Drinking for Men and Women

So Good Man and I bought some tea. On the left we have corn silk tea, and on the right, raisin tea.

The corn silk tea also says “V-line face,” meaning it will make your face into an attractive V shape. This is never translated into English. And one of the ingredients is “etc.”

The Korean on the raisin tea is translated into English. As you can see, “it’s for men” and great as a hangover cure.

Gendered Tea

Get Slim. Get Sober.

Steady March: Korean Cabinet

The Steady March of Home Improvement continues in our dining room.

Our house is a typical Cape Cod, with two bedrooms on the first floor. One was converted to a dining room. The chandelier and chair rail are very dining room-esque. The closet? Not so much.

I wanted to get a China hutch or something similar to put into the closet. I browsed around online shops and we looked at IKEA. Traditional China hutches were too expensive, too large, and too…traditional. IKEA had some options, but they were too expensive and too…IKEA. (IKEA lovers, relax, IKEA will appear soon enough.)

So I turned to Craigslist, where I found this cabinet. It was advertised as Korean, and looks similar to things I saw in Korea… but there is certainly no maker’s mark on it, so I take the label with a grain of salt.

Cabinet

Space

The cabinet has solid shelves on the top half, and slatted shelves on the bottom half, but long drawers dividing them. It’s six feet two, and about two feet wide and deep.

I took all the drawers and lower doors out, cleaned it up, and put Old English Scratch Cover on it. Good Man and I also replaced the tassel on the brass pin. No, I don’t know why the green strands are longer.

Old Tassel

New Tassel

Lotus Blossoms?

I put our wedding geese on it, and might put my wedding shoes on the very top. I am strongly considering putting the whole set of Korean dishes in it. Right now, it’s empty.

I really like how it looks in the dining room and am glad we didn’t go with anything from IKEA!

Korean Cabinet, Without Flash

Korean Cabinet, With Flash

Chuseok Change of Plans

Originally we invited ten people to Chuseok. Then I realized there was no way I was going to be able to entertain ten people with my condition, so we scaled it back food-wise and people-wise.

Mark, his Lover, and Mark’s parents came over for spicy pork, mandu (from our freezing escapades), brown rice, pajeon (scallion pancakes) with a dipping sauce, sesame leaves (from my garden), quail eggs in soy sauce, tofu in a spicy sauce, three seasoned veggie banchan dishes (purchased), kimchi (purchased), songpyeon (purchased), Asian pears, and some wine they brought, as well as the champagne our Realtor gave us as a housewarming gift!

A few days prior, I asked Mark to bring some extra chairs.

“To sit on?”

“What else do you use chairs for?”

“When I think of Amanda and [Good Man]’s house, I don’t think of chairs.”

Well, that’s true. In our old place, we always ate at our small Korean table.

The food was enjoyed by all, and it was great to entertain in our dining room—with chairs!

Chuseok

Making Mandu

The night before I fractured my tailbone, Good Man and I made mandu together. I basically used the recipe Jonathan left in the comments.

Good Man and I had a good making the mandu and trash-talking each other’s mandu folding job.

Steaming

Done!

Freezing

Good Man Makes Coffee

By the time we were done snacking making the mandu, I was convinced we needed more than a two-tier steamer.

We wrapped up 110 dumplings and put them in the freezer for Chuseok. But then I fractured my tailbone…

Chuseok for Foreigners? What Would You Serve?

Since we now have a dining room and inherited a dining room table and chairs with this house, I decided to invite some friends over for Chuseok dinner in two weeks.

This was not my best idea since the house is still pretty much a disaster, but I guess I’ll need to at least get the kitchen and dining room in order, hmmm?

Most of the people who are coming are Korean food virgins, or they’ve had bulgogi and not much else. As far as I know, none of my guest have dietary restrictions (except that I don’t do beef most of the time).

Readers: What would you serve to a bunch of Korean food virgins for their first Chuseok? (Keep in mind I’m the only one who will be cooking, although I can make Good Man my sous chef.)

Dished

Mark and his partner have been excited about their housewarming gift for us since before we even looked at any homes. We went out for dinner a few nights back and they brought a bag.

We opened it and found this lovely platter.

Platter

“We were told it was Korean,” Mark said.

Good Man looked at the back and shrugged. He couldn’t read the Chinese characters, so he trotted off to do research. Indeed, they read “Korean Porcelain/Chinaware.”

Korean Porcelain

Then they pulled out a box. We started unwrapping dish after dish. Mark laughed, “We found these at an estate sale and thought they’d be great for Korean food.”

Dish After Dish

When we’d admired the complete set, his partner said, “We have more in the car.”

“…”

We took the boxes to the house, stashed them in the basement, and waited until we had some time to put them away. I held two shelves clear for the dishes and started unpacking.

I was delighted to find that some of the plates were actually painted on the back as well.

Back Detail

I unpacked and unpacked and unpacked. I was balancing plates, bowls, cups, and lids on every available surface. I found another platter in red.

Bowls and Lids

Plates and Saucers

Plates on a Stool

Plates Balancing on a Bucket

Bowls and Cups

Both Platters

It seemed like every times I unwrapped a dish, I found another dish in another size. Finally, I was left with a mountain of trash, and the realization that two shelves were not going to be enough.

Trash

Eighty-three dishes later (!), I had found a good way to use the strangely-shaped corner cabinets in our kitchen.

I can’t wait to invite them over for some Korean food. We’ll finally have enough dishes for all of the banchan!

Dished

Escape From Camp 14

Yesterday I took the day off of work and headed to Politics and Prose so I could see Shin Dong-hyuk and Blaine Harden speak. As I expected, I ended up in tears.

Shin is the author of 세상 밖으로 나오다, a book I wrote about reading last year. Shin is the only person known to have successfully escaped from Camp 14, a North Korean prison camp.

This month, his story was published in English as Escape From Camp 14, told by Blaine Harden. It is not a translation of Shin’s memoir. Instead it is an updated/corrected story that made me hold my breath in chapter four, and gasp at Shin’s admission in chapter five.

Escape From Camp 14
Image Courtesy of Viking

At first I was disappointed that this book wasn’t a translation of 세상 밖으로 나오다. I know from reading his Korean-language memoir that Shin’s words are extremely powerful on their own. However, crucial details in Shin’s story have changed since the publication of his memoir. Shin says:

It has been a burden to keep this inside. In the beginning, I didn’t think much of my lie. It was my intent to lie. Now the people around me make me want to be honest. They make me want to be more moral. In that sense, I felt like I need to tell the truth. (p. 47)

The truth comes in an easily readable book. Harden gives a detailed, matter-of-fact account of Shin’s life, both inside and outside of North Korea. This book is painful to read, but the details are used for education, not shock value.

Harden doesn’t limit himself to telling Shin’s story. He delivers a brief history of North Korea, and exposes how the Kim dynasty operates. He explains how a North Korean’s social/political class affects their living situation and opportunities.

Also, Harden seamlessly weaves in information gleaned from other defectors, including a former camp guard who was taught to think of prisoners as “dogs and pigs” (36).

Yet Escape From Camp 14 doesn’t come off as a dry textbook. Instead, Shin’s entire experience becomes richer and more believable because of the background Harden provides.

***

At Politics and Prose yesterday, Harden spoke for approximately 20 minutes, followed up by Shin (with an interpreter). Even though I knew what to expect, I had to force back tears.

When it came time for the books to be signed however, I lost all composure. I had brought 세상 with me, and I purchased a copy of Escape at the event. I pushed 세상 in front of Shin and Escape in front of Harden. I was upset, and the words tumbled out in simple Korean, through tears.

“I’m sorry, my Korean isn’t good. My sister-in-law read this, and sent it to me. I read it slowly and cried. It was hard. Now my friends can read your story in English. Thank you.”

And that, I think, is this book’s greatest accomplishment. Although Shin’s story is the central focus of Escape From Camp 14, Harden’s skilled journalism exposes the incredible broader truth about what North Korea is doing to its own people. Now that Shin’s experience is available to a larger audience, can we continue to ignore North Korea’s human rights violations?

Shin Dong-hyuk at Politics and Prose

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Viking in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. I was already familiar with Shin’s story, and immediately recognized him on the cover. I tore through the house. “Honey!” I yelled, bursting into the office, “Look what they finally published in English!”

I was not required to write a positive review and I have not been paid or otherwise compensated to promote this book. Although the links above go to Amazon, I don’t run affiliate links.

And yes, I did purchase another copy of this book at Politics and Prose! I want to support Shin’s bravery however I can, and a purchase is a small way to do that.

Take a Picture, Anger a Korean

This afternoon it started raining, a light, drizzly mist.

Walking from school to my bus stop I passed two kids playing a computer game outside of the stationery shop. Their huge umbrella dwarfted them and I thought the scene was perfect for a picture.

I had to back up again a wall to get the photo. I took one photo and a man in a truck nearby rolled down his window.

“What are you doing?” he asked in Korean.

“Taking a photo,” I said sweetly, while taking a second shot.

“Why? Who are you? What are you doing?” he said very angrily, aggressively.

Note that this man (and the woman in the truck next to him) had not told me who he was. He had not identified himself as a parent or anything of the sort. I looked at him and said, “I’m taking a photo. It’s funny, because the umbrella is so big.”

“You can’t take pictures!” He started shaking his fist at me, about eight inches from my face.

“Why?” Before he could answer, I suddenly got very mad.

My schoolyard’s wall was 150 feet away. I have walked up and down that same street every school day for nine months. I have never, ever seen another identifiable foreigner in that part of town. Most of the shop owners (including the one at that stationery shop) know who I am. I get free food sometimes, because I am Amanda Teacher.

The Pakistani sock seller knows who I am. Halmonis have watched me scold middle school boys who have yelled at me for free English practice. The ice cream shop woman has watched kids run out of her shop to yell, “Amanda Teacher! I love you!” I’ve brought students into shops and bought them pencils, practiced English with them.

Just yesterday, the pizza truck guy, Strawberry Guy, and a random old woman who spoke flawless English and lived in the States 25 years ago, and I all had a twenty minute conversation in the middle of the street. In Korean.

The two kids playing video games are first graders at our school. I teach their sisters, brothers, cousins. These children are playing games in public. There was nothing wrong with my photo at all.

Before he could answer, I said, “I am a teacher. I teach there!” I pointed. “I like photography. Every day this year I am taking one photo. This is a nice picture.”

As soon as I said I was a teacher, they started to back down a bit. Luckily (and unusually!) I had my name card. It doesn’t have my school on it, but it clearly states my name, degree, and graduate university in both Korean and English. Since I have my M. Ed, it shows that I am a “real” teacher and not just some fresh-college graduate here because I couldn’t get a job back home. I thrust a name card in his hand (with one hand tucked under the other arm, as I am polite to older Koreans, even when I’m angry) and shot two more frames.

Then I walked away. The woman in the truck got out, went to tattle on my completely legal and appropriate photography to the woman in the stationery shop. I left.

And as I was coming home, I got angrier and angrier. What in the world did I look like I was doing? Who did they think I was? Would I have been bothered were I Korean? Would I have been bothered had I been using a tiny point-and-shoot instead of a DSLR? And who were they? Why were they getting mad at me?

Rest assured: had they identified themselves as the children’s parents, I happily would’ve identified myself, shown them the photos, offered them prints. But as far as I know, these were just two creepy adults watching kids play video games. (I have never, ever seen adults watching their kids at these gaming spots. Never.) Also rest assured that there are many, many photos I have not taken in this country, the homeless woman being only one, because I didn’t think they were appropriate. Photos I have wanted to take.

Young children are grabbed by strangers in this country. On the bus, on the subway, on trains. They are picked up by strangers, and this is considered completely fine. Yet I take a photo in public, in a neighborhood where I am (or should be, if they’ve been paying any attention!) known, where you can’t even identify if the children are male or female and some random Koreans get upset about it?

Children Under An Umbrella

Great Falls Hike and Dalk Kalbi

Today Good Man, Sister, and I met Mark and Lover for a quick hike at Great Falls National Park.

The Falls

With Sister

With Good Man

Sister’s Shadow

I’m pretty sure I took a photo from this spot (with a different lens) in November. It made a more interesting photo then.

Mather Gorge

Straight Lines, Curved Shadows

At the Footbridge

Mark wanted a picture, but it was hard to get an angle where a) a tree wasn’t growing straight out of their heads, and b) their faces weren’t entirely in the shade. I settled on the tree growing between them.

Squinting in the Sun

On Top of the World

Cut in Half

Mark

We came back to our house and made some dalk kalbi. I usually make spicy pork, so this was a nice change of pace. We had it with kimchi, pa jeon, and hobak jeon. Everyone enjoyed it, and when we had some left in the pan, we tossed some rice on it, mixed it up, and sent it home for tomorrow’s lunch!

Dalk Kalbi

새해 복 많이 받으세요!

Yesterday Master posted told me this on Facebook.

아만다 잘 자내죠? 한국은 오늘이 설날이에요. 떡국먹는날. 아만다[가] 떡국 맛있게 만들어줘요~

Amanda are you well? Today it’s Korean New Year. It’s the day we eat rice cake soup. Amanda make some delicious rice cake soup.

Of course, Korea’s a half a day ahead, so today it’s Lunar New Year Eve. But I didn’t need Master to tell me what day it was! I had already bought some (brown!) rice cake disks for soup.

We were originally going to have some for lunch, but long story short, it ended up becoming an early dinner. Diana, Min Gi, and the baby came over. Mark was picking up his lover at the airport, and couldn’t come over for lunch, but when the schedule got messed up, they were able to come over for dinner.

The Spread

We had rice cake soup, mushroom bibimbap, spicy tofu, king oyster mushrooms, cucumbers, Asian pears, and dried seaweed. In this picture the table was set for four, but when we added two place settings and some wine, it was a true Korean spread, with dishes completely covering the table.

Good Man and Mark

Good Man found an interesting article with historical information about the military/dictatorship government, US puppet government, and Japanese colonizers government trying to get rid of Seollal.

The cartoon below (from 1980) shows most people walking toward “modernization” and “solar new year” and only a few people walking toward “lunar new year.”

As a piece of trivia, 2012 is the Year of the Dragon (specifically the water element), although in Kazakhstan it’s the Year of the…Snail.

Happy new year!