It’s Friday night, and I walk out of the club searching for my friends. I usually know where they are, but several shots of tequila have hindered my ability to follow them. Wandering around Dunsan-dong, I get a message from one of my seniors: “COME QUICK TO GS25”. There are many convenience stores nearby, but I know the one they’re talking about — the one that has plenty of benches and is always full of drunk people. Running towards the place, I see my friends staggering out, supporting my mate. The sight of blood on his white t-shirt immediately sobers me up, and I flag down a taxi. They stumble in, I yell “KAIST!” to the driver, and off the cab goes. This is how yet another Friday ends for me.
Many foreigners at KAIST are in a perpetual routine of waiting for Friday, signifying the end of lectures for that week. While the majority of Korean students have the option to go home over the weekend, international students generally stay in Daejeon, and as such have a lot of free time to fill. The way we spend our Fridays is decided by the community we belong to and the friends we hang out with. A lot of people go to fancy cafes, perhaps to seek out something that actually tastes good after another week of Kaimaru. But my friends and I spend our Fridays in Dunsan.
During the day, Dunsan doesn’t stand out: Galleria department store, H&M, UNIQLO, some coffee shops — nothing special. But as dusk falls and the mystery of the darkness allows a certain freedom, it becomes the place for clubbing. You can see people queuing on the streets, hoping that the bouncer, their judge and jury for one night only, will let them in.
We don’t go to Dunsan just for drinking and clubbing. We go there to find adventures, and to be honest, we are getting better at it every time. The typical Friday night routine goes like this: a dinner somewhere in Gung-dong, a taxi to Dunsan-dong, and then an entrance to Thursday Party. From there, we let the alcohol in our bloodstreams decide the next steps. We usually end up at the aforementioned GS25 store for some cheap whiskey, a bottle of Coca-Cola, and some paper cups. This is where all the fun and trouble begins.
A group of people from the former USSR will join us, hearing us speaking Russian. Most of them study at other universities in Daejeon, and you can feel the contempt both groups have for each other. But after another bottle of whiskey, all of the social differences disappear. From a certain moment on, you can’t tell apart a future software engineer at Facebook from some kid who will work in an average office.
At these meetups, finding amazing party mates is as easy as finding trouble. But the latter happens more often than the former. Powered by alcohol and hot tempers, even the slightest misunderstanding can lead to a fistfight. In one of these incidents, the simple conversation starter “Where are you from?” suddenly began a commotion. Some guys didn’t like my friends’ lack of a quick response, and within moments, my friends were outnumbered and got quite a number of punches. They managed to get away, but one had a lip busted from the fight. I was lucky to not be there at that moment, as several shots of tequila had hindered my skills of following friends around the nightclubs. Walking around Dunsan, I finally get a message from one of my seniors: “COME QUICK TO GS25”.
As I put my friends straight in a cab, I go back to where the troubles started. I light a cigarette, trying to understand what happened. There’s another typical Dunsan show going on around me — some dudes are trying to beat the guy who’s running away from them. They’re running around the table where my friends had just been drinking whiskey from paper cups. Watching this absurd game of tag, I wonder why we always come here. Is it just the desire to get drunk? Is the academic pressure at KAIST making us vent our emotions by behaving like animals? My thoughts are abruptly interrupted by a yell in my direction. “What are you staring at?!” Realizing that I don’t want any problems, I put out the cigarette and catch another cab straight back to campus. I promise myself to never go back to that place. Next time we should probably try Itaewon.