Anyang Acrotowers in Autumn (took this on the bus to work)
Man, I let these past few weeks fly. I honestly just haven’t felt like more writing. I have been behind on my other blogs as well. The Food Journal has many original posts waiting in line for me to write them down. I’ve mostly just been passing along news. I’ve also decided to take down the Video Hunt and move the content to the main page. It’s just too much to do, and other blogs like Mongdori are finally doing what I intended the site to do in the first place years ago.
I also have had some deadlines, such as this month’s article for SEOUL Magazine and a big stack o’ report cards.
Let’s start with the weekend of October 20th.
Early in the morning, I headed to Seoul, near COEX Mall, for an event for foreigners at a Buddhist Temple. It was lectures about Buddhist temple cuisine. I thought it was so interesting I couldn’t resist. I also thought it would be an easy article for the magazine.
I got there at 9 AM and met a woman from Chicago, Yuh Wen. We wandered the grounds together and found the building where the event was held. It was professionally done. The monk who was the emcee was warm and funny. We sat down on cushions on the floor while listening to him discuss Buddhism in general. He then taught us how to bow and do a chant.
After that, we learned the proper position to sit for meditation. Just think of those yoga positions where both feet are facing up, making the legs form a pretzel. He then showed us the stick they use to wake people up who are drifting off during meditation. He asked if anyone wanted to get “hit” with the stick. I raised my hand. It really was a tap. It’s not meant to hurt, just wake you up. And it actually felt a little good. A few more taps and my back would be back in shape.
We took a tour around the grounds, led by another guide. This was rushed because of the tight schedule. She showed us the basic paintings outside the temple and explained how they each told stories about the Buddha’s life.
Back at the main building, we were introduced to a nun who was an expert on Buddhist cuisine. She taught us how to make purely vegan kimchi, and then we made some ourselves to take home.
Then it was eating time.
There was a buffet all set out of vegan Buddhist food. It actually was good. Everything (except the porridge) was bursting with flavor. When eating, though, one of the monks led us in “eating meditation.”
It involved eating with the eyes half closed, slowly concentrating on the food, and chewing for forty bites. Basically just eat slowly.
After ten minutes of this he let us finish our food without meditation.
A local Buddhist tea society was also there, and they introduced us to some amazing teas–expensive ones too. The emcee monk admitted himself that he was excited to try these teas and tea biscuits. I am bad for not remembering exactly what kind of tea it was, but I do remember it being floral and leaving a good impression.
The tea biscuits were each made of different ingredients. These tiny morsels came in red bean, green tea, and pine tree pollen.
Yes, pine tree pollen.
That was the most expensive one. The texture just dissolved into powder in the mouth. It honestly wasn’t everyone’s favorite because it was highly sweetened with honey. Yet it worked well with the tea.
I left the event happy, loaded down with goodies, and full of good vegetarian food–which meant that five minutes later I was hungry again.
The next weekend Eun Jeong and I celebrated our third anniversary. THREE FREAKIN’ YEARS!
Up until there, Chris and I worked on getting stuff for Halloween at school. Supposedly there was a Halloween store in Sadang in southern Seoul, and we drove up to the area that morning to find it. It’s either very well hidden or doesn’t exist anymore. Likely the latter. Yet I remembered passing by a party store with Halloween stuff when I met my step-cousin a few weeks back. We drove to Samgakji near downtown Seoul and did our shopping there. We got a new mask to add to the collection and a few things. Pickings were scarce. Yet each year it looks like Halloween is getting more popular in Korea. I even heard stories about Korean kids trick-or-treating in some places.
We were right next to Itaewon, so we headed to Chef Meili Deli for sandwiches. Meili’s Austrian sandwiches are great. The only trouble is that one is not enough. Chris and I each had two sandwiches, and I even ordered some more cold cuts and bread to go. While at the deli, I made reservations for Saturday night for the anniversary dinner. I asked Chef Meilinger to “make it romantic.”
On the anniversary day (observed) I took her out to buy a new ring. She got one that matched her first anniversary ring well. We sat down for a cup of coffee and took a bus to Seoul. We got off at the edge of Itaewon because the traffic was at a standstill. On the way up, Eun Jeong found a lot of bags and shopping items she went ga-ga for. She hates Itaewon, but she does like the shopping there.
The dinner was great. Chef Meilenger and sous chef Christoff made it personal and charming. One thing I like about this restaurant is the contact the kitchen has with the dining room. I even saw Meilenger bussing tables when the kitchen was winding down. We started off with a nice salad and then got one of the couple entrees–the mixed grill.
As predicted, it was different meats and sausages grilled with some potatoes, roumelade sauce, and a vinaigrette. We finished with a Sachertorte for dessert. Eun Jeong was thoroughly romantified.
I had EBS stuff to do the next day. Not only did I do two episodes of my show, I made a bit of a cameo on our sister show as a zookeeper.
The following week was the BIG HALLOWEEN EVENT.
Chris took my idea of a haunted house with individual rooms made up of desks and ran with it. We spent Monday night, Tuesday (Chris had no classes that day, so he worked all day on it), and Wednesday morning thoroughly using over 2 km of tape to secure double decker desks, black plastic bags, black plastic mesh, and a cardboard/styrofoam tunnel, complete with a hiding room for the monster.
We put the mesh roof and the black lights up, and we were ready to go.
While we were putting this together on Tuesday, we heard a boy crying hysterically outside. We looked out and saw that someone ran over his bicycle and parked on top of it. The boy wasn’t hurt. We all came down and retrieved his bicycle. The owner of the car was nowhere near.
Ian, who speaks fluent Korean, wrote a little message on the car owner’s window to be more careful.
Also that evening, Chris decided to ride around with his science ball on the roof of his car. Science Police!
As with every year, our two days of Halloween were exhausting. Most of the kids had fun.
Others found the excitement a bit too much.
Some of the boys were a bit too violent this year. They don’t know how to deal with someone dressed in a costume, so they punch the living crap out of him–especially in the haunted house. I played the monster only once, and once was enough. I got tackled and was actually a bit frightened by the mob kicking and punching me. Some of the kids (the ones I predicted) had no respect for anything and tore down, or tried to tear down (we built that sucker to last) the haunted house.
All that week I had a never ending migraine. From Tuesday to Sunday. Aspirin didn’t do much to cure it. That worried me a bit.
That Saturday was my last scheduled event of the past few weeks. My new friend from South Africa came into town and had a party in Seoul. It was at a gogi buffet chain restaurant called Carne Station. Very no thrills but popular with the expat crowd because of the all-you-can-drink beer and hard liquor.
Back in September I made first real New Zealander friends. This time I became part of the South African crowd.
You know, you’d think that living in Asia that there wouldn’t be that much cultural fascination between other English speaking countries. Yet I found being immersed with the group a stimulating and exotic experience.
For one thing, my friend gave me one of the care packages he gave to the other saffies, which included porcupine quills, candy and food items that brought back childhood memories for the folks at my table, special liqueurs, and a jar of Marmite.
Marmite and Vegemite were on my list in my Extreme Cuisinebook that I hadn’t checked off yet.
Now I have.
And the other thing–the conversations. Just listening to my new friends talk about home issues in the back of the taxi was enlightening.
A cadre of us took off to Hongdae after dinner. I hate Hongdae. Yet this was the first time I had fun there.
The trick is to avoid places that are so packed you feel like you’re part of a bowel movement–you know, the places that charge to throw your bag in a pile behind a counter.
We went to a couple of spots with great classic rock and pop music being spun. My head was still pounding, but I danced like a fool, as I always do–trying to imitate ’80s dance moves from ’80s music videos according to song (even “Thriller”).
The roving Turkish kebab guy saved me from late night starvation.
The sun was up when I thought it was still midnight. We all headed to our separate places. Frost on the ground. I got on my bus at Seoul Station for Anyang and must have slept the whole way because we were instantly there. I grabbed a few items from Dunkin Donuts and took a taxi the rest of the way home.
The next week was a good one for recovery.
The haunted house was torn down. There are semi-permanent gooey tape marks all over my classroom floor. Did I mention that we really taped down that son-of-a-bitch?
The headache finally subsided.
I had to meet deadlines for the magazine article and report cards, along with a lot of little paperwork items. We’re all about ready to get back to work on major projects–the ones that matter. My current season at EBS ends in two weeks already. The shows are so much easier that I can hardly believe it. I hope we get picked up for another season–maybe with a bigger budget.
Eun Jeong did something special with her co-workers Friday night, so I hunted on my cell phone for some dinner buddies. My Kiwi friend, Ivan, agreed to join, along with little cutie Joelle. We met at Anyang station and tried out a really good bossam (steamed pork) restaurant that herbed the meat and served it in stone pots on top of heated polished stones. I also met another Kiwi, Johnny. Joelle invited him along.
Joelle went home after dinner. The rest of us agreed to get a beer, so we went to Irish Dream. Friend Lee was there. He admits he’s there five days a week. One beer turned into a few. Being the pig I am, especially when I’m near a menu with Irish/British food on it, I ordered a plate of fish and chips. It was actually pretty good. The batter had a little curry in it, and it was crunchy.
That night, though, the grease factor took me over the edge, and I spent much of Saturday in evacuation mode. Eun Jeong took good care of me, and I was back in shape on Saturday night. Good thing because I had to get up early Sunday morning for the EBS taping.
The taping went smoothly, again. I didn’t get my usual Italian sandwich with German mineral water at the Mokdong Hyundai Department Store. I haven’t eaten much at all since Friday night–mostly apples and bananas. Yet I did pick up a few interesting items, including yogurt starter. The smell in the subway did not help my sensitive stomach–lots of garlic and soju breath.
Then at Anyang Station, I got the most retarded taxi driver I have met in Korea. Anyone who knows me knows that I am non-confrontational to a fault. Yet this was the first time I was rude–in Korean. I said a few times, “Where are you going? It’s that way!”
Three times we circled back to Anyang Station. He kept wanting to turn right everywhere we went, ignoring my directions to go straight. At the start of our neighborhood, you just follow the street straight to our apartment. Mr. Taxi Guy started hanging a right again. I just said, “Here,” telling him to let me off.
He kept driving.
Originally I thought he was trying to scam me by doing this circular tour of west Anyang, yet he only charged me 2,000 won. I walked the rest of the way home and collapsed.
Yet I still wanted to do some cooking. I hadn’t done any cooking in a long time, and I had been collecting ingredients all week long. Eun Jeong had converted some small jack-o-lanterns she made at school into usable pumpkin chunks. I turned those into a seriously pumpkiny pumpkin pie and Chez Pim’s Pumpkin-Coconut Milk Panna Cotta. I also made some mushroom ravioli out of mandu wrappers. I was still not in the mood to eat, so I’m saving those for Monday.
The booked weekends are hopefully over for a while.
In the meantime, here is a strange sign I saw in Hongdae while wandering in the morning:
And a few of my high school roommate Sendil’s Halloween costumes over the years:
Panch and John (CHIPs)
Baby Dangler Michael Jackson
Mr. T. (Pityin’ with style)
This year–Joy and Crab Man (My Name Is Earl)