Jeonju Style

Since I’m leaving in, oh, about two weeks, I thought it was high time I told you guys a little bit about the town I live in. The city is called Jeonju, the capital of the North Jeolla province. It’s located in the south western part of South Korea. It is famed for it’s cuisine, and for good reason. I’ve had food all over Korea, and it’s by far the best (And the cheapest, hurrah!). It is known for its bibimbap in particular. If you don’t know what bibimbap is, this is it. Actually, that picture doesn’t do it much justice. Check this one out. Alright, it turns out bibimbap doesn’t look that appealing. But trust me, it’s totally delicious. And Jeonju makes it better than anyone else. Word on the street is that when Michael Jackson had concerts in Seoul, he had his people bring him Jeonju bibimbap. That is a six hour round trip drive. For rice. At least that’s what I heard, anyway… There is a restaurant just around the corner from my place that makes the best bibimbap I’ve had. I frequently order take out from there. Unfortunately, I have no idea what my actual address is, so I have to go to the restaurant, order my food there and show them the slip of paper that has my address written in Korean. Then I go home and they bring the food to me. The ridiculousness of the situation does not escape me.

Jeonju is also known for it’s Hanok Village – a traditional Korean village. Many cities have these, but Jeonju’s is one of the best. It has over 800 hanok style buildings, tea shops, restaurants and souvenir shops. It’s a great way to spend a weekend afternoon, and I swear, I’m totally going to do a post on it soon. They often hold festivals there, which are always a good time. But the best thing about the Hanok Village is, far and away, the magkeolli man. Known to the foreigner community as Casanova, he plies us with alcohol whenever we pass by. Literally, if foreigners walk by he starts shouting, “Hey, foreigners, come here! Free magkeolli!” He lures you over and you think you’ll just stay for a minute. But four hours later, you’re still there and the group of foreigners has tripled. How he does this and manages to make a profit, I’ll never know. There are many rumors that have spread amongst the foreigners, each more far fetched than the last. But, this is Korea, so really, anything is possible.

That’s about all that distinguishes my town from any other town in Korea. They really do kind of all look the same. Any decent sized town is going to have an Emart, which is kind of like Walmart, and a Homeplus, which is kind of like Target. Most people do their grocery shopping there or at the street vendors. It’s kind of like a small scale farmer’s market that’s open every day. I prefer to get my veggies from there, because it’s insanely more cost effective. Every town also has street vendors selling chicken and pork skewers, deep fried tteok noodles (one of my personal faves), tteokbokkki, and deep fried corn dogs (Which are totally a heart attack waiting to happen. And for some reason, they just call them hotdogs.), amongst other tasty treats. These are great for eating on the cheap, on the run, or just for a quick snack. Cities here also have parks left and right, I imagine because most people live in apartments and therefor have no yard. It’s really awesome, but their parks are a bit different than ours. They still have the requisite swing sets, but they also have these giant, raised gazebos that old people just hang out on. Like all day. And well into the night. I’m not really sure what they do there. I think just wait until foreigners pass by so they can judge them. Also, the parks are pretty devoid of grass. There’s, like, shrubbery, and stuff. So there’s some greenery. But if you want to do cartwheels or somersaults or whatnot, you’re shit out of luck. Interestingly, all parks also have workout equipment. I mean, it’s cool that they’re all health conscious and stuff, but it’s still a little weird to see. Almost as weird as the ajumma’s doing aerobics to Kpop in the parks at night.

We’ve also got a zoo, a river that runs through town with a walking/biking path, an amazing park called Doekjin Park and, like any good Korean town, coffee shops and noreabangs on every corner. And dare I forget to mention the 7 story department store?! Sounds like heaven, right? Not so much. It’s crazy over priced and it’s really only good if you’re into Great Depression Chic. So, that’s my town in a nutshell. It’s a great starter town (not too big, not too small), but I’m ready for bigger and better things next year!

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It’s a Zoo Out There!

A few weeks ago we took the kinders on a field trip to the zoo, but we only looked at a few animals before we just let them run amok for the rest of the trip. I wanted to wait until I had a chance to properly explore the zoo before I did a post about it. Fortunately, Mom’s trip was the perfect opportunity for such an adventure. I had heard really bad things about the zoo before I went there. People were saying that it was really depressing and that the cages were really small. And while I definitely encountered some cages that were a bit small for it’s inhabitants, overall it was a really enjoyable experience – both with the kids and with Mom and my friends. The trip with the kids was great because kids are hilarious when they see animals. Every time we saw a new animal, the kids erupted in oohs and aahs and, “Megan Teacher! Megan Teacher! Look! Look!”  I have a great photo of Angela showing me her hippo face. Then we played tag under the cherry blossoms ( which were blooming much nicer than at the Cherry Blossom Festival). Then, a couple of weeks later, I went with my mom and my friends Joe and Emily (basically, my partners-in-crime in the ROK). The weather was beautiful, and I think we wandered every square inch of the zoo grounds. There was a gorgeous pond that we had lunch at. We wandered through the cherry trees and up through all of the animal cages. Korea definitely has an interesting idea of what constitutes a zoo-worthy animal. We saw a skunk, a “raccoon dog,” some guinea pigs and some actual dogs. I’m chalking it up to cultural differences. Joe got a little excited about the skunk because he’d never seen one before. He’s English, and apparently they don’t have skunks in England. Lucky bastards. I also found it interesting how close you could get to the animals. We could literally reach out and touch the zebras. If you were tall enough, you could reach up and feed the giraffes. And I don’t know if feeding the animals is exactly allowed, but it definitely isn’t actively prohibited. People were throwing food into many of the animal enclosures, and were ripping the plants out of the ground and giving them to animals.  I was shocked. But while I was too chicken to touch the zebra, I definitely got really close to it. After we finished taking  a millions pictures of animals, we moved on to the rides. Yup, their zoo has rides. They have an area specifically for the little ones, and another with a Ferris wheel, a couple of small roller coasters, a haunted house, bumper cars, a viking ship, a carousel, swings, and this thing that you pedal around a track, like, 15 feet up in the air. Mom didn’t go on any of the rides, but Joe, Emily and I definitely did. We started on the Ferris wheel and then moved on to the bumper cars where we gave some Korean kids a run for their money. Joe and Emily hit up the viking ship where a “who can scream the loudest” contest was started with the other side of the ship. Then Joe and I rode the up high pedal car things, where Joe kept trying to ram into the dad and kid in front of us because they were going to slow, and the little girls behind us tried to ram us because they thought we were going to slow. All in all, it was a great afternoon followed up by going to the movies to see The Avengers. Life is good. =)

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