Monday, August 28, 2006

is it delicious?

This is my chingu (friend) James. He is another ETA living in Gongju--he teaches at an elite boarding school for high school boys and lives across the city from me. My host mom thinks he is way smarter than I am because he works at such an impressive school...even though he actually has it wicked easy: there are 4 English teachers at his school who speak fluent English and many of his students have lived/studied in America/other English-speaking places. His homestay family has 3 fluent English-speaking members and his school has gotten an ETA for the past 7 years, so they really know how to deal with him. As you may be able to tell, I'm a bit jealous of his situation. On Sunday, James and I went to a festival at his school and yesterday we went to the beach with my coteacher. Having a friend with me made it so much easier to relax and enjoy the hilarity and awesomeness of both adventures. It's amazing how experiences that would definitely have been super awkward and somewhat uncomfortable if I had been by myself were just funny with James there.
Yesterday, I went to school for lunch as usual. My coteacher was there for the first time, because the night before I had called her and asked her to be there. I spent 15 minutes trying to explain to her that I wanted to know the school's calendar for the year, like when vacations and days off are. After my explanations she went and conferred with the vice principal for a while and they presented me with...a map of the school. She then said, "Let's go, we go to the beach." I gave up on trying to find out about my job and just went with it. We went and picked up James and embarked on a Ride of Terror to the beach (James was pretty thoroughly shocked and terrified, as he was unused to the sort of crazy Korean driving that is my everyday experience). The conversation in the car was absolutely hilarious and it went by really quickly. At the beach my coteacher, in her little velour boyshorts and matching midriff-baring velour sweatshirt, floated around on a giant yellow inner tube watching James and me swim. The water was warm and the waves were nonexistant, and it was really relaxing to just be at the beach in the water and sun. After hanging out on the beach for a few hours and then showering off at this sketchy shower place, we went to dinner. When you go to the beach, apparently dinner means hui (raw fish). All the restaurants along the waterfront boast giant tanks of fish, shellfish, and other scary looking sea creatures. The above picture is an example of some of the poor animals: sharks, flounder, random other fish, and the pic to the right is of my coteacher playing God and choosing which fish would die for our meal. For dinner we had raw snails, raw sea urchins, raw oysters, raw scallops, raw fish eggs, cooked little snails, cooked big snails, and raw even bigger snails,a cooked smacky, a cooked, mushy sort of other fish (see pic below). Missing from the picture is the main dish: a gigantic plate of silvery raw fish flesh. The fish's head, tail, and bones reappeared at the end of the meal in a giant fish soup as well. By far the most disgusting part of the meal is on the plate in front of my left elbow in the picture. When they brought it out I turned to James and said, "Oh my god those things look exactly like dog...things." My host teacher (who can't understand us when we talk to each other and can't understand James at all because he isn't used to Koreans who don't speak English fluently) saw us looking at them and said, "That is [Korean words]. that makes pee." The actual name of the food we were supposed to consume is 'dog penis.' Good lord. Then James grabbed my arm in horror and said in sort of a shocked whisper, "I think they're moving!" Sure enough, the 'dog penises' were SQUIRMING AROUND ON THE PLATE. I am not talking little twitches like the big main dish either, these things were actually crossing the length of their plate. My coteacher admitted that she had never eaten one either and that her friends say they're disgusting. Overall I was much more adventurous than James--he stuck to the main dish and the smackerel pretty exclusively, but I tried almost everything (not the dog penii, I was not quite up to that). I wouldn't really say that I liked any of it (the texture was just revolting and seeing the poor things alive right before eating them was not exactly up my recently-vegetarian alley) but it was really, really fun.

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