My Favourite Vegetarian Korean Food

Woohoo! A food post!

How long has it been since I did a food post? Maybe 2 years? Eek!

Korea is a nation of meat lovers. Meat and fish are in everything. In fact, in some areas, people look at you as though you’ve just escaped from the local loony bin if you dare to order something “without the meat.”

It’s a good thing I moved here, right?

One of my co-teachers loves to talk about how good certain meals in this country are and that “when I decide to eat meat again,” I’ll be able to enjoy it too.

Bless her.

I’ve been a vegetarian for 12 years now. I don’t really see this as a passing faze, as much as my colleagues like to insist it is.

But living in a place full of meaty meals isn’t a new experience for me. Like Korea, Mexico’s food was very meat-heavy. And I managed to survive that. :D

At first, moving to a country that doesn’t really cater for your diet can feel quite daunting. If you’re anything like me, you even start to feel like you’re missing out on a huge part of the culture when it seems like you can’t eat anything but flavourless, white rice for every meal.

But, over time, when you start getting a bit more confident in your new setting and feel brave enough to try out phrases in the local language, you start to discover that there’re a lot more things for you to enjoy as a hippie-dippie herbivore.

Here are my favourites:

떡볶이 / Ddeokbokki

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This comes at the top of the list.

Oooooh, I love ddeokbokki. I’m not sure if it’s the healthiest thing in the world but it’s, by far, my absolute favourite Korean food.

It’s pretty much a street food but you can buy the ingredients in supermarkets to make at home. In the simplest form, it’s rice cakes and 고추장/gochujang (sweet chili sauce). On the streets, you’ll probably find fish added in.

There’s a place downtown in Naju that does it rabokki-style (ddeokbokki and ramen) where you can cook a big pot at the table yourself and add loads of different types of vegetables and tofu in with them too.

A lot of the ddeokbokki at the street vendors I’ve seen just serve plain ddeok (rice cakes) but I have tasted ddeokbokki with cheese-stuffed and sweet potato-stuffed rice cakes. Mmmmmmm. Perfection!

(I buy and make the cheese-stuffed ddeokbokki at home because, let’s be honest, cheese makes everything ten times better.)

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Teaching in Korea vs Teaching in Mexico (Part 2)

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(This post is part 2 of my two-part series on teaching English in Korea and Mexico. Part 1 focused on the differences between the students. This part will focus more on my role, my responsibilities, and the working cultures.)

I like being a teacher. I really do.

While I can’t deny that I originally did a teaching course to fund my travels, I quickly discovered that it’s something I really enjoy doing. I get a kick out of it and I love working hard at something I’m passionate about.

Being a teacher for a language school in Mexico City and a high school in Korea are two very different things though. Where do I even start?

Schedule – Mexico

It’s been two years since I worked at the school in D.F. so I don’t have exact copies of my timetable any more but this is generally how it went:

Work started at 7am. I’d leave my house at around 6am (sometimes a little earlier) to travel across the city to a large office building. That first class – held in a meeting room – would usually run from 7am-9am. Perfect timing for students to get in a bit of learning before work started.

Most of them would come in with coffee cups and a little something for breakfast but I don’t ever remember them looking too tired for class.

There were some beautiful sunrises and views from the windows of those early morning classes.

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After class, I’d head home to work on something for their next class (usually in the next 2 days).

Somewhere between 11am-midday, I’d leave my house and head out to another office across the city. These lessons would run somewhere between 1.5-2 hours (depending on how long the students had for lunch). That’s right – they’d use their lunch break to go to English class.

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A Weekend of Pride

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By now, most people will have heard the incredible news that broke the other week: Gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states of the USA.

This news is groundbreaking.

Groundbreaking because we’re talking about a country that is one of the most influential in the world.

And while this is hardly an end to a huge battle, it’s a start. It’s not the biggest issue the LGBT community face but anything that can turn the focus on fights for human rights is always a positive.

I feel that the West is reaching a new wave of change. The internet is bringing everyone together to discuss and learn about the issues that are happening in unreported places. The world is finally waking up to how racist society still is. How homophobic. How sexist. How archaic. And younger generations – those that have been raised with as much information as they want at their fingertips – are not happy about it.

The internet and social media is bringing together a lot of truth from around the world. Truth that is still covered up by the press but talked about openly online.

That weekend I saw the world come together to celebrate a moment of change for one corner of the world.

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Teaching in Korea vs Teaching in Mexico (Part 1)

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I’ve been teaching in Korea for just over 15 months now. 15 months. Where does that time go?

To me, it still feels like I’ve only just arrived and that I’m only now starting to discover what Korean culture and society is all about. When I talk to people back home, though, they’re in disbelief that it’s “only” been that long. They say it feels like I’ve been gone forever.

When I was into my 15th month of living in Mexico, it was February 2013 and I’d just finished my job as an English teacher at a language school. I had 6 weeks to get my stuff together and then I was flying home.

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I’d made that decision and was happy with it.

15 months into my life in Korea and there are no immediate plans to leave.

I’ve now spent more than a year living in each country and, while I probably should be saving these posts for my 17 month mark (because that’s when I finally left Mexico), I’m impatient and would rather talk about these things now.

When other foreigners here find out I that I’ve lived and taught in another country before, a few of them are curious about how things compare.

So, I thought it’d be fun to do that here. This post is going to be the first of a two-part post on the teaching aspect of my experiences. Then I’ll be doing a 3rd post all about life in either of these places.

Of course, you should bear in mind that these are just based on my experiences. Not everyone is going to go through the same thing and feel the same way.

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MERS has arrived in Korea and I’m the reason it’s spreading

MERS is here. Everybody panic.

No, seriously, don’t.

There’re already way too many rumours and conspiracy theories going around, setting people off. Let’s not add fuel to the fire.

If any of you are reading this from the west and have no idea what I’m talking about, MERS stands for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, a virus that is contagious but apparently pretty hard to catch.

The elderly, young children, and people with pre-existing medical conditions are said to be the ones most susceptible to it. (Yay! Thanks, Asthma!)

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Due to the fact that 9 people have already died from it over here and almost 3000 are in quarantine, there’s an uneasy atmosphere.

I now teach students who sit in class wearing surgical masks. The bathrooms at school finally have hand sanitizer and soap. And all I can hear from my coworkers in the staff room is “MERS … *whisper whisper whisper* MERS … *whisper whisper*”

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That Time I Went to a Penis Park

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There are places in life we visit and then forget all about. There are places that become hazy memories that are only reawakened by a picture or a song or a smell. And then there are those places that you can never forget, where every last detail is etched onto your brain whether you want it to be or not.

For me, Haesindang Penis Park is one of those places.

What is a penis park, you may ask?

In short, it’s a park full of penis.

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Thoughts From the North of South Korea

16466997581_197c6630e2_oA few months ago, over the Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving/Harvest) holiday, I headed up north to Gangwon-do to pay a friend of mine a little visit.

Having only experienced the fast-paced waygook-magnet cities of Seoul and Busan, and everything my “little nuisance” province Jeollanam-do had to offer (my province is famous for its protests and inability to do what it’s told) up until this point, I was eager to explore more of the country and see what a small coastal city had to offer.

Enter Donghae.

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