Korea

A no frills kind of town…

I am so overwhelmed by the wonderful comments and compliments from all of you on our blog.  I have been trying to keep up with it and usually do save for a few days here and there.  It may be a little harder when I actually start work, which is another story in itself, but so far I am having a lot of fun keeping you all posted on what seems, to us, to be boring day-to-day occurrences.

The other night Joe and I didn’t feel like cooking, well, I didn’t feel like cooking and Joe didn’t feel like watching me cook and we had some errands to run on base so we decided to go out for dinner.  Not wanting any Korean we decided to try a restaurant we have passed numerous times on the Shinjang-dong, called Haw Haw.  It’s funny just to say it, Haw Haw.  It’s a small, ok I mean 4 table small, Phillipino restaurant on the third floor of a sports bar and billiard pub.  Donna, we thought of you when we ate here and let me tell you, your lumpia is definitely better than Haw Haw.

Koreans love to make use of all their space and typically you find businesses and restuarants as high as the fourth or fifth floors.  On the upside, you typically get a good view of the street while eating if you get a table by the window but it’s difficult to notice some restaurants because we Americans are not trained to observe what is also above us.  Another observation about Korea in general is that the restaurants here are nothing like in the States.  American’s do everything to the max, our restaurants are decorated by celebrity designers, our stores (Wal-Mart) max out on space and we want everything aesthetically pleasing.  Koreans don’t waste their time on aesthetics.  The restaurants are simple, tables, chairs and a kitchen.  Stores are small but filled to the brim with inventory.  I’m sure Seoul, which has been Americanized in many ways, has many stores and restaurants as we are used to seeing them but Songtan is a no frills kind of town.  When we wander around looking for a place to eat Joe and I do not find a restaurant’s menu carefully placed in a podium on the front stoop, we find a storefront where we can tell its a restaurant only by the fact that people are eating inside.  It’s refreshing and frustrating all at the same time.

Saturday brought the market which happens on every fifth day of the month.  Since Saturday was the 20th I decided to head into the heart of our little neighborhood and have a look around while Joe snoozed away a bad headache.

This is what I found.  Who said Korea wasn’t aesthetically pleasing?  I had such a good time wandering the alleys and vendors.  Picked up some doodads for my old class in Florida at the 1,000 won store (the Korean version of the $1 store).  Bought some yarn at a shop where all 6 of the old ladies who were sitting on a bed, yes a bed in the middle of the store, didn’t speak a lick of English and tried my luck at a Korean donut.  Now for those of you that have never had a Korean donut, I say this: Just Don’t Do It!  They look so delicious and sugary, round like munchkins, only bigger.  I was ravenous, hadn’t eaten anything all day and was sure this was the sugar fix I needed at three in the afternoon.  So I took a bite into the soft dough, half expecting it to be, well, a donut.  I was wrong…  Inside the globe of sweet dough was an undistinguishable reddish paste, that’s the only way I can describe it.  After some spitting and some research I found out what the reddish paste was, “sweet bean jam.”  Sweet – yes, jam – hardly, beans – hmm, maybe not!  This will not deter me from trying vendor food, Sweet Bean Jam Donuts will not get the best of me.

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One thought on “A no frills kind of town…

  1. Melanie, these daily occurrences are anything but boring!!! I was hysterical at some of your descriptions about things — what culture differences, what culture shock, but WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!!! Life is too short not to have this kind of experience, this kind of immersion into a culture so foreign to our own. I miss you immensely, but couldn’t be happier for you and Joe to add this coming year to your book of life. ALL OUR LOVE, MOM, DAD, AND ALEX

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