Little Bites of Korea
From the first refreshing blast of cold air as I stepped off the plane, Korea has brought me surprise after surprise. I actually don’t feel like I’m on a whole different continent right now; why, I even asked someone for the brand of delightfully juicy, sweet strawberries I was eating so my parents could enjoy them too. Then she pointed out with a laugh that even if I knew, the chances of them being available in the US is next to nothing.
One small detail of this country really opened up my heart. I didn’t really notice it until I saw a little food stand set up for us filled with seven varieties of ramen, hot water, tea bags, and all the snacks a teenager could want in our hotel hallway, but it was just there, with no one to watch over it. I remember asking my friend, “Wow, what if someone thought it was free food and takes something? I’m sure the people who set it up spent a lot of money and time.” But to my surprise, she said, “Don’t you know? No one here would take something that’s not their’s. It’s perfectly safe.” From then on I looked at everything around me with a fresh set of eyes. The workers at the hotel and even people on the street would give a little bow when I smiled at them as I passed. It was more than politeness, I could tell it was a sort of quiet respect between everyone.
Our performances in Korea have been very successful, but in our previous city, Busan, our shows were almost canceled! Our troop leader told us that the Chinese embassy was threatening and forcing the manager of the theater to not let us have our shows there. About seven and a half hours before the show, the manager came through and let us into the theater. We had three wonderful shows there, and each time during the curtain call the audience gave cheers and whistles. I don’t understand why a show displaying five thousand years of Chinese history is so feared by the embassy. Why, it’s even promoting Chinese culture!
Well, today we went to a Korean BBQ restaurant, and I can now say with confidence that it isn’t famous for nothing. The waitress started our little table of four off by setting the meat on the grill, then cutting it into little pieces for us with big scissors. It was gone in no time, and being the very hands-on and independent person I am, the next slab was put on to the grill and cut (a bit crookedly) by yours truly. After I succeeded in cooking the meat, I was asked by my fellow table mates to put in some of the already kerneled corn that was in a little compartment of the grill. It looked a bit dry, but no worries, I set it on top of one long, uncut piece of meat so it could soak up a bit of the oil. However, when a waiter came, he saw the corn and shook his head at it while smiling quite widely. Afterwards, he began to pick it out, then proceeded to cut the meat. I didn’t really understand, but I was told on the bus ride back to the hotel that the restaurant prided itself on partially using corn to power the grills; the kernels in the compartment are slowly let into the fire to keep it burning. Er... Next time, I’ll just stick to perfecting my meat-cutting skills.
January 30, 2011