Escuchela, la ciudad respirando

After the long picture post, I decided to just create a separate blog for the recent news to make it a little easier to digest.

In my last post I mentioned I’d had a rough day, and after I left the PC Bang I walked around Cheonan for like two and a half hours. I did climb the hill, but I don’t want to talk about it until I’ve got some pictures to show. I ate dinner at a small shop, just a plate of deep fried pork strips. They weren’t breaded like we would think of, but something much closer to tempura batter. It came with a sweet brown sauce and a little paper cup of soup to drink, for just under four American dollars.

I got home around ten, lazed about for awhile, then went to bed to get ready for my big day in Seoul. Mr. Lee was like half an hour late picking me up, but I didn’t mind because it gave me a chance to listen to some music and just watch the comings and goings of the neighborhood in the morning. With him was a man who introduced himself as Mr. Park (30 Korean years old, so probably just older enough to warrant the last name basis), who would be going to Seoul with me. We rode to the bus station and we were off. It only took an hour to get to Seoul. The first thing we did was stop at a hospital so I could get a necessary check up for an Alien Registration Card, which would let me be able to buy my own phone, get Internet in my apartment, and I think I need it to start working officially. There was some confusion and they kept arguing about something abbreviated TBmomomo (In Korea, momomo is the equivalent to blah blah blah, fill in the blank, etc…). I took a drug test, which was only glanced at for literally a second before tossed out, so I’m assuming I passed. I was a little anxious about that. Then I had some blood drawn to test for AIDS. The only thing they really said to me was that my blood pressure was high. Oh well.

Mr. Park and I had a quick lunch of noodle soup after that, which was pretty good. He was surprised that I ate the kimchi and complimented me on how well I used chopsticks. We then hopped onto the subway in Seoul, which was immaculately kept. Extremely smooth ride. We rushed to the school and about two seconds after I walked in I was teaching a class of first graders without any Korean teacher with me, which was challenging. I made it through, and the rest of the day was much easier.

The second class was fourth graders, so they were able to understand directions better and we just messed around with the computer program a bit. It was a story I hadn’t done yet, so I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Third class was young kids again, but they were still pretty good. Mostly just worked on introducing themselves (Hello, my name is momomo. I am momomo years old. It’s nice to meet you.) and then listened to the story, read along, etc…

The last class was the best. The used the same story as the second class, so I was familiar with the material, there were only five of them, and even though I moved to a room without a computer, they were completely able to take turns reading from their books, and for the last ten minutes of class we played Hangman (Korean kids flip out over Hangman) with their vocabulary words.

I finished around 5:30 PM, Mr. Park came by to pick me up and we got back on the subway, then went to a KTX station a couple stops away by the subway. The KTX is Korea’s premiere high-speed bullet trains that connect the largest cities in Korea. It only took 20 minutes to get from Seoul back to Cheonan once we were on the KTX, so it’s great. I wish I had gotten pictures of the KTX station, since it was absolutely massive, but I’m sure I’ll visit again sooner or later.

Mr. Park said that Mr. Lee wanted to have dinner and drink with him, and they wondered if I wanted to come, to which I responded ne ne ne (yes yes yes). We stopped by Mr. Lee’s apartment momentarily to pick up his wife who drove off after we got to the restaurant (no chance of Mr. Lee driving last night). The restaurant they took me to was a quite nice seafood restaurant. I’ve always  been a little hesitant about seafood, but I made up my mind to try anything in front of me. They called the food both sashimi (Korean sushi, though besides having fish it shares literally nothing in common with Japanese sushi) and hwae (which Mr. Park told me meant ‘live fish’). I was a bit taken aback by the live fish bit, but they only meant that you could choose from a large variety of fish tanks what you wanted to eat, and then it was killed right there and served raw.

The only time I’d had raw fish before was a bite of a rare tuna steak, which was absolutely disgusting, as memory serves, but like I said, I wanted to try everything. I have to say, it was pretty goddamn amazing. A little chewy, but not bloody or even particularly fish-y. I also had an oyster for the first time. It might be the softest thing I’ve ever eaten. You can pretty much just press it to the top of your mouth and it evaporates. No real taste, but that’s what all the banchan are for. They always include kimchi, but the nicer you go, the more different kinds of dipping sauces or pastes are provided, which account for the bulk of taste in Korean food for lots of dishes.

We had several bottles of soju between us, and they were amused by how quickly I drank it. Heather told me the first night that you drink it like a shot, and usually the first is, but after that it is sipped. Finishing a shot of soju is as good as saying ‘give me more’ because once the shot glass is empty, it will be filled right back up. The only unenjoyable part of dinner was the silkworm I tried. I didn’t know what it was, but I was 50/50 between nut or bug. It was bug. It was really small, so it wasn’t too horrible to get it down, and I certainly wouldn’t want to spit something out, but I politely let Mr. Lee and Mr. Park finish the silkworms between themselves.

After dinner, we took a short taxi ride to another place and drank some beer. It wasn’t quite another restaurant, but it did serve the Korean equivalent of bar food, which incidentally included squid jerky, peanuts, little hollow fried circles of nothing, and whole deep fried ‘fishies’ as Mr. Lee says, complete with spine. I wasn’t particularly good at getting the backbone out gracefully, so I just had a couple. The squid jerky was pretty great. I’d never had squid before. It was some special kind of small squid. It was dry, extremely chewy, and came with a spicy red pepper paste and mayonnaise for dipping. After all of that, and a couple mugs of beer, the proprietress came came out with a bowl of peach and cherry tomato slices in a sweet syrup with ice in it.

We found Mr. Park a taxi, then one for ourselves. Mr. Lee offered to have me sleep at his place, but I politely declined and said I had to go home to take out my contacts. Mr. Lee seems pretty fond of me. I think I do well for myself by being so open-minded and eager to learn Korean. Mr. Park taught me wa, which means ‘and’. While it seems like a really small, unimportant thing, it actually really makes your Korean a lot more dynamic because you can combine thoughts without forming entirely separate sentences, which is a little of a chore. Throughout the night if I asked what things were, Mr. Lee would tell me, and we’d end up saying the name back and forth, faster and faster, which Mr. Lee thought was hysterical. He kept telling me I’m a ‘smart boy’.

The last piece of news is that Mr. Lee told me that Buldang was getting another foreign teacher, who will be arriving Thursday or Friday. I can’t say how happy that makes me. Michele and Tileun are great, but sometimes I do really wish I had someone to speak English to. I spend a lot of my time just sitting around while they discuss things in Korean, so another person to talk to while they sort shit out would really cut into the downtime I experience throughout the day. All Mr. Lee could remember was that it’s a guy, but he forgot his name. I really hope that whoever he is doesn’t embarrass the shit out of me by being a pussy that won’t eat something.

I was supposed to go shopping with Mr. Lee today at E-Mart, the WalMart of Korea. The one we drove by was four stories tall. He was supposed to pick me up at 10 AM, but I think he may not be feeling very well this morning, and it gives me an opportunity to catch up on the blog and pictures, so I don’t mind too terribly, especially since I already got a converter and that was my last pressing need. He did need to pick up my passport for the ARC though, so hopefully he comes by later. I left it sitting on my bed, so if he came by while I was gone he could find it easily.

I don’ t really have other weekend plans. I don’t know where anything is really, so it’s hard to make up my mind about where I want to go or what I want to do. I’ll probably just end up walking around a new part of the city. I’ve explored a mile or two in two directions, so I’ll pick another direction.

I’m in the Dunkin Donuts writing this as usual, and when I came in there was a large group of kids with a parent or two. After a moment I realized one of the kids was Arianna. She came over to say hello, and she was with her older sister who looks a lot like her, and her mom, who also said hello. I told her that I had been in Seoul for the day Friday, which was why I wasn’t there, but  said I’d be there on Monday, and she made me pinky swear, which was pretty damn adorable. Right now, though, I need some lunch since it’s like 2:15 PM and all I’ve had were a couple donuts, so I think I’ll go get some bibimbap.


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