Posts Tagged Food
The power of beauty
At some point over the last several weeks the increasingly strong, warm spring air triumphed over the last remnants of the cold winter, giving my students something other than homework or my appearance to complain about : the humid weather. The complaints may go from annoying to intolerable as we make our way into the summer heat. I’ll keep you posted. I welcome the high temperatures because I’m not much for wool socks, dry hands and chapped lips. Plus, the cherry blossoms are nice on the eyes, especially when the cherry trees are closely clustered together. Apparently, the Japanese introduced Korea to cherry blossom festivals during their rule over the peninsula. While cherry blossom festivals are popular in Korea today, after Japan surrendered in WWII many cherry trees were destroyed because they reminded some of the Japanese occupation. Whether most know the origins of the tradition or not, everyone I’ve spoken to in Daegu about cherry blossoms only mention their beauty.
Rebirth of the perfectionist
I’m taking a painting class in Lotte Department store with a Korean friend Mijin. You might be wondering why I am taking an art class in a department store, something I’ve asked myself. Lotte is like Macy’s on steroids, featuring a nice food court and grocery store and offering all kinds of classes, like dance, piano, yoga, etc. The class meets every Sunday. I find myself looking forward to going every week even though it has triggered some of my obsessive, self-critical qualities. As a kid I had a knack for drawing and I would spend hours on a single sketch, trying to make every line, every mark perfect. Typically, it would end in me throwing away my work out of frustration. I have made it over a month without snapping a single paint brush, tearing apart a canvass, or unleashing any real emotional outbursts. Can you say growth? Though sometimes it feels like the instructor and I are speaking two totally different languages (hint: we are). According to Mijin, my defacto interpreter, the teacher has concern that I am devoting too much attention and detail to the background. I think she applies to much makeup to her eyebrows. Mijin deserves an award for being the middle(wo)man and bearing the brunt of my neuroticism.
With six months of experience living in Korean under my belt my perspective of the country is starting to take form, rounding like an inflating beach ball. I am proud to say that the unfamiliarity and separation from my culture and traditions has not led to me becoming a xenophobe. Contrarily, the wider the difference, only the more interesting. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite and least favorite things about Korea (so far). In my opinion, the pros substantially outweigh the cons.
1. Friendly people – most people I meet are nice and welcoming. Unfortunately the men are much quicker to strike up conversation with me than the women, which usually entails them saying something like, “Hi! You’re handsome! Where are you from?” Whatever confidence I collect from these kinds of exchanges evaporates when my students begin critiquing every asymmetry on my face.
2. Mountainous region – no shortage of beautiful mountains
3. BBQ restaurants – they supply you with a plate full of raw meat, as well as an array of side dishes, and you cook the meat on a grill at your table.
4. Noraebangs – karaoke room with friends are everywhere. Apparently some places offer “service” something that is missing from my Korean experience.
5. Public transport – the subway and bus systems are top-notch and don’t get me started on the high-speed rail system … the KTX, which spans the entire country from top to bottom goes up to 190 mph (305 kmh). Enough said.
6. Women – I was never a guy with an ‘Asian fetish’ per se (like my good friend Mike professed that he had back in 7th grade), but with every day that I am here I am finding Korean women increasingly more attractive.
1. Lack of cheese
2. Lack of public garbage cans
3. Lack of respect for personal space-I’ve become accustomed to getting bumped, skipped, and on one occasion, massaged.
In the news…
I don’t know what was more shocking Osama bin Laden’s death or the Lakers getting swept.
Miami Heat win NBA title
“Drinking in Korea is not only well accepted, it’s encouraged and often necessary at certain social functions (such as business dinners and family gatherings). ” – Robert Nilsen in the traveling handbook South Korea
Avalon school (hakkyo) threw a work party for new teachers arriving to the school -like myself – and teachers who are on their way out. We went to a bbq place which the foreign teachers at my school call ‘Mountain’ because there is a picture which appears to be a mountain on the light up sign outside. We enjoyed dweji gogi (pork) on the grill with an array of spices and vegetables. I am beginning to like eating entire chunks of garlic, people conversing with me close range probably don’t. It was at the restaurant where my first encounter with the soju occurred. Soju is extremely popular because it is dirt cheap and it gets you wrecked in no time. It is a clear liquor usually made from rice, similar to vodka. My boss made sure everyone had a drink in their hand at all times throughout dinner and if you didn’t than a shot of Soju mixed in a cup of maekju (beer) ensued. Apparently, when you are out socially with co-workers there is not a level of professionalism that needs to be maintained in South Korean culture. The more you drink at a function of this sort the better. It’s safe to say I made a fine first impression.
After dinner and drinks we all made our way to a karaoke establishment called a norabang. We drank more soju and maekju and sang into the early morning hours. There was a mixture of Korean songs and American classics and the highlight for me was Living on a Prayer and Hey Jude …
Na na na, na-na na na
Na-na na na, hey Jude
Na na na, na-na na na
Na-na na na, hey Jude
The norabang is much different from what karaoke bars are typically like in the States. We went inside this dark room with a giant screen in the middle and bench seats surrounding the area where you stand up and sing. It was a cool atmosphere and you really can’t help but to have a good time. The teachers I work with are a fun group. England, Ireland, the US, Ecuador, and Scotland are all represented. The English Dan told me that our boss asked him if he could speak more American-like when he started out at the school. In order to prevent any confusion I am Daniel at the school. I have never really been called Daniel throughout my life so it is taking some getting used to. When people call me Daniel I feel the need to act in a more sophisticated manner. The Dan in me is itching to come out.
The Korean teachers at my school are somewhat reserved but always cheerful. I don’t know if I have improved my level of humor since I’ve been here but they are constantly laughing at things that have no intention whatsoever of being funny. This is how a conversation went with a young Korean teacher that I said looks like Cameron Diaz after a wee (the Irish influence) bit to much soju (she looks nothing like Cameron Diaz).
Me: Hello, how are you?
Cameron: Good. You?
Cameron: Ha ha ha ha ha
Tomorrow I am going to try ‘wonderful’ and see what I get.