Monday, January 19, 2015

free meal and other thoughts

Not a bad way to end the evening: I ended up not paying for a lovely dinner that came courtesy of my Golden Goose boss's sister-in-law. She owns a restaurant in the northern part of Yeosu called Gorae-shil (there are a lot of whale-themed restaurant and shop names in this town). It proved easy to find on Google Maps, and the taxi driver (not Mr. Bang: a different gentleman) was able to punch in the restaurant's address on his GPS and find the place with no difficulty at all. It was a quick, cheap ride. That's one thing I've noticed: before Seoul taxi fares went up to W3,000, small-town taxis tended to be more expensive. Here in Yeosu, at least for now, taxis start at W2,800 and tick upward at about the same rate as they do in Seoul.

Dinner was a good, rib-sticking nakji-bokkeum (dwarf octopus in spicy sauce, with rice and vegetables; see here). It would have cost me W20,000 (seafood prices, like computer prices, are bizarrely high in Korea, despite this being both a peninsula and a technological powerhouse), but when I brought out my wallet to pay for dinner, the owner grabbed my hands and forced me to put my wallet away.

"But I have to pay!" I insisted lamely.

"Why?" she shot back.

"Well... I'm not your relative!"

"Don't make me angry!" she huffed—a quintessential ajumma, that weird alloy of toughness and warmth. I let her win the argument. Didn't want to cause a scene, and really, who's going to say no to not spending twenty bucks?

A free meal was a pleasant surprise, and this was all courtesy of my boss, who both has relatives in Yeosu and owns property here. Yeosu offers a lot to explore: there are those beaches I never saw, as well as other national parks, islands connected to the mainland by bridges, college campuses, Buddhist temples, and local mountains. I'll be coming back here again sometime. I learned a lot about Yeosu this trip, but it's obvious I've only just scratched the surface. Yeosu is bigger and more complex than I'd reckoned in 2013.

Oh, yes, before I forget: I walked almost 25,000 steps today, from my yeogwan's neighborhood in Bongsan-dong all the way up to Cheonnam National University's main campus in Dundeok-dong. After three days of being a lazy pig (and getting visibly fatter), I found it refreshing to take a nice, long walk. The weather in Yeosu has been the opposite of what it's been in Seoul: my buddy Tom, trapped up north, texted that Seoul got 1-2 inches of snow, although it all seems to have melted now. Yeosu, meanwhile, has had temperatures near 50ºF (10ºC). Almost springlike.

I look at my current yeogwan room with a measure of envy. It's big and it's clean. It's modern. It's got blazingly fast Wi-Fi. It's everything my current rathole in Seoul isn't, and I really don't want to leave it. God, I can't wait to move out of where I am. Come August, it'll happen, and life will be much, much better.


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