Monday, July 26, 2010

Korea Day 4: Where Brunch Becomes Lunch and We Fall in Love with Ju

We left Brandon's apartment yesterday morning heading to brunch in a part of town that he said was a cute little shopping area with several good restaurants.  We were also going to meet up with his friend Ju Hyeon, a girl that he has sort of been seeing for a few months.  Well, on a Sunday many restaurants (including one called "Le Brunchie") were not open for lunch, so we decided to have coffee and kill time until the lunch places opened at 11:30. 

We had no idea what to expect of Ju Hyeon, or Ju, as she told us to call her because my brother is not very communicative.  I asked if she was shy and he said "Not for a Korean," which really didn't tell me much.  But she turned out to be absolutely adorable and we all liked her very much.  In fact, I might have liked her even more than I like Brandon.  The fact that she is fluent in Korean and was willing to ask the waitress to put toilet paper in the bathroom while Brandon wanted to watch me pantomime that in an effort to communicate with the waitress on my own is just one example of how much nicer Ju is than my brother.

Anyway, they all ordered coffee and I ordered lemonade and a slice of carrot cake because I had been anticipating brunch and I couldn't wait for lunch without getting cranky.  The slice of carrot cake was huge and the waiter brought forks for everyone to share.  But this is what was left when I got finished:

The cafe was a cute little place called "Rabbit" which was downstairs from a wine bar called "Turtle." 

It was open-air out onto the little street with lots of cute boutiques full of clothes with ruffles and ribbons. 

 I am going to try to sew a copy of this pink shirt. 

I love to people watch here because the girls are so fashionable and they are dressed so adorably and always, always wearing high heels. I don't know how they do it.  Ju walked all over town and all over the museum with us yesterday wearing these shoes:

Seriously.  She must have walked at least ten miles in these shoes.
She told my mom on the subway that her feet were a little tired, but that she is very strong. 

Evidently I need to work on my strength training because I got to a point where I thought I would just cut off my feet and walk around on the bloody stumps because that would probably be more comfortable.  And I was wearing Teva sandals.

Anyway, brunch was fun and we asked Ju a little bit about herself and Brandon had obviously told her nothing about us because she didn't know what my name was and when I said "Brooke" she asked if it was the same as "Bullock" as in Sandra Bullock.  She acted embarrassed that her English was not very good, but it was quite excellent and she was so adorable that everything she said was cute anyway. 

Ju orders coffee for us.

Examples of cute things Ju said:

She commented on my eye color (blue) compared to Brandon's (brown) and she couldn't figure out if David's were green or brown.  So I said we would call that hazel and she said "Hazel.  That is awesome."

At lunch (which we ate at an Italian restaurant) I ordered a pizza that was plenty big enough to share.  Ju had offered me some of her salad and when I asked if she wanted some pizza she said, "I want to help you with that!" which was the same phrase she used later when she tasted some of my bing su (because of course I am now eating shaved ice with fruit everyday).  I think that is fantastic and I will totally be stealing that line as I help myself to things that other people are eating:  "I want to help you with that!"

Waiting on pizza!
She was talking about common Korean foods and American foods with my mom and asked "Do you eat duck?" except my mom thought she said, "Do you eat dog?"  So my mom was like, "Dog!  No!" and then Ju was trying to say "duck" and sort of flapping her arms like wings until Brandon stepped in and translated.

Ju is also all about eating healthy and really wanted me to eat healthy "for the baby."  So she didn't want me to get the ice cream my parents ordered:  "Too artificial."  She promised me she'd find a bing su place instead.

She also cracked us up when Brandon was talking about eating octopus.  They cut the wriggly tentacles off and you have to chew them really well because the suction cups try to suck on to your tongue and throat so you can actually choke and die eating octopus if you are not chewing carefully.  Brandon evidently enjoys this delicacy.  Ju nodded as he explained this to us and then said in all seriousness, "Brandon is not normal." 

She meant that it is not normal for an American to like to eat octopus like that but we were just like, "Oh, honey.  We know that he is not normal."

Pictured here:  Also not normal.  David wants to try octopus.

Anyway, Ju was sweet and fun and helpful and I couldn't believe how much I liked her.  After lunch she joined us when we went to the National Art Museum of South Korea.  On the way there, she stopped at a street vendor and bought what she said was a "traditional Korean snack."  It turned out to be a kind of warm pastry filled with cinnamon and sugar.  David loved it.  Ju said, "David likes traditional Korea!"

 Traditional Korea is delicious!

Once we got to the museum, we wandered through their special exhibitions on Greek sculpture (on loan from the British Museum) and then walked through the Korean art.  I especially liked the big buddha statues and also the celedon ceremaic pieces.

Posing in front of the top stories of at ten-story pagoda in the atrium of the museum.  Brandon continues acting not normal.
We left the museum feeling pretty worn out (so. much. walking.) and decided to hunt down bing su before we went to dinner. 

 We are such American rebels.

So Brandon and Ju led us to the Coex mall.  "Mall" is sort of an understatement for what Coex is.  It is a huge shopping metropolis.  Much of it is underground.  And it was absolutely mobbed.  We wrangled our way through the crowd to the food court and Ju and I snagged some bing su.  David was absolutely aggrieved to realize that I had ordered tangerine and grapefruit bing su as evidently he does not care for grapefruit.  But I didn't mind because that mean I got to pretty much eat the entire thing myself.  Baby Duck loves bing su!

Once we were rested up, it was nearly time for dinner so we walked a few blocks to the restaurant.  Brandon had made reservations at a place that does traditional Korean meals. 

This meant that Brandon selected one menu and we were brought out several courses and served family-style.  Traditional Korean meals are basically rice with lots of little side dishes and some soups.  We sat at a table (Brandon refuses to sit on the floor because he can't sit cross-legged) but we did have to take our shoes off to step up to wear the table was.  While we ate, there was entertainment in the form of traditional song and dance performances in Korean costumes.

Little Mac was clearly the inspiration for this statue.  It made me miss my dogs!
The meal was amazing, although to be perfectly honest, some of the dishes were hit and miss.  I loved the kimchi pancakes, but I didn't care for the fishy soup with tofu in it that Ju told me would be good for the baby.  Actually, she said it would be healthier for the baby than the delicious noodles I was slurping down.  Oh, well. 

Kimchi and salad.  Not pictured: my chopsticks.

I impressed myself with my chopstick skills.  When you're hungry and they're the only tools you've got, you become pretty adept at wielding them.  Unless you're my mom, and you decide to just stab your tofu cake because you can't seem to pick it up with the chopsticks.

Anyway, most of it was pretty tasty.  I do like kimchi (in small doses) and I loved the tofu with sesame seeds, the onion and kimchi pancakes, the noodles with vegetables, and some of the other sides that came with the rice.

A flavor extravaganza!  All of these bowls were very small--the largest plate was no bigger than my hand.
The fish, however, was not such a hit with me:

 Which is grosser?  The glassy yellow eyeball or the dead gray tongue hanging out the side of its mouth?  I had one tiny taste (it tasted fishy) so the poor fish did not die in vain.

David asked Ju how best to attack his fish and so then she showed Brandon how to pull the meat off of his fish before announcing, "Oh, your fish is pregnant."

And that pretty much put the kabosh on my appetite.  Fortunately dinner was essentially over by that time.  She was trying to come up with the correct English word for the "fish part" that she wanted to describe but Brandon (perhaps after seeing the look on my face) suggested that they discuss fish anatomy another time. 

How cute are they?
We had dessert:

That's a puffy rice cake thing, watermelon, and tea that is good for the digestion.  Brandon was trying to stab the watermelon with the stick thing next to the tea cup and Ju politely said, "Brandon, I think they cut the watermelon here so you can pick it up."
And then we posed for photos with the dancers and singers. 

 Hi, we are tourists.

It was somewhat startling when I came out of the bathroom later and saw the girl who had played the lovely harp-like instrument (front row, left) on her way out the door, wearing camouflage shorts and carrying a motorcycle helmet.  She had sung a lovely traditional song that Ju explained was about a lower class girl in love with an upper class boy and it was jarring to see her in modern dress.  Sort of undid the magic!

But there was more magic to be had in the Coex pavilion above the underground shopping mall.  A fountain and light show set to music and this blue guy, whom David immediately wanted to imitate.

I married him.
Really, though, dinner once again marked the end of our day.  It started at 7pm but lasted two hours and after walking through the museum, the mall, and traipsing all over town in between metro stations, we were more than ready to call it a night and we walked through the Coex plaza just to make it back to the metro.  Seoul is not exactly a leisurely city--there aren't green spaces with benches and chairs where people just sit and rest like there are all across London and Paris.  Everyone is bustling around in their high heeled shoes and we lazy Americans, so used to driving from place to place, find our leg muscles struggling to keep up.

1 comment:

  1. Seriously, you must have misunderstood your brother - he would never describe anything as a "cute" little shopping area!