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Kimchi Stew, 김치찌개


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Kimchi Stew

WHAT'S IN IT?

Kimchi (sour and fermented for a while) 3 cups
Tuna 1-2 cans
Butter 1 tablespoon
Water 2 to 2.5 cups
Kimchi juice (as much as you can get)
Salt

How Do I MAKE IT?

1. oh high heat saute tuna with better for 5 minutes.
2. Add kimchi and saute for at least 10 minutes.
(if it starts to stick to the bottom, add a little bit of kimchi juice or water)
3. Add kimchi juice and water (add some chili pepper flakes if you like it spicy)
4. boil for 10 minutes
5. Season with salt.
( You can add tofu if you like.)

ENJOY

*** If you want to use pork, it's pretty much the same except in the beginning you saute pork with a bit of vegetable oil.

The Nude Beaches of South Korea

Boy, that is a good one. I have never come into a more modest group of people in my life. Last week, while doing a unit on travel with my older students (middle school), one of them asked me if it was true that there are places where people swim in the ocean naked. I said yes, I have heard of such places, but that I had never been to one. They screamed and reflexively covered their eyes at the thought. Most Koreans at the beach swim fully clothed.

There is public nudity in Korea, and lots of it. However, it is all gender-segregated and indoors. I am talking about public baths. Koreans love them, and Busan is apparently sitting on top of quite a bit of hot spring water. The baths here are quite famous and one, the Hurshimchung, claims to be the largest facility in all of Asia. It took me a while to muster the nerve, but I finally went to one and I am happy to report that it was awesome.

The place is near my house in the basement of a large hotel. When you arrive you pay at the desk (5000W) and are given a key. You take your key to the first locker room, the shoe lockers, and lock up your shoes there. Then you go into the other locker room and strip down. Now I am not squeamish about being naked. If someone yells "Skinny Dip!" I am usually the first one in the water. Now I am not what you would call model material: I run a little flat on the back and a little not flat on the front so if my exhibition was performance art it would definitely be categorized as comedy. But what made me uncomfortable, as I walked through the locker room in my birthday suit, was that I was apparently the object of a survey in demographic physiology. The Koreans, every one of them, would look at my eyes, look at my package, and then look at my eyes again. I could tell what they were thinking: "Yankee wankee itty bitty." Some of them were polite enough to attempt a look somewhere between pity and disbelief, but I also registered two smirks and one chuckle. Livid with self-loathing, I wanted to tell them that it was unfair to judge my entire race based on my physique and also that I was nervous and that additionally it was a tiny bit cool, but of course this was impossible.

I consoled myself with the thought that I was at the very least anonymous. I am in another country after all. It isn't like I was going to run into anyone I know in this place. Then,as I walked into the huge bath room proper, in which a couple hundred Koreans were washing, soaking, steaming and snoozing contentedly, I heard a small voice scream across the room: "Hello, Joe teacher!" And a couple hundred Koreans simultaneously turned, looked at my eyes, looked at my business, and looked back at my eyes.

After a very brief and uncomfortable conversation with one of my students I repaired to the showers. It is part of the social contract at the baths that you will not enter the pool until you have scrubbed at least one layer of skin off, and I did so with gusto. You are given a long washcloth that runs about 150 on the grit scale and you can get hold of the ends and scour away. It is quite nice on the back. The showers actually had a safety button on them so that you don't blister yourself accidentally. I bypassed this and set the shower to stun (those of you who have showered with me know that I like them hot). I took a nice long soapy shower and declared myself ready for the tubs.

There were five. The largest (30 foot square with a bench build in around the edge) registered about 42 degrees Celsius on the digital thermometer. The other three hot tubs increased in temperature at about 2 degree increments (the temperatures on the thermometers fluctuated at +/- .5 degrees, relative, I believe, to the number of bodies therein). The hottest two were deserted. There was also a steam room, a dry sauna, and a cool tub. There was also a hot floor with tiny hard square pillow. Naps were being taken there.

I graduated up to the second and then the third and then back down to the second hot pool (I tried them all and could stand even the hottest but it was uncomfortable in the sense that my heartbeat and breathing became labored. I lasted about one minute in the dry sauna, which thermometer read 65 Celsius) and gradually formed a rotation of hot tub, steam room, and cold tub. The water was mineral saturated and had a pretty good salinity. On TVs around the room a video loop showed the drilling that accessed the hot water vent below. Signs proudly stated that the mineral rich waters came from a depth of 864 meters, and I believe it.

I don't know if it was the minerals or the heat or the scrubbing or what, but when I left that place I felt like a new person. If one was feeling depressed or puny, I can think of no better way to do a little self-repair. There were other services (barber and masseuse) as well, but I was content with the basic package. It is nice to know that it is there at the very least. And I think that next time I will be less nervous and can do my lineage more justice.

It's Not Always About You, Korea.

A former coworker, and Busan local, caught me explaining to my brother that Korea smells 100 times worse than Toronto. Or at least it did, before sensory adaptation resulted in the death of my sense of smell some time last November. My coworker was thoroughly unimpressed.First, she advised me that she's Korean. You know, just in case I hadn't taken the fact that I was the only foreign teacher at

Partial Facial Paralysis: Almost as hot as Catne.

As a result of falling on my head, I may never be able to move part of my face again. It's only a minor part of my face, so it's not really that big of a deal. I won't appear to have had a recent stroke or anything of the sort. At least, not until making comments like that catches up with me (again) and I fall on my head (again).Essentially, I will be able to raise my left eyebrow most of the way

Catne is Sad

As The Shanster* and I fought for the last bite of chicken galbi, our Cat Lady friend sulked in her chair. This was alarming. Chicken galbi is delicious and should be fought for at all times, at the expense of all other things. When asked what the Hell she was sulking over, she shared the following tragedy with us: her cat has acne.*(The Shanster hates it when I call her that, on account of it

Don't Come to Busan

I was very happy to be back to Busan after my recent trip. I remember walking out of Busan station and stopping for a moment and looking out across the plaza to the neighborhood crawling up the mountainside across the way, all of it bathed in bright winter sunlight, and turning to my girlfriend and saying, smiling ear to ear, "Busan is best." "Yep," she said.

I meant it. I have seen mountains and rivers and islands and beaches and markets and entertainment and even a little culture in Korea, some of it better and some of it worse. But for sheer ambiance and variety, Busan has everyplace else I've seen here beat hands down. Now I haven't been everywhere. And some of this might be based on my personal tastes. For one thing, the thought of living in a huge metropolis with a pollution problem and chronic overcrowding is not my idea of quality of life. Sure there might be "more to do," but what good is more to do if the subway is a sardine can. And how much "to do" is enough? That depends on what you like. If you like to club, then maybe this isn't the best. Maybe it is. I don't have any idea. Clubbing has long ago dropped from my list of things to do. If you like sitting by the ocean eating cheap fresh seafood, then maybe you should check Busan. Or if you like your choice between four or five great beaches, Busan might be for you. Temples, we got 'em. Shopping, check. World class symphony orchestra and opera? Not. But you can't have everything. I would like an English language library with current fiction, nonfiction, and a cushy reading lounge, too. But that isn't likely to appear.

I llke going to a cafe in Gwangan and having some tea by the beach and reading in a sunny chair. I like going to Seomyeon and trying something I have never eaten before. I like going to Nampodong and walking around in the market and afterwards lunching at a window table in the fish market. I like sitting quietly in Beomeosa temple and letting 1500 years of the contemplative life soak into me. I like sitting in the bar across from my apartment having deep conversations with my bartender in hand signals drinking something that looks and tastes like a cross between tequila and yogurt. I like slowly cooking the garlic over a two-gallon charcoal grill made out of a tin bucket so that it is roasted to golden perfection just as the galbi is ready to wrap up in the sesame leaves. And then I like wrapping myself up in my blanket and sitting as close to the water as I can without getting wet and going to sleep. That's livin'.

Ouchy!

Last Tuesday night was my birthday, and to mark the occasion we shuffled and coughed our way through the freezing cold to the Novotel Ambassador Hotel on Haeundae Beach. The hotel does a legendary buffet, and having eaten there the week before in the company of our Director and Manager, we were determined to make this visit a little less restrained.


Straddling the seafront like a Neptunian colossus, the Ambassador does a fine trade as Haeundae’s premier Hotel complex and rocking up in my donkey jacket and trainers, I couldn’t help but feel the ominous onset of the Bums Rush. If being a foreigner in Korea means anything however, it’s your innate inapproachability - I probably could have set fire to the curtains and got away with nothing more than a tight grin and a bow. Luckily though, I was here to eat, and for 49 chun a pop (roughly 25 quid) including wine you can really get your moneys worth.


Meaty king crab legs, mussels, prawns, crayfish and a considerable array of raw fish and sushi made for an excellent appetiser, followed soon after by an attack on the mains counter. A number of home favorites were represented here, including beef stew, baked fish, and cauliflower cheese. Needless to say each item had a welcome place at my table and as if there wasn’t enough on our plates, we had a few lamb chops, steaks, and Bay Lobsters cooked to order.




The shellfish was excellent. Served cold (with the exception of the Bay Lobster) it was plain, fresh and delicious. The mains displayed a similar degree of competence, and although the cauliflower was a little overdone and some of the dishes could have been a degree or two warmer, they made for an outstanding midpoint nonetheless. It was in the cooked-to-order selection, however, that the chef’s skill was most obvious. The Bay Lobsters were plump and sweet, giving up a surprising amount of flesh from their squat tails. The lamb and steak meanwhile, were cooked with the kind of care and precision deserving of a quality piece of meat; slightly charred on the outside, yielding to a medium rare pink in the middle.


The only problem we experienced was with timing. We only managed to get a table at 8pm, two hours before closing, and while a more relaxed meal might have involved more of an eat – rest – eat regime, time constraints meant that a quicker pace was required and i unfortunately didn't manage dessert, preferring instead to go for another pass at the savories.


Korean food is great, but when you need an injection of western flavour, you can do a lot worse than the Ambassador.

Tripping Down Memory Lane

Yujin and I took a little trip over the break. We entertained our several options and decided at last to go to Yeosu again and revisit some of the places we had seen there in the days after our first meeting. It was our hope to finally visit Geomundo Island, but we were again foiled by the elements.

We left early afternoon and before we ever walked out the door I was exhausted. I had spent the morning at the bank, paying my bills and sending some money back to the states. For some reason it was a big banking day. When I pulled my number I was 124 and they were serving 91. And there is only one lady who does the wire transfers and she was busy but I informed her that I was waiting and the nice lobby guy (who mopped up the dogshit I had tracked in last time) got a queue going at her desk and it appeared that I was second. I began to contemplate the possibility of auctioning off my now quite valuable #124 but the language barrier and an atypical consideration of self-preservation prevented this.

I was given a paper cup of strong green tea by the nice lobby guy, who, knowing I was there to donate an organ to the fickle whims of the monetary system, went back and put the won/dollar exchange ticker on the big screen and started giving me a blow-by-blow commentary, in Korean and across the width of the bank, to the delight of the hundred or so nationals present whose currency was safely esconsed in shitty Won. As we watched the rate rose and fell and rose and fell and I thought to myself, how are they going to know what rate to pick? I have to sign something and they have to wire something and take something out of my account and put it in the other one and meanwhile this thing is bouncing like Bozo's balls in the Grand Prize Game (yeah, I'll be forty next year). If I worked at the bank and someone was going to get screwed it would not be the bank. Of course, these questions, and many others I would like to ask now go unuttered and I have learned to sit quietly and let the wheels turn around me. It is quite liberating, really, to be helpless.

When my turn came I was delighted to find that the rate had bounced in my favor and I was able to send my penny home through the forfieture of far less Won than last month. When the currency lady was done having her way with my money the nice lobby guy took my fistful of utility bills and tore them into the appropriate shreds and inserted the shreds into the appropriate slot in the bill payer machine and took my bankbook and inserted it into it's special slot and something beeped and a piece of paper I couldn't read was spit out and I was right-o with the electric, internet, and cell phone company. I felt pretty damned responsible at that point, let me tell ya.

Home I went, drained physically and financially, and packed the trusty backpack. I took the camera, travel tripod, the spare batteries and charger, the MP3 and its USB charger, the phone, the extra phone battery and its charger, Volume II of the Complete Sherlock Holmes, Lonely Planet's Korea, my sketchbook, journal, pen, pencils and sharpener and eraser, mini-maglight, identification, reading and sun glasses, and basic toilet. Along with the clothes on my back I took an extra pair of underwear for the five day trip but it turned out I didn't need them. (I bought one pair of socks on the road.) There was plenty of room left for the outer water/wind layer of my Columbia two-piece.

We hit the road. Bus 87 to Yeonsandong Station, subway to Nampodong, express bus to Yeosu. We caught a local down to the Ferry Terminal, which was closed. We looked around and found moderately priced accomodation at the Midojang Yeogwan: quiet for a yeogwan and very clean, excepting the sheets. We then walked across the road to the shopping area and had the variety platter at the New York Hot Dog and Coffee. The hotdogs themselves were good all-beef weiners and the toppings were eclectic but tasty. There was a chili dog, a grilled onion dog, and a curry dog, but we liked the bulgogi dog the best. I wouldn't pass up a chance to eat at this place if you are a homesick hotdog fan.

We woke early the next morning to try to catch the 7:40 ferry out to the island but the nice desk lady told us that the seas were too rough and the ferry might not run for a few days. This got me to thinking: what if we finally get out there and then the ferry is cancelled for a week or two. That would be a lovely phone call: "Hello, KidsClub? Uh, listen. I'm, like, stuck on this island..."

We decided to go back to the place where it all began. This was, afterall, exactly like our first date, and on our first date we got up early at the hotel and went to the ferry terminal and were told "no, the seas are too rough", and we decided to go to the pretty little fishing town by the sea with the beautiful temple on a cliff high above. We got there and got the best room in my favorite hotel, the one with two huge windows overlooking the blue sea and a bathtub with powerful jet-like devices which stir up the water around you in the most pleasant and relaxing fashion. We were told that we were very fortunate to have come on the day we did, because the temple was hosting their annual New Year's Eve festival the following evening and the hotel room we were staying in would have cost three times as much if it were available, which it wasn't. At W50000 the place is an absolute steal anyway, but special event pricing would have placed it beyond our budget. If you want to know where this place is and the name of the hotel and the number of the best room, too bad.

We went down the hill to the little bar with a view and a fire crackling in the big cast iron stove and shucked oysters into our mouths and washed them down with some good cold Korean beer and then went to bed early so as to rise at 6am hike up the mountain to watch the sunrise at the temple. We got up at 6am and hiked up the mountain because the nice hotel guy told us that the sunrise was at 7am. Or that is what I thought he said. He actually said 7:20. And the sun really rose at 7:32 and cleared the haze on the horizon at 7:40, at which point I had been standing on a cliff in the wind over the ocean for 55 minutes, the last 15 of which I don't remember because that part of my brain froze. But I was taking time-delayed still images of the sunrise, one picture per minute, and I counted them afterwards and that is how it works out. We staggered, moaning, down the mountain and got into the hot tub and thawed out. Then we had a three-hour nap and took the bus back to town.

The rest of the trip basically sucked. Here is the condensed version: Bus to Mokpo. Heat on high and children screaming and me steaming in long underwear. Step off bus into driving wet snow. Walk to four bus stops before we find the one downtown to the Lonely Planet's almighty recommended mid-level hotel. Finally locate hotel. Hotel out-of-business. Find other less than optimal accomodations. Go to find food. Expensive dinner too horrible to describe. Make small scene at restaurant. Go back to Yeogwan. Alternately freeze without and burn with heating mattress. Get up. Go to museums. Lonely Planet's almighty recommended restaurant nearby out-of-business. Nice museum guy says walk that way ten minutes: many restaurants. Walk that way three minutes: one restaurant. Walk three minutes: restaurant out-of-business. Eat ramen in museum snack bar. See butterflies and poorly stuffed tiger. And funny shaped rocks. And more funny shaped rocks. And Korean art from five generations of one family (Ok, this part didn't suck). In museum bathroom have first signs of terrible illness. Go to next museum. See ships and boats and nets and etc. Start to feel rather poorly. Take taxi back to yeogwan and am violently ill for the next twenty-four hours. Yujin again saves my life with fluids and tender ministrations. Train home [took the KTX from Mokpo via Daejeon rather than the quicker bus (no bathroom) and the cheaper, direct, Mugunghwa train (but 9.5 hours. wha?)].

The train home was actually wonderful. I have written before about high speed rail. It is an incredible way to travel. It is an absolute travesty that the United States does not have it throughout. And when I finally got home I was able to eat for the first time since Wednesday and that felt good. I have some good pictures which I will post in the photo section. Thanks for reading and good night.

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