Tuesday, December 11, 2012

And then we ate a lot of food. (Gwangju pt. 3)

It was one of those three-restaurant kinds of evenings, know what I mean? No? Okay, I don't really know myself. But Fulbright 친구 and I did end up getting pre-dinner, dinner, and dessert at three different places around Gwangju on Saturday evening, and I had a fantastic time of it.

The first place was a "foreigner bar" and restaurant called The First Alleyway which I will talk about in further detail tomorrow, since I didn't actually stay for long on Saturday but ended up eating there for Sunday brunch. The only thing of note was that the sheer number of non-Koreans at the restaurant in the evening took me completely by surprise. I'm not even kidding; when I walked in the door and saw, essentially, a room full of white people, I was simply shocked. I felt like I'd somehow stepped through the door and back into America. It was bizarre and slightly disconcerting.

It's not like I've been completely surrounded by Koreans; even in Korea, I see a non-Asian foreigner every few days. Heck, I even came to Gwangju for the express purpose of seeing my foreigner friends. But the atmosphere in this foreigner-owned-and-promoted establishment was really... like nothing else I've experienced so far here. All of my Fulbright friends expressed the same sentiment, to varying degrees. It was kind of funny!

After a light snack at the bar, we did some shopping and wandering around the streets of Gwangju's labyrinthine downtown. Then, when we were hungry again, we went to 민속촌갈비 (Minsokchon Galbi), a fantastic barbecue place. There was only floor seating, but the floors were heated! How awesome. The restaurant's interior was very warm and rustic. It gave me good vibes. And the food was just as excellent as I could have imagined. A barbecue meal (with tons of 반찬, including salad, and taking into account some people who ordered different dishes) came out to about 9,000₩ per person for seven people, if I remember correctly.
Look at how excited Adam is about his galbi! And he had an entire table to himself... before Jessica and Taxi joined us.
Our group in front of the restaurant (minus Julia, who snapped the photo). Left to right: Adam, Taxi, Jessica, Jason, Katelyn, and me.
After dinner, we decided on dessert at a stealthily hidden-away wine and cheese (cheese!) bar that some of the Gwangju locals (Taxi, Jessica, and Julia) had gone to just the day before. It turns out that they've frequented this particular bar quite often in the past semester, and have earned the rights to some on-the-house desserts...! Not that we knew this for sure upon setting out. In the cold, we got lost in the maze of streets and tossed little snowballs at each other, and then we found it, tucked away on a quieter street: Big Apple.
Big Apple, in downtown Gwangju. A coffee and wine bar THAT SERVES CHEESE TOO DON'T FORGET.
Cheese platter: Pesto Parmesan! Brie(?)! Raisins! (Raisins?)
We ordered the "wine and cheese platter" set that made us feel like classy, urban adults instead of young expats fresh out of college, told stories, cracked jokes, and took photos. I loved it.

I've said this a hundred times before but I'll say it again now: the company of other Fulbright teachers is really special, because it's not just the connection of being American or being English teachers in Korea, it's the connection of friendship and of having been through a long and adventurous experience together (i.e. that six-week Orientation) and thus of understanding each other on a deeper level.

And seriously? There was wine and cheese. This always helps.

Although I sometimes feel isolated from most of the other hundred twenty-something Fulbright ETAs (because I am), this makes it all the more worthwhile when I do get a chance to see them and catch up on life. Although this involves making the trip to another city on the opposite side of the country, on the bright side, it also means I can turn "I want to see you!" into an excuse for a full-blown weekend excursion. Sadly, Gwangju was the last one of the year for me. This coming weekend, I'll spend time with my host family, and the weekend after that, well, I'll be flying home for the holidays! Cheonan, Chungju, Jeju, Mokpo, Naju, and Hwacheon, you're still on my list. 2013 is going to be jam-packed with adventure.
Classy Fulbrighters at Big Apple in Gwangju.
Aw, they wrote "welcom ㅂig [apple]" with chocolate. Cute!
Oh, and one last thing:

There.

Was.

Cheesecake.

New York cheesecake (very dense), organic cheesecake (miraculously creamy), and an on-the-house tiramisu (what a pleasant surprise!), five slices shared by eight.

Total bill came out to 12,000₩ per person. Expensive? Yes, but still worth every won. Highly recommend this place.

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