This week has been another busy one for moving preparations. We've sent our visa applications in, I've gotten an International Driving License, and I ate my first real Korean food! On Wednesday, after our Korean lesson, my tutor Jihyeon invited us to go to her favorite Korean restaurant in Virginia Beach. We picked Keegan up and drove over. The restaurant was very nondescript inside, with minimal decorations and a big karaoke area in the back. We sat in a booth and looked over the menu. Jihyeon decided on a rice, meat, and vegetable dish served in a huge stone bowl. It looked delicious, but was apparently quite spicy - beware the red pepper paste! Keegan tried kimchee stew, complete with cabbage, tofu, and the notorious red pepper paste. I had a noodle and seafood stew. We ordered a sushi-like roll (but with pork instead of raw fish) as an appetizer.
The sushi-like roll was delicious. Soon thereafter, a number of small side dishes arrived at the table - we hadn't ordered them, and Keegan says that in all the Korean restaurants he's been to, similar dishes are served. I guess they're kind of like condiments. We tried dried seafood, creamy cucumber salad, breaded and fried fish (my favorite!), lots of vegetables with red pepper sauce (yow!), and kimchee, which I thought was delicious but, predictably, too spicy for me. There was also a dish of fish. They were tiny, but they were whole fish, with heads and all. And we were supposed to eat them. Keegan described them as being "fish jerky," and that is pretty much what they tasted like. I guess I am a typical American in that I love seafood, but only when it looks like tender white chunks of flesh and not like an actual living creature that can swim around in the ocean.
My soup was absolutely delicious - the noodles were buttery and filling, and the seafood was tasty, too. I was surprised that the shrimp in the dish was whole and looking at me - I was reminded of that scene in A Christmas Story where they go out for Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant and a presented with a whole duck, head still attached. The mother looks at the waiter and says feebly, "It's smiling at me." That was me. I need to learn to be more adventuresome with my eating! My soup also had mini-octopi and mussels and calamari.
One thing I noticed was that having even small bites of various red pepper dishes had caused my nose to run. Having read that blowing your nose in public is extremely rude in Korea, I tried to subtly dab at my face with my napkin. I hope that it wasn't grossing everyone out. I may have to avoid red pepper dishes altogether, when possible, to avoid embarrassing nose incidents.
Other news: I've been put in touch with the wife of Keegan's boss, whose name is Glenda. She is an English teacher and has given me some insight into the job opportunities in Okpo - apparently they are plentiful! In fact, she has already offered me a student, but I want to wait until we have some time to get settled, learn the ropes, and until I have a better picture of what opportunities I might have to teach more formally. Glenda has also written a lot about the island and sent some beautiful pictures. I think we're really going to be living in a cool place.
Last night, Keegan and I went to Costco and purchased a membership. We then proceeded to roam the aisles looking for good old-fashioned (non-perishable) American food to take with us. Macaroni and cheese and peanut butter were high on my list. Keegan bought coffee and pancake mix. We also stocked up on cold medicine and vitamins. Maybe all of these preparations will turn out to be silly, but I know from my time in Poland that there are some days where you just can't try to fit in anymore, and you just need a big bowl of mac & cheese. So now we will be ready for just those days.