At the beginning of my stay in Korea, my mind was so occupied with the pressure that I had to get my driver’s license on one try; when that was done, however, I was free to basically hibernate and feast + repeat. Sleeping in was becoming such a serious habit; I wonder if I will be able to wake up in time for class once the semester starts! Anyway, with plenty of time and liberty to enjoy the rest of my winter break, I realized that I had so many thoughts and emotions I was having for the first time. During my last days in Seoul, I had much to experience, and much to be thankful for.
1. A newfound appreciation for murals.
I would occasionally go on solitary walks to enjoy some time by myself. Silently musing on poems, thoughts, and colorful images splashed on blank space gave me such pleasure. They add meaning to things that we often take for granted. If I were a good artist, I would totally paint a mural on my future house. It would definitely add a boost of creativity to my day.
2. Gopchang. And other exotic foods. Whoo!
I’ve always been open to trying new cuisine ever since I was a little girl. In fact, I had the chance to try a new Korea dish called gopchang, which is basically the intestine of a cow (or a pig, but I’m still a little hesitant to try that one). This might sound gross, but as long as the fat around the intestine is removed before it’s grilled, gopchang actually is low in calories and high in iron and vitamins. The digestive fluids within the intestines solidify when heated. It turns into a creamy, savory, and cheesy inside, while the outside is grilled into a crispy yet chewy texture.
This one is actually called daechang, which I don’t recommend because it’s basically created my flipping the fat around the outside of the organ inside out for the fat to melt when cooked, as shown in the picture above. This one is lower in nutritional value and tastes a little too oily for my taste.
Now this one,
This was a much better experience. I had a nice little dinner date with just my grandpa and me, and while late night gopchang is usually enjoyed with some soju or some kind of alcohol, we chose to eat it with a side of hot, steaming soup instead.
I know that for some people, this might seem revolting at first, but with cooked chives and a kick of spicy kimchi, the gopchang meat was like experiencing a whole new world…something only those who have tasted it would know. What really surprised me was actually what was served as a free side with the gopchang: cow liver and tripe, a part of the cow’s stomach. Although I quite enjoy eating steamed liver, the raw version was less appealing, but it turned out to be alright. In fact, it kind of tasted like sashimi, except it has a strange aftertaste. I could see that enjoying raw liver was an acquired taste, just as raw fish is to some people. Personally, I wouldn’t try it again, but cow liver is supposed to be good for your own liver, as well your eye health!
3. Chi-mak: Chicken and Beer
The so-called tradition of Chicken and Makju (beer in korea), or Chi-mak for short, has become a serious thing in Korea over the past few years. When you track the hastag #치맥 (Chi-mak) on Instagram, you can see the hundreds of live pictures being uploaded close to midnight (and I thought I could find late night food only in nyc).
Fried chicken is probably one of the most universally received foods in the world (along with chocolate chip cookies, pizza, and mac n’ cheese, haha). I mean, who could resist the crispy skin and the tender meat that appeals to all the senses?
4. My family – and my Dad
Experiencing chi-mak was a pretty special occasion for me because it was the first time my dad and I had drinks together, just the two of us. Although I consider my dad one of my best friends (and an awfully cool one at that), I know that he doesn’t always express the entirety of his feelings. He seldom shows tears; the only time I’ve seen my dad cry is back in my kindergarten days, when I gave him a birthday present the day after I got a majorly berated by him.
He’s such a busy person, and the added pressure from my ridiculous college tuition and the vigor of his career makes me worry that one day he might just give up. But he never does, and everyday he continues to sacrifice himself for his family, and really try his best to be a good father. I respect him so much for that. Spending time with my dad was therefore a very special moment for me, and I’m really thankful for this winter break because of the opportunity to cherish the fact that I have the greatest father.
This also made me realize the fact that this wolf-pack of a family that I have (we used to do EVERYTHING together – in fact, this winter break I tagged along when my dad went to get his haircut) isn’t going to last forever. I’ve got an incredibly supportive family, and I really need to let them know that I love them sooo very much.
5. Driver’s license!
I am finally a licensed driver!! My very first driving experience was when I got my learner’s permit in Virginia; my mom let me drive all the way to my friend’s house then got into so much trouble because my dad thought it was extremely dangerous for a fifteen-year-old to operate a moving vehicle. But now I’m almost in my twenties, and after a written test, an initial operating test, and a final test on the road, I have acquired my license. I almost got disqualified during the parking test, but I pulled through, mhahaha. The sad fact is that I won’t be driving at all in NYC…
6. Free stuff.
I was walking on the streets of Myung-dong with my sister when a lady working at Etude House pulled me over to give me a brow makeover!
Almost all of the Korean restaurants I’ve been to provide free side dishes – and free refills!
The guy working at the karaoke gave us thirty more minutes than what we paid for!
I got free samples for just walking into a store!
AND I also got two free tickets to a dance musical after I left a thank-you message on the website of the hair salon I visited! Because my aunt helped me so much while I was practicing behind the wheel, I invited her to go with me. The musical was called Sachoom, a ‘dancical’ where no words are said but everything is expressed through movement. At the end of the performance, the whole audience was on their feet dancing along to the music!
And there it is, a brief summary of the last part of my winter break in Korea. All the adventures I’ve had feel like a distant dream already. I’m all moved in to my new dorm in New York now, and I actually quite like it! As opposed to last year, when I had a bunk bed (no more crouching into my bottom bunk this year), four completely random suitemates (rooming with one of my best friends now), a not-so-clean kitchen (I’m so motivated to cook in the clean kitchen this year), this year’s situation is so much better. I’m looking forward to enjoying this spring semester in NYC!
Cheers to a new semester!