Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bigger, Faster, Stronger.


That's about Korean bugs. Butterflies, moth, mosquitoes, spiders, centipedes, cockroaches: they all seem bigger, faster, and stronger than their Canadian counterparts. Every bug I see here is just bigger and scarier and more disgusting. And faster, too! South Korea is not exactly a tropical location, but for someone coming from up north, it seems like it. Enough said.

The Korean Thanksgiving turned out to be pretty amazing. Aaron and I were invited to a real traditional Korean feast, in a real Korean family. Aaron's workout friend invited us to join his family for a huge meal on Sunday night. It was a great experience to see it happening: imagine about 15 Koreans crammed in a tiny apartment, all sitting on the floor around a long table full of dishes I barely recognized. Even the 80-something grandma and the 1-yr old baby were sitting on the floor. The women were busy in the kitchen, preparing countless dishes, while the men ate and drank (and later sang!). Now imagine two uncomfortable foreigners in the middle of the action, sitting at the "foreigner" table (I think his mom kindly prepared a regular table and chairs for us, and numerous plates being presented to us. As soon as I'd finish a plate, another one would magically appear, and that lasted for two hours. I felt bad because earlier that afternoon my friend and I pigged out on takeout pizza, so I was already pretty full.

The food was delicious, though. It was my first time eating homemade Korean food, and it was amazing. I've complained a lot about Korean food since I got here, but having the homemade version changed my opinion a lot. The dishes consisted of many soups (cold and hot, spicy and not spicy), rice (of course), bulgogi (marinated beef), and various vegetables (mushrooms, bean sprouts, kimchi), all prepared differently. For dessert we had fresh chestnuts, asian pears, and oranges. They also brought a huge, HUGE jar of ice cream from Baskin Robbins (Koreans LOVE ice cream)- picture 6 different flavors, all mixed together in one jar. I was a bit taken aback, but digged in like everyone else.

The sharing culture is omnipresent here in Korea. People never (or barely ever) eat alone. In restaurants, it is common to order a few dishes and all share. Korean food is meant to be shared anyways, everything comes in huge pots with numerous side dishes. But even when Koreans go to Western restaurants (such as the popular TGI Fridays and Outback Steakhouse), they always order a bunch of plates and just share. They order one iced coffee at Starbucks and put two straws in there and share. The other day my friend and I went to a pizza restaurant, and the waitress presented us with one big glass of Coca-Cola to share. I guess it's a good thing, you get to sample more tastes and it's better for your waistline. I kind of like it, but I think the Starbucks sharing is a bit too much.

All that to say I had an amazing Chuseok, I'm so happy I got take part in the traditional festivities, and was so warmly welcomed by a Korean family. Hopefully next Korean holiday I won't fill up on pizza right before.

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