Saturday, 29 October 2011

Of Adventures in Songtan

After my first afternoon in Korea, I was invited by my fellow teachers to a part of Pyeongtaek called Songtan. Miraculously, I had obtained a fair amount of sleep since arriving so I was all for joining in!

It took about twenty minutes by subway to get there, which let me know that Pyeongtaek is no tiny town! In Songtan there is a US military base and a large American presence. Further, as a result of said presence, there is a sort of black market for a lot of stuff not normally available in South Korea. D said it’s more like a grey market because it’s not like they’re selling hard drugs. It’s more like popular snack foods, candies, and certain kinds of alcohol. I may or may not giggle every time I think of black market Doritos. I haven’t actually purchased any of these contraband corn chips (yet), as I have discovered a Korean equivalent that I have dubbed “Koritos.” I am such a nerd.

Anyway, Songtan. It had so many shops and markets, caf├ęs and restaurants… I was reminded a bit of the P-Mall back in Markham in its setup and structure, only everything was outdoors. There were shops and booths everywhere selling all kinds of awesome and odd stuff. I saw swords, knives, ninja stars (no word of a lie), and these were right next to a shop with novelty writing tools—example, a pen that, erm, moans when you put it to paper. The clerk was amused by our amusement. There was a lot of cool stuff and I wanted to buy everything in sight, but everything was cash-only payment and I only had a few hundred thousand won to last me until November when I get my first pay. I know a few hundred thousand won sounds like a lot of money, but it ain’t. The 1000 won bill on my dress might get me a can of soda. Pop. I mean pop. Everyone calls it soda here.

Ooh, that reminds me. Cider. It’s like ginger ale and Sprite had a baby! A delicious fizzy baby.

….So. We wandered around some more so M, who I would be replacing, could buy some more souvenirs to take home, and then we met up with teacher L (a fellow Ontarian!) before popping into a coffee shop while we waited for another teacher, teacher I, one of our Korean coworkers, who would be joining us for dinner. I had an iced green tea, which was very tasty!

Once more, because I am made of all things brilliant, I do not recall the name of the place we went for dinner. I only recall that it was amazing. All you can eat Brazilian Barbecue. I really wish I hadn’t started feeling so nervous about starting work the next day, or I would have been able to eat so much more. Although upon reflection, I did eat a fair bit.

They bring various cuts of meat to you on a sword and then you tell them how thick or thin you’d like your meat to be, and then they slice it right onto your plate. The meat is also somehow cooked at various levels so on the same piece you might get a well-done or a rare piece. The buffet was filled with rolls, fresh vegetables, and a potato salad that was more like really buttery, cooled mashed potatoes.

They brought us sausages, beef wrapped in crispy pepper bacon, beef that was so tender it nearly melted in your mouth, garlic beef, sweet beef… amazing. 30 000 won per person, so about 30$, which is pretty pricey around here, but the quality of meat we had and in the quantities they served would have cost closer to sixty at home I bet. Canada, I love you, but you are expensive! Also, here, price tags are what they say! NO TAX. NONE. If the sign says 1400 won for a bottle of soda, you will pay 1400 won. No more, no less.

I digress. I may or may not be enjoying a wee taste of soju to help the ol’ thoughts flow (I might need to edit this later).

Anyway, Brazilian barbecue = AWESOME.

I was definitely starting to flag by the end of dinner, between yet more jet lag, a very busy and exciting afternoon in Songtan, and the sudden feeling of live eels crawling around in my gut. I remember thinking that it was good that I had eaten such a big meal because it would probably be awhile before I could stomach anything much again.

Do I know me or do I know me?

We returned to Pyeongtaek station, grabbed a cab back to Avalon, and the others walked me home with the assurance that that would come and pick me up for my first day of work!

Despite my utter exhaustion, I took two sleeping pills and it was still an age before I slept. It was nearly showtime, and as I had expected, I was fuckin’ terrified.

But now it’s two weeks later and I’m still standing. I’m figuring out with students really like to learn and which ones I would happily punt through a wall—er, none of course, HAHAHAHA! (you saw nothing. NOTHING.)

While I’m still pretty homesick for familiar places and people, Pyeongtaek’s slowly growing similar as well. It doesn’t feel like home yet and maybe it never will, but it’s gotten less scary. My phrasebook was a wise purchase and soon I will teach myself to read. I do not care for being illiterate.

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