Best Restaurant

Last weekend it was very cold. As much as we wanted to venture out and see more of the unfamiliar we mostly stayed indoors. We did eventually go out as we were too hungry to stay inside. We went out seeking food and calm refreshment. You would think that would be an easy thing to do Saturday at 4pm. It seems to me that Korea has a night owl culture. Y-Mart always seems to be open while coffee shops open at 11 and restaurants open at dinner 5 or 6.  Friday and Saturday nights are also referred to as fire nights. This is due to the mass consumption of Soju. Korea is also known as The Land of the Morning Calm, I often get the idea this nickname is from sleeping in.

Five days plus a week, Wyll and I walk the same path to work. Over the month and a half that we have been here we have watched a garden/farm in all stages. When we first arrived it was the number one thing that blew our minds. Then we witnessed it being planted. We have also seen all the diakon be harvested and more recently the cabbage- it is Kimchi month btw. There is also a restaurant that we want to eat at, but it is always closed or too late for us to dine. We had seen the restaurant family making their own kimchi over a few days. One of the sons speaks minimal English, I was so bummed that I didn’t have a camera on me. Two and two = our favorite garden/farm is attached to our favorite restaurant. How cool is that?

Unfortunately, they were closed. We still haven’t eaten at our favorite restaurant.

We walked down to Y-Mart. It was getting really cold so we thought we’d walk over to restaurant street. There are two main streets that bring us to town. One has all the restaurants on it and our director called it restaurant street so forever it shall be named. The other one we just call main street or direct street. Anyway, there is this massive log cabin it has a Gochang Top sign that reads “Best Restaurant”. We have been intrigued with this place for a long time. It looks like something tourists are really into.  (For those of you interested yesterday Wyll and I went to the BIG supermarket and got coffee in tea bags- so much better than instant! I’m enjoying it right now). Wyll went into check the menu out. I’m silly and waited outside.

When he okay-ed the menu he came out to get me. There are a few things we look for on a menu, pictures being the main and price- if I can’t eat it, I don’t want to pay too much for it. Although, I should probably get over it b/c I’ve been able to eat everything except some of the ‘fast food’ like spicy ramen, tapoki- a outrageously spicy noodle dish. We sat down and our waiter was looking over the menu with us. He didn’t speak English, but was very interested in our process for picking out food. We decided to get a family style short rib stew. It was labeled ‘best’. It was also pretty much the only thing on the menu. Wyll tried to order the biggest one 30,000 won. The waiter refused. They had a comical finger pointing war. At the end the waiter won, secretly. Wyll thought he had won. When we got the bill they had compromised. 25,000 won.

I think if he could speak English he would have said:

“Kind sir that portion is for 6-8 people; how will you and the lady eat all of it?”

After the waiter left, the hostess returned with a mountain of Banchan- side dishes. (Pictures below). There was pickled quail eggs, some kind of seasoned mushroom, cold greens, spicy pickled diakon, salty kimchi, spicy kimchi, soy marinated kimchi… Wyll loved the kimchi so much he asked for the banchan to-go. Our hostess got a brand new one for us. When the soup arrived they also put a camp stove on our table. The stew continues to cook while you are eating it. This is problematic for me b/c it smells so good I always burn my tongue. I say always b/c the three times I have eaten boiling soup I have gotten over excited and burned my tongue. But not this time! I knew better! I put everything in my bowl, I pulled the meat off the bone, I put some soup on my spoon, I waited, I cooled… I ate! It was delicious!

Note: There are also a few pictures of a soccer competition.

 

Gwangju

This weekend one of our students, Brady took us around the nearby big city. It was a day full of excitement and overwhelming joy. Wyll got up early made coffee and tried to get me out of bed. At 9:45, I rose, dressed and casually walked out the door. Once at the bottom of our apartment building I joked about not bringing the umbrellas-

“looks like rain- maybe I should have brought the umbrellas…”

I then went back to the apartment to get said umbrellas. Wyll bought breakfast from the mini mart in the parking lot. We hustled to the bus terminal. Upon arrival we realized- we only had cards. Our lovely student spotted us the ten dollars. It was a good move- once we got on the bus there were only two seats left. Many people stood in the aisle for the 70 minute journey. We both got car sick.

Once at the bus terminal in Gwangju I realized I had been there before. Our first night in Korea this was where we met Sam and Grace. Oh Hello Kitty store, how I have missed you! First stop Korean only ATM. Thanks to Brady for helping me break in! He then took us to KFC and went to run an errand. Salty, salty, salty hot wings. During the 20 minutes it took for our fast food to arrive Brady was back. He ordered and the food seemed to all come at once. Some how KFC knew that we should all eat together. The fries were not greasy or salty. They were almost dry, very weird.

After food we went and looked at the IMax theater, Twilight was the only English speaking movie playing. We decided to go on a hunt for the most elusive store ever, Club Alice. One of the few Magic card dealers in Korea. By far the closest one to us. It was downtown so we all jumped into taxi. There was a big debate over where the store itself was. Brady’s phone didn’t show it properly so Wyll handed his phone over. The taxi driver spoke Korean. He made noises. Brady pushed buttons on the GPS. I held the door handle for dear life as we tried to hit stray dogs, mopeds, cars- parked and moving, people, houses…

We were dropped off in the downtown pedestrian walkway shopping mecca. Anything you want is probably here. We started off by stopping for coffee at- no laughing- Angel-in-us Coffee. So many places to go with that name… We had ourselves a good laugh and headed out to find Club Alice. First we asked the baristas (we meaning Brady), ‘don’t know what you are talking about’. So we looked around, but this place is huge and the whole block or however much space it is all the same street. Everything is everywhere. So we try using the phone GPS. Is it in this direction? Walk a few feet. IDK. Let’s keep walking. We did this for two or three blocks at a very s l o w pace. Brady decides it might be a good time to call. Maybe ask someone who is there, how do I get to where you are? No answer. They are probably too busy playing MTG to bother with the phone. We scrutinize the alley ways. Maybe…. no.

Finally Wyll throws in the towel. We look down a street no Club Alice. He sighs, time to start looking for shoes. I think OH YEAH, let the wild rumpus start!

“There it is!”

“Where!?!” Wyll and I are both excited and happy.

“There! The pink- all in KOREAN!”

Alright! Finally we can show Brady what MTG is. So it can let go of the childish Yu-Gi-Oh image that it has merged with. I mean grown-ups play Magic. I mean I play Magic and I’m a grown up. So it can’t be that silly…

We breathe, walking half way down the block to climb to the forth floor. MTG posters in ENGLISH! I bet they have things I can read! At the top of the stairs there is a GIANT Planeswalker poster glaring down at us. His eyes are white with greed. As if he knows that we have been talking about this moment since before we arrived. Since we know how big computer games are in Korea but still aloof  to MTG. Remember how I said they didn’t answer the phone. Well they were closed. MTG is a growing thing. Maybe. We got the Korean website. Hopefully we can order some cards online. They are having a big event in January but that is a ways off.

The whole trip was far from a let down. It felt like every moment something different and wonderful was happening. We went into some large department stores, I found some really nice Sorels. So we’ll be going back. After I went into most of the shops Brady’s friend met up with us. We went to a few more shops and then took another taxi ride to see the university. Brady and his friend took us on a tour of the campus. Passionately Brady told us which buildings he studied in. Chemical Engineering. Lots of Math, Science, Biology. The campus was very pretty with sculpted evergreen trees. The ginko leaves are yellow and falling off the trees. Fall is such a lovely season.

We saw a pond with dying water lilies. Brady said we had to come see it in May when it’s pack green with pink and white flowers. While we were discussing the next thing to do Brady was pointing out nearby points of interest. We all noted “Skin Dive” would not be happening. So we started in the direction of the theater. I spied some very funny looking street vendors. And OMG could there be more shopping to do! We headed down chicken and soju lane. Brady said there were places to play table tennis. We headed back to the main road and I spied Artbox, which Grace explained to me was targeted to teens. My thought was; who wouldn’t want a Hello Kitty blow dryer? I told her it was the most amazing place ever. She said yeah, and all the boyfriends are lined up by the door checking their watches. Lucky for me I had Wyll, Brady and Brady’s friend. They walked around and Wyll finally drug me out as I clawed at the ground. Do what you want! But leave me here!!!!!!!!

You can’t really blame them. They had low blood sugar, they were hungry, they don’t know good, cheap fun when they see it. So we headed outside, walked around in a circle and went to lunch (second lunch) a few doors from Artbox. It was awesome, being able to talk over the menu! What a luxury! The boys all got different kinds of ramen (lomyoun), spicy,spicy,spicy. The kimchi, pepper and red paste are all to cool down the soup. Who knew? I had mandu. YUM. My new favorite Korean food. (I actually had it tonight too!) It’s basically a stemmed pork pot sticker. LOVE! We all ate very well. The boys got extra rounds for kimchi, peppers, red paste. There was also a …pizza? but more like a savory rice pancake. Everything was really good and sooo cheap. All four of us ate for like $12.

Full we headed out. I got some Aveeno chap stick for 75 cents and we got some stuff for motion sickness for the bus ride back. On the taxi ride back to the terminal, Brady broke the news that we were flying solo. He was staying the night in Gwangju. They took us to buy tickets and showed us where we had to go. Then they were off for a night havoc and frivolity. We had over an hour to kill, but as Grace has told me many times some people get to Gwangju and never leave the bus terminal. Now I understand.

We first headed to the book store. Brady said they have English magazines. $20 dollars for Cosmo are you kidding me!?! No wedding magazines? Do they actually sell anything here?

What is that section?

Why is it so bright over there?

What are all those teenage girls looking at?

What is this?

ARTBOX! My new favorite store in the bookstore! So that’s what this bookstore sells, stationary, hair clips, Hello Kitty! YAY!

Wyll is tired.

“Lindsy, when did we go to Hello Kittyland? Where does it end? Lindsy what are we doing here? We MUST leave!”

“Don’t worry Wyll. Let’s go to COLD STONE!” Up we go.

“Like it size, please. Coffee ice cream. Roasted almonds. Caramel.”

This is the life.

 

So the pictures of the gate and kiwis are from Gochang. The picture of me has Wyll, Brady, and Brady’s friend in the background. They were discussing the merits of sushi.

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T.G.I.F

In the words of Katy Perry: Thank God it’s Friday. Pay day couldn’t get here any sooner. 

When I think about my life there are a few moments that stand out. A few moments when I could have done better- leaving my graduation speech at home is a big one. Leaving for a foreign country with five hundred dollars could have made that list. Fortunately, I like to cook and the fare is here is only slightly different from home. Our apartment was equipped with a 20 pound bag of rice. It was almost like a skinny month in the states. We managed to eat pretty well, spaghetti, stir fry, chicken. Instead of PBJs we ate fish shaped waffles with red bean paste. 

Over the last month we have eaten smoked chicken (delicious), admired the local vegetation, participated in cultural events, and became loved and admired by our students and director (don’t tell her). There have been challenges- I am hoping to get organized about skyping this weekend. We have struggled with cultural differences. These things will get easier as we adjust to a new culture, time zone, way of communicating with family.

Wyll and I are really getting into the popular music. I think there are three songs right now that I can pretend to sing in Korean. I have fallen in love with Korean fashion- although I don’t think it’s too far off from where American fashion is right now. The weather is getting colder so tomorrow is also a shopping day for me. It’s actually cold enough for Wyll to wear long underwear. I guess I’m crazy to want more tights so I can wear skirts!

The following photos are from around Gochang. I hope you enjoy!

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Formal Intros

Today was pretty exciting at school. We finally did formal introductions for the students. Wyll and I made PowerPoints to show all the students. We had to keep it educational so I created a crossword and Wyll made a fill in the blank. We shared all the classes today so it was very busy. Grace is eager to have us bond with the students so she gave us a lot of time. We ended up going over for every class. Which meant that we eat a lot of yogurt and bananas. I think I ate four bananas today.

I am the lead teacher for the first two classes of the day. These are younger grades and one on one classes. I started my PP and had them fill out the crossword as I went. I think most students were very excited to hear Wyll’s favorite American music. There was even a lot of exclamations of ‘how pretty’ when mothers and sisters were on the screen. Students seemed to understand the basic ideas we were throwing at them. Keeping it simple and easy to understand was probably the hardest part of the preparation.

The youngest students didn’t even notice our multiple parents or seemingly very different looking siblings. For the older students it was hard to understand our family (as one adult student called it a ‘morning drama’- like a soap opera). Also the direct translation for step parent has bad connotations (think snow white’s step parent). Younger students were apprehensive to even say step parent out loud in Korean.  I found a direct translation and had a student read it out loud to the class. The eyes in the room were as big as saucers. A better word is ‘new parent’ which has flaws as well.

The older students wanted to know everything. They had so many questions we went over by 20 min. What a blast!

Another walk around town

From our apartment to Zenith there are two main possible streets, Y-Mart street (the grocery store) and restaurant street. A few days ago Wyll and I turned the opposite direction on restaurant street and we found ourselves gallivanting on the outer reaches of Gochang. It was the perfect kind of day for these kinds of shinanagins! The sun shone brightly. We were freshly showered and ready to get stinky in the short hours before work. Unsure about the direction we headed for the end of the street thinking we could look around and see if there was anything interesting. We found a recent monument and grave site for someone very important. Grace says probably a political or literary figure due to the writing being in Chinese characters. She can’t read them similar to how I can’t read Latin.

After climbing all over the monument we saw a graveyard. Being that it was so close to Halloween we thought we would check it out. As we neared our approach a small dog started barking and we realized that there was nothing between us and the dog. We also realized we were walking up a private driveway and slowly recalled being told that Koreans have small family plots. We decided to take the path leading up into the woods. What is also probably private property.

We walked up a hill that reminded me of where Amy and Christine lived on Bohemian Hwy. The small difference  being that we are in Korea, not California’s Redwood Rainforest.  I walked cautiously perhaps too wary of California’s poison oak plants (I found myself with a rash right before we left for Korea- Poison Oak is NOT fun on a plane.) We were barely out of town but you could hear different bird calls. We saw some Magpies and maybe heard them too. We might not go back but we had a good time!