Showing posts from May, 2005

Postscipt on Wanting Falafel

I'm pretty sure that"you can't always get what you want . . .", but it's raining, so I'm feeling good right now.

P.P.S. Please still send falafel.

Wanting Falafel

Despite a solid week of martial arts training, an adventurous weekend out with new people, and serving Alex a handy ass-whooping playing cards, I’m feeling a bit low this week.
Homesick? Well, I do miss the diversity of people and FOOD, and I do miss my families, but I haven’t the desire to leave Korea. Is it homesickness if the want to return home is absent?  All I want is garlic bread that doesn’t have sugar on it, and maybe one of these days I’ll break down and buy butter or tomatoes ($$$). 
Insomnia?  I have been suffering a bit from lack of sleep, which I attribute to the population density (like sardines) and building materials (concrete). Every sound is amplified and reverberates at lightening speed. Koreans are late, late, late night people.  There are always lights flicking on and off, and drunk girls in high heels plodding up the stairs with yapping dogs at their feet.  Then again, haven’t I always had trouble sleeping?  This weekend the quest for earplugs is on.
The weather? …

Gin Rummy

Just your typical Saturday night of soju, gin rummy, and dried squid tasties. Winner takes all - all the soju.

not a burrito
The winner and still champion

Memorial Weekend (Korean-Style)

If you’re looking for an alternative to your usual grilling routine, I recommend a nice heaping plate of Bulgogi. It’s a delicious meal, and is one of the primary ways meat is consumed here. Bulgogi restaurants are like the Starbucks of Korea, one on every corner. By the way, there are Starbucks in Korea. Necessary equipment: a grill of any kind (I guess, you could cook it in a skillet, but it just wouldn’t taste the same.)

servings: 6
calories: ?
1.25 lbs sirloin or rib steak
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 scallions, white part only, cut in 2-inch long julienne strips
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Korean red pepper powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
10 large lettuce leaves
3 cloves garlic, sliced thin

Cook:    Cut steaks into thin slices, 3 inches long and 2 inches wide (easier if the steak is half frozen). Mix steak with salt, 1 tablespoon sesame oil and the…

Learning to Cook

On the stove: a large skillet or wok
Ingredients you’ll search for: doenjang (soy bean paste), gochujang (fermented hot pepper paste), small ginger root and tilefish
(can substitute whitefish)
What you’re doing: making 2 tasty side dishes (banchan) and one incredible soup to
serve with rice

Fried Green Peppers
servings: 2-4
calories: 77
1.5 teaspoons sesame oil
2 green bell peppers, cut into thin strips
1 white onion, cut into long, thin strips
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh ginger root
1.5 teaspoons soy sauce

Cook:    In your wok/skillet heat oil over high heat.  Add green pepper strips, onion
strips, and ginger.  Stir-fry for 2 minutes.  Add soy sauce and stir-fry 1 minute
more.  Serve hot or cold sprinkled with sesame seeds (optional).

Red Pepper Potatoes
serves: 4
calories: 181
Ingredients: …

Caucasians With Mokkums

Nestled into a modest studio three stories from the streets of Chipyeong-dong, we cautiously tapped the frosted-glass doors of Master Lee’s dojang for Haedong Kumdo. Both of us admittedly nervous, but with a desire to resume training that outweighed all else, entered the school. Master Lee rose from his small, over-furnitured office with a curious look that snapped into a smile. He nodded . . . that means we should speak. What do we say?  Would he understand us? Will we offend with our directness, a characteristic "flaw" of Americans? We said nothing, following our gut instinct to bow instead. Not that our speaking would’ve upset him in any way, but bowing definitely makes a favorable impression especially on a Master. After a slow, hobbled discussion in broken English/Korean of our want to train, Master Lee agreed to take us on. He then gave us the grand tour of his school. The main room’s green floors and fluorescent lights are lined on one side by a cracked, mirrored wall,…


Juengshim-sa resides on Gwangju's largest mountain, Mudeungsan.  It's a beautiful temple, and was a welcome break from the rush of city life.  A little Buddha does a soul good.


It's official.  I have a card and everything.

E*Mart= Meijer + Narcotics

Packed into a four-story megaplex complete with underground parking, kids’ playland, a flea market, an eye doctor, a photographer, a pharmacist and a Lotteria (Korean McD’s) is our friendly, efficient, local one-stop shopping.
The yellow E*Mart beacon shines from atop a moderately imaginative structure with pathways stretching from 5.18 Park. Windows framing a crisscross, hatch-weave of escalator ramps, allow a brief bit of sun into its maze of bellowing saleswomen, brightly lit produce and people unable to control their shopping carts. It is a quintessential homage to the western capitalist world complete with super-happy, la-la music.

The women bookend grocery aisles. These saleswomen are disturbing caricatures of their former Korean selves. Theatrically dressed as housewives, schoolgirls, anime cartoons, or whatever will sell the product, they throw themselves at you with a form of pressure sale that would make an American blush (and does). Power struggles between various women and …


Usually so rebellious
usually so reckless with laughter
Now so quiet in a declaration
as cautious in a place
understated is an understatement
minimalist . . . a word is not on the agenda today.


Alex and I have taken to walking for literally hours on Sunday afternoons. Sporting a camera and our sparse knowledge of the city and the language, we navigate through the maze of downtown Gwangju. We wander quiet stretches with vendors pushing squid, through concentrations of schoolgirls crushed onto narrow streets to scream at a beautiful celebrity, and past trendy fashion stores blaring American hardcore rap. 

We sit. We have iced green tea lattes. We try to blend in, and we fail.

I feel like I ought to be doing more than being pale and tallish to attract such attention. If only I was a contortionist, or maybe I could engineer balloon animals, or perhaps, just blend in. I do not do any of these things, although I think I could make a mean giraffe some day.

Seoul is for wussies.

The books purchased in preparation for my initial months of settling have been rendered nearly useless. Unfortunately, it isn’t because I’m that shockingly intelligent, but rather that these guide books rely on a Korean familiarity with the English language.

The books are considered an asset to any English speaker in Seoul, a city the traveler is assured English is spoken or understood virtually everywhere. Seoul also being where Westerners tend to visit and live. In Gwangju however, where the majority of the population rarely even sees Westerners, English is a scarce probability.

I’m not implying that I expected it to be easy, or that I wanted it to be, but I also didn’t expect every trip to the corner market, bar, or restaurant to require a crash course in pertinent phrases or Hangeul. I feel lucky when the restaurant has a picture menu. If it doesn’t have pictures, we sound out the Hangeul and go with the most familiar of food names. I truly thank Master Cheon for lunch in Chicago. …


Though relatively settled, insofar as general comfort while going about my daily tasks, one thing has thrown my nerves in this first week . . . the planes. Not airplanes as in 747’s flying into Seoul or prop planes bouncing along on smaller voyages. I'm referring to fighter jets.

The surrounding beauty can at times make you forget that this country is bordered by a hostile nation to the north, and though N. Korea’s missile test last week would suggest they are aiming for Japan, they are a unfriendly neighbor nonetheless. Imagine Canada if the NHL doesn’t have hockey on its feet after this lost season. Yeah, that hostile.
It can be oddly comforting to see these pilots fly their patterns every day, but when the pattern is low enough that the windows shake, the sound will move your eyes skyward just to be certain it’s not going to rain fire. I sat on a hillside today, and observed fighter jets flying over the city and bordering mountains. As dusk approaches, the setting sun highlig…