Friday, August 10, 2012

Dinner with the 선생님s

I don't know if I've mentioned this in earlier posts, but one thing that's been making Korean classes a bit more awkward than they already are (picture a class of eleven females and one male, and two female teachers) is the fact that I am my class' 반장 (banjang). This roughly translates to "class captain", and it means that I have some classroom responsibilities (erase the chalkboard, for example). I also was in charge of planning an evening outing with our two teachers. Let me add that I didn't volunteer to be captain... I was nominated against my will and won an election in which I didn't want to run. Oh well, that's what I get for being an awkward minority!

Anyway, yesterday the Intermediate class skipped mediocre Jungwon University dinner and went into town to find a good 냉면 (naengmyeon, Korean cold noodles) place. Tracey suggested a good restaurant, but when we arrived there it was unexpectedly closed. Luckily, Kim SSN (short for seon-saeng-nim, which means "teacher") knew of another cold noodle restaurant just around the corner, so there we went.

Goesan is a tiny city with hardly anything in it, but one essential that it does not lack is restaurants. I think my favorite is still the Chinese restaurant called Shanghai that has 자장면. But until yesterday, I'd never tried 냉면 before, so I was excited.

My first 냉면!
The photo on the left is of my huge bowl of Korean cold noodles, 냉면. It was... not what I expected, to be honest. The beige-ish stuff in the bowl is ice and slush, and the noodles are in the dark brown pile beneath radishes, peppers, a boiled egg, and assorted green things. Cold noodles are vegetarian, and mildly spicy.

I was eager to try the bowl -- it was fairly large --but the slimy texture and slight tang from vinegar surprised me. I think I had envisioned something more like Japanese chilled soba noodles. But it wasn't bad at all! I finished my bowl (except for the slush) and even tried a bit from my friend's 비빔 냉면 (bibim naengmyeon), which is just cold noodles without the slush and with a lot more spicy sauce.

During the meal, I didn't have much to say. This is mostly due to the fact that my Korean is still conversationally poor. I did, however, ask about the other section that our SSNs teach -- the Advanced class. I'd heard that when the other class took our SSNs out to dinner earlier this week, the most lively topic of conversation was my own class. So I intended to return the favor and get all the latest juicy gossip about them... alas, I didn't receive very much for my efforts. Besides other students, we talked about Kim SSN's love life, Chinese, the upcoming ETA talent show, and aegyo (I'll explain that one later).

After dinner, we went for dessert at Tous Les Jours. "뚜레쥬르" is a Korean bakery and cafe chain that has arguably the best 팥빙수 (patbingsu, or shaved ice dessert) in Goesan. We got three flavors: blueberry (블루베리), green tea (녹차), and original red bean (with 떡!)
Tous Les Jours 팥빙수! Blueberry, green tea, and original red bean.
They were absolutely delicious, and incredibly 달아요, or sweet. I finished all the slush from every bowl! However, I'm going to have to say that Taiwanese 剉冰 and 雪花冰 (shaved ice and shaved snow) beat patbingsu by leagues. I was really craving some 玉井-style mango shaved ice, but really, sweet dessert and good laughs with friends and my Korean teachers made it a great evening nonetheless.
Not everyone in our class could even fit inside the tiny cafe seating section of Tous Les Jours. From left to right: myself, Kelly, Tracey, Lizzie, Kim SSN, Amber, Hong SSN, and Monica. (photo taken by Jaeyeon)
P.S. While walking back to campus, we were playing Contact, but I felt bad because our teachers weren't able to play with us. So, we learned a Korean word game instead! I was instantly hooked, of course, because I love word games more than any other kind of game. It turned out to be a word-chain game that I've played in Chinese class before: one person starts by saying a two-syllable word, the next person comes up with a second word that starts with the final syllable of the previous word, etc. In English, this might be like playing the last-letter game, but in languages like Korean and Chinese, syllables (or morphemes) are easier to work with than "letters". Here's an example of one of our word chains: 기사 --> 사과 --> 과일 --> 일요일 --> 일번. (Translation: article, apple, fruit, Sunday, Japan) It was tons of fun!

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