Friday, May 22, 2009

The Finer Things

I came to a startling realization about a week ago. This year long adventure has reached its last two months, and I am going to fly home and leave Korea, leave this culture, its people, its beauty. Thus, I have recently endeavored to enjoy the finer things that Korea has to offer, and I thought I would tell you about a few of my favorites.

1) Really good tea. This picture was taken in my favorite tea house in Insadong, Seoul. The tea house overlooks Insadong market, one of the coolest and culturally protected places in Seoul. Tree branches hang overhead and grass grows around small fountains on the floor of the house, all creating an incredible vibe, calming even the most frantic minds and giving one the chance to get in touch with his inner-self.

2)Spring. It's an incredibly beautiful time to be in Korea. Now that Spring has arrived the flowers are out in full bloom, the temperature is just right, the clouds seem a long way off and only stop by for occasional afternoon showers.

3)Culture. I have made it a point to enjoy Korean culture, I am trying to make it to culturally significant spots around town and around the Country before I leave. It's so easy to get locked into a routine that doesn't allow for much diversity, and it's even easier to choose the western fast-food restaurants over traditional Korean ones. But there really isn't anything like eating in the middle of a packed traditional Korean market, filled with all the smells, sights and sounds of such a unique place. This picture was taken at one such market in Seoul, it's name escapes me but it is one of my favorites.

4)"Konglish," or Korean English. There are some remarkable examples of Konglish all over Korea, but some of the best are in my school. One would think that, if a native speaker was on-hand (as I am,) it would be smart to have him look over things written in English before they were printed and posted on the walls of your school. This sentiment is apparently not shared by my principle, as we have some stunning examples of Konglish exhibited in our newly constructed English zone.

5)Clam-hunting. This is an exciting event that, until last weekend, I had not known existed in Korea. My friend Billy's homestay dad (Mr. Jo) is apparently an avid hunter of clams, and I received an invitation to go last weekend with Billy and Mr. Jo, so of course, I went. We drove two hours to the Western Coast of Korea, a place called Daecheon Beach. The weather was cold and rainy, and the wind had picked up near the beach to create a difficult set of circumstances for our clam hunt. We struggled against the wind and down to the beach and Mr. Jo proceeded to show us the art of catching clams. It went like this:

Step One, dig the top layer of sand away.

Step Two, look for small holes used by the cylindrically shaped clams and pour a generous helping of salt over the hole.

Step Three, wait for the foolish clam to take the bait and when he surfaces, grab him and utter a cry of victory.

This operation worked well and was surprisingly rewarding. There were other clam hunters on the beach with whom we engaged in a kind of silent competition, each of us trying to gain the upper hand and find an area with an abundance of clams. When they noticed us most of them would stare open mouthed for a few minutes, thinking how incredibly odd it was to see two tall, blond haired Americans digging for clams on the beach in the cold. Before we knew it we had spent three hours digging and grabbing clams on the rainy, windy, cold beach. We left with just over 40 of the strange looking creatures in our bucket, and that night we feasted on them at the Jo's apartment. Mission accomplished.

Mr. Jo and I: Clam Hunters.

So these are a few of the ways that I have been trying to enjoy Korea, to soak it up for the last two months. It is my goal to capture as much of what makes Korea unique in the next few weeks as possible, so be expecting more to come in a similar vein.


Delynn said...

I love your blog, Jonathan! You're a great writer, and it's fun to catch up on your adventures from across the globe. The internet is so cool. :-)
I got to see your family last weekend, when I was visiting a friend in Scottsdale. It was so great to see them, but I would have loved to see you too. I'm so excited for you and your bride to be! Enjoy your last few weeks in Korea, and then your introduction into marriage. It is SUCH a blessing.

Derek F said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Derek Froeb said...

As usual, an excellent post that makes me want to go to yet another country. Come on, Jon- I'm just now try to emulate your Africa trip by going to SA this summer! Hopefully you'll slow down after marriage so I can catch up...

I'd love to Skype with you in the near future, if you can make the time. I'll be chilling in Cape Town starting Thursday until July 20-ish. Hopefully I'll talk to you soon!