Archive for July, 2009

Makkoli – Korean Rice Wine

Makkoli has been this mysterious drink people have talked about to us, since we arrived in South Korea, but no one ever ordered.  This drink is not usually served in restaurants.  Seth and I went to this tiny local bar that’s in the alley between our school and apartment.  Sounds shady but it’s not at all.  Hanging from the tin roof outside the bar were gold metal tea pots.  We had wondered for the past 6 months what was the purpose of having sooo many tea pots.  Then we discovered that it was a bar that specialized in Makkoli.  We had to try some.

Traditional places will only serve Makkoli in metal pots.  This bar even gave us metal cups to drink from.

Think slight sweetness with a tangy after taste.  Then add cold metal cups that make your lips do a small pull-back.   It’s not a knock you down alcohol like Soju, it’s more mild.   I liked it and will probably drink it again.

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Anyang is such a great town

Anyang has it all….. lots of shopping department stores, a traditional market with lots of fresh veggies, good clubs for a fun nightlife, lots of English teachers, close to mountains… and other little perks that wouldn’t make sense in a blog.

Looking down on Anyang while drinking coffee.

Looking down on Anyang while drinking coffee.

Anyang is 20 minutes, by subway, from Sanbon… or a ~$4 cab ride away.  This is also where Club Psycho is located… the bar that reminds me of Huntington.   Mainly, I think Anyang is great because of its Chugang market.  That is where the piles and piles of peppers, spices, vegetables, and fruit can be found for reasonable prices.  Seth and I bought a giant bag of potatoes for ~$2 and a box of black raspberries for ~$3.  They sell clothes and purses too.  Anyang has also been one of the few towns that actually has vintage clothing shops.  Most Koreans won’t buy used clothing because of some strange folklore, such as the clothing being haunted by the previous owners (even though no one died).  It’s weird, but there aren’t many 2nd hand clothing shops.  We found 3 of them in Anyang.  I guess they’re not as superstitious here as opposed to the rest of Korea.

Seth and I were trying to find him a “man purse”.  All the men in Korea carry purses.  It’s funny, but true.  Seth decided they have the right idea and that he needs to enjoy the same convenience.  He didn’t find one he liked, so we stopped for a frozen coffee.  This picture is taken while resting.

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Emart Pets

Emart really does have everything:  leather purses, oyster mushrooms, window cleaner, shoe polish, air mattresses, plasma screen TVs, paint brushes, Hello Kitty chopsticks and hedgehogs.  Yes, Emart sells hedgehogs.   How funny?

This 3 story supermarket, of sorts, sells just about anything you could need.  A tiny section of this giant store even sells pets.  Why not buy a pet lizard when you pick up dinner?  Why not, indeed…

These little hedgehogs were soo cute, I almost bought one… but what would I do with a hedgehog?  Mainly it’s funny to me because I’d name him ‘Sonic’ and make him run on a spinning wheel all day, just for giggles.  A turtle, on the other hand, would be an awesome pet.  I used to find turtles at the river and bring them home sometimes.  I’d have to take them back, every time.

Bunnies are a common pet here.  Many of my students have a pet bunny at home.  It makes sense, they’re small and don’t make much noise.  What really struck me by surprise today was the huge tank of hermit crabs.  I remember having hermit crabs when I was young.  We’d get them at the beach, and they’d always die within a few months.  Sad really, but I always wanted one.  But in Emart, all of the hermit crabs had their shells painted!  Not a single shell was “normal” and many of them had rhinestones.  You could also pick out a bigger shell for your crab, that was also painted in some weird, colorful design.   The shells were apparently painted before the crabs took residence, so it isn’t supposed to be harmful to them at all.

To add to this ‘Wall of Weird’ (Smallville reference) behind the gerbils, hampsters and lizards was an entire rack of bugs for sale.  Yes, you can buy your very own Hercules beetle, or various other beetle, if you so choose.

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Uncle Tomato’s

A new restaurant has opened up between our apartment and work.  How convenient.  It’s called Uncle Tomato and it is meant to be an Italian restaurant.  The menu does have spaghetti and serves pasta with various meats, but it doesn’t look anything like an Italian bistro and serves things like breaded pork chops.  Nana’s Kitchen came to mind when I entered this establishment.  We were surrounded by ruffled curtains, ceramic cow figurines, pink doilies and white scalloped lamp shades.

It was the giant red sign that made us drool.  It was a 1 + 1 rib meal deal for only 23,000 Won (~$20).  Who can resist BBQ ribs, french fries and a salad?  We couldn’t.  Pork BBQ ribs aren’t exactly Italian cuisine either… but nothing in Korea ever makes perfect sense, so it’s OK.  Seth’s face is priceless.  He hates when I take pictures of him and I made him smile for this … so he looks really funny, I think.

Surprisingly, our meal looked very similar to the picture on the sign.  Usually that never happens.  Needless to say these were the best ribs we have eaten in a long time.  The BBQ sauce tasted like BBQ sauce… and not some horrible concoction of Korean fusion cooking.  The sides were pickles that almost tasted like dill pickles but not quite and jalepenos.  Strange combination.  The picture on the right is Seth’s plate… he didn’t lick the plate clean, but he did eat the entire rack of ribs.   Three ribs remained on my plate… and actually that’s my tomato that I threw on his plate.

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6 Month Mark

In case anyone has been wondering… Seth and I have been in good ol’ Sanbon, South Korea 6 months.  It’s flown by like a race car on the winning lap.  I can hear the cheers and whistles…  somewhere in the midst of all this people are doing the Wave.  I miss a good crowd Wave, the kind you’d find at a football game.  Actually, I don’t see Koreans doing the Wave… it’s not something they would get into, I do not believe.  It would more likely be a 1 or 2 person wave… maybe a small section of foreign English teachers getting into the excitement if only to cause the Koreans to stare and take even more pictures than usual.

Photobucket

This collage displays just a few glimpses into our lives.  Whether it be venturing into a new part of Seoul, eating different types of local cuisine, singing very poorly in a Nore bang (singing room), walking to work together everyday, laughing at all the crazy English translations, learning a new language, being able to spend time together…. we are enjoying life.

Top 5 favorite things about our time in Korea: :mrgreen:

1.  Free time – I get to work on crafts, cook meals, read books, practice guitar, take walks and I forgot how awesome sleep could be

2. Cham chi Kim baps – cooked tuna sushi-like roll ups with rice and veggies  YUM!

3. Palaces – how awesome is it that I get to roam ancient royal palaces

4. Riding the subway – it’s fun and easy… plus I like to travel while reading or watching video podcasts

5. Spending time with Seth… which is something I did not get to do very often back home due to school and work schedules

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Convenient Store Food

Oh, how I long for the times of late night stops into 7-11 for a cherry slushie, Cool Ranch Doritos and a Snickers bar.  Although I can find some of the “usual” munchies here, mostly it’s weird food that isn’t exactly appetizing.

I just can’t get used to seeing dried squid and chopped  up fish bits as a tasty snack.  A friend of mine swears that if I dip them in Mayonnaise it’s the best snack ever… I don’t believe her.  Even the giant assortment of ramen doesn’t fit into my schema of kwiky mart foods.

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Cookin’ Nanta

Nanta is a (mostly) non-verbal performance.  I was blown away by this amazing show.  Knives and various kitchen items are transformed into musical instruments that overtake the audience with a mesmerizing sound.  Martial arts dancing, traditional Korean instruments, singing and chanting are all part of Nanta.   The entire audience was bouncing in their seats.

Since arriving in Korea, we have heard praises for this performance.  Nanta exceeded our expectations.

Take the subway to City Hall Station (Line 2) and walk past Deoksugung Palace. It’s about 500m from there.

I’d also like to report that the in-laws boarded the airport shuttle just before noon today.  Their flight leaves later this afternoon.  It was so nice to have them around.  Plus, unless you see this place first-hand, you will never really understand how amazing it really is.

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Work work work

I have never shared pictures of what my place of work looks like.  Nothing special stands out.  Actually, it looks like a million other office areas in the world: fake wood, uncomfortable chairs, copy machine, too many piles of paper.  Except that my office has Korean writing on whiteboard, I can’t understand the copy machine and the computer language button needs to be pressed anytime I want to type up a worksheet.  It’s a typical chaotic work environment.  Just recently we have moved into Pre-Summer Session classes… which means new students, new books.  We were given our new schedules the day of the switch-over.  Insane. It has been a few busy, crazy days.  I believe… Chickens with their heads cut off, fits perfectly.  That’s my big blue chair in the back.

This is where the teacher area is located.

This is where the teacher area is located.

My disaster of a cubicle

My disaster of a cubicle

Cute smiley faces my mom sent me in the mail and random cards I have received.   My tiny black coffee cup holder, water Nalgene, school books, library book, suduko puzzle, cds and tapes for classes.  Students have given me stickers and Hello Kitty buttons.  I am also blessed, being beside the coffee and tea that resides in an empty cubicle next to mine.  All day long I am scooting back and forth to avoid other teachers wanting a caffeine boost.

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Changdeokgung Palace

The Bakers have made it to South Korea to spend 10 days with Seth and I.   We’ve shown them around Sanbon and ventured into Seoul.  Sometimes wandering in the heat can be fun, at least it wasn’t pouring the rain the day we wanted to visit a palace.

Changdeokgung Palace was built in 1405 and over the years pieces were destroyed and rebuilt. This palace was part of the largest royal residential complex of the Joseon Dynasty. Earlier in the year Seth and I visited the JongmyoShrine which is part of this palace.  I’m still not tired of seeing the ancient palace grounds… it’s all soo surreal. 

My favorite part: Secret Gardens, located behind the King and Queen’s quarters.  Originally they were called Forbidden Gardens because everyone except royalty was forbidden to enter or even see the gardens.  It was difficult to determine where the garden began and where the natural mountain flora ended.  

The easiest way to reach this palace is Anguk station, exit 3.  A cheap 3,000 won to enter, and worth so much  more.  Closed on Mondays.  It’s only accessible with tours, available in English, Chinese, Japanese and of course, Korean.  The times were posted on the sign near the entrance, and they change.

 

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More Flowers

Bright pinks, fiery oranges, sunshine yellows, royal purples and deep greens are found all over this beautiful country.  Flowers keep me sane.

Most intriguing, to me, is the 2nd flower image.  Although this flower looks simple in design, it stood out like the red headed child amidst it’s plain brown haired siblings.  This flower was one of the few flowers in the patch that had a burgundy center.  The many other surrounding flowers looked like Black Eyed Susans, their bright orange petals extending all the way to the center.  Such an amazing flower patch.  I enjoy finding new or exotic flowers.  They may not be exotic to Korea, but at least new and exotic to me.

This lovely assortment of flowers has been captured on film by either Seth or myself.  :mrgreen:

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