Usually at my school we do teacher trips in summer, but this year to my surprise I was told to pack up for a weekend in December at the beach. I didn’t know what to expect. Unlike our summer trips I wasn’t given and itinerary and everyone I spoke with wasn’t going. (Mostly parents). And when I boarded our charter bus and saw only a sprinkling of my coworkers on board, about 8 of us total, spread out throughout the bus I was concerned but also amused that we’d rented a bus for such a small group. As we headed away we made several stops, picking up our head teacher, principal and several other teachers who arrived late with coffee for everyone and oranges.
It was a long trip after work to Northern East coast. I learned in college after about a semester of living in Chicago that I get a little queasy in cars now. Which sucks because that includes buses. I can’t read on them much anymore without feeling ill. So I downloaded an audible book and listened to it the entire ride, watching the scenery of Korea pass and the sun set. We didn’t stop until almost 7pm and since the sun sets around 5:30/6 now it was pitch black out. I never thought I’d miss daylight savings time. We stopped along the darkness of the ocean and all clambered onto some mosaic art sculptures for a picture or two before walking to the 봉포항 활어회 센터 (Bongpo port live seafood center)
Live seafood center is accurate. The entire lower full is full of tanks of “live” fish. All sorts of fish and crabs and pretty much anything you can pull from the ocean. The tanks were so full that several of the fish were floating upside down and dying. It looked like you could pick out your fish and then have them cook it for you. We had made reservations ahead of time, so we went straight upstairs and settled in at a long table set up with sashimi and all sorts of other types of raw fish. I don’t hate sashimi but it’s not my favorite thing. This though was probably my worst sashimi experience yet. I couldn’t deal with the presentation.
About four dead fish were watching me eat them. It felt Hannibal-esq levels of wrong. (Though not that bad though for sure.) I can’t eat things that are watching me eat them, things with real eyes, real dead eyes. (Cute pastries are fine) And I couldn’t look away. Just trying to chew while looking at them was upsetting. Eventually after realizing there was no way for me to eat any that way I requested tissues to cover up their faces.The people at my table got it and flipped the fish around which was better, still disturbing to be eating out of a recently living fishes carcass but not as bad. Luckily one of my coworkers looked at me and then just handed me the banchan from her table which was corn and patted my hand and told me to eat that. We also ordered a spicy hot pot filled with fish that my head teacher told me to treat like shabu shabu. To take the fish and dip it in for ten seconds and then it’d be cooked to eat. Which I did, it was still spicy but not as bad, until someone took the rest of the fish to eat themselves.
It looked like a popular restaurant. Several families came in and picked out their fish and settled in for dinner. I’m pretty sure what we got was fancy. That tends to be what we do when we go to the coast, eat lots of fancy expensive raw fish that I just kind of stare at as it stares back at me. But if you want one of those super fresh fish experiences the Bongpo port live fish center would be a great place to have that experience.
Work dinner’s in Korea last a really really long time. Especially if we’re on a trip. We were there until nine, most of my coworkers drinking soju till they were bright red and falling over each other. I managed to get away with only doing one shot of soju and then running away for a walk with the librarian to see the lighthouse. Then I went with other teachers who weren’t drinking who were talking to some fishermen. The fisherman were friendly and showed us the fish they caught in the darkness. It was fun, the sashimi was good when I wasn’t looking at it and the restaurant was big so we weren’t a bother to the families eating dinner in other rooms.