Sunday, May 24, 2009

What health code?

Sara and I went to the Biennial Ceramics Festival in Icheon today and saw many lovely and functional pieces of ceramics.

When we first got to the festival, we went to the outdoor Food Court area, since we were both hungry, and found there only to be one tent with food (it turned out to be the auxiliary food court).

We waited in line for quite a while, watching a little girl pour herself a cup of water from the water cooler and wash her hands with it. She then went back, filled her cup and repeated, enough times to empty the water cooler.

Finally we got to the front of the line. Out of the six items on the menu, one looked good to me. When I ordered, my pronunciation was deplorable and not understood. Sara came to the rescue and then we were notified that they were out of it. On to Sara's order, some sort of octopus and chili sauce over rice dish.

While we were waiting we watched the kitchen workers put on the most disgusting food preparation act I had ever seen. The entire operation was not up to code - but for non-sit-down restaurants in Korea, there isn't actually a health code. I won't go through every gross thing we saw, but just the preparation of the Cold Udon Soup.

Step one: Dishwasher stops washing dishes and pulls out a handful of udon noodles from the sink with her rubber dish gloves, placing them in a bowl. Yes, this is the same sink that she was washing dishes in. Yes, these are the same gloves that she was washing dishes with.

Step two: Blood sausage / pig liver handler (who wears what were once white cotton gloves) pulls a hard boiled egg out of a container (not refrigerated) and slices it in half with a wire that is attached to the counter.

Step three: Blood sausage / pig liver handler picks up the bowl and scoops some partially frozen broth into the bowl and hands it to the customer.

Other highlights:
The woman cleaning out the deep fryer scooped crap out of it with a sieve and dumped it on the ground right next to her.

A kid walked up to the food prep counter and asked where to put his dirty dishes. The cook indicated the food prep counter and there it went.

In case you were wondering, Sara's meal was served from a chafe plate with a proper ladle and we feel fine. There was enough chili sauce on it to hopefully kill anything that was living around it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Subway Story

So most days the subway is so crowded that you never interact with people, as long as you don't count being touched by at least seven other people. Last Friday I was taking the subway home at about 2:30PM and it was pretty empty (I count empty as not having to take my backpack off) - probably only 100 people on the car.

At one stop (Sadang), about five middleschool girls got on the train and came and stood over by me. The brave one of the group said, "Hello" in English and I replied with a "Howdy" that set off a fit of giggles. They asked me where I was from in English and as this is a phrase I know in Korean, I told them (cho nin mi gook saram is sayo). More giggles ensued.

They then got in a tizzy about something, chattering back and forth. The brave one told me that they loved my eyelashes, so long and brown... to which I replied, "Shouldn't you be in school right now?"

Fortunately my stop (Naksongde) was the next one.

Monday, May 4, 2009


Sara and I joined my mom in Maui for a week long vacation. As far as I'm concerned, Maui might as well be paradise. We spent most of the week hanging out - very few activities - which was just what we needed to unwind from the busy Seoul life.

I bought myself a new camera - a Pentax K20 - and spent a lot of time getting to know it - 900+ pictures on the week long trip. The odds were on my side, and I managed to snap a few good shots.

The sunsets were beautiful.

A photogenic rock / stream.

Said stream.

Showing off the Pentax's shutter speeds.

A friendly cardinal.

Playing with the shutter speed - a 30 second night exposure.

A beautiful beach covered in basalt.

A broken post.

Enjoying the beach with Sara.

Mount Haleakala's debris field.

Yet another beautiful sunset.

The condo area by night (long exposure)

Haleakala means business. 10k feet (drivable), cinder cones abound.