A Travellerspoint blog

A funny story

sunny 28 °C

So I was feeling a bit peckish last week and decided to take myself off to a local restaurant for a light bite. When I arrived the owner, his wife and the other ‘workers’ as they’re called were having their lunch and invited me to sit down next to them. Seeing as it was a hot summer day I decided to order some mae-meil noodles (cold buckwheat noodles) and some sushi. Anyway as my food was being prepared by one of the ‘workers’ the owner, a man, who could speak a little English started asking the basic introductory questions – Where am I from? How long have I been here? Where did I teach etc? After a brief conversation he then asked me ‘Are you married?’ which is a common question over here, obviously I said no, however then he asked me ‘ahhh, are you a virgin?, I looked at him with a puzzled expression thinking I had misheard him so I asked him to repeat his question. Again he said ‘are you a virgin?’ and this time he made a real effort to pronounce the ‘v’ in virgin as Koreans have a real problem pronouncing their v’s. Now I wasn’t really sure how to answer him, it is a rather personal question to ask someone you’ve just met. I know he probably meant to say ‘are you single?’ but I didn’t want to be rude and correct him so I answered his question with a straight face and said ‘yes, I am’ (sorry mum and dad, that ship sailed a while ago ; ) Anyway, I think after our brief and somewhat personal chat he translated everything to his wife who was sitting next to him and the other workers. After this he left me in peace to eat my noodles and to sit and go over what had just happened – another unique Korean experience to add to the book.

Posted by JuliaG 04:24 Archived in South Korea Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

ahhhh, it's alive

wriggle, wriggle, wriggle

rain 24 °C

Well I've been here 3 months and I knew this next event would happen sooner or later but it was still a shock.

So Busan is famous for it's fish in every shape and size. I haven't a clue as to how many different types of fish I've eaten. Now, I know you're all thinking, what, you mean there are other types of fish outside of cod, haddock and salmon?? well yes my friends, there are. Anyway, a few teachers from my school invited me to go for sushi with them and of course I said yes. We headed to Jalgachi market which is one of the famous landmarks in Busan. This place is more like a fish warehouse / fish slaughterhouse / place to eat. I can't really use the word 'restaurant' as we were literally sitting on plastic yellow seats with the sound of gushing water flowing into the hundreds of fish tanks surrounding us. So we ordered our food from our friendly 'sa jang nim' (aka fish stall owner) and he then worked his magic by picking a variety of live fish from the tanks, gutted, sliced and diced them and presented us with a plate of fish. The traditional way to eat this type of sushi isn't with rice but with lettuce. You pop some fish, add a dolop of sauce and maybe some other random veg and then pop it in your mouth - quite straightforward and quite tasty. So, there I was having quite a pleasant meal with my new korean friends when I saw our sa jang nim put down a plate with 'things' moving it. Now, this wasn't a whole fish flopping about on a plate but chopped up bits of octopus wiggling around. It's the moving chopping up pieces that still gets me - how is it possible? Anyway, my korean buddies kept saying 'try, try, good for skin, good for women' but I think my face said it all. Now, I've tried every type of food that's been on offer since I got here but I just couldn't bring myself to trying a chopped up bit of moving octopus. Would you?? I figure my skin is fine so I don't think I'm missing out by passing on this one. I mean, if it's still alive on the plate, does that mean it still wriggles about once you eat it? That was the part that got me, the thought of it being alive inside me. I don't think so.

It was interesting watching the other teachers tuck in. I watched with fascination as one teacher used her chopstick to prie one little piece of octopus off the plate; it was holding onto the plate for dear life. Once she had managed this (and I give her 10 out of 10 for perseverance), she dipped it some sauce and popped it in her mouth. I had to try and not make a nasty face at that point. Yuck!

So, that was my experience at Jalgachi. Definitely a new type of dining experience :)

Posted by JuliaG 20:48 Archived in South Korea Tagged food Comments (0)

A trip to the capital

My first trip to Seoul

sunny 26 °C

Last week Val and I made our first trip to Seoul. We took the high speed train from Busan which took about 3 hours. I was looking forward to seeing some of the country while I was on the train but to be honest there wasn’t much to see apart from a few paddy fields. Anyway, when we got there we headed straight for our hotel. Now rather than roughing it and staying in a hostel (I don’t think so) or a traditional Korean minibak where you sleep on the floor, we decided to stay in a more up-market hotel and it was definitely worth it. Comfy beds, soft pillows, a shower door and a luxury toilet seat (one that warms, squirts water etc – I’ll leave you to work what you do). What more could we ask for?

So after a good sleep on Friday we headed out into the big bad city for a bit of exploring. We went to one of the most famous Palaces in Korea, Changedeokgung. We saw lots of beautifully constructed buildings within the Palace but I’d say the Secret Garden was the highlight. I’ve uploaded a few photos.

After our history lesson at the Palace we decided to check out a local tea house where we had the chance to sample a variety of teas. One of the staff members spent over an hour with us explaining the ins and outs of tea making and letting us sample a few (it wasn't as boring as it sounds). Who knew so much effort goes into making tea? There was one tea for sale which cost 8 million won which is about £4,000 or $6,000; unfortunately we didn’t get to try it. Anyway, it was a lovely afternoon, a very cultural experience.

That night we headed out for a few drinks to Itaewon which is another area in Seoul. It’s a popular spot for Westerners, especially the US military as their base in close-by. I can’t say I was overly taken with the place and won’t be rushing back there anytime soon. The military soldiers were a ‘tad’ loud, overly confident and slightly cocky. We did come across some/several d**kheads (both American and English – apologies to my American and English friends, I know the Irish have their moments too). But we did meet quite a memorable Korean man, dickied up in a full suit who ended up sitting beside me in a Korean style rock bar, now he was very entertaining. I’m not sure if he was speaking Korean or English with a heavy Korean accent or just a made-up language, anyway he kept trying to talk to me and was pulling the funniest expressions I’ve ever seen. He was hilarious. He was also very fond of hitting me quite hard on the back when ‘chatting’ to me. I can’t say I understood anything he said but his facial expressions were enough to keep me engaged for a while. I assume he had part-taken in a few glasses of the old Soju. Either that or he was just a funny little Korean man.

I have to say my first impressions of Seoul were a little different to what I thought they would be. I went there thinking it would be a really crowded, polluted and smoggy city but that wasn't the case. It was definitely busier than Busan but not as crazy as I'd expected. The city is obviously more westernized than Busan as more signs were in English, including menus :) Also, there were were a few more western stores like Zara, Accessorize and of course Subway. For those of you that know me well, I used to eat quite a lot of subway's especially in NY so Val and I did make a pit stop there for lunch. That's one thing about the lunch time meal over here, Koreans don't really do the 'sandwich / soup / snack' thing, they have the full sha-bang of rice, kimchi, soup and some sort of meat/fish. They don't buy into the 'grab and go' culture that we're accustomed to. Anyway, all in all it was a good trip and I’ll definitely be going back soon. We didn’t make it to the DMZ this time around but it’s on my list for the next time. You can't come to South Korea without getting a look into the 'Secretive State'. Let's hope there aren't anymore nuclear tests anytime soon and Kim Jong Il doesn't launch any nucks this way :(

Well, that the latest from me. Feel free to post comments or e-mail me with your craic.

Miss you all

jules

Posted by JuliaG 20:45 Archived in South Korea Tagged living_abroad Comments (0)

Hostess of the mostess

A spot of pot luck

sunny 27 °C

Tonight I hosted my first 'Pot Luck' dinner extravaganza (lol).

Just in case you don't know what it is, Pot Luck involves everyone bringing a dish to the host's apartment where we all get to sample each others' dishes. So in other words it saves the host from doing all the cooking - genius :) Anyway, so everyone brought a range of food from Korean pajeon (pancake with veg and seafood) to duk boki (korea rice cake in a spicy sauce) to fried rice to pasta salad. All the food was delicious and we washed it down with a few glasses of fine 20% soju but we didn't go crazy as it is a school night (we are teachers after all!!!). I've uploaded a few pics if you want to check them out.

Well that's all from me today. I'm off to a firefly festival and then onto an 80's rock night tomorrow. The fun just never stops :)

Bye for now

j

Posted by JuliaG 07:19 Archived in South Korea Tagged food Comments (0)

more antics from the classroom

sunny 25 °C

So it just happened again. There I was teaching my little class of 1st graders when I noticed my co-teacher had yet again pulled a few students to the back of the room for a spot of 'light exercise'. Same as before she made them jump up and down while holding their ears. I don't actually know what they did wrong but that's beside the point. Now when this happened before I did manage to keep a straight in front of the other students as I was trying to maintain a sense of authority (yeah right, over here, I don't think so). Anyway, this time around I just couldn't control myself. The tears were tripping me (as they say in the homeland). I could hardly speak. I set off some of the other students who normally don't seem this form of discipline as any way out of the ordinary. It is the most bizarre sight. It definitely makes the class a little more interesting. I wonder what else lies in store for me for the rest of today??

Posted by JuliaG 19:48 Archived in South Korea Tagged educational Comments (0)

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