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Archive for September 2nd, 2009

Yongin, South Korea

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It looked manageable from the street as I was looking for a place to eat lunch. If I could only speak Korean, I am sure I would have heard them saying: “Hey girls, we got us some entertainment here”. When I sat down, they turned on big flame in the middle of the table and then filled a pot with water. I was then escorted to a buffet type line where I generally got the idea I was supposed to put some food (or something) on my plate and then go back and cook it myself. No problem, as I immediately recognized the Bok-choy and the mushrooms – I am wanting to move towards a vegetarian diet anyway. I went back to the table and was minding my own business when a women goes to the line and fills a plate with the things you see above and then promptly brings it to my table, points to the pot, points to the plate, and then points to me. Not to be outdone, another women comes over and sits down a dish of some type of sauce and says: “very good”. So, the white mass is a full squid; no problem. The shrimp looking things are some type of shrimp; no problem. The dark thing in the back is an octopus; not a big problem until I lifted it into the pot and noted it was 9 inches long; The brain or intestines pile: that looked like a problem, and the little brain things in the foreground; those looked problematic as well. Wanting to be a good sport, I simply said thank you and started to a cooking while trying to figure out what do you do with a 9 inch octopus when it is cooked; when is it cooked was another pressing question. After discretely and quickly surveying the other tables, I discovered what the scissors next to my chop sticks were for; you just cut it up and drop the pieces to your plate.

So the squid was fine, the shrimp was actually quite good in the “very good” sauce, the octopus was fine except when I cut the head off some, lets say interesting, green color stuff spewed forth. The brains or intestines were much much worse than they look and one gram in my mouth was enough to tell me: “Don’t go there”. Now the mini brains turned out to be really hard and when I finally bit through the outer layer it squirted water or something 5 tables away as I tried to figure out what I was supposed to do with the nasty thing next. About this time, a nice young women walked over, handed me a large bottle of water and in very good English said “you are welcome to try something more suitable to your taste” while her co-workers maintained that stoic smirk I am already beginning to recognize. When I got up to leave, I must have passed the “you’re a good sport test” because I got a lot of bows as I exited.

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Yongin- City, South Korea; Sara’s apartment

Fortunately I passed the “temperature” test as I departed one of the best flights I have ever been on (Singapore Airlines is GREAT), and thus I was not quarantined for H1N1. It is a bit unsettling when you depart a plane, don’t speak the language and a guy sticks a probe against your neck. I was actually a bit concerned because not 2 minutes prior I had sneezed and caught the attention of half the people in line as it flashed though my mind they were screaming….”it’s him its him”. I had visions of being immediately taken away to serve my two weeks in SKorea isolated from all humans, or doing hard labor in North Korea as a trade off for some political brokering.

Five minutes in the immigration line, two minutes in the customs line, 30 seconds waiting for my bag, zero wait as the bus pulled up when I stepped to the curb. Ah but this bus did not go all the way, but from what I understood it was close. Handed the driver a wad of Won and got something back. About an hour later I had made it to the last stop on the line. No problem, I figured. Find a connecting bus and keep rolling. Well big guy, English got left at the international terminal. So I am standing on a street corner in some city and I have no idea where I am or where I need to go. Strangers to the rescue. I inquired with a taxi driver who really tried to help but the language barrier was insurmountable. Fortunately, I found a young and sharped dressed man (I know stereotypes are dangerous, but it usually works when looking for English speakers) who was able to actually read the email I had from Sara. Then he translated, figured out my next bus, waited for it to arrive and gave the bus driver a note regarding where to ensure I get off. Lets just say at this point, there were no Americans with backpacks anywhere close to where I am now. It was pretty obvious I did not have a clue as the kind bus driver tried to show me how to pay my fare while I was trying to drag my gear on a local bus filled with Koreans who had a “what is that” look on there faces. At my final stop, which I had no idea if it was the right stop or even the right city, I stood on the corner thinking to myself: “Now what smart guy”. Then from the bustle of the city appeared my niece Sara. “how long you been waiting?”, “oh about 30 seconds”.
And the Second of September? Lost it completely as I crossed the international date line. Talk about time being precious.

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