Posts Tagged Korean

Plenty of mirrors, not enough cabbage

Gimchi, a very common side dish in Korea

Kimchi

Kimchi Crisis

Kimchi is an extremely popular traditional Korean dish. This spicy fermented cabbage is ubiquitous throughout Korea and is basically served with every meal. To say that Koreans love kimchi would be an understatement.

When you dine at any type of eatery they will bring you kimchi before you get your food and they will also make sure there is enough on the table to compliment your meal. I have really taken a liking to kimchi and I think it is best with a mouthful of beef. People are in a kind of panic here because a very rainy September ruined much of the Chinese cabbage crop that is exported to Korea.

I cannot really think of America’s equivalent of kimchi. I read an article that said kimchi for Koreans is like pasta for Italians, people cannot go without it (or how about potatoes for the Irish) . The price of kimchi has gone up so much that some restaurants are becoming much more frugal with their kimchi and the people here are referring to it as gold. The city government of Seoul recently initiated a kimchi bailout program. Seriously. In the US, the government bailed out failing banks, here in Korea the government is rescuing cabbage consumers. Apparently the government is shouldering 30% of the cost of roughly 300,000 heads of cabbage it has purchased,  making it more affordable for consumers.

No pot to piss in

For those of you who have not been to Korea before and are coming I would like to offer you a valuable piece of advice. Before you leave your house pretend like you are going on a long road trip in a car. In other words, make sure you relieve yourself before heading out, because it’s likely to be difficult to find a bathroom. Decent restaurants typically have restrooms but you have to dine  to use their toilet. Most small family run eateries do not have accessible bathrooms nor do convenience stores and the like.  I have been here for three weeks so I do know of a place or two that I can go to in case of a dire situation, but the scarcity takes some getting used to; my body is becoming conditioned and quite adept at operating at a high level with a bladder that is on full.

Another thing … when you actually do find a restroom there’s an excellent possibility that it is a mixed gender bathroom. It would have been nice if someone told me this before I nearly pissed all over myself at a urinal when a girl walked passed me and into the stall behind me. At that moment I was utterly confused: Am I in the women’s bathroom? If I am in the women’s bathroom why are there urinals? Maybe she is in the wrong bathroom. Did she see my package? Did she look impressed? Why does it sound like she is dumping a bucket of water into the toilet? I alerted a coworker when I got back to our table and he explained to me that it is not uncommon. I can deal, but a warning would have been nice.

Sans trash cans

Whereas public restrooms are a challenge to find in Daegu, trash cans are impossible. I’m not sure if this is the case in other cities, but in Daegu there are no public trash cans outside, anywhere. I have come across one since I have been here and it brought me so much joy that I went into a corner store and bought a candy bar just so I could use the garbage can by throwing away the wrapper, and because I like chocolate. Remarkably the streets are relatively well-kept and for the most part free of debris and litter.

Vanity

What Daegu lacks in trash cans and restrooms they make up for in mirrors. There are mirrors everywhere. I am used to seeing mirrors in many places in America  so it is not foreign to me, but I’m not used to having the opportunity to look at my self so frequently. I often see women standing in front of mirrors fixing their hair, reapplying makeup, or just staring. Nietzsche wrote that “vanity is the fear of appearing original” and this seems to be a perfect explanation for Daegu’s abundance of mirrors where people can make sure they fall in line with the rest. People here tend to value collectivism more than individuality and self-differentiation. You see a lot of the same hairstyles and people wear the same kinds of clothes because being different is not something that too many strive for – although this seems to be less the case in the younger generation where personal self-expression is manifested more often. What does this mean for me? I find myself singing Michael Jackson’s Man in the Mirror more than ever before.

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The Korean Blog List

Nobody thought it would happen. Many felt it was impossible. I, myself, even began to question the feasibility…

Readers, it is with my great pleasure to announce that the seemingly unattainable has been, well, attained. As of today this blog is now officially on The Korean Blog List, a website that is a compilation of English language blogs related to Korea by Koreans and foreigners. What does this mean for you? Nothing, unless of course you are now reading Circumstantial Evidence as a result of perusing The Korean Blog List. If that is the case I simultaneously welcome you and warn you. This blog is not for the easily offended, morbidly obese, or those who like country music. I will guarantee  that you will find this blog  deeply rewarding and incredibly entertaining if you meet at least one of the following requirements:

a)  have good taste

b) open-minded

c) living in South Korea or interest in living in South Korea

d) curious nature

e) interest in teaching

f) fan of women, current events, and/or NBA

I would also like to take a minute to assure my readers who have been with me from the very start (one month) that the fundamental nature of this blog will not change just because I have arrived on the big stage. I will still offer the same content, style, and voice that you have come to love.  It takes a rare person of great character to stay true when bestowed with grand commendation and I can humbly say that this is something that comes natural to me. When Michael Jordan starting winning Championships he didn’t abandon the very thing that raised him and his team to that level. No, he continued to do the little things that got him there. I pledge to take this same approach. Just because my blog is now featured on The Korean Blog List doesn’t make it better than other blogs out there. It would be silly to suggest something so superficial and presumptuous. Rather it is the eloquence and relevance that makes these posts glow.

Disclaimer: You’re blog will appear on The Korean Blog List if you merely write about  Korea on a somewhat consistent basis. In no way does the quality of writing or level of insight decide if your blog meets the necessary requirements.

 

Light show at Suseong Reservoir.

 

Recent observations:

  • The stench that emits from the sewers in Daegu is something repulsive and sickening. The foul-smelling odor must easily eclipse that of a rotting corpse that is left in the sun. I have now gotten into the habit of holding my breath when I pass over a sewer vent. The transportation system in Daegu is impressive, the sewer system is as equally unimpressive.
  • While eating out at a restaurant that my fellow coworkers call ‘Moms’ because the server has the innate motherly care and touch, I saw the second fist-fight between two highly inebriated  guys in a matter of four days. These guys were enjoying a meal with each other alfresco when suddenly tempers flared. While younger than the middle-aged men I saw fighting on Saturday they were less successful at landing mushes, punches, and off-balanced kicks. Five minutes after they went at it they could be seen sitting together, arm around the other, chatting it up. Who says a quick scrap isn’t the best form of mediation?
  • We also frequent a restaurant that my co-workers call ‘Dads’. ‘Moms’ serves beef and ‘Dads’ specializes in pork. I prefer beef, but I give  ‘Dads’ the edge over ‘Moms’ because ‘Dad’ hooked us up with free baked potatoes and jumbo shrimp my only time there.
  • Korean people are some of the most accommodating and friendly people you will meet. Despite witnessing several alcohol charged scraps I feel incredibly safe in Daegu. Some people give me candy as I pass them on the street and I recently received a beautiful oven mitt from a restaurant owner.
  • One of my students’ favorite shows is The Simpson’s.  He has the early leg up for being my favorite student. Though he is in direct competition with a friendly little dude who follows the Lakers.

 

Preview for upcoming blog post: Last week of teacher training

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