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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Fruit and nuts

In my friends' yard in Gangwon-do, in the country, there are a variety of fruit and nut trees:




Mini Apples (very tart):

Pine Nuts:

What a nice variety!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Gangwon-do Rice Fields

Here are a few pictures of rice fields in the countryside close to Gangneung (강릉), Gangwon-do (this area is close to the ocean on the upper east coast of South Korea):

Gangwon-do Flowers

I just returned from a trip to Gangwon-do to visit friends in the countryside there.

The initial pictures are of some summer flowers; the first two are in the little village where I stayed, and the 3rd is from up on the mountainside next to the village:

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Importance of Age in Korea

I learned fairly quickly that age is very important in Korea, largely because of the influence of Confucianism.

 ". . . Age is really, really important within the Korean society. Age determines respect among peers, co-workers and acquaintances. It also determines who Koreans can be friends with, as it's almost impossible for a Korean to be close friends with anyone who is not their same age exactly. This is reflected in their language, as Korean has an entirely different set of rules and words for when you're speaking to someone older than you (and thus someone deserving respect regardless of character), than someone your own age; and then another set of language short-cuts for speaking to those younger than you. It's really three languages in one, but this is just a reflection of the importance of respect and age in everyday life." (quoted from:

     "Age is so important in Korea that even one year difference between two people means that the younger one will have to address the older person with respect." (quoted from:

 Knowing how important age is here, perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised when, a few days ago, a student asked me a question about it in class.

We were reading one of the storybooks that accompany their Let's Go 2 textbook (These are young Korean students, in the 2nd grade).

The storybook begins something like this:

     "Kelly is 9 years old.  She lives on Diamond Street.

     Danny is ten years old.  He lives on Oval Street.

     Kelly and Danny are best friends."

It is a small class, so I know the students well and they are comfortable with me.

One of the girls in the class interrupted the reading and came to my desk and asked (I am revising her English), "Kelly is 9 and Danny is 10 . . . how can they be best friends?"

Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised, but I was.  Shocked, actually.  How can a child so young place such an importance on age?  It is clearly a cultural difference that is hard for westerners such as myself to comprehend.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Cheonggye: Restaurant

My friend and I went to a country restaurant that specializes in tofu, especially "perilla seeds soft tofu", a nice alternative to the normally spicy tofu stew.

The restaurant is located near Cheonggye mountain, and looks like this:

Here's the sign out front, and a shot from the back:

They have several set menus; the one we ordered had a nice variety of food . . . many side dishes and more food than 2 people could eat.  The tofu stew (sundubu) was excellent (a grey color as opposed to the usual fiery red).

The room that we ate in also had a nice view out the window:

I'd like to eat there again, though I will avoid one part of one side dish, which is kimchi soaked in soy sauce; I couldn't tell what the food was by looking at it since it was black in color . . . as you might guess, kimchi (which is salty anyway) becomes almost unbearably salty when saturated with soy sauce.

Cheonggye: Nature

In the Cheonggye mountain area, near Anyang, west of Seoul, there is a mix of green forested hills/mountains, small farms, country restaurants, and more expensive apartments/homes.

It's a popular area for hiking and biking, as well as for weekend dining.

These days the weather is hot and very humid, so I wouldn't choose to go hiking, but it might be a nice place to go back to in the fall.

Here are some pictures:

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Lunch = Fish and Tofu Soup

This was a delicious meal, but really more food than I could eat:

The two covered pots contain rice.  The open bowls have hot, spicy (a little) tofu soup (with some clams and a shrimp).  The fish (mackerel) was excellent!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Cold Noodles

There is a certain belief in Korea that eating hot soups in the summer will cool you down (simplified form: you eat, you sweat, you feel cool).

Personally, I can do without the hot soups and the resulting sweaty body during these humid summer months.

Luckily, there is an alternative: cold noodles (naengmyeon; 냉면).

Properly made and served, they are not only delicious but also a remedy for summer temps and their effects upon the human body.

Above you can see a large bowl of cold noodles (in this case "water cold noodles"; mul-naengmyeon; 물냉면), served in icy water (there are actual bits of shaved ice) with cucumber slices and part of an Asian pear. (There's also a hard-boiled egg.)

When mixed and cut with scissors, the noodles look like this; some vinegar and mustard sauce has been added to the noodles, and there is a little bit of red pepper that is a standard serving.

For two people, a table setting might look like this: two bowls of cold noodles, a plate of dumplings (만두), a light kimchi side dish, and soy sauce for dipping the dumplings.

Delicious, filling, and cooling--in my mind much better than eating a hot soup (though, I have to say, those soups are usually delicious too!).