Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Will Speak English for Food

Next week will be my three month anniversary in Korea. Over the time, I have benefited greatly from the generosity of Koreans. This evening, I was invited out my one of the teachers at Dong Bu Middle School. The teacher is about the age of my mother, and has a daughter who is also about my age. Her middle daughter recently returned from studying English for nine months in the Philippines. The Philippines are a fairly popular place for Koreans to study English since its much more affordable than going to a western country like the US or Australia.

I went to a plant shop on the way to meet the teacher. I picked a cactus and wanted to pay. They took my money at first, and then gave it back--they insisted that I just take the cactus. I've had some shop owners give me a small package of gum or something since I was a foreigner, but not a $7 plant! Anyway, so I took my free gift for the teacher and went to our meeting place. The original plan was for me to go to her home, but something came up yesterday and she wasn't able to prepare anything. So her family took me out. We went to a really nice traditional Korean restaurant just outside of Gohyeon.

These nice dinners have countless side dishes laid out on the table that you pick at with your own chopsticks. I was even complimented on my chopstick skills. Actually, I'm getting quite used to chopsticks. They're becoming second nature to me. We started out with a pumpkin soup. It was really good. I tried this raw beef dish for the first time, yeokhway (Friel Romanization), a raw jellyfish dish (it was sliced into "noodles" and had the texture of chewing rubber bands--I'm serious), some mystery dish that not even my Korean hosts could identify, and some roasted pork. Those are the dishes I could remember. there were easily twenty different foods on the table before the main dish came. The main dish was a spicy "ugly" fish dish that was even too spicy for my hosts. We also had two other soups.

While we ate, we spoke English. It was nice. The teacher is a home economics teacher (none of the "FACS" here), and is decent with English. Her husband works at DSME (the Daewoo Shipyard that dominates the Okpo economy) and is a good English speaker. Then of course, there was their middle daughter who is studying English and is an English teacher at a Hagwan (Korean after-school academy). All around it was a nice dinner. Not a bad trade off--I help a family polish up their English and in return, I get a great meal.

I think maybe I should make an advertisement: "Will speak English for food."

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