Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Korea two

Today I went to the sun moon market. That's seomun to those who speak the language. We walked off post to the subway station. I lugged my camera with me only to discover I had taken the digital card out of it so had zero memory. Bummer. I tried to take a picture of the name of the home station so I would know where to return too. Had to walk down several flights of stairs so gave me a chance to try and pick the best foot position for the knee. I was doing great until the bottom step which I missed. Ended up falling into a ball stretching my knee in new and exciting positions. Karen looked at me on the floor and asked 'do we need to go back'. Once the waves of nausea passed I discovered I was able to get up and walk around okay. Much to my surprise my big toe on the other foot hurt the most. I'm used to the knee pain. The subway was clean and nice. Young students filled most of the seats and aren't good about letting old folks use them but that is pretty universal. I did okay hanging onto a strap along with the other oldsters. My blondish white hair creates a stir and I plenty of stares. The market was sort of like an outdoor mall. There are 4 huge buildings with 3 or 4 floors on a corner. The roofs are connected by canopies to keep off the rain making it into a sort of building. The aisles are narrow and packed with goods and people. They have sections or areas designated to certain things. I tried to stay out of the fish aisles but no matter where you go you run into it. The 'food court' was made up of small booths with knee level chairs situated around a pot of boiling water and another pot of possibly hot oil. You just set down and choose your ingredients since they are spread out on trays around you. Noodles appear at 90% of the meals. So do mushrooms and what I can only guess is sections of large intestines of cows. Our friendship circle does not recommend we eat them as they aren't always sanitary. They looked positively nasty so it wasn't much of a worry I was going to eat them. Silk worm pupae is a special treat though and you walk past baskets of little brownish black pupae (dead unborn bugs) which they roll in cornmeal of some type and deep fry. It's a lot like getting almonds in a cone I think. Special treat. We walked past many vendors crouched on the sidewalks leading up to the market buildings selling all kinds of fresh produce, mud still attached. Plastic buckets filled with teaming masses of eels, live crabs, and dried flattened fish. Since the country is surrounded by ocean seafood is a big part of the diet. Squid and octopus show up on the dinner plate frequently. I saw a woman on a truck netting up what looked like sting rays into buckets for sale. Flipping wings and trying to escape I felt sad for them. I love the manta rays and would like to protect them as much as I can. Several places sell socks! There is even a whole street labeled sock street. They had plenty of booths selling them inside the market. Leggings, clothes, fabric's, herbs, misc stuff, many many jewelry shops filled with swarvorski crystal pieces so glittery it turns the head. Cookwear, shoes, quilts, bedding of all kinds, shops making and selling homb bocks the traditional womens dress up dress. They are lovely and I would love to own one but I think they might be too expensive for me. Plus I am too big so they would have to special make one for me. I did buy an outfit today that is natural fibers. It comes with pants and shirt. They had to look hard to find one that fit me, but luckily they specialize in large arms for style but it made it possible to get my arms into it. I think I'm looking pretty snazzy when all dressed up. I plan on buying more. Truly, everywhere Iook I like the clothing here. Except the ubiquitous sporting goods. Shoes are similar to Europe meaning not many walking / running shoes. Plenty of jeweled slippers though, super high heels, short boots and flats rule the day. All colors, mostly small sizes. My gal pal Panda would have a blast here. Shoes shoes shoes. It is still my intention to try as many native dishes as possible but keeping out of the fish arena is proving difficult. It is a main stay of the diet. I still gag when I get a mouthful which seems so disrespectful. I prefer to just stay out of it completely. This is another country that doesn't use much processed sugar. A cake here is almost like bread with just a touch of sweetness, mostly in the frosting. Karen bought me a treat at the market that was probably their version of a funnel cake. It was an egg rich dough that smelled like french toast. It was filled with a cinnamon apple butter with nuts in it. They put it on a skillet type drum and cook both sides then fold it in half and put in a paper cup for you. Very tasty and the sweetest thing I've eaten since my arrival. I plan on getting it at least one more time.
I came home to rest my swollen knees after the fall and much walking and ended up sleeping for 5 hours. It is now night time and I'm a bit more awake than I wish i was. Going to go back to sleep though and keep these knees elevated as much as I can.
Oh, a loud speaker came over the camp today announcing some kind of exercise and I saw lots of soldiers marching around with guns. Helicopters flying over and plenty of noise. Someone stopped in front of our house and took notes on a clip board. I had the shades pulled up to let in light and wondered if that is what they were looking at. Guess we will find out in a couple of days. Golfers didn't even pause in their play. They wear gloves, arm covers, hats, neck guards and sometimes face protectors to keep the sun off. I bet the rate of skin cancer is pretty low here. Driving ranges are spotted around the city of Daegu. Guess it's a big time sport event now. Most of the golfers I see here on post are Korean. I see Mr. Shin frequently as he cleans several houses in this section. His English is limited and he's a bit stingy on smiles but he's a hard worker and very dedicated to his job. The streets are almost leaf free as they have a group that goes around with rakes and an old fashioned broom made of sticks constantly sweeping. This is true downtown too. Every market has a stick broom leaning outside or close by. No fancy store bought brooms for these guys. All natural, all the time.
Went back to the market today and got some photo's which I shall post soon. I took a photo of a pile of intestines, lungs and livers and suddenly a woman popped up started calling me madame and pumping my hand. She wouldn't let go, she was very excited and happy. She is in Korea on vacation from Thailand and invited me to sit down and have lunch with them. Lunch being those same intestines I had been looking at with disgust. She introduced me to her friend and asked about Karen. In hindsight I should have stopped for pictures. She was that excited to meet me. I wore my one purchase, a Korean casual pant suit and was the center of everyone's attention. It was quite a sight. Everyone said hello and commented on my attire. In the traditional homback area they loved me and I loved them. I plan on going back on Friday to purchase an outfit I liked but didn't have enough money for. I truly love these fashions, especially the natural fibers and colors. Tomorrow the neighbor is taking us to the fabric market and I am hoping to get some good stuff there.
We ate on post tonight at a place called Hilltop. It's Gwyndolyn's fave restaurant. They all know her there and she doesn't even have to order, they all know exactly what she wants. There was a liveband tonight, basically 3 women wearing tight skimpy attire singing with a back up band. All of it sounded alike to me, until the last song. The skinniest one started rapping! It was so hard not to break out with laughter. It was just so incongrous, this little Korean chick singing rap and dancing with one hand sort of stuck in front of her pants, like the gangsta rappers do. I absolutely loved it. At one point Gwyndolyn and I got up and danced on the dance floor. Lot's of twirls for her and an occasional dip. Mostly we swayed and enjoyed ourselves. We were the only dancers all night and got the biggest applause when done. Even bigger than the band. What a hoot that was. Magic moments. She walked home with her belly pointed at the sky insisting she was pregnant and ready to pop. She still plans on marrying MyJohn. She asked me tonight if he was married and when I said no, she told me to make him wait until she got old enough. Next time we skype she plans on proposing. Actually she won't propose she will just inform him of what is already a done deal in her mind.
This past weekend we went to a town called Jeon Ju sounds like g on jew. It is a historical city that the emperor Lee lived in. The Jeosin or Geo sin dynasty was centered here. The last Korean dynasty it went from 1302 to 1910 when the Japanese invaded. In the old section of the city a lot of original buildings still stand and are in use today. Many have been renovated carefully to match the surrounding architecture. Between Gary's adventure spirit and Dr. Shin's directions we started out about an hour and a half in the wrong direction. It was a nice drive for me as I got to see a lot of the surrounding countryside, which is mostly mountains. I saw lots of small areas Gary called happy mounds. They are burial sites for ancestors, they are cleared places in forested moutains with these mounds of dirt about 3' X 5' by 3' tall. The rich folks have buddha statues or some kind grave marker surrounding them. Those mounds tend to be enclosed in marble or concrete but the top of the dirt is still showing. Apparently for last months chew sock holiday people would go to these burial mounds to bow to their ancestors and leave little gifts of food and notes. Gary says there are sometimes land disputes as the happy mounds are not official cemetaries but the countryside is dotted with them. Often with the land being owned by someone other than by the deceased family. This part of Korea is mountainous with small valleys filled with buildings and people. I think about the Korean War and the soldiers having to march & climb these unforgiving hills. It must have been brutal, especially in winter. In 1910 the Japanese pretty much stripped the mountains of trees to build cities and I suppose to open land for fortification. I should look this up as I am relying on spoken history without facts to back it up. I was also told that the trees were so decimated that for many years it was illegal to even climb a tree in some areas for fear of damaging them. These forests are full of tangled undergrowth and I would normally think a huge fire hazard, but South Korea gets a lot of rain so things stay pretty damp. Every couple of miles the highways cut through mountains with tunnels. In one of the longer ones there was a siren blowing inside the whole time we drove through. Pretty nerve wracking as it sounded a lot like an ambulance was coming up from behind and we kept looking for it. I really liked driving by the terraced rice paddies. This is harvest time so the fields are dry and the rice is heavy yellow stalks bent over with the seed pods. Somehow this computer has deleted and reinserted paragraphs several times. I think I"ll stop now and send this before spending hours going into details about the trip that disappear immediately after writing it down. To be continued...

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