currently editing and attaching pictures... stay tuned
The Gastric Revolution
I never thought I'd find myself shopping in the "foreign foods" section of the supermarket. Generally, I'll eat just about anything but I really had no idea what to expect in Korea. I did a little research before we came to Korea, but that just meant I knew what things were called, not what they taste like. So far, I haven't had any problems.
The coolest thing about Siji, the area where we live, is the outdoor markets. Everyday the market is full of local farmers selling all kinds of fresh produce, pastries, dried foods and seafood. There's lots of familiar vegetables and fruits as well as all kinds of things I've never seen before. The markets are also cheap. Yesterday Lisa and I bought 8 green peppers for just under one Canadian dollar. They also have lots of seafood that you don't see in Canada. Eel, octopus and squid are often kept alive in the market along with all kinds of interesting looking fish. They'll hack the heads off and give them to you in a bag on the spot. Sometimes they'll leave the head right on; Koreans don't usually waste any part of the animal. At lunch the other day I realized that the soft, squishy part of the little squid I was eating was the head... eyes and brain fully. At the same meal I realized what I thought was some kind of sprout was staring at me with hundreds of tiny eyes and was actually a huge batch of tiny minnows. Check out the new videos on the side of the page to see some of the cool seafood in the market.
Lisa and I eat the free lunch everyday at school. Our school has a full time cook who makes traditional Korean food. The meals are definitely well balanced. Every day we get some rice, some meat, some vegetables and some soup. The British teachers who were here before us couldn't stomach but we've eaten it everyday so far and haven't had any problems, although Lisa could think of things she'd rather eat than brains and eyes.
It's also really cheap to eat out in Korea. A decent dinner shouldn't cost you more than ten bucks, including beer. The Koran barbeque, called galbi, is great and no matter what you order it's always served with tons of sides, usually different kinds of vegetables, sprouts and kimchee (one of the healthiest foods in the world according to mens health). If you want to eat out and get a taste of home Daegu has Burger King, Macdonalds, The Outback, Pizza Hut, Bennigans, Dunkin Donuts and Baskin Robins although everything tastes just a little different and is usually more expensive than Korean food.
A Few Nights on the Town
It sure wouldn't be stretching things to say that our first weekend here was a success. We met up with Mitch and a few other westerners on friday eveing and headed downtown. Our small group quickly grew into a full blown herd as we walked through downtown picking friends and friends of friends as we went. The expat community here is large and everybody knows everyone or knows someone who knows everyone.
Downtown Daegu is awesome, but not what you'd expect from a city of almost 3 million. Instead of wide streets like you find in North American downtowns the streets are wide enough for one car to squeeze through the mass of walking weekenders. The rules of being on the town are a little different too. If you're ever here feel free to take your drink out of whatever bar you were in, walk around the streets with it and then wander into another bar still carrying it. This is perfectly ok. Don't wait for last call to tell you when you should call it a night. There isn't one and being "cut off" is a term that has no Korean translation. Beer is cheap, soju is cheap and dong dong ju is cheap. Liquor is very expensive. The dong dong ju is an rice wine that is served chilled and is quite delicious on a hot Daegu night.
Warning: Do not ignore the warning about the dong dong ju sneaking up on you. I did, and it did. Big time.
While hanging out downtown buying my drink in a bag from the walk through window (yeah, you read that right) one of the workers at the drink in a bag store shoved a roman candle in my hand and lit it. There I was, shooting off fireworks in the middle of a bustling downtown party square. I was a little worried until everyone starting lighting them off. I guess this is why you can buy fireworks just about anywhere in Korea.
The very same night I was coming out of the bathroom at a bar and there were two little Korean guys waiting outise the stall for me. One of them pointed at me and yelled something like "RASW-AHHH!". Great. My first night out and I'm going to get attacked in a bar, have to fight back and probably get deported. I put my hands in the air (the universal sign for "whoah dude, I didn't do anything) and tried to look as harmless as possible. The shortest of the two came at me and grabbed my ear, again saying "Wras-wah!
"Ya, ya Wraswah"
Phew. Through some bastardization of sign language I figured out that he was also a wrestler and competed at 55 kg. After coming to an understanding that we were in some way brothers through sport the guy gave me a very animated two thumbs up and left me with "you good guy!", probably the only English he knew.
training at Daegu MMA has great. I've had a few gi classes and a few no-go classes so far. I've been getting really good sparring as well as great lots of good technique work and drills that seem to already be making a difference in my game. I've been sparring ("spahh-ing", as they call it) with Yeung Gal, one of the purple belt instructors who competes at 62 kg. He's a super cool guy, speaks decent English and is extremely athletic. In the two short weeks I've been here had some crzay scrambles and have developed a nice friendly rivalry. Yeung Gal's also has a great sense of humour, he likes yelling thinsg in English like "squeej yah ashahole!" just to give me chuckle, knowing I'm the only one who understands. I had to do a double take the first time I heard him say that one.
The competition Jiu Jitsu team were in Seoul last weekend at a tournament. It sounds like just about everyone won their division and the team won the overall championship. There's lots of studs in the room, that's for sure.
The owner of the club also gave me a very nice Daegu MMA/Machado Jiu Jitsu competition shirt as a gift. The shirt is very big but some of the other guys in the club have said that this is a very great sign of respect. The feeling is definitely mutual.
The level of respect at Daegu MMA is great and I'm glad I've been accepted there, but being bowed to by another dude in the shower is a bit unerving. Double that feeling when you're expected to do the same.
The Korean version of frat boy types getting tattoos with oriental writing they don't understand? Every Korean under 30 wearing shirts with English sentences on them that they don't understand and don't make sense. Some of my favourites... "Place take your stare down" and "Revolution cups drink for the coming big time"
I experienced the sharp end of racism for the first time the other day. A couple of drunk businessmen on the subway singled me out to hassle. I was the only white guy on the train and was aparently asking for it. It was a long 15 minutes and gave me a lot of food for thought.
A few people have asked about the schools here... hold on people, don't get your knickers in a
bunch. I'll post about it eventually but the different education systems here are complicated and I feel like I shouldn't go posting my first impressions which are probably wrong.