Archive for October, 2009

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Home Life: Adventures of the Inept Chef

October 28, 2009

You know, for someone who’s moved to the smack-dab, seriously geographically center of a large urban metropolis, I don’t really get out much anymore. Last week, I went all over Seoul in brief morning expeditions, zig zagging to Nowon (NE), to Gwangmyeong (SW) to Bundang (SE) on several craigslist quests for household items. But mostly, I’ve been keeping it close to Itaewon-dong (Is it a -dong? or a -gu? Neither?)

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I took this in Unjungdong in Bundang, as I was buying a sweet 15,000 won rice cooker. As you can see fall is occurring, in that non-arbitrary, four seasons kind of way that Koreans are so fond of.

However, for the most part, I’ve become very domestic, devoting evenings to reading books, intending to catch up on my laundry, unclogging my sink, and trying to figure out the ins and outs of my Hangul-ed appliances. Perhaps it’s the second year in Korea malaise or the fact that hiking up to my apartment on a hill (not a hyperbole, as my friend stated once, you may be “in need of a sherpa”) is kind of an undertaking, or the fact that I work on Saturdays mostly and don’t have that desire to “make something” out of my weekend. Or maybe, maybe my neighborhood’s just rad.

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I live up here.

Anyway, sometimes I try to cook for myself. Though to be honest, I get a little lazy… but nowadays, because of my location, going to the local kimbap place has been replaced with going to the local kebab place. Mostly Mr. Kebab, though sometimes I cheat on him with Ankara Picnic.

Here are some of my recent efforts:

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Grilled cheese FAIL.

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Cheese ramen.

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Rice from said magic rice cooker.

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Angel hair pasta sauteed with sun-ripened tomatoes, mushrooms and olives, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Don’t worry about me, I’m doing fine living on my own. Really. 🙂 Not photographed: that time I successfully made kimchi fried rice, that time I made garlic fried rice, that time I made rice and egg with spam slices. I aspire to make curry (out of a box) next.

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Costco: (South) Korea’s Heart of Darkness

October 25, 2009

I’m just going to say it: I hate Costco.

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One of those jars of mayo. Faces censored to protect the innocent and those who used that mayo to make their hair shinier and later smelt strangely of salad dressing for weeks. Just kidding! It was only a couple days.

Now, to most people in the States, Costco is AMAZING. It’s warehouse wonderland full of hot dogs on the cheap, hairnetted fairy godmothers bestowing every form of sustenance in little paper cups, and near mythic, head-sized jars of mayonnaise. I really do have fond memories of Costco back home. And I would even say that Costco in Korea is not all that different. It’s the same layout, same font on the logo, some of the same products (plus some regional variations like bulgogi bakes along with the immortal chicken bake). Theoretically, the experience should be the same, right?

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Well, not really. What Costco in Seoul also provides, along with a good selection of cheeses, is a sense of your own mortality, an acute awareness of the insignificance of your life, and an overwhelming sense of rage and aggression towards your fellow human beings.

Last week, my co-workers and I were talking about going there, and there were tales of shopping carts nipping heels and altercations between grandmothers and ketchup-hoarding ajummas (the best quote from that story: “This KETCHUP is for someone IN THE HOSPITAL.” This was not in the store area, but in the food court, where ketchup is free-flowing, though I’m not sure about the legality of putting said ketchup in large ziplock bags)… but I had yet to live those stories. I was willing to forgive some of it, accidents happen, people are allowed to put huge dollops of onions on their plate and use it as a side dish, and not a topping, and some bitches are just crazy, that’s alright, it isn’t Costco itself. But I had yet to experience the madness. From what it seemed, like when I went: shit like that happens all the time!

For example: I was standing in line in the food court (which is in the basement, not outside, which adds to the fluorescent lit clausterphobia of it all) and I was next. But then the cashier has to refill the register. And that would have been fine, if this lady behind me doesn’t crowd me so badly that’s she’s practically half hugging me, stomach pudge prodding me in the back, in order to put her won on the table! What did she think she could just slip by and cut me? What is up with that?!

(I was going to draw a diagram here, but I can’t actually draw, you get the point)

Not to mention getting a seat in the food court is like playing high stakes musical chairs (though Russell would say, “no it’s not. People that play musical chairs agree to play that game.”). Three seconds of getting up to get onions means that some ajumma in a pink hiking outfit with three slices of pizza is going to swoop in and take your spot. Someone should do research on the dexterity and quickness of middle aged Korean women. Is it the kimchi? The living through the Korean War?

Why is Costco so frustrating? Is just that people go mad for wholesale (p.s. I don’t know why they check your bags, it’s not like they sell anything tiny enough to steal)? Is it the worse parts of American consumerism imported and combined with Korean population density?

Anyway, maybe you don’t get it. Maybe I just seem to be complaining (well, I am). Maybe you had to be there. Maybe you have to go there. But here’s what I have to say in short:

Dear Diary,

Costco is hell.

The end.

Okay, anyway, to brighten up my day and because it’s almost that time of the year again, here are pictures of Korean people in animal hats:

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Image from here.

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Itaewon, My Love/Mi Amor/내 사랑 (Part 1)

October 7, 2009

Feel free to correct the above Korean. That’s just through the google translator.

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So, as you know from my previous post, I am currently residing in Itaewon in Central Seoul. It’s what is known as the foreigner district and is quite an eclectic mix. Where else in the world can you find a gay bars adjacent to GI hangouts next to classy brunch spots next to quickie kebab spots next to whatever else? If there is another place in the world, I don’t want to hear about it. My neighborhood is SPECIAL, you hear me? SPECIAL.

Now, I know Itaewon has a bad rep, as place full of shady characters and general sketchiness. Also, due to its chaotic nightlife scene, I doubt it would make anybody’s “Places Where I Have Been at My Most Dignified” List—one autumn evening comes to mind, where I was sitting on the sidewalk at 3 in the morning, while Jan tried to placate me by saying: “If I buy you a shawarma, will you shut the f— up?” Ah, memories of when I was a different person. But anyway, Itaewon can be a great place, as long as you know where to go.

Of course, what Itaewon has going for it, is its internationalism. We can talk Korean food and Korean culture, later, ok?

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An empanada epiphany. Or if you want to be really cheesy about it, an empa-neato!

If you’ve read this blog, you’ve probably noticed my quest to find a good Mexican food place in Korea (and China and the Philippines and Cambodia). But what about the rest of Latin America? How about, let’s say, Paraguay? Well! I’ve got the place for you. Located across the Wolfhound, Comedor is a Paraguayan eatery endorsed by such notables as the President (Ambassador?) of Paraguay, and more importantly, FatMan Seoul. The empanadas are delicious and good for an on-the-go-eat-on-the-subway-and-have-everyone–smell-you-with-jealousy-snack. And the beef? It’s done the South American way—as in, if you need a good hunk of meat, and need it now, this is the place. The specials change daily, but yeah. It’s all really tasty. And the lady that runs it is super nice! Added bonus: the Spanish MTV soundtrack.

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For next time: I will talk rhapsodically about Flying Pan Blue and Mr. Kebab (yeah, not just Kebab, that’s MR. KEBAB to you, son).

Also. Let’s talk about my new job. It’s amazing. 🙂 And I’m not just saying that because my co-workers are reading this. I teach my first real class on Saturday. Wish me luck.

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I’m Back!

October 1, 2009

Hi. Well, you probably gave up on this blog and I don’t blame you. After all, it kind of devolved into “April Posts K-Pop videos” and then not at all. But that’ll change. I’m at a new school, new location (I live in Itaewon, but not the super sketch part with the prostitutes. The nice area that’s next to the sketch part with the prostitutes and has fancy smancy date restaurants). Things will be noticeably different. I think. We’ll see about that.

I plan on doing the following things:

– Become a better person. Very subjective. But you know, quit complaining about the past, try to be less self-centered and self-involved.

– Eat out less. Learn to cook. Stop forgetting that I bought vegetables and letting them rot in the fridge. Cook vegetables more often.

– Join a writer’s workshop. I keep saying I should write more.

– Exercise more. Also, it is a longer walk to my hagwon. And I live in a hillier part of town.

For now, enjoy this non-kpop, but rather k-indie music video. Look! It’s the 80’s!

Also, since Karen O is half Korean and I always find myself obsessing over this band for one week a year: