Wednesday, March 9, 2011

one week in Pohang

It's been a little over a week since we've arrived in Pohang, and it feels as if we've lived several lifetimes. We have already seen and experienced so many new sights, smells, and sounds. Korea is lovely. I can't lie, it's been difficult since we've arrived, but it's a great new adventure we're beginning here.

The first day we woke up on Korea, we knew this would be a whole new world to us. Hungry and jetlagged, yet motivated to explore, we ventured out from our motel and walked down our new street. Since neither of us can read Korean, we walked past every little shop and storefront down each block, eagerly sniffing the air to catch a whiff of an edible morsel. We walked past butchers, convenience stores, "business rooms", pet stores, and cellphone shops, but finally, we found it: a restaurant! We crept into what seemed to be the equivalent of a diner in Korea, and a small electronic bell chimed to announce our arrival.

Our waitress greeted us with "Anyeong-haseooooooooo", and ushered us to a table, then presumably asked us what we would like... in Korean. Rich and I looked at each other, and searched the room for what to do next. Luckily, there was a large poster with pictures of the food the restaurant serves, and we both pointed enthusiastically at a picture of big bowls of soup. The woman laughed and bowed knowlingly, and quickly scuttered off to grab water, glasses, and the various banchan (side dishes) to accompany our meal.

Not even knowing quite what we ordered didn't even matter to Rich and I at this point. What mattered was that we had FOOOOD on the way! When it arrived, we were not disappointed. We were delivered two big, heaping, steaming bowls of red hot broth filled with cooking beef, noodles, cabbage, and leeks. Our banchan included (clockwise from the top): kimchi, pickled turnips, wood ear mushrooms and sesame, sesame-seasoned seaweed (try saying that ten times fast), lettuce cups, and a small bowl of doenjang [middle (fermented bean paste)].

We DUG in like we hadn't eaten in years. The broth warmed us to the bones, and the beef, noodles, and cabbage made this meal a delicious stick-to-your-ribs instant classic. Korean food is very comfortingly warm, spicy, and filling, and our first meal was just this.

As we ate, other diners came and went. Another couple sat at the place adjoined to our table, and began to eat their meal; we noticed the man speaking in English, and we perked our ears. Coincidentally, he turned out to be an English teacher at a local public school, and had been teaching English for nearly 30 years. We conversed a while and talked about America, teaching in Korea, and his deep love and adoration of Pohang, the city we had just met.

It was a lovely beginning to our time here, and a lovely greeting to this strange, amazing, foreign place we will call home for a year.

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