Archive for December, 2011
Over the last few weeks and months Elizabeth and I have heard about a number of “cultural” excursions that are run in and around Ulsan by the council. These being free, we decided to see what a couple of them were like. At Korean class we were handed information sheets in English, we received text messages in English confirming our registration, and these trips were generally said to be fairly foreigner-friendly – and with us being as into free stuff as we are, naturally our interest was piqued.
This weekend I had to go in to school on Saturday morning. In addition to my contracted 22 hours of lessons per week I teach a group of first and second grade students five times a week, after school has finished. Most native teachers that do this get paid a basic overtime rate per hour, but my pay is dictated by however many students sign up for the classes and on Saturday a big after-school fair took place where teachers could advertise their programmes. Otherwise, I might have protested more than I did at only getting one lie-in that week, but I decided I’d probably have a better success rate if I actually showed my face.
I’ve just been inspired by a truly excellent school dinner to write again about food in Korea. What’s that? What did I have? Well, for starters, the kimchi was pretty nice today, and for the first time in a while I wished I’d had more. I had one scrumptious side dish of seasoned spinach, carrtots and beansprouts (I don’t know if this is my imagination but there seem to be two kinds here that look identical, one bland and one delicious and today’s was the latter), and another of mini sausages in a sapid spicy sauce, which overflowed into my rice section. The soup tasted like Thai red curry, which might explain why I slurped it all down with0ut a word or even an upwards glance to my co-teachers.
I kinda wanted to wait to write this until I’d tried something insane here, as Korean seems to be the place to go if you like to treat eating as an extreme sport. Regularly topping lists of expats’ craziest, wackiest, zaniest foods eaten out here is a dish called sannakji, or live octopus. I think it’s most common that the chef guts and chops the octopus before the eater kills and consumes it (important: do in that order, as there are several sannakji-related deaths a year, through asphyxiation, apparently), although one friend has told of the time she was presented with a live octopus impaled on a chopstick, only for its legs to sucker themselves onto her face once she popped the head into her mouth. But I reckon an experience like that would merit a post all on its own; and having done some research on names and ingredients before writing this, I now know that my diet here so far has been a lot less mild than I previously though, and I should have plently to sink my teeth into.