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Published: August 8th 2008
Shamanist shrine near school
Rock shrine is preyed to, for good harvest and life. Paper Lantons remain from Buddha's Birthday. People have picnics here.
#13-FOOD, SUMMER AND CAMPS
I am now in the last month of my one-year contract and once again, doing camps (Fun English lessons). In these “holidays” everybody seems to do MORE school related work. Both student and teachers always seem to be doing extra lessons or training courses. I must stay at school even on the days I have no lessons. There are usually one or two other people around, however.
I have done some ‘three days camps’ at other schools also. It is good to work with other students and teachers (Korean and foreign teachers) for a bit of variety.
I and the other two local foreign teachers (FTs) have had two Camps at other schools so far. They pay extra and are a lot of fun and usually go for three days. The work is not hard and usually we just help out with simple English games with Korean English teachers. The kids are younger than I usually teach- (these were 9 to 13?) It gets a bit crazy at times with kids screaming and running around. Lucky I am so good with kids (ha ha). At one school we did no do much at
these grow everywhere in summer; backyards along side of roads and in the wild.
all, but we got fed a lot of snacks, drinks between classes and pitza and chicken for lunch.
The other class we stayed overnight at a college. Why we where teaching very young kids at a graduate college, I am not sure why, but there we go to meet other FTs. There were mostly young guys from New Zealand, USA and Canada. They had been there a long time and were/are marrying Korean girls.
Once again, the work was not hard and included quizzes, treasure hunt, watching movies and ‘dodge ball’ in early evenings. Dodge Ball consists of trying to hit other people kids AND teachers with a ball. What a pity that game was not on my schedule-oh well, maybe next time.
I heard there were many minor injuries, with students holding their heads saying “Teacher, my face sick.” Another kid comes up holding a limp arm and says “Teacher, my neck broke”. The teacher sends him away with “No, that’s not your neck. What is it? Well come on…. We studied ‘Body Part Names’ the other day. What is it? You don’t know? Well come back when you get it right!”
Fair enough; it is supposed
Farmer rest area near school
the rice and vegies are growing well now and everywhere is really green.
to be an English class after all.
Instead of Dodge Ball, I had to baby-sit watching a movie for two hours. ‘Even go to choose the movie- Golden Compass was the best pick. So I got to watch it on big screen with endless snacks and drinks. Except for food noises it was surprising pretty quiet. I heard that sometimes it can turn into utter chaos and even food fights!
We FTs finish these fun activies about 9PM and go home. The kids continue to party into the evening all hyped up on cola, chips, candy and an endless supply of sugar in various forms. (I would have hated to have to look after them then!)
Next day, a lot of the kids look very tired and not willing to even try in the classroom. One kid had to leave the classroom for “yellow water” and came back with a bleeding nose (?).In one classroom another kid was laying across three tables to the side covered with about 20 towels. In Korea the towels are smaller than tea towels. In general we all survived, even me.
FOOD IN KOREA
I have a problem with some Korean food, I
road up valley to home. a very pleasent walk
am sorry to say. I have never really liked fermented food, pickles, seaweed or shellfish very much. I used to like hot chili food, but I think I must have overdosed in Korea. It seems to be in a lot of foods, even in the grated root-vegetable salads. There are of course some dishes I like, but sometimes not easy to access, especially with a group of people.
At the school there is usually something I like at the canteen. At night however I usually cook some sort of western style food; although, this can be a bit limiting since real cheese is hard to come by and expensive. Good, unsweetened bread is also rare. There are also no conventional ovens; only frying and microwave, but I manage to cook a few things.
The food is cheaper than in Australia on average, sometimes half price, even restaurant food is a lot cheaper. Beef is very expensive (I’ve seen over $40 a kilo) since there is so little flat land here. The cattle you see are in pens under shelter. Most beef is imported (see article below) so luckily chicken and pork is very cheap. There is very little
‘eat-on-the-run’ take away food available except at the few western style places.
Centuries ago the Korean leaders used silver chopsticks because they changed color to black if poison was in the food. This custom gradually spread to the lower classes. Of course nowadays they are mostly stainless steel, which makes them slippery. They are also very short and thin, which makes them difficult to control, especially with our huge ‘barbarian’ hands.
The throw-away wooden ones are easier to use. You often see people using them as tongs for turning the huge pieces of fatty pork on BBQs. It is fascinating to watch as spitting fat flies everywhere, but nobody seems to mind.
Kimchi is a food unique to Korea. It is eaten with virtually every meal, as is rice. It is like an Asian version of German sauerkraut. Chinese cabbage (or sometimes other vegetables) is fermented with salt, seafood stock, other flavorings and chili pepper paste; lots of chili pepper paste. It has been used for centuries here as the main food source over the long hard winters.
Being fermented, it will last for months, especially if it is kept cold enough. Cabbage is the
gathering the crop
these are some kind of green plum, used to add flavour to wine. next to the trees they are sorted weighed and boxed
last vegetable to be grown before winter, when people everywhere can be seen picking, washing, preparing and storing Kimchi. It used to be stored in large dark brown earthenware pots in the ground. Nowadays the pots just lie around as decoration and the special electric ‘kimchi fridges’ are used instead.
It is supposed to be very healthy, but foreigners here either love or hate the stuff. I am of the latter variety. Locals say ‘kimcheeeee’ when having their photos taken to entice a smile for the camera (like when we say ‘Cheeseeeee’). But when I say ‘kimcheeeee’ my smile turns into a snarl.( No wonder I never look good in photos!)
MY PROBLEM EATING OUT
Koreans are very sociable and like to eat together, which usually involves a main dish with several side dishes. Eating is also very formal, with special seating arrangements and protocols.
Pork Bulgogi is fatty pork cooked at table over gas and wrapped with hot red ban paste in lettuce leaves eaten with fingers. Scissors are used to cut up the fatty bacon/pork. It is usually eaten at short tables where dinners sit crossed legged on the floor.
Many Westerners have a problem sitting cross-legged
temple and house
going past in bus somewhere
on the floor. I used to do it all the time in my youth; but after two dislocated knees, they are just not the same and I can end up in pain or have trouble unlocking them when is time to leave. Also, my long legs usually end up locked together under the small cramped tables. There are also sometimes gas pipes on the floor going into workings of gas stove under the centre of the table.
If you don’t squeeze your legs in among all this gas plumbing, you find yourself too far away from the table, and because of the slippery chopsticks (or sometimes eating with fingers), you can find your cloths covered in much dropped food by the end of the night.
You are also never sure when the meal ends since people usually all stand up and leave suddenly. This is a problem for me since it takes a long time for me to untangle my legs from under the table with all its plumbing. Then my knees are locked and it takes me about 5 minutes to get up and moving. I sometimes have to almost crawl out the door. Luckily the school or someone
walking past at back of home near rice and apple crops
else usually pays for the meal; otherwise, I could be left with bill, if everybody decided to ‘do a runner’.
WESTERN AND TAKE-OUT FOOD
The main western food places here are 2 hours away by bus-a couple of Maccas KFC etc. there are some ‘copycat’ take-out chicken and pitza places around also, with names like ‘Lotteria’ and ‘Chicky-Chicky-Chicken’ which sell sweet-potato pitza and Googlety Burgers. There are also some Japanese restaurants and Chinese restaurants around.
Chinese restaurants are the other main ‘exotic international’ choice around here, so it reminds me of growing up in Australia in the 1950, and 60’s a bit, only here, there is not much of a variety of dishes. The main special ‘take-outs’ here seem to be a sort of Pork in a Black Bean Sauce or Chicken in Sweet and Sour Sauce.
AMERICAN INFLUENCED SIDE DISHES
Occasionally among the Korean dishes in the lunch canteen food are some dishes which have been obviously influenced by the Americans. Below are a few…
Spaghetti and Meat Sauce,
Mini frankfurters in tomato sauce (Sorry, I mean Ketchup),
Spam, Spam, Pineapple and Spam in a Spam Sauce.
FOOD I HAVE NEVER SEEN OR TASTED BEFORE
Beautiful red, green and black markings. there are supposed to be poisonous snakes in Korea, but nobody seems concerned or seems to die when bitten.
Cod fish skin, (just the skin),
Candied dried green beans,
Sweet cream and onion bun,
Sweet croissant with small frankfurter inside.
And Red kidney bean ice cream for dessert
U.S. ‘BAD’ BEEF
At the moment here, there are big demonstrations against US beef, because a while ago some Mad Cow contaminated beef from America was imported. While the problem has been solved and most people are happy, the backlash against the government caused them to back down and ban it again.
I have the feeling though that the demos where more ‘anti-US’, rather than ‘anti-US beef’. A lot of people don’t like the US military being here. Food places now proudly display
“Only Australian Beef Served Here”.
I always reassure the Koreans that there are no Mad Cows in Australia; only Mad People; but yes, some are sent overseas.
It is also getting hotter and more humid with thunderstorms (also greener; a lot greener) and I find my enthusiasm for getting out and exploring has slowed down a bit. It is supposed to be the wet season but there is not much rain. There was more rain last September when I arrived.
Japanese water tower
Near my second school trainl line. used by the Japanese to fill steam trains with water
The creeks however are still flowing and it is very green.
Other people are out on holidays (they can’t be teachers). Many set up a tent on side of the road or next to a creek for the day. They do not camp overnight however.
I hope to fit one more blog in before leaving and do one on Vietnam also.
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