Climbing Competition and Traditional Dinner

This past Saturday, I joined some Korean friends from the Busan Climbing Center at a bouldering tournament at the BEXCO Convention Hall (similar to McCormick’s Place in Chicago). Around 150 people from around Busan were there to watch 50 some climbers compete in two levels of competition. Their was a ply-wood wall specially built for the competition with four different angles of walls, all around 20 feet in height. There were two rounds (Preliminaries and Championship) for each of the two levels of climbers. The routes I must say were rediculously hard. The first round, climbers were able to do most of the routes, but even the best climbers did have some trouble. No one from our gym made it past the first round and that is saying something because we have some very good climbers. I was not officially part of the tournament as I was not in Busan in time to sign up, but they officials did invite me up to do a route as part of a raffle contest. I tried the first route and was able to do 5 of the 7 moves. I couldn’t finish it…it was too hard!

We all stayed around to watch the other rounds and while the officials were switching holds between each round we walked around the convention hall to see what we could see. There was a fashion show going on next to us – yes a real fashion show, runway and all. The fashion show was beginning and all of us gathered around to watch out of curiosity. As the models began to walk down the runway, I realized it was an outdoor apparel fashion show. In Korean tradition all the clothes seemed to be the exact same! Each new model that walked down the runway was basically wearing a different color of the same vest or jacket. It was pretty funny. Elsewhere in the convention hall was a biomechanical footwear exhibit, which was kind of interesting and some other fashion exhibits.

At lunch, our group went out to a small grass area in the parking lot and borrowed a few pieces of wood from the loading dock to create a makeshift table on the ground for us to eat. We all sat on the ground at ate our packed lunches provided by the competition. It doesn’t matter what age – young or old – everyone sits on the ground to eat. It was an interesting conversation as it was about 99.8% in Korean. Only one of my friends from the climbing gym speaks any amount of English in sentences. Everyone else I manage to talk to using a combination of a few English words, a few Korean words, and lots of gestures and guessing. It works out somehow though and it was a good time.

After the competition, we all boarded the subway to head back to our gym to workout for a little while. When we work out at the climbing gym, we basically have someone point out a series of holds that together are called a route and lead from point A (start) to point B (finish). The routes are usually very difficult and most people cannot actually complete them. The point is to push yourself for strength, creativity, body control, and endurance. Well, I was able to have some success completing 90% of the first route (only two people finished that one), but only 50% of the second. The last route we worked was on a horizontal overhang which means you are climbing with your back parallel to the ground and at points, you are literally hanging from the wall. The wall itself is very low and we have pads under us, so you can’t really get hurt, but it is very easy to slip off. The last route actually started under the overhang, then worked its way up and over to finish at the ceiling on a straight up and down wall. I was so tired, the first few times were seemingly impossible. Only three of the climbers had finished the route and just when we were getting ready to go, I decided to try one more time and nailed it! I was pretty excited about it, but I was definitely worn out as a result.

After climbing, we all went to a raw fish restaurant for dinner. The Koreans, as I have mentioned before, are heavy drinkers so you have to be very careful anytime you go out to moderate what you are drinking. It is considered rude to not join in the drinking and it is also rude not accept a refill when offered (which is often). Through many half Konglish (part Korean, part English) conversations and gestures, we managed to learn a lot about each other and to have a great time. I heard the phrase “gom be” and “hom jang hap shi da” many times that night. Basically, that is the equivalent to “cheers” or “bottoms up”. Half the table was obsessed with my shoes (Crocs which I had gotten in the USA). By the end of dinner everyone wanted my to call them “Hyung Nim” or “Nu Na”, which means older brother and older sister respectively. This is a compliment because that means they consider me a good friend. In Korea, a person does not have many friends like in the USA. In the US we call anyone we talk to a friend. Here, a friend is only considered a friend when someone really cares about you and wants you to be around and can rely on you. People in Korea sometimes only have 4,5,6 people who they truly consider “friends”. This definition is starting to losen up a bit as people become more westernized and connected, but it is still very much an honor for people to say that, so I was touched.

On Sunday, Ash and I went to Socrate’s Cafe (Philosophy Club). It was an interesting conversation and afterwards we convinced everyone to join us at The Loving Hut – Be Green, Go Veg! After a great meal, we made arrangements to meet one of our Korean friends, Wan Seop, for a traditional Korean dinner. He took us to the old town part of a town called Dongnae. This is a place not far from us, but we only go to the trendier, new part of town and haven’t been to the “old-town”. When we arrived, the front was filled with green plants, a small waterfall stream and a wooden shoe rack to remove your shoes before entering. We sat upstairs on the floor in a small room. The room was decorated with clay Kim Chee vases (they soak cabbage to ferment it in huge vases – this was how they managed to save their veggies through the winter in the old days and the tradition has stuck) and wall hangs donned with Hangul and Japanese stamps.

Wan Seop ordered the meal for us as we would not have known what to get. When the meal came, it was absolutely crazy how much food there was! There had to have been close to 30 side dishes in total, that came in three separate waves. Pretty much as soon as you finish a dish, it is replaced by something else. The whole meal consisted of a variety of mountain vegetables, roots, raw fish, Gim (seaweed), rice patties, soy soup, whole fish, sardines, and other items. It was quite tasty. The most unusual specialty that came was the three-year old aged Kim Chee. Not so tasty, but interesting to try : ) All in all, it was an amazing evening and it was very nice of Wan Seop to show us a traditional meal.

3 Responses to “Climbing Competition and Traditional Dinner”

  1. J & A says:

    Deb, you won’t offend anyone and we will tell you what is going on before we do anything. People usually find it more entertaining since you are a foreigner and kind of expect some reaction.

    Dad – the bouldering is really low with lots of pads so I don’t have to land on my feet.

  2. stubbemand says:

    Oh I want to be brave when eating there. I hope I can, I do not want to offend anyone. I can’t wait.

  3. pappa stub says:

    boldering son, are you crazy?

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