Tuesday, November 21, 2006
I spent this past weekend in Seoul, celebrating Thanksgiving with the rest of the ETA program. My plan was to leave directly after school on Friday to meet up with Katie, Melinda, and Jenny for dinner...but of course, my host mom had other ideas. "Teacher, picture?" she asked me as I was (clearly) rushing out the door, jabbing me with a big sheet of sketch paper and a schoolbus-shaped eraser. This woman feeds me twice a day and does all my laundry, so I really don't feel comfortable refusing her anything if I can possibly help it. Plus, I figured she would probably want me to draw the usual picture or two of some small animal and I could be on my way in a few minutes. Wrong. This time she wanted an extremely complicated perspective drawing of a many-tiered pagoda, a project that took me forever. This of course put me in rush hour traffic, so my 30 minute trip to the bus station took an hour and my 1.5 hour bus ride to Seoul took 3. In Seoul, I stayed with Katie, Jenny, and Melinda at a fairly nice (nice = clean and relatively porn-free. There's a reason Fulbright told us to lie to our host families when we stay in yeogwan--Korean for motel) motel called the Emerald, in an empty room (except for the TV) that had just enough room for our two yos and the explosion of our stuff. We stayed in and talked and watched English-language television (awesomely, My Super Sweet Sixteen), and then started off the next day bright and early with breakfast at Dunkin Donuts...I had an amazing chocolate muffin that was all baked and fluffy and chocolatey. We spent the rest of the morning/early afternoon shopping and wandering around. Katie and Melinda had spent all of Friday (their schools let them off) shopping, so they very efficiently led the rest of us around to the places with the best prices. During our wanderings we stumbled accross a village made entirely out of Jeju tangerines (they are called Jeju tangerines but the fruits my host mom gives me when she says that are definitely clementines). There was a tangerine house, road, little stone man (a symbol of Jeju Island, where the tangerines come from), and even tangerine pigs and a horse. This was all just randomly in between some giant office buildings. We then came across a parade/changing of the guard reenactment, where we ran into a few other ETAs. After watching the little performance, we made our way to the ambassador's residence for Thanksgiving dinner. The ambassador to South Korea gets to live in this beautiful hanok (traditional Korean house...pictured at the top left of this post) that is itself definitely worth being an ambassador. After speeches from the Fulbright and KAEC
(Korean-American Education Commission) directors and from Ambassador Vershbow and his wife, we sat down to an incredible meal of mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, vegetables, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, turkey, ham, and delicious pie. I couldn't quite decide whether to go for the turkey or not--but the carver man decided for me by plunking a giant piece of dark meat onto the middle of my plate (I had everything on the plate touching as little as was humanely possible, given the size of the plate and massive quantity of food on it, but the turkey sent everything over the edge into chaos). I'm glad he did though, because the turkey was good! I thought it would just be like chicken, but it was actually pretty preem. Overall, the pumpkin pie was my favorite, and I had several slices...surreptitiously unbuttoning my skirt to make room for them all. Dinner was supposed to end at 4:30...but I don't think they managed to kick us all out until closer to 6. From there, I went with several friends to Namdaemun market, where I bought some (spenz) sock tights to help me survive my frigid school, helped Janaki pick out glasses frames, and marveled at some of the stranger items (like crazy Christmas shops and some of the wackier Korean fashions). We then went out for dancing and street food with a big group of ETAs. It was really great to hang out in a big group of giddy Americans...and for once we didn't have a giant mess about pooling our money to pay for things. On Sunday, I met up with a few ETAs from my old language class (Rohit, Rachel, and Steve) to take our language teacher out to lunch. [when Rohit sends it to me, I will post a picture of the 5 us together and you can see how cute and sylish she is] It was really, really fun to see and talk to her and we ate really good Korean food (kalguksu, which is a noodle and dumpling soup, and patbingsu). After eating American Thanksgiving food, it was good to have a reminder that I love Korean food, too...a reminder I probably wouldn't have gotten from going home to Taewoo Apatu and eating cow foot soup.
All in all it was an excellent weekend, and even though it wasn't even close to Mom's mashed potatoes, stuffing, or pie and there was no family football, it was good to get to celebrate Thanksgiving.