Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Hobbit, Beef Stew, Coffee & the Robin Hood of South Korea

This past weekend, Elizabeth was invited out by a math teacher at one of her schools to meet his family and go for a walk around Gyeongpo.  She came to Gangneung for an English Symposium on Friday (which I was scheduled to attend, but because there were so many people, the supervisor said we didn't have to go), and we met up afterwards for dinner and a movie.  Ooh~ it sounds nice when I say it that way.

Day 1

Elizabeth and I met up at Home Plus and proceeded to go up to the 6th floor to get tickets for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug!  Here's the Korean movie poster just for fun:

Claiming no ownership.
The Hobbit is actually the second movie I've seen in a theater in Korea, the first being Catching Fire.  We bought the tickets from a machine - and yes it did have an English option which was beautifully translated until the very last notification screen.  I can't remember what it said, but it was hilarious in its awkwardness.

The fun thing about movie theaters in Korea is that you choose the movie, choose the number of people (adults, children, yadda, yadda), and then you can choose your seats.  We chose Row E which was approximately midway because Elizabeth has "particular movie habits" she must follow.  Okay.  Sure.  I would have chose Row C, maybe even B.  Anyway, you put in your credit card and you get a receipt.  The receipt is actually your ticket(s).  It says how many, what theater, what seats you selected, etc.

After buying our tickets first, when then went to Ashley's which is a buffet restaurant with a variety of foods: Italian, salads, fruit salad, soup, tiny little cheesecakes and brownies, and this time introducing... (drum roll please) South American Soul Food!

You mean... American South Soul Food, maybe? I took a picture of the place mat title for proof:

They had sweet potato fries (delicious), Tex Mex potatoes (quite good, but not really "Tex Mex"), spicy chicken gumbo, and some sort of spicy seafood dish.  I basically gorged myself on fruit, fruit salad, and salad.  I mean, if I'm paying 12,000W for a meal regardless, I'm going to eat the most expensive stuff there.

Besides, the fruit salad has the little black bubble tea bubbles in it!

Post-meal we wandered down into Home Plus where Elizabeth bought a ton of chocolate for her kids and I splurged (not really) on some lotion, some 72% cacao chocolate that was half price, and some "Fizzy Chicken Feet Jelly" because, what the heck are those?

They weren't worth it.  The chocolate was and it made me really hyper.

P.S. - This made me smile:
Dokdo... This is part of Korea. (Not Japan! No!)
Then we watched the movie (after Elizabeth got her ritual large soda - no slushies here!).  I liked it and probably annoyed the people next to me because some of the loud noises scared me so I jumped around a bit... and gasped.  I might have squealed once.

Elizabeth thought is was really long.  I didn't notice.  Felt like an hour and a half?  I spent most of the time either admiring the pretty or evaluating how much digital rendering was required (and how much it looked like digital rendering was required).

Day 2

The next day we met Elizabeth's teacher friend at the Intercity Bus Terminal.  His daughter was quite a bit older than we were both expecting (finishing her 2nd year of middle school (8th grade) - I asked) and really tall.  As tall as Elizabeth actually.

They were actually all really nice and both parents knew enough English to carry a simple conversation.  Their daughter was quite good, obviously because she's formally studying it in school.  Her favorite subject is science! Woo!

We went to a restaurant and had delicious beef stew.  That was a lot of fun.  The math teacher was hilarious: "This is the first time my wife has smiled in a week.  No! A month.  No! A year!"  And she just glared at him.  It was so funny and cute!  And they told us how their daughter was on the phone all the time and it was a point of contention between the mom and daughter (I'll admit, "point of contention" is my phrase).  Of course, this was said as the daughter was on her phone.  But Elizabeth was too so I don't know where that left us.  And then the mom pulled her phone out a few times, but I believe it was mainly to do some translations.

After lunch, we headed to the car and the mom was calling, "Honey! Hurry up! It's cold!"  They then proceeded to explain that he's like a turtle.  Very slow.  So his nickname is 'Turtle'.  Too cute.

We headed to get post-meal coffee at - where else? - Anmok Beach at Holly's Coffee.  I have a serious obsession with Holly's Hollycinos.  I've had a different flavor every time because they're all delicious.

I taught the dad the phrase "A good view," because Holly's Coffee is on the 4th floor at the tip of a little peninsula on the beach so you see the beach and water on three sides.  He then taught it to his wife: "You don't know?  You don't know.  It's a 'good view'.  Good view!" Ha.  Should I mention on the way over to the coffee shop he was asking a question about my coat and his wife says (in Korean), "Alright, alright!"  To which he replies/explains, "My wife wants to silence... only me." HA!

After coffee we went to the residence of Heo Gyun and Heo Nanseolhan.  These two were siblings who lived during the Joseon Dynasty and were born in Gangneung.  Heo Gyun was born to the noble class (yangban) and served as a politician.  According to the English-speaking guide that gave us a small tour of the residence, Heo Gyun was very progressive and liberal.  He welcomed family members who were considered illegitimate and was against the Confucian school of thought which dominated at the time, believing in equality.  He was the first Korean novelist and is credited with writing the Tale of Hong Gildong, which is essentially Korea's version of Robin Hood.  In short, it is about an illegitimate child who, after his father attempts to kill him and fails, becomes a bandit that steals from the rich and gives to the poor.  This tale was how Heo Gyun expressed his opinions against the Confucian school of thought.  Ultimately he was executed for high treason, but our English guide explained that he didn't think Heo Gyun ever committed treason against the State; he just had radical ideas.

Heo Nanseolhan, was a famous poet from the Joseon dynasty.  Our family was quick to explain that she wrote poems not only in Chinese (which was typical in Korean history and students still learn the Chinese characters in school today), but also in Korean hangul.  Wikipedia says her authorship is contested, but our family was quite insistent on proudly explaining her contributions to written Korean poetry.  There was a small museum there (which we actually went to first), but sadly there was no English guide (written or otherwise).  And the daughter didn't want to try to translate; I don't blame her.  That would have been horrendous.

Museum area.

After all of this, we had a "tea experience" in one of the buildings on the residence.  We sat on little red pillows at nicely finished, low log tables - I wanted one - and had green tea and a traditional Korean sweet.  It was all very good.  I don't have any pictures because I was trying to enjoy the experience and not on my phone.  Especially since they were treating us and showing us their culture.  I'm sure they wouldn't have minded - Korea is very much a picture culture - but it didn't feel right to get on my phone other than to do Korean-English translations.

The math teacher nicknamed us his "Triple F's: First Foreign Friends" and if that's not great, I don't know what is.  We took a picture together outside of the tea house and then our day trip was over.  Though not before he was making plans to get tofu with us next time...


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