Where I live and work is rural. There is a town, but almost everything near by is traditional. There isn’t much if anything western unless I want to go to the nearest small city. This means taking off our shoes to enter the restaurant and sitting on the floor around the table. So every time we go out for dinner (the elementary school teachers and staff) it’s usually at one of these nearby restaurants. Because we are so rural and all the teachers drive, I usually get swept into the backseat of someone’s car and carried away, unsure where I’m going or what will be for dinner. My first dinner I mentioned in my first post about Korea, was a tofu hotpot. My second dinner, I didn’t realize at the time was a lot bigger and was my welcome dinner. We had a local specialty, 메기매운탕, Megi Maeuntang or spicy catfish stew. It was a hotpot with a whole catfish in it. It was rather spicy but the fish was tender and good. However since my school knows how little I can handle spicy foods they ordered some separate items for me, that everyone else also enjoyed. I got to eat fried rainbow trout and seaweed papers with rice which was rather salty. It was a lot of fun, we couldn’t all understand each other but everyone was friendly and helpful.
A lot of the time these dinners are surprises to me, I find out when I’m at school or when I’m leaving to head home. My second dinner was smaller, with not as many staff and fewer teachers. We had marsh snail soup. I’ve had snails before, but these were small. The soup wasn’t bad it was fun to try, but after awhile all I was scooping up was snails and they were grainy in texture and after awhile it was a bit too much for me.
My fourth dinner out with other teachers was another big welcome party for a new teacher we just got. I expected us to stick to our traditional out in the middle of nowhere restaurants but we actually went to the small city nearby and had barbecue. Each grill had a different meat and I ended up at the duck table and found with the honey mustard that usually accompanies it that I’m rather fond of duck. I actually really enjoyed all of the food that was cooked. It was another big dinner with everyone for the elementary which also meant a lot of soju.
I’m really interested in seeing what other dinners we do. Hopefully I’ll feel comfortable enough to start taking pictures, but it feels awkward taking food photos when I’m sitting right next to my principal.