a certain beauty in the shared moment between all who live and have come to live in Korea. It's remarkable to think that there are now tens of thousands of English teachers within Korea who represent nations across the world. I know that at 7:30am on Gwangan Bridge I had never felt more Canadian, and yet pleased to be a part of Korean society. Where 2011 holds important memories, 2012 carries exciting prospects.

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