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Lunch At Michelle’s

IMG_1249I wanted to call it ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s Lunch At Michelle’s’, but the title wouldn’t let me use a strikethrough. First-world problems.

What’s this? Two posts in a week? I spoil you.IMG_1235

Normally, I would have a blog post to brag about a particular holiday/month/season in extended tedious detail, cramming as many photos in as is conceivably possible. This time, however, I’m going to describe the one-off experience of a luncheon invite from one of my adult students, Michelle. Ordinarily, this would be a matter of ‘coffee and bikkits’, or chimaek(Chicken + Maekchu[beer] –  they LOVE their contractions) – but this particular feast was an education on Korea in edible form.

If our flat had this view, there'd be SO. MANY. PHOTOS.

If our flat had this view, there’d be SO. MANY. PHOTOS.

IMG_1241My previous experience with Korean food is relatively minimal. I know the basics: gimbap, rice, vegetables and meat wrapped in seaweed not entirely unlike sushi; bibimbap, a big ol’ bowl of vegetables, rice and gochujang sauce; dak galbi, possibly the most delicious thing ever done with saucy chicken; pulgogi, a mishmash of beef strips, glass noodles and rice, etc. etc. I have eaten more food than I actually know the name of, alas.IMG_1253

A quick introduction to Michelle and her family. Michelle is one of my longest-running students, having been taught by both myself and my predecessor John (and, I would imagine, possibly before) at Kangs Academy. In contrast to many of the other students at the school, Michelle has an extra-Korea past; before marriage, she was a professional opera singer in Moscow for seven years (another man I teach was a tenor in Florence) and still teaches several of the students’ children. I have also taught her son, her sister and her niece/s throughout the year – no pressure to behave over dinner, then.

FeastAs it turns out, the event was joined by a total of seven of my students, all of whom apparently working to make an unbelievably sumptuous Korean feast. If I’m to be honest, I recognised about half of the spread, but enjoyed everything regardless. Michelle had made(from scratch, including the soy sauce) – beef ribs, pork with kimchi, spicy chicken and potatoes, unnamable boiled roots, bamboo shoots, kimchi chige(soup), kimchi just for the hell of kimchi, black-bean rice, glass noodles, dotorimuk(sesame oil over vegetables and acorn jelly), potato-and-octopus tentacle pancakes (less scary than they sound), seasoned soy sauce, sautéed vegetables and, for dessert, homemade fruit yoghurt. I’m certain they had Korean names, but buggered if I could tell you what they were.IMG_1295

Seating arrangements aside (I love the aesthetic of low-table Korean dining, but my bloody massive legs make it like trying to cram a gorilla into an eggcup), I was totally absorbed by the meal. Not ordinarily being a great campaigner of kimchi, I devoured the pickled cabbage with a newfound relish while Meg stared in shock and revulsion at my sauce-smeared features.

It was so thoroughly enjoyable that I condescended to doing the ‘peace sign’ thing with everyone afterwards.Peace Sign Thing

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The Osan Crew

The CrewI’ve been in Korea awhile now, and I’ve experienced my share of cultural differences, sights seen etc. etc. – but, naturally (I think) for foreigners living abroad, for sanity’s sake one has to cultivate a group of fellow expats from one’s own culture. However, as I know astonishingly few British people in Korea, I took refuge in that most wondrously somber and infamously subtle culture: America.

Note from the author: Apologies, but there may be a number of photos of the following human specimens already seen in this here blog. As this is a post/mid/pre-nostalgia entry, however, I feel justified in this lack of originaliphotography.

Allow me to introduce…

The Civvies

See also: the teachers, the sleepers, the non-gymers, the (slight) Korean-speakers. The Civvies live their lives in Korea itself, struggling to navigate lurking pots of kimchi and savaged streetside plugogoi every day of their lives.

Moi

Heere's Sweepy!

Yours truly. But screw that guy.

Megan ‘Grumpy Cat’ Coast

Sexy WolfMy sole source of British familiarity and affection, Meg functions as long-suffering girlfriend and the group’s lion-tamer; a force of sheer bloody-minded exercise and motivation, she puts to shame most of your average Spec-Ops personnel with her 10-mile-a-minute gait and rippling abs. When not functioning as fitness poster-child, she is introducing simious (see also: gibbon) running techniques or dominating the men with her sheer indomitability.

Catchphrase: NO.

(disclaimer: I would like to emphasise that Megan is not grumpy herself, per se. She simply takes no excrement from nobody, foo.)

Hailey ‘Chocobo Knight’ GoodwinHowling Wolf

One half of the dynamic Louisiana (read: ‘Leezyana’) duo, Hailey is fellow Final Fantasy geek, lake-diver and lover of life in a sexily-bosomed package. Always the first to throttle others via hugs and embraces, Hailey is the beaming soul of the Osan chickadees – and her resonating battle cries invariably put others to shame.

Catchphrase: Assa! (see also: DRRRRRR!)

Lori ‘Hot Sauce’ Mine

Yo LoriChef extraordinaire, lavish hostess and downer of pints, Lori puts the manly-men to shame with her  multifarious skills. If ever the group manages to organise itself past alcoholism, you can be sure the adventurous Lori will be the Captain Nemo to our slightly unsteady Nautilus as we pave a path of obscenity ‘cross the nation.

Catchphrase: We do this! (with regards to drinking/travelling/immersing selves in mud/caving/bungee-jumping/tattooing/skydiving, etc. etc.)

The Manly-Men Airmen

The Fighters, the Wakers, the Munition Makers – defenders of earth, sea and pub, these gods of raw testosterone and lethality protect us vulnerable lambs in Seoul from the onslaught of the North. With American Steaks for muscles and Red Bull for blood, these are the stuff of legend.

Aaron ‘Obnoxious One’ Miller'Ard-On Aaron

My Souther brother from another mother, Aaron is the complete antithesis of conventional Britishness – which is why I love him entirely.

Chattanooga, Tenessee born and raised,
on the shooting range’s where he spends most of his days,
Rootin’ and tootin’ and shootin’ all day,
Fondlin’ shafts and firin’ blanks (not gay)…

The originator and perpetrator of the majority of the group’s obscenity, Aaron does a fantastic job of balancing precise professionalism at work with obnoxious moronity in the pub. Always the first into the fray, Aaron is usually halfway up the mountain we’ve just decided to walk to. For better (or worse), Aaron is the very embodiment of everything The South is proud of.

Catchphrase: AMERICA! CAW!

Josh ‘Pinkeye’ Peek

Cheeky PeekThis softly spoken man is not to be underestimated. Once you filter out the Aaron Noise, you realize that this smiling man is, in fact, ridiculousness given form; never have I seen a man put so much commitment into waking someone up simply by staring at them for an extended period of time. Usually requesting that you ‘put [any given item or sustenance] in his mouth’ with a straight face, Peek expresses his patriotism not through waggling his arms like an ape, but through small gestures of speech…’mericuh.

Catchphrase: ….’mericuh.

Anthony ‘Pantsony’ Shea

Anfony!I only have a vague recollection of where that awful nickname came from, and I have a suspicious feeling I may have been the one to come up with it while semi-conscious in a hostel. For that, I apologise.

Anthony (to all the British readers, in ‘Mericuh they pronounce the ‘th’ rather than abbreviating to ‘t’. I don’t know why, either), or ‘Anfony’ as I shall now name him, is our international man of mystery: while the other guys are grunting and building and blowing up stuff, mild-mannered gentleman Anfony is masquerading as Kim Jong-Eun himself! Or something. Need-to-know intelligence basis, I suppose.

Catchphrase: [on the subject of British/American spelling] – Why’s there a ‘u’ in the word?

Shawn ‘Dancing Pecs’ Hewitt

Sleepy ShawnThe recently-departed-to-Hawaii-and-therefore-a-bastard Shawn Hewitt, while in another time-zone entirely, is nonetheless still a member of the Osan Crew. He tries to escape, but Anfony can track him with Technology if he flees. Shawn is a towering obelisk of Spartan physique, and we worship him as such; any man who could pec-dance to the Macarena is not a man to be reckoned with. Alas, now he has gone to follow his childhood fantasy of roaming Hawaii painted blue, snarling at passers-by. I pity any girls going by the name Lilo.

Catchphrase: [flexing]

Any and all of the above are freaks of nature whom I value ridiculously highly as friends. I’m English, and therefore obvious indications of affection are an executable offense – but I will happily travel ‘cross the land again, that I might offend other countries alongside you.

Sorry: ‘y’all’.

 

Wolf-Pack