Jon and I, and our friends Dan and Amanda, were planning on taking the train up to Daejeon (where the closest team is) on Saturday, going to the nearby zoo, then to the game and then to Costco for the bi-monthly stock-up. Well, on Thursday night we were at the Beer Cave, as is becoming usual, and we met a very friendly Korean man in an intense bicycling outfit. His name is Brad, and he turned out to be really cool. We talked to him a lot that night, and found out he is a certified SCUBA dive-master, loves to travel and loves trying different foods and beers (that is rare in Koreans). He was also quite funny. The conversation turned to Costco, and we mentioned we were going on Saturday. Brad professed his love for Costco, and volunteered to drive us there. We told him the plans for the day, and he got pretty excited. We exchanged phone numbers, and left unsure of whether he was actually going to go with us, and drive, so planning on keeping the original plan.
Well, Friday night he called me and said he and a friend would drive us, that there were 2 others girls coming too, and that he'd pick us up at 9. Sweet! Going somewhere in an actual car is a luxury Jon and I have only had one other time in Korea, but it makes life much easier.
Brad picked us up on time, and after taking the usual while to get out of town that comes standard with a road trip, we were on the way to Daejeon. Daejeon is about an hour away by car, and its a bigger city than I thought it was, having only been the two blocks from the train station to Costco. It has a population of 1.4 million, which is crazy since it's only the 5th largest city. There are at least 8 cities in Korea with more than a million people....and Korea's the size of Indiana!!
The zoo was fun...there were beautiful leopards, tigers and panters, but also some small enclosures for other animals and a particularly sickly-looking polar bear. On the whole, average for Korean zoos. There were crowds of people throwing chips to the monkeys, who showed quite impressive catching skills while hanging onto the bars of the cage and sticking their skinny arms out. That can't be good for the monkeys.
After the zoo, we headed to the baseball game. Outside the stadium, there were vendors selling boxes of fried chicken that came with sketchy-looking label-less plastic bottles of beer. And there was a Pizza Hut stand selling personal pan pizzas with sweet potato and chicken. And the ubiquitous stalls with dried squid and meat on a stick. And, of course, soju and beer.
The inside of the stadium was a lot more like the baseball games I'm used to. Stands of people wearing jerseys, a fan section with lots of signs, little kids with baseball gloves, and tons of Thundersticks (the long, narrow plastic balloons used as noisemakers). There were kids on the field playing catch before the game, a ritual sometimes held after the game in the States, usually at minor-league parks. The players were warming up. There were cheerleaders on the field. Okay, maybe that part isn't the same as the games in the States.
The game started, we passed around paper cups of that questionable beer, and I felt at home. True, there were more home runs than a usual MLB game (at least 6, probably 8). And the 7th inning stretch was not only moved to the 6th inning, but the players actually used it to get out on the field and stretch. And there were cheerleaders, and a man conducting synchronized cheers most of the game in the hard-core fan section. And there was dried squid and roasted squid but no hot dogs. But there was a pitcher, a catcher, fielders, a batter and runners. In short, it was baseball. Three strikes and you're out. Some things are sacred.