Sunday, October 25, 2009

Pancakes and Headaches

Today was officially a Homesick for America day. After yet another week of my body feeling much less than 100%, and then a long, frustrating night out in Seoul on Saturday, I woke up today (Sunday) wanting to surround myself with everything familiar and comfortable and American. I love my life here, but I can't take much more of feeling so sick and tired all the time. At the gym last week, Christine and I were lamenting how we can barely muster the energy to run even 20 minutes on the treadmill. Me, complaining about running?! You know I must really be feeling bad if I'm avoiding trying to run. Why do I keep feeling sick? I just finished a full week of antibiotics- only to feel just about zero times better. I think there's a serious mold problem in my apartment- in my bathroom, in my laundry room. I asked Dr. Bridget Haeg to please research the long-term effects on human health of exposure to mold in the home- I am still awaiting her response, but I'm fairly certain I know it's not good!

Therefore, in celebration of my continued poor health here, and in honor of Homesick for America Sunday, we decided to spend an obscene amount of money on indulging in Western food- a heavenly, satisfying, and expensive dining experience! We went to a place called Butterfingers Pancakes, in nearby Jeong-ja, that we had heard about from other teachers in the area. Craving pancakes and french fries and waffles, we were overwhelmed by the Western choices available- and strangely found ourselves craving American foods we had never even eaten, or liked, at home. I can't even try to explain the unexpected craving I had for a big, greasy omelet or a plate of bacon and sausage covered in ketchup (yes, bacon! Darren will never believe that!). We settled with a huge omelet stuffed to the brim with ham, onions, peppers, and- get this- gooey American cheese. Our plates were also packed with rosemary and pepper potatoes, as well as two of the fluffiest, most buttery pancakes I have ever tasted. After reading my long description of our American homesickness and 4 pm "breakfast," can you guess that we shoveled the food in our mouths faster than I'd like to mention? It was the most delicious, satisfying meal I've had in Korea yet. In true American fashion, we had stuffed ourselves with greasy, salty, sugary foods and even left a big pile of food still on our plates upon leaving. Well, at least it's good to know that we're still American, through and through!!
After our meal (which set me back 19, 500 Won, or just under $20), we browsed in a nearby shop called "I Love Cookie," which is stocked wall-to-wall with imported foods and products. Sure, you can find the Pop-Tarts and Cheez-its you're dying for, but they'll cost you about $15 apiece! I had my eye on some Quaker oatmeal, but decided I might have to wait until my next paycheck to splurge on the $14 tub. London bought two normal-sized packages of Reese's candy for her boyfriend, who doesn't have a store like this in his Korean city. You should have seen all our eyes when the cashier rang up the total price as 15,000 Won- $15 dollars for two bags of Reese's!!

In conclusion- imported Western food and other products here are ridiculously expensive, so please send me all my favorite foods and health & beauty products from back home- thank you. I'll accept anything that has a label written in English.

On Saturday, Christine and I had a great, long hike in a mountain in Suji. If you don't remember, this is the mountain that we dragged our kindergarteners up a few weeks back, and that Dad and I had the chance encounter with the nice hotelier last weekend. Well, it was another eventful outing there on Saturday! We chose one of the longest trails, a difficult 5k climb that took about two hours. When we finally reached one of the peaks, we were awarded a spectacular view of the foliage, surrounding mountains, and the wondrous spread of high-rises below. It was quite a sight, the high-rises stretching into the horizon and the reds and oranges of the trees around us. We climbed up to a small, rocky lookout point to take in the view, and we were soon offered a hello and a friendly gesture by two fellow climbers resting next to us. They were both Korean men decked out in full hiking gear (bandana tied around the neck, long shirt and pants, gloves, vest, huge hiking backpack, and walking sticks)- typical of just about every Korean hiker!). One of them produced a huge bottle of Korean rice wine from his bag and offered a cup to us. Christine and I just looked at each, shrugged, and accepted it! He also handed Christine a flat strip of what looked like the dried skin of a fish- yummy! Ugh- Christine did not look happy about being the one offered that snack.
After a few more minutes of drinking our rice wine and eating the trail mix we had brought along (which we also offered to the men, and which they looked pleased about), we were given a can of Corona that had suddenly appeared out of their backpack! That was a pretty unique experience- sitting atop a rocky lookout point on the peak of a mountain, in a suburb of Seoul, sharing rice wine, cans of Corona, and dried fish jerky with Korean hikers. How often will we get to say we did something like that??

On our journey back down the mountain, we were approached by another Korean hiker who asked us if we were English teachers. When we replied yes, his face just lit up, and he began excitedly telling us that he loves American and speaking English! We walked and talked all the way down the mountain- him asking us many questions about our lives here and sharing about his experiences of living in America in the 90s and his troubles with speaking and practicing English. He had very interesting insight to share, and he was very funny!

When we reached a certain point on the trails, Christine and I realized that we'd never be able to make it back off the mountain before the sun set. Our new friend showed us a short-cut trail that would take us out of the forest and off the mountain in much less time, saving us from the possible disaster of being stuck on the mountain in the pitch dark! He told us to follow him, and then stopped and waved to a woman we hadn't even heard behind us the whole time. "My wife, " he said, to our surprised faces. "She doesn't like when I speak English to others because it is very boring for her! But I cannot pass up an opportunity to speak English with foreigners when I see them, so she said to me, 'Go! Talk to those Americans up ahead on the trail!' "

The man and his wife ended up showing us where to catch a bus home, saving us miles more walking. It turned out that he lives in the high-rise apartments just behind our apartments- what are the odds! They accompanied us on the bus, the man still rapidly continuing an English conversation with us while his wife sat beside us, just smiling at her husband's giddiness with speaking English. They even paid for our bus fare, since we didn't have our transportation cards or any change on us.

After that day's experience of hiking a mountain right in our own backyard, getting a much-needed dose of fall colors and trees, and having an unexpected encounter with a kind Korean, we were feeling pretty good! I can't believe that on back-to-back weekends, I've had such great experiences with Korean people like that- on the same mountain!

1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    I am Joy and I will be living in Suji soon as I move from Anyang to there. I have been in Korea for a while now and will be starting my 3rd job out there..haha. Anyways i hope to meet local expats in Suji and get to know the neighborhood.

    I like that is kind of far out yet still close to stuff. Looks more relaxing. ;)

    Check out my blog