May 2008

Sign literally reads: “Water is Self”

This explains why there is no tipping at Korean restaurants. When prices are low, service is limited. So don’t bother asking and get your own water.

Water is Self ~ yes, my body is mostly made of water.

The sign ought to be: “Water is Self-Service” ~ but in Korea, “service” is a way of saying something is complimentary [서비스].

Seaweed soup is served at most Korean meals because it is tasty and so easy to make. Especially after a lesson from my mother-in-law. Here is the way to have seaweed soup in under thirty minutes:

Simple Seaweed Soup

1/4 cup dried seaweed (즉석미역)

5 cups water

2+ cloves garlic

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon soy sauce (국간장)

Some salt, black pepper is optional

1/4 cup clams or oysters (optional, frozen is okay)

1 tablespoon tuna extract (optional)

Measure out seaweed into a small bowl and add just enough water to soak. Cut garlic into disks. Add sesame oil to pot, grill the garlic lightly. Then stir the wet seaweed and optional clams/oysters in with the oil and garlic for about 2 minutes. Pour in water, stir in soy sauce and salt to taste. Simmer for 10-15 minutes and enjoy!

I like to cook it in a stainless steel storage container so it can go into the fridge afterwards. Seaweed soup is said to be good for a woman’s reproductive system plus it’s a good source of iodine for everyone else ~ and no one has confirmed whether salt in Korea is iodized. Maybe that’s why I have yet to see a huge goiter on a Korean…

When is a sidewalk not a sidewalk? When it’s located in Seoul. Cars park on the sidewalk, motorbikes use it as their own thoroughfare, it’s a shortcut during peak rush hour. Pedestrians have to yield to traffic or risk getting hit. I’ve seen so many near misses that I’m learning to change my walking style.

This weekend I worked on my in-law’s pear patch just outside of Seoul. Retired from diplomacy and academics, they now grow Asian pears for fun and fitness. The pear patch is on the side of a hill, requiring lots of climbing.

By the end of April the flowers have turned into tiny fruit. I joined them in cutting back the excess and selecting the best to mature. The female fruit is preferred and can be differentiated by looking at the bottom, where the flower had been, for smoothness. The male fruit has a protruding bottom and should be snipped. Only one female fruit should remain per cluster for optimal growth and flavor.

Teachers’ Day is an unofficial holiday that only those in school celebrate. Wednesday and Thursday my film professor husband received flowers and other gifts from his students. Koreans like to commemorate holidays for elders with boutonnieres or baskets of flowers, Teachers’ Day (May 14) and Parents Day (May 9). Here you see both:

Students sang for him too.

My husband ran Resfest Korea for over 8 years. Cleaning out the office, we came across a box full of festival banners. Since he can’t throw anything away and I can find new uses for just about anything, they are becoming reusable shopping bags. It takes an entire day to cut the pattern pieces and the next few days are spent sewing the parts together.

There will be a Resfest reunion party sometime soon where I’ll sell these keepsakes. Price? Each one takes 2 hours to make. So far there are 12 bags and I’ve been funemployed since I got to Seoul…

While I might make my own kimchee 김치, I’d be hard pressed to make all manner of side dishes 반찬. There are an endless number of variations, each with specific ingredients and special preparations. The gyopo solution is to go to the local marketplace 시장 and buy just enough for the week.

Three trays for 5,000W (aprrox. $5 USD) ~ a bargain in terms of time and taste.

Navigating the streets of Korea is no simple task. On top of learning Hangul 한글, posted signs require special deciphering. What are these street signs about?


P-turn street sign.

No U-turn, instead make a flourishing P-turn.

The white sign explains the blue sign ~ only a left-turned P-turn is possible.

If I were still in LA, I’d celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Mexican food and margaritas today. In Korea, May holidays include Children’s Day 어린이날 (5/5) and Buddha’s Birthday 석가탄신일 (5/12). As a gyopo, this Monday I will avoid crowded family fun zones and serve something Mexican for dinner. Next week, as a good wife, I will go to temple with mother-in-law and enjoy all the colorful lanterns with wishes attached.

Colorful lanterns line the street to commemorate Buddha’s Birthday in Seoul.