When I taught ESL classes to older immigrants in Minneapolis, I wondered how they got by for so many years without speaking the language. When I moved to Korea, I discovered the strength of ignorance and visual language. About 3 weeks in, I learned my second word in Korean: “thanks.” In a rural town, English is far less well-known, too. To put into perspective how well the English language is known here:
Example numero uno: I took my first trip to the grocery story on Friday and was able to complete my grocery list and errands by looking at all the pictures on the packaging. What’s worth sharing about my grocery trip? First of all, Koreans don’t have any diet soda products, to my dismay. Fruit is also really expensive here. At least the vegetables from the local farms are probably as fresh as they can possibly be. The soy sauce shrine was also pretty amusing. Lastly, the bakery. The bakery and all the free samples… omg, the bakery food here!! I bought an egg salad stuffed bread loaf that I ate entirely in one sitting. I regret nothing.
So, what do we do for fun here on the weekends? Well, our town is pretty small, so if we want to go buck wild, we have to bus or train to a bigger city. This weekend, we wanted to lay low after our first week of teaching. Travis, Courtney, Tori and I decided to go to dinner and have a few drinks on the river on Friday night. We went to a really nice family-owned bibimbap restaurant down the street that costs $1.50-$4.50 per meal. It was our 3rd time there, and the chef had already remembered that I don’t like seaweed on my bibimbap, simply by noticing that I took it out of the bowl the first 2 times. The traditional Korean bibimbap is pictured below.
On Saturday, we went hiking on what we refer to as, “the Buddha mountain.” We walked through the local rice fields (the ones that I run through every morning) and through a small village to reach the bottom of the mountain, where the trail starts. The village was actually put on the international map about 2 years ago when there was a MERS outbreak; over 200 people were quarantined, and an elderly woman actually died.
On Sunday, it was another beautiful day. I’ve noticed that pretty much every day is sunny here for the most part 🙂 We had a barbecue on our apartment rooftop – Chris, Daniella (his wife), Tori, Travis, and some of the other English teachers: Ricky and Julio.
Chris and Daniella have 2 Korean dogs that they said they rescued, and I jokingly asked, “Don’t Koreans eat dogs?”
They replied back, very sternly, “Yes, they do. These 2 guys would have been soup if we hadn’t adopted them.”
They continued to tell me that every few months, all the dogs and cats will disappear from the town – harvest time. Families will sell their pet dogs and cats to butchers, who will torture them and prepare the meat to be eaten, most commonly in soup. I am not being dramatic, unfortunately. Many Koreans believe that the more adrenaline and energy that the animal dies with, the better the animal is for consumption, hence the torture.
I wondered why people continued to feed all of the stray cats around the city…
All the puppies running around outside made me so happy…
I’m really sad right now, tbh… so I’m just going to end this post 🙁