Well friends, I've been in Korea for 3 full weeks and am acclimated to the weather, my schedule, the food... but not the language! I have less than 30 pp. left to complete my TEFL Certification, and I am anxious to begin studying Hangeul. I feel paralyzed here in Tongyeong, unable to venture farther due to my lack of understanding and inability to communicate. Unlike me, yes, but all my other ramblings have been through Latin-speaking countries, or holding the hand of a friend in Turkey for a few short weeks. I don't know what I'm ordering in restaurants, so I find myself sticking to the same ones and eating the same thing, that's getting old quickly, even though I love the food. I have no idea what shopkeepers are saying to me as I buy household items or groceries, and luckily, they all have calculators handy to show me the price, because I certainly can't understand the numbering and counting system, which is a combination of Chinese and Korean and switches between ordinal and cardinal when counting vs. $$.
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So, while I am NOT at all complaining, i find the language barrier challenging. I love it here though! And I am ready to get out and about on weekends, (like today!) and start exploring the country. Of my 52 weeks weekends here in Korea (of course I want to stay longer), 3 have past.
Today's lunch at home:
Bap (rice) sits atop fresh red leaf lettuce from Momi's organic garden
A red sweet and slightly tangy/spicy sauce I decided to try from the market, absolutely no idea what it is called
On top of the unique licorice-like sesame seed leaf, is my favorite: melchi, a miniscule seasoned fish OkHee always made that I LOVE! salty and sweet!. Next to the melchi is marinated squid (if I remember correctly) I purchased at the street market yesterday. Also tangy, sweet, with a slight spicy heat. The sauce in the bowl, and the sauce used on the melchi and squid are similar but not the same: made with red pepper, sugar, salt, and other yummy stuff.
Then a big gob of kimchi, holy sh** is it hot! Sinuses are clear! Also acquired at street market. Not cheap! The kimchi, squid, and noodle soup cost $15 together!
It just occurred to me I haven't used a fork in two weeks! I'm getting used to eating everything with chopsticks or a spoon!
I also haven't had any wine or other boozey substance since leaving NC, which is good for me, I'll take a break from drinking happily!
Besides, the crappy wine that's $6 in the states is $15!
I'm lucky, blessed, good-karma-ed, etc., etc., to have such a wonderful school Director! We seem to have so much in common! She truly likes me, and I, her! She compliments me on my lessons and teaching, and how I manage the students. And she is constantly surprised and happy at how much I love Korean food. I think on both sides, school directors are wary, and prospective teachers are wary, of what is to come when two differing cultures meet in the middle of a job situation. More on that later!
We had the best day! Jeong and her husband, Mr. Bak, took me to the highest point in Tongyeong, and hiking, and then dinner! We rode the cable cars across the valley to the highest point where the view was amazing! I live in the Korean Caribbean! Now, I call that lucky!!! How many people get to live in a Caribbean setting twice!!! Wheeeee! 360 views of all the islands surrounded us, and then we hiked the long way down toward on of the nearby Buddhist temples. Unfortunately, by then, it was so late that it was pitch black dark and we were using the flashlight on our phones to navigate the narrow, rocky paths! We will return to see the temple during the daytime. We were hiking upward and then descending for at several hours; first up and then down-- I can feel it in my knees! We returned to our neighborhood for dinner later, and ate BBQ-ed pork that we cooked on the table. Here I experienced my first taste of seaweed leaf- - very difficult to describe. It's a beautiful green leaf, shaped like a heart and about the size of your hand (well, my small hand!). The flavor is sweet; perhaps the closest taste that comes to mind is licorice, and yet it is not licorice. I just wanted to stuff a bunch of them in my mouth over and over again; this is how delicious and unique the flavor was!
... And yes, for those of you that were paying attention, I said pork. Guess I'm at the end of my vegetarian days, after 7 years. There's just no way I'm going to try to be a veggie here, and I'm okay with that. I will still try to concentrate my meals with non-animal items, and with lots of fish, but eating the occasional meat dish is unavoidable. For instance, today for lunch, I was out on my own, and after passing 6 restaurants, I finally just dove into one. Luckily, most of them have picture menus. I asked for lunch, she said "What do you want?" ...(of course I'm heavily translating this because she was speaking Korean and I was attempting Korean but relying more on sign language!)... I shrugged and said you tell me. She made her recommendation, which looked like a bowl of soup with veggies. It was delicious, but it had two huge bones of some animal with very delicate meat attached, and I relished every bite!
Picture coming soon!
...is in Korea loving Korean food and culture!