This means you remember "Choose Your Own Story" books. Well this is a "Choose Your Own Story" blog. I'm going to describe three animal related experiences I've had in Korea, and you can pick which one (if any) to read. Some of this could be offensive, so to avoid reading something you don't want to please follow the directions.
I love dogs I am a member of PETA I am related to you I am illiterate
By mid-March I was showing all the signs of an immune system disorder. For about 8-10 days I was feeling turrible, just turrible (try to read this sentence as Charles Barkley). Violent coughing, a lack of appetite, and a freezing apartment had created nightly episodes of insomnia. To further complicate things, as the new teacher I was forced to drink many times a week by school staff.
Needless to say, these issues were affecting my performance in the classroom, and when I started to lose hearing in my left ear a fellow teacher took me to the hospital.
A series of x-rays and other tests ensued. I really believe someone could make money selling heavy blankets that feel like x-ray pads. They are so comfortable.
After the tests, my doctor looked at charts and film for about 5 silent minutes. Knowing few English words, he just turned to me and said: "Diagnosis pneumonia." The Doctor's delivery was memorable. He spun around in his chair and smiled while he gave me the news, without fully slowing down. He kind of just did a 360 and said "pneumonia" halfway through.
Over the next five weeks, I would frequently visit the hospital and a number of specialty clinics, sometimes driving two hours each way. I felt awful about burdening my mentor teacher, "Kyu." who was obligated to drive me around after long hours at work. He was sick himself, new at the school, and amidst the nightmarish process of moving apartments.
The least I could do was offer to buy him dinner, so I did, and after one visit he finally accepted. We consumed some sort of fish stew in a port town called Jukbyeon.
Kyu struck me as very traditional in terms of cuisine preferences, and my suspicion was confirmed on the ride home. He spoke of his boyhood river outings where he would catch fish and bite into them raw. He also mentioned catching snakes and rodents, which can be conveniently thrown over a fire for a quick meal.
So, we unofficially agreed to eat "boshintang" (dog soup) together at some point in the future. I didn't know when this future outing would be, but accepted hesitantly.
In Korean culture it is very impolite to turn down an offer, especially one from my most direct relationship at school. Above all cultural reasons for accepting, I genuinely have a great time with Kyu and I'd be lying to say I wasn't slightly intrigued by the proposition.
After school one day, Kyu asked me to go for a short hike. The hike was supposed to be 40 minutes. This made me wonder why he had packed a large bag, a number of towels, a flashlight, change of shoes, and some tools. At this point I realized Kyu was about to kill me.
I was wrong, Koreans just go all out with their hobbies. After an enjoyable hike, Kyu informed me that we we're going to find a boshintang restaurant for dinner.
His restaurant of choice was stereotypical by Korean standards, with the exception of the items on the menu. In terms of flavor and consistency, I would compare the boshintang meat to a London broil, although there were certain suspect pieces I opted not to try.
The most bizarre day of eating in my life continued when I met a friend later that night. He was at a pig intestines restaurant down the street. I had no intentions of eating a second dinner, but was force fed upon arrival. There were also spicy chicken feet on the table, and a two year old bottle of Cambodian liquor filled with snakes and scorpions.
We destroy hamburgers in the states while someone in India might stop to worship a cow they see on the streets, so it really has to be all about the mental approach. What one culture sees as sacred the other sees as dinner.
Eating dog in Korea is somewhat of a waning tradition, and most members of the younger generation tend to veer away from such practices. Due to the stigma surrounding the tradition our meal was rather secretive, which is why it's now on a blog. It's cool though only four people read this.
They don't exactly swoop pets out of homes here and use them for meals. A specific type of dog is bred for boshintang. I don't know the name of this type of dog, what they look like, or where to find them, and I'm alright with that.
I've also heard rumors about the way the dogs are treated during the process, which there is no reason to describe in detail. Sushi chefs execute fish as gently as possible to prevent toxins from entering the meat, and let's just say boshintang chefs don't share this philosophy. On that matter, I hope they are just rumors. And on a true and hopefully unrelated note, the barking that's been keeping me up at night has stopped.
This made me uncomfortable. Not because I don't like presents, I do. More so because after she gave me the box, she stared at it for about 45 seconds. It was like she wanted it back. I tried moving it around as a test, but her pupils followed the box. Not completely sure if this box was mine, I opened it to find a dish towel.
Heavily in uncomfortable mode and feeling the need to do something, I rubbed the towel all over my face and body. This was perfectly synchronized with new passengers boarding the bus, so by the end of the process there was a small crowd watching me give myself a sponge bath in downtown Daegu.
The remainder of my evening was uneventful, except I may have worn an aloe vera face mask to sleep? I'm not sure. The next day, thankfully, was more eventful.
A number of friends and strangers converged on Cheongdo, a town outside of Daegu. Cheongdo is famous for hosting an annual bull fighting festival, and boasting tunnels of wine.
Occasionally one bull would completely lift another up with it's horns. I asked a friend why this didn't draw blood. He explained, "I don't know I think their skin is like, leather, or something."
Many fights took place throughout the day based on weight class, and patrons were given the opportunity to place bets on their favorite bull. They won't let you bet on Scottie Pippen so I refrained from gambling.
The vast amount of foreigners at this festival was blatantly noticeable. I get a kick out of the foreigner head nod. No one knows each other but they still feel the need to gesture "hey what's up I'm not from here either."
That evening a meeting had been arranged for fellow provincial teachers in downtown Daegu. The reunion of sorts enabled everyone to share the many different experiences teachers we're having since leaving English camp.
After dinner we ended up at an ornately decorated hookah bar. Like Seoul, the metro system in Daegu doesn't run during the prime hours of the night, forcing you to make a commitment to head home early or stay out all night. We opted for the latter, and spent the next 5 hours or so relaxing in the unique but smoky atmosphere.
I don't think hookah bars are designed for such long term visits. Those who stayed experienced the equivalent smoke inhalation of surviving a small house fire, or hanging out with Andrew Mattey. It's hard not to have a good night out in the nooks and crannies of Korea's bigger cities, the only negative implication is the irregular sleep schedule that follows.
See, the stories are getting happier. That one was PG at worst.
At one point I was going every week for obvious reasons, and dreamed of finding a bar or business somewhere in the world where you could purchase a beverage then go hang out with cool dogs.
These dreams recently came true during a trip to Seoul.
I guess people from Wisconsin move to Asia when they graduate college.
I would keep ranting about animals, but I've just received more important news. It's been confirmed that Red Lobster is delicious. .
Cheddar rolls for life.