Wednesday, June 29, 2005

김밥 (kimbap)

mcdonald's is to america as a kimbap house is to korea. except for the fact the kimbap is good for you, and the prices are much more reasonable.

an inexpensive, tasty treat at the bargain price of ₩1,000 (about $1.00) a roll, kimbap is just as cheap to make as it is to buy, and is a cost effective meal for those looking to save some $$$ (₩). the ingredients vary by restaurant, but are limited only by your imagination when making the rolls at home. for my first go, i used a combination of crab meat, smoked ham, carrots, cucumber, green pepper, and marinated turnip. next time around, i'll try smoked fish with kimchi.

the finished product

Monday, June 27, 2005


beneath a long veil of low-ceiling, gray clouds Korea waits in the shadow of Jangma. today officially marks the beginning of the country’s rainy season. the days are as dark as dusk, the humidity has comfortably stabilized in the mid-eighty percentile, and haircare has become something of a nightmare.

coming from the night culture of bar employment, i am used to quiet days. never waiting for a dressing room at stores on Michigan Ave., being one of five people at a matinee, seldom passing another person on walks through the park . . . in Gwangju, a city so densely populated, you would think that these things would be a rarity. until Jangma, they were. since the temperatures and humidity have soared, the world rests indoors. streets, businesses, parks, they are all vacant. an eerie silence drags the day kicking and screaming through sporadic downpours and light mists.

like a wonderfully alien sunrise, imminent nightfall seemingly peels the city from its hiding, thrusting the population into the streets, restaurants and taverns. traffic is thick, street markets are teeming with mothers bringing their children home from school, shopping centers are full, and in the parks, the avid walkers are shoulder to shoulder. it is a remarkable transformation that words cannot do justice.

from the dull hush of morning, through a slumbering afternoon, and into a bustling evening, life adjusts for the weather. what else will the season bring? damp socks? innovations in haircare? a really big umbrella?

a T-Storms would be a nice start.


Sunday, June 19, 2005

good times

it has been an eventful week, so today has been a wonderfully lazy, sleep-in kinda sunday. a load of laundry quietly grinds behind the growling blues of tom waits while i type and alex paints. the world outside our open windows is bizarrely hushed. i’m enjoying the stillness, so will stop typing about it.

a surefire way to ruin tranquility is to notice it, and any moment now the neighbors upstairs will start with their obnoxiously loud sex thus waking the baby next door whose mother has decided the remedy to an upset child is frying meat and turning on all available lights. it’s actually pretty humorous, the domino effect of sounds around our corner of the building. after the baby’s meat-fry comes a series of slamming windows that trigger yapping-squeaks from tiny dogs which in turn wakes their owners (more lights). the yapping-squeaks turn into yelps as the football-sized terriers are tossed, bounced or “reasoned” with. once awake the dog owners decide a meat-fry or some other sustenance is in order, so they talk loudly rousing their sleepy partners while preparing a midnight snack. finally, the men step outside for a cigarette or a deep, meaningful spit before retiring to a full-stomach sleep. there is a natural rhythm here, but it definitely isn’t always a spiritual thing. although i did see a little granny blow a tremendous snot-rocket. that’s an image that makes a profound impression.

i was invited to help chaperone a fieldtrip to Gwangju’s Coca-Cola Factory on friday. it was a fun opportunity to see alex interact with his students, and i took several pictures of the little monsters.

saturday morning was an early start. alex and i spent the better part of the day hiking with one of alex’s co-workers and her husband.

it was wonderful to venture outside the city into the calm landscapes of the Noryang Mountain Range, Damyang Lake and the gentle steppes of rice paddies. the hike was invigorating and challenging requiring careful navigation on ropes and loose rocks that lead to a small buddhist temple and wonderful views.

saturday night we hit a new part of town, and found ourselves in a resto-hof for beers, fried chicken and soccer. it was like being at the sports’ bar all over, again. we came home and crashed, making way for sunday, and the beginning of a fresh week.

Friday, June 10, 2005

food obsession

i bought tomatoes for the first time in 7 weeks yesterday . . .

tomato love

Thursday, June 9, 2005

$5 t-shirts

this one goes out to ross. . .

i would never peg myself a stereotypical female shopper. i hate crowds, i abhor overpriced clothing (can you tell me how a bikini can cost more than blue jeans?), and condescending, flakey, overly-friendly sales associates (“oh ma’ god, you are the cutest thing in that outfit.”). it would stand to reason then, that i would become the queen of resale shopping. does anyone remember my senior pictures, ripped up blue jeans and a second-hand, men’s sweater? that was a great sweater, and jennie blom’s brother’s pants. i'm sure grandma rosie recalls me buying resale dresses, shredding them, and sewing new ones from fabric fragments. reaching for a point . . .

ross, remember when we started resaling together? you love the t-shirts with strange sayings and pictures. well, at e*mart, they have sales bins with $5 t-shirts that are hilarious. the artwork is pretty cool, but the comical part is the poorly translated and inappropriate english that makes up a lot of these shirts. It isn’t at all uncommon to see children (6-13) sporting shirts that are emblazoned with the F-bomb, “shit”, “damn”, “porn”, and terrible grammar (“Is there any something to play?”). for all these shirts would seemingly have going against them, they are still pretty sweet.

every trip to e*mart is an investigation into weekly shipments in an attempt to locate a gem. thus far, 2 shirts have made the cut. they lack poor grammar, but have cool graphics. the point being (finally), I have found ross’ t-shirt heaven, and am on the lookout for his ideal shirt. Until the shirt is found, check out the pics of my finds.

the quest for the perfect $5 t-shirt continues . . .

long weekend recap

the weekend passes somewhat uneventfully. could it be we’re finally at ease in the east? the following is a detail-lacking recap of our nothing-special, long weekend.

friday night begins late, our class ending from anywhere between 10:00 – 10:30 pm. a2 ambles through the walkways overgrown with weeds and popsicle wrappers. should we stay or should we go . . . to the coast? the PROS: neither of us has been to the yellow sea, the weather is beautiful, it would be (by our estimates) a relaxing escape from the crowds of gwangju. the CONS: it’s a holiday weekend, we’ve learned that everyone is going to the beach. staying in gwangju seemed right not only because of the masses of people traveling to the coast, but mostly because of the masses of people traveling to the coast. the yellow sea will have to wait. friday turns out to be a perfect evening for cards and a chilean cabernet sauvignon.

saturday morning is a sleepy one, probably due to the fact that friday night ended saturday morning. you can take the girl out of the bar, but can you truly take the bar out of the girl? let’s just say i’m definitely NOT the control group. the languid day passes in a mess of ramen noodles, naps, and sporadic cleaning. later we’re upset that we wasted away a day of seething sunshine and 95 degree temperatures. what were we thinking staying indoors?! ugh.

luckily, we had saturday night to make up for our lackluster day. a substantial dinner is in order, so we venture to the “Pork Place”, a corner restaurant near our apartment specializing in pork bulgogi. we’re pretty sure that it’s not actually called the “Pork Place”, but neither of us has bothered to read the hangul on the sign next to the cartoon pig. dinner was the one of the best i’ve had since being in country, probably due to our growing familiarity with korean cuisine and our ability to order it. you can’t beat the prices either. our big dinner out was a whopping $14, and the sweet waitress gave us free coca-cola with our meal. i always enjoy eating out because it’s a chance to intimately observe couples, friends, and families in a relaxed, everyday situation. truly a reliable way to learn social graces that cannot be taught through book-learnin’.

the rest of the evening is spent bar-hopping with alex’s canadian coworker, Chris. we have a few beers at Wa Bar, a bar that’s referred to as a “western ice bar”. it’s a trendy place, offering a decent assortment of beers from around the world and loud korean pop music (aka k-pop). the décor is very “western” in influence with pictures of iconic Hollywood stars like Cary Grant and Marilynn Monroe, a wall mosaic of backlit beer bottles, and other random oddities. there is only one coed bathroom, which is not uncommon, and can be humorous when there’s a drunk man puking in the urinal, and you have to try not to laugh in the stall as he regrets that last beer.

a few pints later, we venture back to the neighborhood for a nightcap at our local dive, Seven Face. by the time we wrap up our evening, it’s nearly 4:00 am. again, you can take the girl out of the bar . . .

let’s just say that sunday could’ve been a slow start, but Mom & Dad Pecott called at 9:30 am. regardless of our antics the night before, we would never pass up a chance to hear a voice from home. then we ate ramen. you may be worried, now that ramen has been mentioned twice in this blog. have no fear, whereas ramen in the U.S. is “poor man’s grub”, here it is almost as much of a staple as rice. it’s a great, fast meal, so we ate it fast, and then got to our lounging. i will save you from the boring details of sunday’s labyrinth of horrible, american, reality television, just know that you won’t be safe forever.

later that night we ventured out for a bite at a kimbap house, followed by a 2.5 hour walk along the river running through gwangju. it was quiet and pleasant, fisherman dotting the banks where the water was higher. i had a bug fly up my nose, and another into my mouth, which was not very exciting or entertaining, except to my husband. he apparently has no concept of the hundreds of way I could make his life hell. laugh it up, smart guy!

monday was cleaning day (aka where alex made up for laughing at the previous night’s bug-up-the-nose), and then *poof* the weekend was over. like i said in the beginning, the weekend was nothing special, but believe me when i say, that’s fine by us. we’re still taking in unusual sights, and ordering our beer in another language. that’s certainly different enough some days.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005

coming soon

  • $5 t-shirts
  • construction cranes and dangling cars (a blog in pictures)
  • 7-face
  • reality tv recap
  • rocketships, ferlinghetti, and an aptitude test

Wednesday, June 1, 2005

thursday's been worthwhile

the rain has been wonderful, easing the temperatures dramatically. it was supposed to be 90 degrees today, but is has barely made it to the upper 70’s. refreshing beyond explanation.

thanks to the downpour this morning, the demolition crews weren’t able to start until 8:30 am allowing us a sleep distrubed only by the shouts from produce vans.

i love thunderstorms. regardless of where i am, storms always remind me of beaver island. last night while walking through an empty park in the rain, the damp trees and grass had the smell of the island. a peaceful respite from the usual GO-GO-GO pace and loud sounds of gwangju.

p.s. alex and i tied in our rematch of gin rummy.