Saturday, September 11, 2010

Getting some fresh air

Yesterday, after classes and after meeting with Haejung-imo and Uncle Simon to discuss our plans for the upcoming week, Jenny, Katie, and I decided to go out and explore the city a little. (We'd wanted to before, but, not knowing where anything was, we hadn't gotten very far -- until someone was kind enough to give us maps and tour guides.) Since we don't know how to use the bus system yet, we decided to splurge on a taxi to take us to the Daejeon station, where the "old downtown" is. After crossing over an enormous curvy white bridge and stopping for a few minutes to watch the synchronized fountains shooting off in patterns in the river below (it was a seriously awesome spot, just wait for the pictures), we found it. There's a certain broad street that's walled off to traffic so people can just take their time and stroll around without worrying about crossing the street and getting run over by the crazy drivers. You can find a ton of cafes and norebangs (singing rooms, where you go to do karaoke) there, as well as some sizable crowds.

Afterwards we explored the underground mall. At first I was confused. I thought those stairs in the sidewalk went down to a subway. Well, it turned out to be this underground mall and arcade. It was pretty much like any mall -- lots of teeny tiny shops where you can buy clothes, shoes, cell phones, and overpriced snacks. We also ended up discovering an open-air market, where we walked for quite a while. Jenny bought some hotteok from a street vendor to share with Katie and me. This small snack is just genius. It's a little cake, and when you bite in it has a sweetness to it. It was fresh off the griddle, melt-in-your-mouth warm and chewy. Best of all, it was extremely cheap -- 5 for 1,000 won. That's less than a dollar people. We may have to go back for more of those.

Then today we had another field trip! We went to Jeonju, which is a bit more than an hour from Daejeon, to do some sightseeing. Our first stop was at a church built around the turn of the century, in 1908. It was interesting because of its shape: the church is L-shaped so that men sit in one wing, women sit in the other, and the pastor stands in the pulpit where the two wings meet. This was a concession the Christian missionaries made to Korean traditional values, where men and women are not of equal status.

Next we visited the Jesus Hospital Museum. This is a brand-new museum commemorating the hundred-year-old history of Jeonju's Jesus Hospital (which is actually the Presbyterian Medical Mission, but that's a mouthful, especially for people who don't speak English). Jesus Hospital was founded by Presbyterian missionaries, and brought a lot of important medical innovations to the region, such as setting up Korea's first center for cancer treatment and initiating a program to get rid of parasites. At the museum you can see lots of the medical equipment they had back in the day. Some things, like the stethoscope, haven't changed much -- same simple principle applies. Other things I saw made me glad that I live in 2010. (Although someday people will probably look back and think the same thing about our times!) There were also many photos of the patients and the hardships they suffered -- malnutrition, tumors, leprosy, and much more. One particularly disturbing picture had to do with the hospital's campaign to reduce parasites in the area. Apparently, the program started because one day, a young girl collapsed in front of the hospital. When the doctors took her in to be examined, they found she had over 1,000 parasites in her body! The photo was of a pile of all those parasites that the doctors took out of her. (Fortunately this was not right before eating.)

Afterwards we took a trip to the Korean cultural village, which is apparently a pretty big tourist attraction for Jeonju. We had a lunch of bibimbap, a dish the city is famous for. For those of you who don't know bibimbap, well, you can make it with lots of different things. But the basic idea is that you put vegetables and seaweed (or meat, or tofu, or whatever you prefer) on top of rice, and then a fried egg on top of that. Then you add spicy gochujang sauce (made from red peppers) and mix it all together before eating. With the bibimbap we had a delicious pancake (I forget the Korean name!) containing green onions and pieces of squid. It was soooo good, hot and flaky and savory. Then we took our time walking around the village. One of the main things to do there is to watch them make hanji, a special paper made from the bark of mulberry trees. And of course to buy hanji products. It seems that if you're sufficiently resourceful, you can make just about anything from it. There were many beautiful decorative boxes and fans made with hanji, plus much more. We even saw hanji socks! I wonder if they would fall apart if they got wet, like regular paper does? If so, they would not have been good socks for today. It was pouring more or less nonstop all day long, and our shoes got pretty soaked and muddy at times.

Thanks to everyone who commented last time! I love hearing from you, so please keep telling me what you think!


  1. I love hearing about all the interesting things you're doing. It's great. Keep it up.

  2. Hi Becky--sounds like way too much seaweed, octopus and squid to me !!! Glad you are adventurous...makes it more fun :)

  3. Hi Becky,
    You make me feel like I'm right there with you! Not sure I would like all the food...except maybe the ho tteok. Maybe you can find out how to make it and show us when you get home! It's great experiencing all these things through your eyes....thanks!!!

  4. Becky,
    The way in which you describe things is exceptional, making it easier to picture where you are, what you're doing, and the layout of the city. Many people at church have asked about you and your blog address has been passed along to the congregation. Great job!

  5. Becky, love your blog. Keep writing!

  6. Hang in there, Becky, the sun will shine one day! I love the idea of paper socks!

  7. Good Afternoon Ms. Becky:

    Your descriptions of your trip and life in S. Korea are so interesting. Brings back memories of our trip to China. The hanji figures remind me of the paper art my granddaughter was so interested in years ago. Enjoy your stay. Looking forward to hearing about your trip upon your return.

    God bless, Shirley A.