Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving in Korea: Food Tribulations Part 5. Or is it part 10? 15? I've lost count.

Thanksgiving is ideally spent eating an indulgent calorically awesome meal with family. In the absence of family, friends can provide excellent dining companionship. In the absence of food inspiring a Thanksgiving-worthy meal, Thanksgiving just isn't Thanksgiving.

Cooking a Thanksgiving meal without an oven is more than daunting, it's impossible. No turkey? No stuffing? No pumpkin pie? A lone bowl of mashed potatoes is not enough. We decided to forgo any attempts to cook on Thanksgiving and left ourselves at the mercy of what Cheongju has to offer. After very little discussion (what options did we have to discuss?), we opted for ginseng chicken at the mountain fortress. We first experienced the ginseng chicken after our last hike to the fortress and agreed it was our best option for food that was remotely holiday-esque. Nostalgia for great meals of the past and some sense of American pride prevented us from being wooed by burritos or Subway sandwiches.

After a short hike up to the fortress wall and a leisurely walk around, we settled onto blue plastic stools at our family restaurant of choice. We ordered the ginseng chicken, along with some tofu and pajeon (a Korean-style pancake with vegetables and squid), and initiated the Thanksgiving tradition of sharing what we're thankful for. Tedd, Chris and I quickly identified a common cause for gratitude: each other. Life in Korea would be far less enjoyable without these good people. I, for one, need sympathetic ears so I can bitch about the food. And unless you've been subjected to kimchi and random brown roots at practically every meal, it's hard to fully commiserate. Lucky you!

We were enthusiastic about the tofu and pajeon, but were heartened that the whistling of the pressure cooker signalled a more satisfying main course. In order to make the ginseng chicken seem more glorious, I'll whet your anticipation (or pity) with pictures of our side dishes. Take that mashed potatoes!

Should you be impressed that random brown roots come in two varieties? No, we certainly aren't. We don't eat any of this.

We think these are nuts, but they could just be hard beans. It's hard to tell.
Hurray for a vegetable you'd find at a farmer's market back home!

Some kids think kimchi is an international delicacy. Funny, right? They're serious.

I'll take a wild guess and say that this is incredibly spicy. I can't tell you any more about it. As with the other side dishes, we pushed this to the edge of the table to serve as a chopsticks rest.

Are you ready to see the main course? We were.

The ginseng chicken was served in a large pot, set on a portable gas stove to keep it hot, and was accompanied by a communal plate of rice. The server distributed bowls and small dishes of salt and cut up the chicken with kitchen scissors before leaving us to feast.

Rice with chestnuts and ginseng root

The highlight of our Thanksgiving meal: delicious! flavorful! but not quite the same as a homemade turkey dinner.

Dessert: For the Love of Pumpkin Pie

After lunch, we took the bus downtown and decided to see if one of the better cafes had anything resembling pumpkin pie. Lo and behold! Pumpkin mousse cake! It sounded potentially satisfactory but was beyond disappointing. We tried.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Intelligence vs. Beauty: Student Opinions

I think smart is better than beautiful. Today, people have to make money by themselves. Beauty doesn't make me any money! So I think if my head is smart I would be rich because I am smart. But if I am beautiful, who gives me money? No one. (Core 1)

Whether I am handsome or ugly is not important. If I'm handsome, it's just good for 10 years or 20 years. But if I am smart, I can be great man in the world. Great man in the world is when I dead, all people will sad and after 100 years, many people will know me. So I think it's better to be smart than handsome. (Core 1)

Good brain is good too, but the most important thing I think is the face. If people go for a job interview, the interviewer probably sees the face first and thinks, "Will this person have strong perseverance for the work?" (Core 1)

Last but not least, both intelligence and good looks are not important for humans. I think only consideration for the other side and perseverance are the most important of our life... Smart and has a global mind is successful in life. Good looking is not important these days because of plastic surgery! Don't care about your looks! Open your mind and come together my little kitties! (Core 3)

Monday, November 19, 2007

A Sampling of Student Writing

I go to a nice university because I go to a nice university I get a nice job and I make money very much. It's throwing one stone and two birds die. (Core 1)

The Tale of the King Who was Concerned About His Appearance: Once upon a time, there was a king. The king cared a lot about his looks, even though he was very ugly. He thought he was very handsome and attractive. One day, he wanted to know what people thought of his appearance. So the king asked, 'How do I look?" to the queen. The queen was honest so she said, "You look hideous." The king was hurt by this and ordered her execution. Then he said to his daughter, "How do I look?" The princess didn't want to die so she lied, "You look very handsome." The king knew she was lying so he executed her, too. Finally he asked his son, "How do I look?" His son replied, " I'm sorry, but I'm blind." (Advanced 3)

Mr. Roode vs Mrs. Naiss:
On Sunday, 2009, Mr. Roode was walking with his nasty dog. Since he was fired last night from kicking his boss out of the window, he was bad-tempered. He tried to tell his boss that he only wanted to imitate Leonidas from "300", but the mad bossy boss wouldn't listen to him and fired him right away. Mr. Roode came into the area where there were a lot of homes, and Mr. Roode was very jealous. Due to his tiny-as-an-atom income, he wasn't able to live in an appropriate house. When he was walking, a dog came in front of him.
"Go away or I'll eat you," Mr Roode said and he kicked the dog. The owner of the dog, Mrs. Naiss, came over.
"Why did you kick my dog? I'm sorry that my dog disturbed you, but he's a life same as you," Mrs. Naiss said to Mr. Roode.
"Go away or I'll eat you too!" He yelled like an audio set with rock music on.
"But, what if he gets hurt? Imagine if you got kicked by an enormous man. Would you be happy?" Mrs. Naiss asked Mr. Roode.
"How dare you yell at me!" Mr Roode shouted and he tried to step on the dog, but the swift dog escaped his enormous feet.
A friend of Mrs. Naiss, Mrs. Kaind, saw the incident and called the police.
"How dare you call the police! I was just walking!" Mr. Roode said. While he was yelling, he saw a window in Mrs. Naiss's house and thought about last night's happening and he got mad. He kicked everyone he could see on the shin and he broke all the windows he could see. That time, the police came and not daring to go against the guns, Mr. Roode surrendered and went to jail. The end. (Advanced 2)

Therefore, I don't agree all the girl need to go to the military, because it's like same question with why all the men do not go through pregnancy. (Core 2)

Q: Are you married?
A: My name is Chris, not Marry.
Q: For how many years did you live in the US?
A: Are you insane? I have two ears.
Q: What is 1+1?
A: 1. If two things get together, it becomes one.
(Advanced 2)

The world of kindness and generosity is absolutely better than the world of hate and revenge. (Advanced 1)

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A Korean Feast

I hiked Mt. Songnisan for the third time a few weeks ago. (Some Koreans claim that this is enough to ensure my spot in Heaven). I followed the longest trail and was happy to find that it was also the least popular route. I had a relatively peaceful ascent, thankfully free of yelling hikers and their jingling bells. I hope Koreans aren't confused about why they seldomly see animal life while hiking. I met a Canadian teacher at the summit and we exchanged teaching stories during the hike down. We continued our conversation over dinner at one of the restaurants in the small town at the base of the mountain. We ordered a bulgogi (beef) stew and this is what we were served:

I have never been served so many side dishes before! We were both pretty bewildered and couldn't identify 80% of the dishes, much less the ingredients. We picked at the kimchi while the beef cooked. The beef and mushrooms were excellent, but we avoided most of the side dishes; random brown roots still do little to excite my palate.
Kimbap: It's Snack Time!

The beloved kimbap restaurant is a fixture on practically every street in Korea. Women stand at their counter at the front of the restaurant and swiftly roll the kimbap, making sure that they have a large pyramid ready for the brisk lunch and post-school business. At less than a dollar each, kimbap is a popular and nutritious snack or meal. The kim (dried seaweed) holds together the bap (rice), fried egg, preserved radish, ham, carrots, some kind of root and some kind of greens. The picture above depicts the standard kimbap, but there is also tuna fish, beef or kimchi kimbap that is made only when ordered.

Consistent with my overall food experience here, I had to try kimbap a few times before I started to like it. I still poke out the yellow preserved radish, which has a sickly sweet taste and am not bothered by the fact that I don't know what the roots are. I usually get the plain kimbap and will order the tuna fish kimbap when I feel the need for some more protein.