The first thing you need to know about bowling in Korea is that it is eerily similar to bowling back in the States. Why is it so remarkable that they’re so much alike? Well, one of the funny quirks about Korea is that even the most everyday things are different enough to stand out as strange. I’m always saying to Kurtis, “It’s like someone in Korea has seen a picture of <insert object> and then thinks, ‘I could make that!’.” We’ve encountered this phenomenon with utensils, food, and chocolate.
Anywho, I’m baffled by how the bowling alley here in Masan is an exception. The strangely specific features that are so uniquely familiar to the culture of American bowling alleys can also be found halfway around the world here in Korea.
1. A phone by the computer which never seems to be needed (since somehow whenever something goes wrong an employee just appears) but if it was needed a person would have no idea how to use it.
2. Computer score keeping stations, complete with 1970’s computer graphics and technology (covered in a white plastic shell), corresponding 1970’s style hanging TV’s over each lane, and an hours-of-fun spinny plastic chair for the lucky soul sitting at the control center.
3. Even the hunt for the perfect bowling ball presented the same challenges – too many heavy balls and balls with too small of finger holes (seriously, what strong armed giant with tiny fingers is supplying these places?) As for the selection, we had our pick of balls designed in colors from 70’s, as well as the occasional strangely colored swirly looking ones.
4. Our choice of old bowling shoes available only in what can be described as the ‘bowling shoe color palate.’ (Note: getting shoes here did present the added challenge of navigating a different shoe size system, and required assuring the shoe clerk that she had heard me correctly and that, “No seriously, I really do want that huge shoe size I’m asking for.”
5. In my opinion, the quintessential bowling alley design feature which is inescapable in America is the bowling alley star-burst patterned carpet. There is no carpet anywhere in Korea, but we found the same unforgettable pattern on the chair upholstery.
6. As if these first 5 characteristics weren’t enough, the similarities continued right down to the large strangely colored geometric shapes painted down the walls. Here’s an example of these random shapes, in the top left corner of the photo at right featuring Kurtis’s perfect form… ;)
Aside from the many similarities of this bowling alley to the bowling alleys back home, I should point out that there was one major difference- location. I can’t remember exactly, but I believe to get here we took the elevator up to somewhere around the 9th floor.
Returning our shoes and beginning the walk back to campus, we persuaded our bowling companions to stop by our favorite street food cart. which sells these little pan-cake like treats which are Kurtis’s favorite. With a slightly crunchy outside and a cinnamon sweet inside, we can’t walk by this place without picking some up. Second to their delicious flavor, the next best thing about them is that they only cost about 65 cents.