Friday, January 21, 2011

Hungry? Have a Fish Snack!

I recently took an extra job with the Daegu Metropolitan Office of Education (DMOE) to lead English conversation classes with secondary English teachers. The job is at the DMOE Mount Palgong training center. Mt. Palgong (or Palgongsan in Korean) is rather from my little neighborhood so my morning commute for January has expanded significantly from the 4-minute walk to school to an hour long bus ride across town.

The bus is provided by DMOE and I catch it down the street near Bisan-negore (Bisan junction). I normally head toward Seomun Market and downtown when I leave my house so my morning walk to the other side of my neighborhood provides me with new sights everyday.

My morning walk has introduced me to new restaurants and stores near my home I never knew were there. I've also found small street markets. But the best thing I discovered happened upon me this past Thursday morning. It was very cold, about 17 degrees as I walked down the road sipping fresh French Press coffee from my new travel mug Shannon gave me as a Secret Santa gift. I noticed a few drying racks up ahead with what looked like dirty latex gloves hanging from them. I thought this was rather strange but I have stopped questioning such things in Korea.

As I drew closer, the dirty gloves began to take on more shape. I now saw there were three racks filled with these odd-looking, dirty objects. I then realised exactly what was hanging in the cold morning air by colorful clothes pins: fish. Lots of fish.

Hmm, where should I put my bike? Oh! I know! In between all those drying fish over there.

Koreans have an unusual affinity for dried seafood. You can find stands peddling various types of desiccated marine life outside of movie theatres, offering cinema-goers a salty, crunchy fish-snack in lieu of popcorn as a mid-flick snack. A stroll through any market or grocery store will greet you with bins brimming with tiny dried fish, which, to my chagrin, make their way into far too many Koreans dishes.

Though I am unfortunately extremely familiar with the ubiquity of dehydrated squid, octopuses, and little fish in Korea, this early morning surprise hit me as one of those poignant "This is Korea" moments. I tend to forget where I am, what I'm doing, and that I am so far away from home. Despite my constant use of "ne" and "annyong-haseyo," the frequency which I see and eat kimchi, and the fact that I can never buy shoes due to my large, American-sized feet, I sometimes forget I live in Korea. It's little things like fish on a clothes line at 7:30am that brings me back to my current reality. This is, after all, Korea.


  1. Ok, so, first of all, your final paragraph in this entry definitely just made me giggle out loud. I am currently sitting at my desk at my academy in Daegu, eating a pb&j sandwich, drinking a coke, listening to some Chaka Demus on Grooveshark, and getting ready to prepare some lessons for today. The "manager" of my academy just brought me a grape juice and the desk guy brought me what appear to be two mochi cakes. I just finished writing a long email to my mom and I had been in that zone where I forget where I am and what I'm doing, and the arrival of mochi cakes and grape juice from my barely-English-speaking co-workers served as a "This is Korea" moment.

    Anyway, I didn't mean for this comment to get out of hand but I was totally tickled that your last paragraph pretty much sums up my experience thus far. I live in Sangin-dong, not far from the Home Plus, and have yet to encounter many foreigners. I know they're here because I see them from afar and apparently also they blog, but I can't seem to find any to befriend. I don't know where you live but if it's not horribly far away, let's get coffee. Srsly.


  2. Hey Rosy,

    I actually live close to downtown - a bit of a ways from Sangin. But trust me, there are quite a few of us waygooks here in Daegu. Feel free to email me if you want to grab a coffee!