Sunday, October 31, 2010

Why Would I Need A Waitress When I Have a Machine

Kwang and I recently went out to eat and found ourselves in the future of fast food. This self service waitress machine showed us the specials, took our order, made us pay and spit out an order ticket that we had to bring to the counter.

Now I couldn't request to hold the kimchi, but I could have ordered multiple hard boiled eggs at 50 cents an egg. The food we got was hot, fresh, and delicious. However, the place was super small and we walked in a just the right time as there were two seats waiting for us. The women behind the counter did serve us the food so I suppose this machine can't do everything. It did certainly solve some of my language barriers. I wonder when McDonald's will catch on...

Wade Kids Academy Carves Pumpkins

We carved pumpkins in class this week. They don't really have your typical jack-o-lantern pumpkin here in Korea. When Kwang and I were living in Portland we would go to the Korean grocery store and see what the store described as "medicine" pumpkins. Well that's what we used to carve at school. It was much squatter and thicker than American pumpkins. It was also a shame to see all of those pumpkin seeds go to waste. Just another baking treat that left me wishing I had an oven.

Here I am with my class of 6 year old students (they're considered 7 here in Korea). Two students were absent that day so it was a nice small class, a good thing when a knife's involved. 

Here's my co-teacher Cathy, working her magic with the girls. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

One of the Perks of Living in Korea

Korea does not have any open container laws. It's a normal sight on any day of the week to walk through the park and see groups of retired men sitting on mats and enjoying rice wine. Now most people do not walk around drinking say cans of beer. However, some teachers I tutor introduced me to a fantastic cocktail take-away place in Hongdae, a trendy part of Seoul. The tiny shop is called Vinyl, rightfully so due to the vinyl containers the drinks are served in.

Kwang opted for the gin and lime while I went for a rum and coke (it even came with a slice of lemon in it) . The drinks are mixed right in the bags and are really a steal at about $4 a piece. I've never seen cocktails this inexpensive in Korea. Most of the time they run around $10 a drink or you have to buy the whole bottle for a little under $100 at a time. Needless to say we will be going back to this place.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chestnuts Roasting...Everywhere

Ok well technically this vendor isn't roasting chestnuts. Instead he has big tubs of them which you can buy per the kilo and then he will put them in his tumbler machine that peels the hard shell off the nut. Kwang loves raw chestnuts and I often find them in things that just seem wrong to me, like bread. I big no thank you, especially when I thought the chestnuts were apple chunks. There are also a bunch of roasting stands out now that the weather has gotten chilly. In my opinion this is a much better way to eat the nut.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

One Tight Parking Space

Kwang and I walked past this parking space and had to stop in awe. This has got to be one of the smallest parking spots I've ever seen. Let it be noted I am admittedly not talented enough to back a car into a spot like this even if I had a camera attached to the rear. Which is one reason why we do not have a car here and probably never will.

Moving Stuff Via the Window

I've seen this machine quite a few times while walking around Seoul. This one I happened to capture right outside of my apartment. It's a lifter that helps people move objects, boxes, and furniture out of their apartments via their window. I love this concept. It's so much easier than walking things down the stairs. We are probably going to move to a different apartment in March, but alas our windows don't open up accordingly and we will have to pile everything in the elevator. I'm not complaining one bit.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chuseok Table

I'm a little late in posting these pictures since the holiday happened weeks ago. Here's what a traditional Chuseok ceremonial table looks like. Kwang's father was cleaning up a little before I took this picture so the table was full with dishes at one point. Plates of watermelon, grapes, dried fish, chestnuts, rice cakes, fried shrimp and other delights are placed on the table in honor of their ancestors. At Kwang's house the men bow at the table every 10 minutes or so in this repetitive fashion that lasts for about an hour. The women bring new dishes to the table and at the end bow once. After the ceremony is finished small pieces of all the food are gathered on a dish to be placed outside the family's house and at the graves of their ancestors.

Glasses of milky rice wine called makgeolli are poured out and refilled after each time the men bow. After the ceremony is done this small shrine is set up in the home.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Kwang's Grandfather

I finally got to meet Kwang's 94 year old grandfather over Chuseok. He is Kwang's maternal grandfather. Personally I don't think he looks a day over 80. He has an apartment in Busan, the second largest city in Korea. He even still rides a bicycle!

He is such a sweet man. Unfortunately, his hearing is going and it's hard for him to hear unless conversations are shouted. He was very excited to have the company. 

Visiting Kwang's Grandmother's Grave

Kwang was 23 when his grandmother passed away. She had lived with his family since he was born. Since Kwang was the oldest son in his family he shared a room with his grandmother. This may sound strange by western standards, but it is very much the norm here. For Chuseok we went to go visit his grandmother's grave. She is buried in a small village near Jinhae where winding roads bring you to a small farming community. We hiked up a small path with groves of persimmon trees lining both sides.

Looking down hill from her grave this is the scene. It's quite beautiful. When we arrived two frogs were hanging out around the grave. Korean Buddists believe that frogs protect the deceased so we made sure to give them some of the food we had brought in honor of his grandmother. There were many chestnut trees around the grave that were heavy with spiky fruit. Inside the fruit is the chestnut. Koreans love chestnuts and not only roast them, but also put them in things like baked goods. I'm still not a fan quite yet as I've mistook them many times to be a nice chunk of apple only to find a starchy chestnut in my danish. 

I love persimmons, but had never seen an actual persimmon tree before. Here's what the persimmons look like before they are ripe. I wonder if I could make persimmon jam...hmmmm.