I woke up this morning feeling pretty jet lagged and very hungry. Luckily for me, Emily had already scouted out where to eat while I’m here. The few times that I’ve actually tried Korean food back home, I’ve always loved it. So bring on the Korean food! … ok, maybe minus the chicken feet and blood sausage.
Because it was a cold day and I was feeling particularly lazy, we decided on eating at a restaurant just up the road from her apartment. Along the walk there, Emily informs me, “you’re gonna have to take your shoes off.” I looked down at my double-knotted Nikes and sighed. If the blonde hair wasn’t a clear indication, then it’s definitely my inability to quickly remove my shoes that gives my foreign identity away.
As I gracelessly leaned down to unknot my shoes in the restaurant entryway, my cross-body purse slides down and whacks me in the face. I then step out of my shoes and step my sock feet right into a puddle.
Have I mentioned I’m not good at this?
Emily then speaks Korean to the hostess and we situate ourselves at a table on the ground. She slides me a cushion, and I slip it under my legs. Am I supposed to sit criss-cross apple sauce on this? Yoga Butterfly pose? On my knees? I eventually decided on a rotation of all three whenever my legs began to ache in protest.
But the Korean food, y’all. The food was worth every bit of awkwardness.
We had 부대찌개 (budae-jjigae) which is a stew that gained popularity shortly after the Korean War when the U.S. base supplied large amounts of spam. In the stew is spam, hot dogs, ground beef, vegetables, kimchi, rice cake, red pepper paste, and ramen.
I know – it sounds really weird, but it was absolutely delicious. I ate bowl after bowl of it.
We then went to the grocery store to pick up much-needed snacks, and never have I ever experienced something quite like this. The butcher behind the counter had a wireless microphone and announcing the store deals in Korean. I felt like I was at a game show.
South Korea has not been an easy country to navigate by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s definitely been worth it.