Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Travelogue #13: Eating SpongBob and His SquarePants, Too.

<---Travelogue #12: Hiking and Fooding in Namhansanseong
--->Travelogue #14: A Nyum Nyum Thanksgiving

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about my mild frustrations in remembering Korean names, whether they be of foods or folks. Little did I know what would happen after that posting.

Flashback to two Sundays ago. Me lazy and hungry, wanting to eat, and wanting to do so immediately. I could have called Ogles or one of the other fellas, but I was in the mood to be independent. My only prior solo eating experience had been at the hands of the odang lady-vendor, so I was ready to enter a real restaurant, to present my Omaha-born self to tables and tables of Korean natives.

Simple, right?

I remembered noshing on this dish once before; it was spicy chicken with rice and it tasted delicious. No need to worry about spitting clumsy Korean while ordering, for all I had to do was point at the image and smile. I could handle that with aplomb, thank you very much.

So. I selected the menu item and then I pointed outside. "Take-out?" she asked. "Yes," I said, excited. "Cum-som-knee-dah." (Thank you.)

I brought the windfall home.

I ripped open the carefully saran-wrapped bags of rice and chicken. Good lord this was going to be tasty.




What the hell was this? This was not spicy chicken; this was SpongeBob Squarepants in a bowl. I misread the picture. Badly. If I saw this meal on my parents' kitchen table, I would probably make the same scrunched-up disgusted face that my sister has imitated successfully every Thanksgiving since the mid-1990s.

But. I said in the beginning that I came to Korea for new experiences, for new "things." This, whatever it was, was definitely a new thing.

So I went for it. Chomp, squish, squish, squish.

Not only was the taste foreign, but so was the melody of my chewing, which sounded like basketball sneakers skating across a gymnasium floor. Rubbery. But still. I was hungry.

I chowed it all down, every single piece of whatever "it" was. Weeks later I discovered what I had eaten was, in fact, octopus. Octopus, that eight-legged creature you see in middle school science books.

This story might not seem remarkable to you, but I'm a guy who once upon a time ordered his tacos and hamburgers plain, and now I'm eating octopus.

Only in Korea.

<---Travelogue #12: Hiking and Fooding in Namhansanseong
--->Travelogue #14: A Nyum Nyum Thanksgiving


Anonymous said...

I shudder to think what you might eat for your Thanksgiving meal this year! Ewwwwwww


Michael said...

Will you ever look at your pet octopus the same again?

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steph said...

Wow Alex, that is pretty brave!!! That stuff makes even Haggis look tame...

Anonymous said...

You ate a self aware creature. One of the smartest beings in the animal kingdom

Anonymous said...

hi we leftkorea in september this year, after a two year stay. but your blog and the pictures brought back the memories of our initial days there. yes ordering food at the restaurants is for the brave!! but before you know it, not only would you start rattling off the right words for your meal but would surprise yourself by reading a bit of the alphabets too:)

nInJaSlEeK said...

Ok, I know this comment is being posted 5 years after this was written. I cam across your blog when I did a quick google search, and began reading your blog. It sounds like Korea is a lot of fun, and I truly want to go teach for a year, but I do have a couple concerns....

I am Jewish and I'm pretty observant (I keep Shabbat/Yom Kippur/Rosh Hashana/Sukkot/etc - heck, we build a sukkah every year) and I keep kosher to the extent that I eat kosher meat, don't eat pork, don't mix dairy and meat, I eat out but I don't keep OU kosher pretty much.

Do you think there is a smidgen of a possibility that I could teach English, let alone survive in Korea?

I appreciate your time! Thanks for writing this blog! I intend to keep reading through it =)

nInJaSlEeK said...

EDIT: So I did not realize that it would take my 5 year old screen name I made back in highschool, and I sink into my seat in shame and embarrassment.

One other thing I forgot to mention is that I have 0 experience in teaching. None. Zip. Nada.

Thanks! And I enjoy reading your blog!