Goodbye, Farewell, and Amen
Posted by Heliocentrism on November 6, 2009
November 6 – December 1, 2009
I leave Korea on December 1st and head to Thailand. There Mark and I will travel around a bit then find jobs. Hopefully, next year, we will have interviews in Guam for jobs in Japan. But for right now we have one more trip in Korea. We’re going to Jeju Island November 24-27.
I’m writing my farewell to Korea now, in case I don’t have time later. I’m doing it in the form of a top 10 list of things I will miss about Korea. Like all top 10 list I will start with 10, the one with the least importance.
10. Jimjjilbangs (찜질방): A cheaper alternative to a taxi ride home
For some reason, taxi rates increase exponentially around 2:00am. Since public transportation shuts down at midnight, there isn’t anything you can do but pay up… or is there?
Late at night a cab ride home might cost 35,000KRW. A stay in a jimjiilbang costs about 7,000KRW to 15,000KRW. You get a clean change of clothes, a shower, and you can go to sleep right away. In the morning you eat breakfast at the restaurant in the jjimjilbag and maybe even take in a workout at the gym there. All of this, except for breakfast, is included in the price. Sure you’ll spend the night in a room with many snoring Korean families, but you’re tired and most likely drunk. What do you care?
9. Non-sense T-shirts: Entertainment in shirt form
Not only do I love reading nonsense T-shirts being worn by Koreans who have no idea how inappropriate, vulgar, silly, or embarrassing the words are, but I love wearing them myself. Of course I only wear the silly ones. I leave all the rest for others to make faux pas in.
Hongdae is the best place to buy them, but you can find them in subway transfer stations too. Don’t pay too much for them.
8. Hangul (한글): Being able to read
When I lived in Japan, I couldn’t read anything. Signs, billboards, food packaging, none of these things meant diddly-squat to me. But here in Korea, I can read Hangul.
Okay, I don’t understand what I read, but I can pronounce it. This helps when reading maps. Most signs and ingredients are English words written in Hangul.
Because I can read Hangul, I have learned more Korean vocabulary in Korea than I learned Japanese vocabulary in Japan. For example: While grocery shopping I see a box of grapes and the word “포도” on the box. Pod0, rhyming with “pogo” means grape in Korean. 포도 주세요!
I found a book on amazon that says it can help you learn Hangul in one hour. I don’t think it would take even that long to learn. It’s so easy to learn.
7. Cheap Medical Treatment: Doctor Visit = $3; Drugs = $2
If you work in Korea legally, you are under the national health insurance. Maybe it makes me a big commie, but I LOVE Korea’s national health insurance.
Until I got to Korea the cheapest doctor visit I had ever had, was when I was in College. It cost 20USD to see a doctor; more if something was actually wrong with you. And even more if you wanted to get it fixed. Dr. Moon, the school’s doctor, didn’t have a very good bedside manner. He had cold hands and old man smell.
Once I had bronchitis and needed to use all the cash I had to pay $50 for medication. It made me drowsy and nauseous. It cost another $30 to fill a new prescription for drugs that would not make me throw up. I had to use my credit card for that.
At home, drugs come in little bottles. Each drug comes in its own bottle so if you are on 12 types of medication you have a lot of opening to do.
In Korea, drugs come in little baggies that are connected. The edges are perforated so that you can tear one packet apart from the rest. Each bag contains all the drugs you have to take at a given time. It’s great when you have to take multiple drugs. Just rip open one little packet and pour the contents into your mouth. Get a glass of water and swallow.
I would still advise anyone coming to Korea to pack their favorite pain-killer, flu medicine, and any other non-prescription medication they think they might need. It’s no fun buying over the counter medications when you’re sick, in a foreign country, and haven’t learned how to read yet.
If I were going back to the US, I wouldn’t miss Korean meat. But I’m moving to another Asian country.
I’ve lived in Japan and visited many Asian countries. Koreans are the biggest Asian meat eaters, aside from the Mongolians*. In Thailand, where I’m going next, they don’t seem to eat a lot of meat compared to American standards of meat consumption.
Here in Korea there are restaurants that serve mostly meat. I was surprised the first time I went to one of the chicken and beer places to find that all they serve is chicken and beer; no rice, no French fries, no juice, no tea. Even though I’m looking forward to plates of Pad Thai and bowls of Tom yum, I will miss things like samgyeopsal, and galbi.
*The meat in Mongolia is not delicious. If I were to live there long enough I would become a vegetarian. I might end up starving to death, since vegetables there are not very tasty either.
5. Baked Eggs (맥반석걔란)
They’re called maekbanseok gyeran and they look like burnt hard-boiled eggs. I can’t say that they have much of a flavor, but I love the texture. I’ve never seen them anywhere but in Korea.
According to mykoreankitchen.com, they are made by baking eggs for 3 hours on an Elvan stone. Elvan stones are used in Korean saunas (jimjjilbangs) and are believed to have medicinal value. The stones supposedly releases some sort of infrared rays and this cures ailments of the body.
One comment on mykoreankitchen.com, states that these delicious eggs can be made by cooking them in a simple crock-pot for 3.5 hours. Then letting them cool for an hour. But, only the eggs touching the crock-pot will have the “smoky” flavor. I don’t know if it will work, but I might try it one day when I start to miss Korea.
Update: The crock-pot version is close, but not close enough…
Update Again: A closer approximation to an Elvan stone baking is your own oven. Put your eggs in a pot; a ceramic one of you have. Put the oven on 200°C (that’s a very low setting) and bake for 10 or so hours.
4. Jjim dak (찜닭): a.k.a Andong jjimdak (안동찜닭)
This is some delicious stuff! The best place to get it is a restaurant near the bell by Jonggak station. If you’re ever in Seoul you should definitely try it. For some reason all restaurants serve way too much jjim dak. If there are 3 or 4 of you, order jjim dak for two. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as jjim dak for one, so make some friends quickly.
I would give you the recipe for it, but I can’t find one online. The closest thing to a recipe I found was the list of ingredients and preparation given by Wikipedia.
3. Gamjatang (감자탕): pork bone soup
This is the most delicious thing this country has to offer. The best place to get it… well, maybe I just like it for sentimental reasons, is near Seoul Station. When standing at the KTX station looking out on Seoul subway station, the restaurant is ahead and to the right near the many little restaurants around the corner down the street. I remember the place because it’s the only one with pictures of dishes. The name is written on there, but I don’t remember if it’s written in English or Hangul.
This is another dish where a standard 2 person dish can serve 4 people.
Here is the recipe and below is a video recipe.
2. Seoul Metro (수도권 전철): Wonderfully Cheap Public Transportation
Seoul has the greatest public transportation in the world. It’s easy to use, cheap, and you can go shopping while transferring between stations. And it just keeps growing. I can only think of 2 things wrong with it; there are too many aggressive ajummas and it all shuts down at midnight.
All you need is a T-money card and you can go anywhere in Seoul and almost anywhere in Korea. With your T-money card you can pay for rides on buses, subways, taxis, and buy stuff at many convenient stores. They also work on vending machines in the subway and you can even make donations with it to the Salvation Army.
Seoul Metro is so big that you can use it to leave Seoul. You can visit Incheon, Suwon, Uijeongbu, and some other cities outside of Seoul that I’ve never heard of. Best of all, you can do all this for about 4USD!
If you use a bus, any bus or subway ride is free for a half hour after deboarding the first bus. If you use the subway, any bus ride is free within half an hour of exiting the subway station. If you need to go to the airport there are special buses that will take you directly there for about 8,000KRW (less than 8USD) and it’s cheaper when you use your T-money card.
If you take the cheapest, slowest train from Seoul you can go to Busan for 20,000KRW. Where else can you travel clear across the country for less than 20USD?
And number 1?
1. Friends (친구): Whole lotta strange and wonderful people in Seoul
During the past year, my co-workers have asked me many odd questions. One of the more common questions is, “How many friends do you have?” I don’t know anyone who has ever sat down to count all their friends. If anyone did, it would mean that they didn’t have many friends or anything better to do with their time.
I’ve made lots of great friends during my time in Korea. Some have already left. Some are staying in Korea indefinitely. I might see some in Japan next year when I hopefully get a job there. Others I might never see again. So here is a memorial to my friends in photo-form.
Taryn just reminded me that I talked her and several others into hiking to see Gatbawi in Daegu. So that’s twice.
Mrs. Kim has helped me so much during my time in Korea. Almost every trip that I took in Korea, started out with a phone call or two by Mrs. Kim to inquire about directions, reservations, availability and/ or price. She really went out of her way to help me whenever possible.
I had the class watch a clip from the show Friends and they had to continue the story with what they thought should or would happen next. It’s from the episode where Joey gets a call from his agent, Estelle, telling him that he has a part in a new movie, but there is one problem…
So this group got up to act out the script they wrote in last week’s class.
Estelle the Agent: Joey, you have to have a kiss scene in the movie. Is that okay?
Joey: No problem. I show you.
“Joey” then plants a big fake kiss on the side of “Phoebe’s” head to the shock of everyone in the class.
Goodbye Korea. Goodbye good friends. I will be “missing for you”.