My visit to the countryside

June 13, 2009 § 2 Comments

I’m currently under observation and in quarantine because of my fever/cold.  I also have my own personal nurse and caretaker while I am here (JW oppa).  A big thanks to Jungwoo oppa for putting up with me and my sniffling.  =)

Anyway, now that I feel a little better I want to update everyone on my trip to the countryside.  My Big aunt, mom, and I went to the train station where we took the regular train (not the super fast KTX) to Youngsan.  It took about 2 hours from Seoul and was a very comfortable ride.  Look how roomy the seats are!

I was able to stretch my legs all the way!

I was able to stretch my legs all the way!

While on the train I purchased a beverage and this thought occurred to me…”wow, even the canned drinks in Korea are under pressure to be skinny..”

Skinny drink

Skinny drink

Anyway, once we reached our destination, my mom and I perused the outdoor market while waiting for my older female cousin to pick us up.

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The best comparison in America would be a farmer’s market.  This one was cool because there was a lot of seafood as well.  After browsing for a while my Big aunt’s first daughter, Kyungok unni, picked us up.  I don’t ever remember meeting her but I wasn’t as awkward as I was when meeting my uncles again for the first time.  I think its because everyone else there was so comfortable and it felt so natural to be together.   She is only five years younger than my mom and more like a younger sister than a niece.  We made a quick stop at her store where I snagged some cool items before continuing on our journey.

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Before going on I have to write a bit about Kyungok unni.  Like I said, I didn’t remember meeting her so I had no idea what she was like prior to last week.  Now after having met her, I am so amazed at what an incredible person I am able to call my cousin.  At first glance she seems like a bright, cheery, capable woman and loving mother of two.  And while she is all those things, she is so much more.  Kyungok unni is one of the smartest relatives I have.  She graduated from Seoul National University (the Harvard of Korea) and was an activist for the democratic movement in Korea.  She met her husband in jail after they were imprisoned for demonstrating for democracy.   And while she could have easily stayed in big cities and made a good living, she decided to move to the countryside and raise her family there.  I don’t know exactly what her reasons were for moving to the countryside but I do know that she currently raises cows that are completely grass fed.  The store pictured above only sells organic goods and is the only one of its kind in her area.  The organic movement is not too big in Korea, even in big cities like Seoul, and for her to open such a store in the countryside is just amazing.  She is so intelligent and aware of what is going on in the world.  It was so true when my mom said that it is almost impossible to find such a well educated person like Kyungok unni living in the Korean countryside.  After my Korean gets better I can’t wait to come back and speak with her and her husband regarding their experiences as activists.

It’s funny.  You would like that country people would speak in simpler Korean than those living in the city.  But not Kyunok unni and her husband.  Kyungok unni has by far the most advanced vocabulary out of everyone I have met so far and it was really hard for me to understand everything she was saying.  Even her dumbed down version was too hard for me.  =(  Her sister Haedong kept on telling her to stop using such big words.  lol.  Even for native Koreans, her Korean is sometimes incomprehensible because of its advanced nature.

After stopping by her store we went to go visit her son.  My mom wanted to stop by his school because otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to see him.  He attends a boarding school and only comes home on weekends and we were only visiting Monday-Thursday.  It was my first time seeing a real Korean school.  It pretty much looks the same as the ones you see in Korean dramas.  This one was a bit smaller than the schools in big cities because it is a boarding school and located in the countryside.

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students waiting in line outside the cafeteria

students waiting in line outside the cafeteria

We met up with her son who is currently a freshman in high school.  He is five years younger than me and like I mentioned earlier, supposed to call me ajumma because of our second cousin status.  But we both refused to adhere to that and he currently calls me noona.  Youngsuk was kind of shy and embarrassed at first because we were taking pictures in front of all his classmates while they were waiting in line for dinner but my mom wanted to make sure to have some pictures with him so he had no choice but to stand there.  We were about to leave when he asked if he could just go home with us and get dropped off in the morning.  At first his mom wasn’t going to let him but after my mom and I clamored for more time with him, she relented and approached a teacher, telling him that some distant relatives from America had arrived and if it would be okay to take him home that day.  Having heard about the legendary strictness of Korean teachers, I didn’t expect the congenial reply of his teacher.  I think his teacher really likes Youngsuk so he was more willing to let him go home.  When I talked to Youngsuk about school later, he was filled with glee about being able to go home because he would otherwise be stuck in a room with textbooks and forced to study until 9pm.  I was naive to think that he wanted to come home because he wanted to spend more time with me and my mom. lol.

After picking up Youngsuk we went to go pick up his little sister Suro.  Both kids are so nice and bright and love living in the countryside.  They actually have an amazing house that would cost probably over ten million dollars if located in Seoul.  It is beautiful and has all the amenities of a modern house in the city.

Because Kyungok unni raises cows, she said we should eat meat which was more than okay with me.  Dinner was simple but still so delicious.  We ate chadolbaegi (beef belly) wrapped in lettuce, served with various different kinds of side dishes.  I don’t know if it was the air or the atmosphere but it all tasted so delicious.  I also tried raw beef liver for the first time.

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It was pretty bloody and gory looking but didn’t taste that bad. After dinner Youngsuk and Suro taught me how to play a Korean card game (kind of like mahjong) called Go Stop.

Go Stop cards

Go Stop cards

It was fun but they kept on bickering on how to teach me the game so I’m still a bit hazy on the rules.  Anyway, here are some pictures of their cows.

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Everything was really pretty and the air was just so fresh!

View from their window

View from their window

I’m feeling a bit under the weather again so I am going to end this post with some captioned pics.

My favorite side dish EVER (raw marinated crab)

My favorite side dish EVER (raw marinated crab)

Fish stew

Fish stew

Silkworms.. they were crunchy without an overpowering taste

Silkworms.. they were crunchy without an overpowering taste

My little tower of rocks I erected while visiting a Buddhist temple

My little tower of rocks I erected while visiting a Buddhist temple

Green tea

Green tea

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