Life in Seoul Part III

The last month has absolutely flown by. Steve and I visited Jeonju, a lovely place about 3 hours by bus outside of Seoul. It is renowned for its hanok village where you can walk around in hanbok (traditional dress), try lots of yummy Korean food and get lost in alleyways filled with traditional houses. Most importantly it is the home of bibimbap so naturally, that was first on our hit list.

One of the highlights was visiting Yetchon Makgeolli – a traditional Makgeolli restaurant serving up authentic food. Makgeolli is a Korean fermented alcoholic rice drink and, as I would later find out, a drink that gives you horrific hangovers. Entering the restaurant was quite intimidating as it was full of men merrily drinking away. Little English was spoken; you simply order a teapot full of makgeolli and are served several dishes, none of which you have a say in. Our dishes were Kimchi Pancake, Pigs Trotters (jokbal), chicken soup, and marinated tofu. It was all delicious apart from the pigs trotters!

The tea pot full of makgeolli appeared to be never-ending and by the time we finished it, we were well on our way to Tipsy-ville. A group of ahjussis (older men) who had just returned from a cycling trip sat at the table next to us. They ordered a different set menu to us so we kept looking over at all the seafood dishes they were bringing out. Noticing us looking over, they dared Steve to give it a go. Clearly we were their form of entertainment for that evening; for the next hour it was a game of ‘HA! Let’s see what else the foreigner will eat!’ Little did they know that Steve pretty much gives anything a go, dislikes little and had already eaten his fair share of sannakji (live octopus) on our previous trip to Korea. Every time he ate something, they applauded and topped our copper cups up with more makgeolli. When they got up to leave, we said goodbye to our new friends and moments after they were gone, the waitress came over with a dish signalling that this was bought for us by the group of men. We were so touched!

That is, until we tried it. The dish is called Gejang and it is raw, fermented crab that is cracked open and its contents spread over seasoned rice. With all the confidence that only a kettle full of makgeolli can give you, we dug in. Well folks, it tastes as disgusting as it sounds. It is considered a delicacy here and we felt bad that they had paid for it and we barely touched it. Steve and I were wondering whether the group of ahjussis were secretly watching us from a window howling with laughter; chuffed with themselves that they finally found something  we just couldn’t stomach. Nonetheless, it was such a fun evening hanging out with these men who were old enough to be our grandfathers; a true Korean experience.

We returned to Seoul the following day and had one evening to recuperate before my best friends arrived from London. The day they arrived felt like Christmas morning and I couldn’t wait to show them around. Even better, they came loaded with luxurious goodies like Yorkshire Tea and deodorant. We had so much fun drinking (too much soju) and shopping (too many K beauty products) that the week totally flew by.

One day we spent by the Han river drinking soju in the sun which started off as an innocent little picnic. But soon two bottles of Soju turned in to four. And four bottles turned in to eight. And then we thought it would be fun to go for margaritas. It went downhill from there. Downhill all the way to noraebang (Korean karaoke).

Oh yeah and this happened…

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It was such a fun week having them over; I missed them loads as soon as they left. We managed to do a lot in the week they were here and did a LOT of K beauty shopping. I was really touched that they flew all this way for the week and hope they enjoyed it as much as we did!

I’ve also been volunteering at my orphanage which has been both upsetting  in parts and rewarding at the same time. I am a volunteer in the baby room which homes about 40 babies aged 3 weeks to 4 months old. In each cot, there is a sign that says the name, gender, weight and date of arrival of the baby. I feed the babies, hold them, change their nappies etc. Basically my role there is to provide them with comfort and love so that they can experience this early on in their lives. I know I shouldn’t have my favourites but there is one little girl that I’ve completely fallen in love with. I make sure I spend quality time with her each time I go in and she is just the sweetest, most smiley little girl ever. She is nearing 4 months old so will be placed in foster care soon and that thought breaks my heart. If I could bring her back with me to the UK I would in a heartbeat but unfortunately Korea has made it awfully difficult to adopt from overseas. That being said, it has not stopped me from asking! I am not permitted to take any photos in the orphanage out of respect and privacy of the babies but they are extremely well looked after and are mostly all in good health. It is tiring volunteering there (sheesh man, babies are hard work – props to all my friends that are mothers) but it feels so rewarding. I just try and hold as many babies as I can each time I go, praying that each one finds a happy home as I did.