This is the end of joeverdrive. Check joeverdose.tumblr.com this month for stateside adventures. Viewer discretion is advised, grandma.
After a long trip, I made it back to Bremerton. The United States is a strange place, but it’s home and I’m glad to be here. I’ll miss the friends I made and the kids I worked with. Goodbye, Korea!
"The most rewarding part was when they gave me my money."
- Homer J. Simpson
At a dairy farm near the NK border. No cows were harmed in this photo.
At the Kimchi Museum, which showcases over 200 different types of kimchi and a kimchi-feeding robot. (농담이야)
This mountain I climbed is part of the most visited national park in the world, with over 5 million visitors per year. Strangely, though, I found myself alone for most of the climb. There’s a big wall near the top that was part of an ancient fortress. It was kind of dangerous to climb because the rocks were slippery from the rain.
Above: The top is hidden by rainclouds. Below: The “trail.”
Below: Alone at the top.
What is Budae Jjigae?
Imagine you’re Korean and it’s the 50s. Your city (Seoul) was destroyed when it was lost and reclaimed three times during the war, so there isn’t much food to go around, let alone fresh meat. To whom do you turn in hungry times, then?
Who else? The U.S. Army.
Koreans took whatever surplus canned meats they could find from army facilities and threw ‘em in a pot with kimchi, chili sauce and other staples to make a greasy soup that’s still so popular today that there are several chain restaurants specializing in it. In this one, I found bologna, pepperoni, spam, hot dog slices, and ham. Koreans really love spam, but that deserves a whole separate post.
The name Budae Jjigae literally translates to “army base stew” or “troop stew.”
It tastes like you’re drinking a pizza, which is great when you’re hung over.
There was a big parade on Sunday for Buddha’s Birthday!
Late afternoon in Samcheong-dong, a neighborhood full of traditional-style buildings in the heart of the city.
Click it for more.
Since my school doesn’t have a building anymore, I have to walk over to an apartment complex every day to teach the kids in their homes. You don’t see places like this in the US, but they’re everywhere in Seoul. This one has about a dozen towers, 20 playgrounds, a school or three, supermarkets, restaurants, everything all in one little private community.
There’s still piles of garbage everywhere though.
Plastic surgery is huge. The most common one is “double eyelid” surgery and it’s no weirder than getting braces.
Sometimes I see things that would look strange in the USA, but more and more I’m starting to notice the things that are out of place in Korea, like massive Harleys.
There’s no way to prepare for reverse culture shock, no matter how much baseball I watch or how much stuff I buy at Costco and then let go to waste. How can I know if the image of the America I expect to see when I return is too idealistic? I know that things have changed, but how can I know what they are ahead of time?
Does everyone still hate Obama?
In case you haven’t guessed it by now, I think about ramen a lot. In fact, besides my school being repo’ed for not paying rent and enjoying a paid furlough, my biggest excitement this week came when my favorite ramen brand, SHIN RAMYUN, released their first new product in 15 years—SHIN RAMYUN BLACK, now with ox bone flavor!
Korean ramen and Japanese ramen are very different. Korean ramen is cheap, always instant, and has a very strong spicy-salty flavor. You’ll often find kimchi, eggs, green onions, and/or american cheese in a bowl you order at a cafe for $2. It’s awesome, but sometimes you want something a little bit more subtle, with less msg.
You won’t find half-cooked noodles sitting in a blood-red salt bath at a Japanese style ramen restaurant. The broth isn’t made with a packet of powder, it’s a pork bone and soy based stock that you can see through, topped with slices of real pork. Does that mean it’s unpopular in Korea? Not really. It’s much more expensive ($8 for ramen!) and not suited for a quick lunch. College student seem to enjoy it, though, and most of the restaurants where you can get it are found near campuses. I went to Furusato in Myeongdong to get mine. It took a while, as you can see, but it was worth it.
Sorry no tripod.