Saturday, April 24, 2010

Last Korean Post!

After spending some time at a friends home, I came home and was rummaging through a suitcase to find some cards friends had given me before I came to Korea. In the farewell card my former coworkers gave me someone had written "don't forget to update your blog" which got me to thinking it had been a while. I've been meaning to write but have just been unable to either because of writer's block or being busy, so I am making an effort to write a little update for you guys. With that said, I've decided to write just a little about my current status and let you in on "Everything Chris".

So as some of you may or may not know, I am leaving the Republic of Korea in some 3 weeks (change that to some 4 days, started writing this a couple weeks ago). My impending departure has brought on various feelings. First of all, I'm excited as I'm planning on taking some time off to travel a bit. So finishing contract equals new and more exciting travels. Hooray! Currently, Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur) and Sumatra are on the itinerary but the rest of the trip is still to be decided. Possible sites include Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

Coupled with the excitement travels, my excitement has been multiplied by the idea of moving towards something more aligned with what I want to be doing with my life. Don't get me wrong, I have had lots of great times here in Korea, lots of good memories, but at the end of the day, being a baby-sitter to Korean kids just doesn't seem like the career choice for me. For those that read my "what am I doing with my life" post in November, just to update, nothing concrete after Southeast Asia trip has been planned. I am still looking at universities overseas and also looking at possibilities in the stateside. I think if one were to put a gun to my head now and say pick and make some decisions, tyler durden style in "fight club", then I would be in some masters program in a spanish speaking country come autumn of 2010. With that said, my bank account just threw up in its mouth.

Sandwiched with the high is the sadness of leaving Korea. In the past 18 months or so, I've come to love lots of things about Korea. For one, I've met lots of great people, both Korean and foreigners, here. Furthermore, I've gotten accustomed to a lot of things Korean and it will definitely a bit reverse culture shock going wherever I go. Eating with forks again? No kimchi with my meals? Not being able to walk/ride a bus to everywhere? What am I to do? It saddens me even more to think of all the marvelous people I will be leaving as I go off to new things. I've met so many fine people in my stay here and I honestly can say that without them I may have been lying face down in a ditch somewhere. Or maybe, because of them I did end up lying face down in a ditch somewhere. Anyway you slice, all of my Ulsan people (if you're reading this and have spent time in Ulsan while I was here, this means you) thank you for the good times and memories.

Lastly, the preparation for my exit from Korea and the uncertainty that follows has brought on a load of stress that would trouble even an air traffic controller, or so I make it to seem. In true Chris fashion, I have left as much as possible to the last week just to make my life even more fun. Even this post was started 3 weeks ago and is now being finished days before I'm supposed to leave. I am that awesome! I will say that I have been trying to enjoy my last days with friends as much as possible. Ok, that's an excuse for me being lazy, you got me. Anyways, I'm now sitting in my half clean apartment (which means dirty for normal people) thinking how I am going to finish everything before I'm supposed to be leaving. One of these days I will learn.

Ok, so to sum up, I'm still as crazy as I ever was, still as unsure about things going forward, and still trying to maximize the fun quadrant. That is all for now, will catch up soon.....maybe...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Doenjang Jjigae: running diary

No doubt about it, I really like Korean food. It is one thing I surely will miss when I get back to the states. I usually eat out because the food is so good and it's inexpensive, so why not eat out. I'm sure the Korean women here can do Korean food much better than me, so why try right? With that said, I won't be staying in Korea, or so I think, so what happens when I'm back in the states. Where will the Korean women be to make my favorite dishes? They won't be there, so I've decided to take it upon myself to do it myself.

My first attempt with Korean cuisine is going to be doenjang jjigae, or soybean paste stew. Think of it like a Korean version of Miso soup but with lots of goodness inside. It's very a common dish and is also commonly served with rice after eating barbecue. I chose doenjang jjigae because it's supposedly easy to make, although I wouldn't put it past me to mess it up. It's also pretty healthy, like a lot of Korean foods. One thing I like about it, and a lot of other foods here, is that it varies quite a bit from one restaurant to the other. Some places put shrimp in it, some clams, some both. I remember for my trip to Namhae with Carmen, they put clams, crab, shrimp, and all sorts of stuff in it.

With my first attempt at Doenjang jjigae, I thought it would be cool to do a running diary of the experience as I expect it to be hilarious and much calamity to ensue (cue the Benny Hill music now. As a matter of fact, I just started it up). Here it goes, my attempt at doenjang jjigae:

Ok, so some 3 months after Gyun Tak (see previous post) gave me the recipe for Doenjang Jjigae, I'm getting ready to make it. I went out to the store and most the supplies I needed, including red and green chili peppers, tofu, doenjang (soybean paste), one zucchini, and mushrooms. I held off on buying this small fish called myeol chi (similar to anchovies maybe) cause I wasn't sure which ones to buy. I consulted Gyun Tak this morning and he gave me some advice. One piece of advice he gave, remove the black stuff (aka fish poo) from the fish or it will taste a little strange. Awesome!

All right so it is now 10:35 and I'm in the process of de-pooping the fish. I must say that it has become a bit time consuming very fruitless. The fish are small and about half of the fish is shit. It's like I spend so much time and only end up with half the product. quite frustrating. If I only had the dexterity of a Korean old woman........

10:52: some 17 minutes have passed and I may have a few 3 fish in my ready pile from before. It's looking more and more likely that I will either scrap the fish and go with the 10 I have, or go with the soybean paste/fish poop stew. Probability of failure is at an all time high, along with the probability that I end up eating out or making a pb and j sandwich for dinner. Morale is low but not broken.

some 10 minutes or so just past, looking at 11:06 right now. I drifted here and there and then came back to the de-pooping station. With that said, I have now decided to move on and stick with the small amount. Maybe will throw in a dash of salt to flavor along with the fish. Onto the vegetables.

11:15: Onion and zucchini cut up, mushrooms washed and separated. Whenever I cut up onions, I often find myself eating some of the onion. Apart from my sister-in-law, Kate, I don't think I know of anyone else that does this. And in unrelated news, I think we find one of the reasons why I'm single......

11:36: Tofu is cut into reasonable pieces and really about to get things started. About tofu, I have to say this is my first time cooking with tofu, which isn't saying much considering the little i cook, but is cool none the less. I think I ate tofu once before I came to Korea and now I have it probably a couple of times of a week it. It was quite good, goes well with soups and is quite healthy. This message has been brought to you by the soy farmers association of America.

11:40: Ok ready to approach the fun stuff. Comments from here on out posts might be scarce because my ability to multitask, well, is nonexistent. Comments would be probably more abundant if I didn't have my facebook page up. Ah, sucking at life.....

11:52: So after a brief emergency scare there, I've got my only two burners going. One has got the stew, the other with a pot of rice. What was the emergency you ask? Well the pot I use for cooking the rice has some plastic handles so that it won't be incredibly hot to hold. Well the flames must have come up and lit the plastic part on fire. Nothing like that has ever happened to me before, but the time I decide to do a running diary......

11:59: everything is going ok, or so it smells. The jjigae (stew) smells like it should but looks like it could thicken up a bit. Hopefully the next few minutes of boiling will do the trick. that or maybe some tofu?

12:08: It's getting hot in here!!! No I don't like that stupid song by Nelly, it's crap, but have you ever been in a tiny, studio apartment with the gas stove on medium high- high for a good 10 minutes? It gets hot really quickly. Almost done.

12:16: Food has been transported to food vessels (aka bowl and smaller rice bowl) to be transported to mouth. First tastes, not too bad if I do say so myself. I must say the end product is a lot better than what the beginning may have indicated.

12:33: Bowl licked clean. Overall verdict, I don't think it came out too bad so that's a good note. Probably not the best I've had since being here, but I think Korean women that have years of experience of making this would be better than me, random white dude who has never made it before and rarely cooks. I hope to improve on it and then maybe make some changes to it (shrimp? clams? potatoes? bell peppers?)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Who needs a valentine when you've got food?

Don't be alarmed by the post's title, I didn't spend Valentine's Day (or VD) on the couch with cartons of Ben & Jerry's while watching countless cheesy Meg Ryan films (talking about you "Top Gun"). No, I decided to go and do something positive and soak in some culture, but let me back this up and give you the full run down.

See this weekend, the 14th specifically, is Seonal, or what we would call "Chinese New Years" or "Lunar New Years", in Korea. It, along with Chuseok (Chuseok=Harvest Festival, aka Korean Thanksgiving), are the biggest holidays in Korea and are days where everyone goes to their hometown to be with their family.

Usually I would try and take advantage of an extended break to go somewhere, but we were only given a three day weekend which dampened my traveling spirit. Couple that with the fact that I am currently operating on a single entry visa, which means I'd have to pay to get a multiple entry visa so I could leave Korea and enter again, and my sense of adventure was crushed. I will say though, my school decided to close for Tuesday (as opposed to just Monday) 3 days before the weekend, which was awesome. If I had known that maybe I would've looked into changing my visa and flying out to Thailand to meet up with my cousin, who is vacationing there right now. Well played my school! It's all good though cause everything worked out fine, but some heads up would be nice, that's all.

When I told my friend Gyun Tak that I was going to stay in Ulsan, he didn't hesitate a second to invite me to his family's home to spend Seolnal. His main selling point, good, traditional Korean food. Yeah, wasn't too hard of a decision for me. For a little history, I met Gyun Tak when I first moved here and we became friends through playing on the same soccer team. Gyun Tak has also been teaching me the Korean language and lots of things about Korean culture. I feel like I know a good amount about both (the language and culture),which has definitely helped my experience in Korea immensely, for which I am extremely thankful. Hooray for good people across the globe!

Back to Seolnal, because the Korean ceremony starts early in the morning, Gyun Tak thought it would be a good idea if I showed up for the midday ceremonies. It was probably for the best, not only for the being early in the morning, but also because it would've been in Korean (and possibly some Chinese, maybe?) and while I can speak some Korean, Koreans speak a lot of Korean, and speak it really fast. I most definitely would've been out of it in 10 seconds.

So I arrive around midday and enter his house only to feel like the trap has been sprung as I'm trying to take off my shoes while 8 sets of eyes are sizing me up. What did I get myself into?!?!? Gyun Tak starts introducing me to everyone (only his nuclear family which consists of him, younger brother, mom and dad, along with his grandma and aunt, uncle and 2 cousins). To give you an idea of what that was like, well my friend told me that when I speak Korean my voice is a lot more quiet and softer than it is in English, well my Korean at this point was probably not audible to even a dog's ears at this point. In all fairness, my timidness was matched by some of his family members (Grandma excluded). Case in point, his younger cousin had wanted to talk to me once he found out I was coming, only to freeze up when I was there.

Things were sorted out as the table was laid out and we got ready to eat. The table was set with plates with foods used for the ceremony, which included crab meat, several kinds of fish, some beef, tofu, not to forget the beef soup, vegetables, rice and kimchi. That there is some good eating. Oh and then I had to ask about the rice cake soup because I was told that rice cake soup is a traditional Seolnal food. I was then told that it's usually eaten in the morning but Gyun Tak's mom quickly heated some up for me. Oh me and my big mouth (works on multiple levels here).

Once we finish the main stuff, some fruit and rice cakes are brought out to snack on. With round one in the books, the table was removed so we could play yutnori, a traditional Korean game played on Seolnal. You have four sticks which you toss and depending on how they land, that's how many spots you can move your game piece. If you catch up to the other team, then their pieces have to go back to the start. First team to have all 4 pieces end up at the "homebase" is the winner. I thought it was kind of similar to "sorry" the board game. I must have had some beginner's luck because my side won some 3 or 4 times and never lost. Gyun Tak wasn't too happy to see me beat him, but all of the relatives seemed to enjoy the "waegookin" (foreigner) get into the game.

Gyun Tak must've been sore from the beating received in yutnori, so we decided to change it up and go play some pool. The four of us, Gyun Tak, his brother, younger cousin and I, went to a pool hall where my pool woes surely eased the pain of yutnori for Gyun Tak.

We then returned back to his house for some more snacks, which consisted of rice cakes and some more fruit. Shortly after, his cousins had to embark on their journey back to Seoul. To give you an idea of the importance of the holiday, their journey to Seoul, which is usually a 5 hour trip by car, had turned into an 8 hour trip because of all of the traffic. Yowsers!

The snacks were then replaced for round 2, which consisted of Mandu Guk, or dumpling soup (Mandu is dumpling and Guk is soup). It was really interesting because Gyun Tak's mother's family is originally from around Pyongyang in the north, but emigrated south because of the war, so she (Gyun Tak's mom) prepares the dumplings in the Pyongyang style. So although I was eating something I eat maybe once a week (dumplings), it was something totally different at the same time. Throw in some rice and kimchi, a second bowl of mandu soup, and you've got one stuffed piggy.

My day at the Nam household (Gyun Tak's surname) came to end shortly after round 2, as Gyun Tak and I went off to watch the Korea/Japan soccer game. A good day and a way to show that Valentine's Day doesn't have to be torture if you're single. Once again thanks to Gyun Tak and family for inviting their home up to me.

On a side note, I put up some pictures here for you to see my day. I was a complete div and forgot to take out the camera for round one of food but I got it out for yutnori, where we took some totally staged yutnori pics. One is with me and Gyun Tak's cousin, the other is with Gyun Tak and his cousin. Also, took a picture of round 2 bowl 1 of mandu guk, and then the remnants of bowl #1 after it's quick annihilation. Sae Hae Bok Man-ee Bah-duh say-yo (Happy New Year in Korean, well westernized)!!!!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Pondering my next journey..........

Brief forewarning, this post was started around 4:30 in the a.m., so if it's incoherent, blame the insomnia. If more than 80% of the words are spelled correctly I will consider it a success.....with that said, enjoy!

I'm sitting by the computer for something like the 4th time tonight as I've been hit a little by the insomnia bug and can't seem to drift off. See, U get a little anxious sometimes and lately I've been thinking "what am I doing with my life? what should I be doing with my life? what's after this?" While I'm coming up on my one year anniversary of being in South Korea and I'm signed on for another couple of months or so, I know that what I'm doing here isn't for me. I notice this even more as Winter and its dry air, is starting to creep into the picture. So anyways, let's look back at the question at hand and try and answer it as best as possible.

One thing that I will be grateful for about Korea is that it has made me realize how much I like Spanish, something I learned fairly early on here as I missed being able to converse or listen to Spanish anything. I get it, I'm a nerd for Spanish, and I'm cool with it. For me, sitting down with flashcards and memorizing words in Spanish has never felt like a chore because it's something I'm passionate about.

Ok, so we know I'm passionate about Spanish which is a good start. Since I have that passion for Spanish, it's always seemed like a good idea to teach Spanish and hopefully share that passion on to others, right? And this is right about where a 8,452 thoughts enter my mind and create a logjam (and yes that is an exact number).

Teaching Spanish to high school students was always my number one until the last couple of years. I always wanted to be like my high school Spanish teacher, but I feel like I would be discouraged teaching "me llamo (enter cheesy chosen Spanish name like Nacho or Chuy) y tengo 16 años". This leaves me with the idea that I'd like to teach at a higher level, to teach adults or university students and hope to be able to teach at a high enough level to hold a decent conversation. In order to teach at an post secondary level, community college or accredited 4 year university, I would at least need to go back and get a masters, if not a doctorate as well. Shall we delve into this some more? Lets.....

So now, I'm fairly certain that I want to go back to university to obtain a masters in Spanish Linguistics (Spanish nerd, I get it). I figure it will help me going forward to teach at a higher level and at worst, I could still teach at a high school level or do something else since it would just be an advanced degree of what I already have. Please note that the previous 2 sentences may sound like I'm confident in my decision, but I am wavering like a flag in strong wind. Anyways, the past 8 months or so, I've been looking at programs all over the U.S.A., some in Mexico but mostly concentrating on some programs in Arizona, Ohio State, and a few in Argentina,. Why not?

Recently, I had been seeing a girl in Korea, let's call her Carmen, who is a Mexican-American. Well, Carmen's contract had ended up just recently and she had wanted to go to Spain to study so we decided that we could meet up in Spain. Makes sense with me wanting to study Spanish and well she speaks Spanish, so yeah seemed like a no brainer. Well a couple of weeks into the distance thing, she being in Germany and me being in Korea, and we decided to break up. Another thing I've learned is that I suck at long distance relationships, which stems from my long standing hatred of talking on the phone.

With the end of the relationship, surely the Spain option has to be out the window, right? Not so fast. Stay with me baby birds (thanks Daniel Tosh). Ironically, I wasn't too keen on Spain in the first place, their accent isn't too ear-appealing to me, and from what I remember, the food wasn't the best, definitely not in my top 5 of cuisine across the world I would say. Both of which, I consider vital in choosing a place to live. But, after some research, Spain looks like it would be a great place to go to (which is what most people would think initially, but I'm weird). The pictures I've seen look amazing and it turns out that there could be some programs that would fit what I'm looking, so why not.

That right there threw a wrench in my plans as I was just getting to pick out universities and now I have a few more to choose from. Blah! I'm now thinking I'll definitely apply to ASU and have actually started the ball rolling with that, and that I'll apply to at least one school in Spain and possibly one in Argentina.

With that said, provided I get accepted to the programs I apply for, I still have no bearings on where I want to go. Part of me thinks Spain would be really cool and it would be an awesome opportunity, even if I do pick up a silly accent. But I get worried thinking about whether a degree from Spain will help me in the U.S., will it be recognized? Because in the long run I see myself living in the states. Plus, what if I get to Spain and am not really big on it, end up not liking ham even more than I don't already and don't want to be there? The good thing about Korea was that since my airfare was taken care of, the trip was kind of like playing with house money.

On the other hand there is the comfort blanket of A.S.U (Arizona State). With A.S.U I know what I'm getting into, maybe masters program I don't know, but living in Arizona is not new for me. I have a good network of friends, two potential soccer teams to play on, decent to good mexican food and no thoughts of snow. But would it be too easy? I also wonder if I would regret not going to Spain? Arizona will always be there, but how many opportunities do you get to spend a few years in Spain?

On one hand I feel like I've become a little cautious and reluctant to take another risk, to take on more changes. Is this what it feels like to grow up? On the other hand, I feel as if this could be one of my last big risks, that I should take advantage while I still can?

Basically, I could give reasons and doubts for choosing one over the other but eventually I'm going to have to make a decision. I know I'm not the only one my age who feels insecure about what they should do, and I won't be the last, but I thought I'd write to help clear my mind if for nothing else. Interestingly enough, halfway through writing this I thought I was starting to make some headway, only to coerce myself into thinking I was crazy and back into my realm of questions. Anyways, keep tuned as we (you and myself) have no clue of what's going to happen. I could be in Spain or in Latin America, or I could try and just get emergency licensure to become a teacher in high school. Or I could just come back to the U.S. of A and join one of the 10.3% of the nonworking class (sorry if that joke hits a little too close to home, but that's possibly me 6 months from now)............

And on that note, I think I'll wrap up my rambling as I just heard the wake-up alarm go off for the guy who lives next to me. Seriously, it's 6:15 in the a.m. and I'm contemplating life's path......I am awesome........

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lack of postings

So there have been no postings really as of late except one of a trip I took in August. I actually finished that post late Tuesday night, October the 13th, but it shows that it was posted on August 17th, which is when I originally started the post. That just shows how much time has elapsed since I have sat down to write. I am the gold standard blogging. Anyways, I will continue to be busy with life, grad school apps and trying to figure out what life has in store for me, so I can't make any promises, but I will try to make an effort to post more more. Please stay tuned.........

Monday, August 17, 2009

Weekend Getaway to Namhae (hey that rhymes!)

So as many of you may know, I was seeing a girl here in Korea since about the ides of March (I don't pay attention to history). After a short hiatus, we patched things right around the end of July and things have been great ever since. Well since soccer season is on a break, I thought it would be a good idea for the two of us to get out of Ulsan and take advantage of the summer weather. So together we picked out Namhae, which is an island (although really it's like a string of 4 islands) on the South coast of Korea.

So after a delayed start on Saturday morning, due to the fact that this guy still hasn't learned his lesson with soju, Carmen and I made it to the Ulsan bus terminal around 11:00 am Saturday morning. After a short trip to Busan, we came to the quick realization that we had to go to another city just to get a bus to Namhae. I still think we could have gotten a bus from a different bus station in Busan, but that still would've required a long trip on the subway so it wouldn't have been too different. So from Busan, we were on our way to Jinju only so we could catch another bus to Namhae.

From Jinju, we were able to get board a bus for Namhae in little time. Once we got to the island, we were both content with our selection. The island was very green, full of rice fields and tree covered mountains. It also had lots of nice coves and views of the sea, a very welcome change from the industrial city that is Ulsan. We arrived in Namhae somewhere around 5:00, which was a little disappointing as it had been such a beautiful day on Saturday, but our arrival was delayed by hangovers, indirect bus routes and highways packed with people fleeing the city for the weekend.

Having arrived at the bus station with nothing but some 3 paragraphs in the Lonely Planet book, we wandered around hoping to find some food and lodging. Since the directions in the L.P. were fairly vague (not the first time the Lonely Planet has failed me in Korea, probably won't be the last), we decided it would be best to head towards the beach we wanted to check out and hope there was lodging there. Wanting to take advantage of the nice day and sunshine, we passed on the bus ride and opted for the 20,000 won (16 dollar cab ride).

Shortly after we got to the beach we decided to get some food as we had spent most of the day on a bus with only eating some cookies. After passing tent after tent that were meant to serve as restaurants on the beach, we finally came to one that looked like it could fit the bill. So the two of us ordered doenjang jjigae, which is a stew that comes from soybean paste. Being on the beach, and in Korea, where things from the sea seem to find a way on your plate regardless, it was of little surprise to see some shrimp and mussels in there. We even had the pleasure of seeing spongebob's boss (the crab) look us in the eye as we digged in the bowl.

Refueled and ready to roll, we decided it was time to find a place to stow our things for the evening. We checked a couple of motels for rooms but they were all booked, and it was no surprise as this was during the busy travel month of August. The Sangjo beach area doesn't have many hotels anyways, and all the ones were all booked up. Soon people could see that we didn't have a place to stay and they began to approach us with staying in a Minbak. A minbak is apparently a guesthouse which is pretty tiny to be gin with, and they offer you a small room with nothing but some blankets on the floor. Pass. We kept on walking around after checking out a few Minbaks, utnil we finally came to one where the guy actually had a room with a bed to offer us. Paid the guy 20,000 won for the night (about $15.00) and done deal.

After resting up and putting our stuff down, we decided to walk around the beach area. Since it was such a nice evening, and there is literally nothing to do there, so we went out and got some bokbunja, or raspberry wine, our favorite drink in Korea, and jalapeño doritos and just chilled on the beach.

The following day we made a trip to the beach although Sunday was not nearly as nice of a day as Sunday was. Lots of clouds and practically no sun, but since we were at the beach we decided to take advantage. So we hopped into the water and it was a little chilly but not too bad. It would have been a lot better if it was sunny and hot outside, but we enjoyed going in regardless. After playing around in the beach for a bit, we decided to try out the banana boats that were setting off at the end of the beach.

Now, the only ever time I'd have ever been on a banana boat was in Mexico, where they had a proper boat pulling us. Here in Korea they use jet skis, so we didn't go nearly as fast as the one in Mexico. Also, in Mexico they took a sharp turn that forced us all into the water but here they took some turns here and there but nothing that forced us into the water. Carmen tried her hand in getting me into the water by tugging and pushing but to no avail. I wasn't going to be the only one in the water.

Coming in from a fun but dry banana boat ride, we went for a dip in the beach for a bit longer and then decided it was time to make the trip back to Ulsan. Since we there are no direct buses to Ulsan, we decided to get a bus back to Masan which is a city in between Namhae and Ulsan, and supposedly has an awesome authentic Mexican restaurant, a needle in the haystack of korean bbqs and soup restaurants. By late afternoon, we had jetted off from Sangjo beach and en route to Masan.

As mentioned before, our trip also coincided with the busiest travel month in Korea. And being in a beach town, many people from the city also shared our aspirations of jetting from the city and going to the beach for the weekend. What this led to was some of the busiest highways I'd ever been on. By Lonely Planet standards, a trip from Ulsan(approximately) to Namhae should take around 3 hours. More than 3 hours later and we were still at a standstill outside of Masan. Carmen's dream of getting good Mexican food was slowly fading away as we started to fear that we would get to Masan after it closes.

We eventually crawled into Masan sometime around 8 or so, and started to look around for this Mexican restaurant. We weren't given real clear directions on how to get there and Carmen was told that we would be able to get into a taxi and tell the driver "Mexican Restaurant" and the taxi driver would know the place. Fail. But, Carmen's desire was strong, so where there's a will there's a way. After asking for directions for a p.c. bang, or p.c. room, we got access to our good ol' trusty friend "internet" and were able to get a phone number for the place. Carmen called and was able to talk to the owner, a chilanga or person from Mexico City, who was able to help us with directions and get tell the taxi driver what to say.

Carmen's quest was near completion as were welcomed into a piece of Mexico in Korea. After Carmen chatted with the women for a bit and we wondered about what to order as there were so many options, options of foods that had only been in our dreams for the last several months. We decided to go about the menu with a group attack mentality, getting a couple of dishes each and then sharing. So out came the enchiladas, the tacos al pastor. And the tostadas, oh the tostadas. And how about some delicious agua de horchata to wash it down? Don't mind if I help myself to some of that horchata, and another glass for extra measure. After finishing round one, we decided to go all out and get some more tacos, and order some tamales for the road. By the time we were finished, we were both completely satisfied yet in stomach pain. We managed to rack up a 45,000 won dinner bill, maybe some 37.5 dollars. I guess that's not too bad for a dinner in the states, but by Korean standards, that's expensive, yet it was worth every penny.

With a content Carmen, we trekked over to the bus station to catch a bus back to Ulsan. Luckily for us, most of the travelers had made it to their destination at this point, so the night trip to Ulsan was a short one. Back to Ulsan to start the daily grind the very next day.......

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Something funny happened on the way to the stag party.....

After beign called out by a drunken buffoon about my lack of writing on the blog (just kidding B, I know you weren't too drunk, ha!), I figured it was time for me to sit down again and crank one out for you guys. This particular post is a short one but I like it regardless. It's not particularly insightful on Korea or anything like that but it does highlight the fact that it's the small things that make life and that sometimes the journey can be as much fun as the actual destination. Enjoy!

So a friend of mine from the football (soccer) team I play on is getting married in late August, so that means 2 things my friends, bridal showers and dress shopping....errr, I mean one thing, stag party!! As a group, we decided to head to some place called Geoje, some small city which has to be better than Ulsan by default.

Saturday afternoon rolls around and I lazily walk to the meeting spot to cram into a 9 person van with 6 other guys from the team. Most of the people got there on Friday but the rest of us get out late in the evening on Fridays so it made more sense to leave on Saturday. So we roll out on our 4-5 hour trek somewhere around 1:00 and everything seems to be going well.

At one point we stop for at a truck stop for a bathroom break, get some snacks and stretch out. My friend Donal and I step inside and come across one of those once in a lifetime decisions, you know the ones where you make a bold move which could be seen as a heroic move or a complete utter move? Yeah, one of those moves. So there we are in the truck stop, looking at the vast cds and cassettes (yes they still sell them somewhere) where our eyes come across the only western one, and quite frankly the only one we recognized. ABBA Gold, on cassette!! Now, the decision was a tough one, as the cassette costed 5,000 won, or about 4 dollars. After looking at each other we knew there was no option, no guts no glory!

With our split purchase in our hand, we walked back into the van with grinning and giggling like school girls. The moment JK started the van, we popped in the tape, anxiously waiting the response or boos. The first song that came on, to no surprise, was "Dancing Queen". Within seconds, all seven of us were singing along to the song, quite a feat considering that there were two koreans in the van, one who hadn't said a word in English in the 3 hours up to that point. The sound wasn't great, but oh what a sight, 7 grown men singing "Dancing Queen". We listened to the rest of the tape, but I don't think anything could've topped the initial rendition of "Dancing Queen".

Now the rest of the weekend was good, had some good laughs, blah blah blah, but I know that the ABBA experience will always stay with me. Like I said before, sometimes it's those small moments that make a good time great, a great night an excellent, etc. And really, that's what it's all about..................