Saturday, February 18, 2012

Visiting Korea. Plan to have fun, shop, starve.

So, looks like RR and I are headed to the ROK this May, which is a bit unexpected. One of our closest friends is from there, and we'd been planning to go over in fall of 2013 on a trip with her.  We were going to visit her hometown and travel around with her and possibly her mom, who we are told is even pickier about restrooms than we are.  But our friend recently got herself engaged, and for various logistical reasons I don't fully understand having to do with her school schedule (she's getting her Ph.D.) and lucky dates, the wedding will be this May.  

I'm super super excited about the trip, although not so much about the plane ride.  I haaaatee flying. Considering that after about four hours, I'm about ready to run screaming to the emergency exit, I don't know how I'm going to handle fourteen hours.  At least it's a direct flight.  RR and I thought about making a stop in San Francisco or Japan, just to break up the trip, but we realized that there was a high probability that once we got off the plane at the stop, we'd be unwilling to get back on the plane again for the next leg.

I'm also less than enthusiastic about visiting without knowing more of the language.  I've been studying, but more at the pace of someone who expects to need it in a year and a half rather than in three short blink-and-it's-here months. I guess I could go practice at the coffee shop in a shopping center nearby that's filled with Korean shops.  The last time we were there with our friend, the woman behind the counter asked our friend if we spoke Korean, and she replied that we did.  I don't know what possessed her to say that, except that she is ridiculously sweet and encouraging, rather like a proud mom, and the fact that we can order coffee and ask where the restrooms are located means to her that we are practically fluent. So anyway, we went to that coffee shop often enough that they recognized us whenever we went in, and since the day of my friend's false adverstising, I've refused to go back out of abject terror that they will try to speak to me in Korean, and I won't know what they are saying, and it will be painfully obvious that I do not speak the language, and then they will feel bad for possibly embarrassing me, and I'll be embarrassed for putting them in that situation, and we'd all feel just terribly awkward, and  So I haven't been back, even though they have good coffee.

I guess I could go in, ask where the restroom is, and then run out, but that would only further support the idea that I speak Korean while also making me look crazy. 

I'm also a little worried about finding food that I can safely eat.  RR and I have lots of food allergies, including garlic, onions, and sesame, and at least one of those three ingredients is in roughly 99.3% of Korean food.  That's only a slight exaggeration.  I love Korean food, and although I was relieved upon my diagnosis to find out why japchae made me feel so happy yet also pretty crappy, I was really unhappy to have all that yummy food taken away from me.  RR and I managed to convert a whole lotta recipes so that, although they don't taste exactly authentic, they are still pretty good.  But we won't be making our own food while we're over there, and we'll be surrounded by food that looks and smells fantastic but that we can't eat because we don't want to die overseas and leave our grandmother to think that she was correct to believe that we should never, ever travel more than 30 miles away from home.  You know, because nothing bad can happen to you if you live within driving distance of your parents' house.

Anyway, we're trying to figure out how much food we can realistically pack in our suitcases without looking like we might be running a food smuggling business.  We're also trying to find some places in Seoul that have food we can actually eat.  We're a bit hampered by the fact we don't know much Korean, and the slow process of translating the websites' content makes checking for ingredients a time-consuming task. I finally broke down and emailed the corporate headquarters of Dunkin' Donuts to ask about their rice flour donuts (and you know if I'm willing to eat chain store doughnuts that I'm desperate), but they have as yet not gotten back to me. 

I'm worried my only option will be to eat nothing but white rice while I'm there, and I don't even want to think about what that will do to my digestion.

The silver lining of course is that I might be able to lose those five pounds I kept complaining about for the last year.  Fasting isn't exactly how I'd planned to go about it, but it would be a nice souvenir, right?  

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