Korea and back again.
I was there for just one night and two days, but I ate quite a bit.
Samgyetang, seolleongtang, tteokbokki, jijim, kimbap, awabi porridge, dolsot bibimbap, naengmyeon…
And after all that talk of going on a diet—what was I thinking? On the return flight I buried myself in a cloud of self-reproach, and I went straight for the scale after reaching home. The results were shocking.
I lost weight!!
Maybe it was the capsaicin. Or maybe the skin-scrub. Either way, I know this much:
Korea is awesome!!
Everything I ate was exquisite beyond words, and there was no shortage of things that benefit my appearance.
By plane it’s only two hours. It’s in the same time zone. Though it’s right next door, it’s often called the nearby country that’s far away.
Although this was my first visit to Korea, as I expected, for every close similarity with Japan, there are entirely dissimilar customs, and it was easy to see that each country has its own uniquely fostered culture. This is only natural. But seeing it only through TV and seeing it in person are two completely different things.
In this age of advancing information, you can easily keep in touch with and feel like you know all about someone you’ve never actually met. In Tōkyō you can sample dishes from all over the world and feel like you know all about the cuisine of a country you’ve never actually visited. But knowing something happens when you actually experience it with the accompanying great speed and impact. It’s something that eclipses both distance and time and forms an instant connection.
I was pleasantly astonished by the difference in flavor of the Korean food I was used to having here and the true Korean food I had in Korea.
Knowing is the first big step toward understanding. So I want to know; I want you to know. Not through the media, rumors, or the opinions of others, but if possible through your own eyes, ears, and emotions.
This trip was too short a stay, and I definitely want to go back. Of course I want to go back to enjoy more delicious Korean food and have my skin scrubbed to a silky shine, but also to know more about our respective countries.
At a stand in Dongdaemun my exclamations of “Delicious!!” as I tore through a meal caught the attention of a woman sitting next to me with her date. She offered me some gum just before they left. They had been watching our excitement for a while with smiles on their faces. I don’t speak Korean, so I could only say “kamsahamnida (thank you),” and though it lasted but a moment, the memory from that time burns brightly among the events of this trip. Her expression was so cute, and I imagine every time I think back on it in the future, I’ll always have a warm feeling in my heart. This has to be the best part of traveling—this joy that connects beyond nationalities and languages.
Since it’s possible to enjoy the same food or find inspiration in the same movie, I’m certain one day we’ll be able to reach a deeper understanding of each other.