What is Saturdays in Korea?

Tired of doing the same old thing every weekend? Saturdays in Korea is activity club for those who want to break their normal weekend routine and do something different. For Koreans, it's a good chance to practice English. For ex-pats, it's a good chance to practice Korean. For everybody, it's a great chance to meet new people and have fun.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Canasta (카나스타)

While the rainy season in Korea is starting to die down, the Dog Days of Summer are here. To stay cool, we headed back to the Konkuk University (건국대학교) area to find a board game cafe to play Canasta in.

From Canasta (카나스타)

View Canasta (카나스타) in a larger map

Last Saturday, the temperature in Seoul was a sweltering 33°C (91°F). Since the annual hot spell in Korea comes right after the rainy season, this heat is mixed with a very humid atmosphere. Because of this combination, Sauna Season might be another apt name for this weather pattern. To Koreans, this time of the year is called Sam-bok-deo-wi (삼복더위).

Members of Saturdays in Korea suggested going to one of the public pools in Korea to help escape the heat. Last Saturday, the pool at the Han River Park next to Ttukseom Resort Station (뚝섬유원지역) was overrun with hundreds (if not thousands) of little kids and their respective parental units. While cooling off in the water does sound like a good idea, the ambiance would probably have been ruined by a cacophony of high pitch screaming.

For this Saturday, we ended up going to a board game cafe (보드게임카페) by the name of Lime (라임). Starting at 4,500 Won, you can buy a (non-alcoholic) beverage and enjoy three hours at the cafe. In addition, there is a large selection of board and card games. This place is a good deal since other board game cafes are known to charge both by the drink and by the hour.

The original plan was to share a piece of American college culture and have a Poker Night (but during the daytime) that didn't involve gambling. After being advised by a number of Koreans, it was discovered that poker, even without the gambling component, has a severely negative perception due to the tumultuous history of gambling in Korea. Also, for the most part, gambling in Korea is illegal.

To avoid any trouble with the Korean Law, and to avoid getting dirty looks from any passersby, we decided to forgo poker. Instead, we ended up playing Canasta at the board game cafe. To be on the safe side, we posted the following sign on the tables we played at:

From Canasta (카나스타)

Roughly translated, the sign says, "This card game, Canasta, is a traditional card game from Uruguay. We are not gambling. Therefore, do not contact the police." Our Korean members found the signs humorous but unnecessary. It seems that since we weren't using poker chips, there really wasn't a problem.

Since this was a new game for most people, it took a little while to get the game rolling. After about 30 minutes of play, everyone seemed to have a handle on the game. While no pair of players were able to get to the 5,000 points to win at either of the tables, we did have a couple of groups that were in the lead after three hours.

All in all, we were able to experience something new while staying cool indoors out of the hot weather. Maybe next time we will try the game of Go-Stop (고스톱), but it will probably take much, much longer for people, especially for the non-native Koreans, to learn the complicated rules.

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