As the weather has warmed up in Korea, I have found myself warming up to Korea. For the past 3 months, I have been able to get out on my bicycle, with increasing frequency since May. Blessing and I have also gotten out on more day excursions and have had more cultural experiences. I’m also exploring the art of rooftop gardening!
Being out on my bicycle has allowed me to see a part of Korea that has been hidden since my arrival last August. My rides take me through windy backcountry roads and along lush rice fields. I pedal to the top of hills and enjoy long sloping rides down the other side. I cannot express enough how much I enjoy my almost daily bicycle rides through the country. There is one road that I particularly enjoy. It lies in a mini valley, with rice paddies and green hills on either side. I first have to climb a long gently sloping hill and as I approach the top, the early evening sun pokes up from behind the hill. I fly down the backside enjoying the air whipping past my face, the glowing soon-to-set sun, and the winding road. I love it! About three weeks ago, we bought a bicycle for Blessing so now I can enjoy rides in the country with him!
June 6th was a public holiday and Blessing and I took the day to go traditional Korean river fishing. Our two Korean friends from Seoul invited us; we met them while we were in Georgia when they stayed at our house on their cycling tour (they are some of my inspiration to go on my own cycling tour). We met them at a train stop just 20 minutes from our city and headed to a very popular park that is (apparently) good for fishing. The main difference between fishing as you know it and Korean fishing is the pole. There is no reel, rather, there is a basket looking thing on the end of the pole around which you wind the fishing line. To fish, you stand in the river, bait the hook and toss the line downstream. You slowly swing your arm back and forth with the flow of the water and when you feel a bite, you wind the line until you get your catch. I caught one fish after only fishing for 10 minutes. Blessing spent many hours fishing and caught himself a few. Apparently the fish we caught are not very delicious so we let them go at the end of the day. It was refreshing to spend the day with Koreans. Experiences where I get to be a part of Korean culture are few and far between (so far) and I really enjoy them when they come.
|View of the river|
|Blessing's first fish! You can see what the pole looks like from this photo.|
|Me and my fish|
|Our whole group|
Blessing and I had another really great cultural experience when we returned to the same park to camp on the following Saturday night. As I have expressed in pervious posts, camping in Korea is not like any camping I have done before. It’s crowded and completely lacks wilderness…never have I ever camped someplace where I can hear freight and commuter trains running all day and night. On this trip, however, I realized that this is the Korean experience: camping with 300 other people who pack up their entire kitchen for a weekend outdoors (rice cookers, people had rice cookers). Despite the lack of true wilderness, it was nice to spend the night outdoors and swim in the river. What we had for dinner, however, is what made the experience truly cultural.
Since coming to Korea, I have known that when the opportunity arose, I would eat dog; I was presented with the opportunity that night we were camping. There was a group of men playing soccer and Blessing joined them, this led to the two of us being invited to join them for dinner. Dog was on the menu. It had been cooked in a stew but was served on its own. We dipped it in a spicy sauce and had typical Korean side dishes alongside it. To me, it tasted like goat. While it wasn’t disgusting to me, it wasn’t delicious either, so I will not be seeking it out again; however, I am happy to have had the opportunity to broaden my food horizons. Now I just have to find a situation that brings live octopus to my plate.
|Yes, that is a dog's tail|
I planted my first garden ever at the end of April. Blessing and I bought large plastic tubs and asked the handy shop on our block to drill holes in the bottoms. We found a shop that sold large quantities of dirt and seeds then started our garden. The dirt we bought smelled funny, seemed to have a lot of wood chunks, and when I watered it, a strange residue came out. I suspected we bought the wrong thing and asked a Korean-American friend to translate the label for me. Manure. Animal manure. Our first garden attempt: fail. We had to dispose of the manure on the street and then go back to the store and buy actual soil and replant. Over the past month, the garden has grown tremendously. It is overcrowded and I have learned that next year I will need more tubs. No vegetables yet but I look forward to my first bite of my first home grown veggies!
|Tomatos, cabbage, lettuce, herbs, broccoli, cucumber, carrots|
|Squash and zucchini|
All in all, it has been a pleasurable few months and I am looking forward to continuing my bike rides and traveling in this warm weather. Life is good. Life is happy.