This week was shortened by the Labor Day holiday. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I went back to work and closed out some important action items. I was so busy at work that I had to write an article for a local English-language newspaper on Monday night when I got home from our trip to Seoraksan National Park. On Thursday, I went with a colleague to Daejon and Cheongnam and visited some Americans there. I also met a very nice Korean man who spoke to me in Korean. He said my Korean wasn’t too bad, although I think he was being a bit generous with his compliments. We feasted on spicy fish soup, a dish that my colleague maintains exemplifies the epitome of Korean cuisine. Frankly, I didn’t think it was anything special, because I had to pick through a landmine of fish bones to enjoy the soup. I suppose that I am a pampered American who expects to either eat boneless fish or to be able to easily extricate fish bones. I never got the hang of chewing fish bones, separating them in mouth, and disgorging them. My colleague and I talked about how to experience all that Korea has to offer. I mentioned that I had not yet tried bosingtang (보싱탕), better known as dog soup. They told me they would take me sometime for bosingtang. While dog soup does not sound particularly appetizing, I’m the type of person who wants to experience the fullness of the culture, even delicacies. I hear that it tastes pretty good when prepared properly.
I took a day off on Friday and had a much needed rest. I didn’t really do much yesterday other than resting and finishing up some miscellaneous tasks at home. We had planned to travel to Odaesan National Park and Yongpyong Ski Resort this weekend, but I needed to stay in Seoul so that I could emcee a community event today. Today was much livelier than Friday. In the morning, my family and I went to Gyeongbok Palace so my sister-in-law and nephew could tour the former Korean royal palace. While they went on a Chinese-language tour of the palace, my wife and I took my son to nearby Kyobo Bookstore, the largest bookstore in Korea. Even though most of the children’s books are in Korean, my son loves looking at book in Kyobo’s huge children’s book section (since he doesn’t read and looks at the pictures, it doesn’t matter). On the way to the Kyobo Building, we walked past a large demonstration happening just south of Gyeongbok Palace. I did not know the target of the demonstration, but judging by the heavy security, I ascertained that it was an anti-American demonstration. Policemen far outnumbered protesters. Just outside the Kyobo Building, we saw a sidwalk photo exhibit with very graphic photos depicting scenes of violence and victimizations allegedly perpetrated by U.S. Forces Korea, the U.S. miliitary presence in Korea. The photos were very disturbing, especially if true as alleged. Still, they also made me think of the 33,651 Americans who gave their lives during the Korean War. I thought that the exhibit would be more appropriate put in the context of the sacrifices U.S. Forces Korea made in the past 60 years on behalf of the Republic of Korea. Not once during the protests did I feel that my family was at risk while we walked near the demonstrations. They were very peaceful.
Tonight I served as emcee at our community association’s all-members’ meeting. The theme was a crab and beach fest, complete with festive decorations such as artificial crabs and fishing nets. The board chair was absent, so I agreed to host the event. Although we ran out of catered food early, it was still a success. Several members of the community volunteered many hours to prepare the food and decorations, and the results were fabulous. I’m not a natural public speaker, but people said that I did well. I kept the meeting under half an hour, including time for a prize giveaway. I spent a bit of time preparing for the event yesterday. I also drank a delicious margarita to help soothe lingering nervousness. I enjoyed the experience, but I’m glad it’s over. I will probably run for board chair later this month. Tonight’s event was a great prelude to taking on more responsibility for managing the community association.