Earlier, this evening, I could barely feel my feet. We were eating in a Pojang Macha or basically an orange tent which houses a small single operating restaurant in Korea. Many of these “street vendor” type of eating establishments serve the most basic of pleasures in Korea like soju, beer and simple food. As a westerner, you might be somewhat disgusted at the hygiene which appears to be low, but in general, most people fail to get sick and these Pojang macha’s are a favorite destination after hours. However, it was really cold tonight and I couldn’t wait to either get inside or go home.
Tonight, we ate scallops, sea eel and sea snails. Since I’m in Busan, seafood is more common and closer to the beach or water, you’ll see many of these Pojang macha’s serve seafood. The set up is very primitive. Basically, they put a tire wheel on a stand and inside the wheel place a couple charcoal that they usually use in grilling meat like Kalbi and Bulgogi. We all sit around and eat basically every part of the seafood and so the scallops aren’t your ordinary western scallops where just the center is served, but rather all the other parts as well. At first, I didn’t touch the “other organs” and parts of the scallop, but now, I’m a bit more adventurous and will eat most of it.
Tonight, I thought the sea eel was a fish because they butterfly cut it to look like a fish. After a while and after chomping down on some, I realized it was sea eel. Typically, I don’t mind unagi since it has rice and a bit of sauce on top. Koreans serve it more with spicy red gochujang. It wasn’t bad, but if I knew it was sea eel at first, I don’t know if I would of at it tonight. I’m not a big fan in the Korean way of cooking and preparing it. Koreans don’t like the fact I’m less adventurous, but oh well!
On that note, I’m not a big drinker, but my CEO keeps on forcing me to drink at these get togethers and he won’t give up. So, I end up appeasing him by drinking a tad and later regret it. I drank a bit too much which isn’t a lot and wanted to throw up. I hate the feeling of throwing up, but a colleague/friend of my by the name of Lee said he finds it interesting — the feeling of throwing up. It’s the first time in my life someone has said that to me.
On another random thought, natural gas prices have skyrocketed it appears. Despite the price for a barrel of oil dropping to yearly record lows, my natural gas bill was 10X’s what it was last month. So, I sit at home with a heater pointed at my feet. I’m a little depressed that I can’t use the ondol anymore since it was much more comfortable. However, I can’t be spending 100,000+ for natural gas, another 110,000 won plus for utilities and building maintenance on top of other bills I’m paying. I moved into a bigger place a couple months ago because a friend asked to move in and share a larger space. Unfortunately, that friend reneged and now I’m stuck paying an extra 300,000 won monthly and I just got punished for 3 months because I almost quit my job. It’s ironic, but my company wants to keep me, but recently I almost felt the desire to quit & because of it, I am now losing more money. So financially, I’m not doing so well lately.
I did recently realize though I’m surrounded by some really good people. While I don’t think our benefits are as strong as they used to be, I do feel comfortable where I am and despite thinking of possibly moving on to the next adventure in life, I kind of have decided in a matter of hours today that I’m going to stay for a bit longer, try to be more positive and stop let the little things bug me. I’m a bit too sensitive. It was an interesting day to say the least.
It ended a bit frustrating as well – the day that is. After a coworker drove me (almost) home, she recommended I get an electric blanket to keep my feet warm. So, I walk over to the 24 hour homeplus just 5 minutes from my home and just as it strikes 2am, the lights shut off — which is coincidentally the time I arrived. I’m not exactly the biggest fan of the random change in hours. Over the past year, it went from 24 hours to limited hours to 24 hours to what it appears limited hours again. I find Koreans do this a bit with their businesses. For example, a restaurant may close at 9:40p since they’re tired or ran out of a specific product despite being normally open at 10p. A chinese mandoo (dumplngs) store owner down the way will close at 11:20p, 10:15p, and on another day at a little past midnight. More on this Korean business hours pheneomena here.