Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Finally We Taste It

Kosin University was blowing a strong wind yesterday.
I normally give you bastardizations of the English language for your amusement, but today’s excerpt from Max’s journal is quite good. There are obvious errors and I left most of them in (I couldn’t help correcting a few) because I think seeing which parts of the language are difficult even for very bright Koreans[1] is interesting.

When you see the mistakes, imagine it from my perspective: how do you teach that grammar rule? As soon as you start down that road, you begin to have a lot more compassion for the more grammatically challenged among us (or those who are speaking and writing in a foreign language).

Interesting Korean culture is about food. It is unique food culture which is wrapping main food on the vegetables. Koreans usually uses main dishes pork or fishes. They take a lettuce and put it pork, sauce, some rice and wrapped. Finally they taste it. Sometimes one person (who is maked a food) feeds the food to another person. Make the food with using their hands, and picked up and pass it to the other’s mouth. This direct action could be surprise to some of foreigners, but this conduct indents, “I want to show every kindness.” Korean culture have a kind heart and also Koreans are very warm-hearted. Koreans use foods as a tool to introduce their culture, and teach how it can be familiar with Koreans.

This is my favorite side of Korean culture. When we go out to eat, Koreans always want to give each other their food. “You wanna try?” my friend Kim always asks me after she has already transferred little mounds of food from her plate or bowl to mine via expertly-wielded chopsticks. Of course I do! Because you’re giving it to me. This is gift-giving done correctly (as opposed to the somewhat legalistic and ostentatious pastime at American Christmases) and it does indeed reflect the warm hearts of Koreans.

On that note, “warm-hearted” is not a term an outsider would use to describe Koreans. “Friendly” and “polite,” certainly. Even the “I want to show every kindness” is apparent (except on the subway). But most visitors would not know the giving nature of Koreans if they had never eaten a meal like the one Max described.

It’s one of my favorite kinds of meals in Korea: barbeque. You have to work pretty hard for it, and I’m not much of a griller. But it’s a very communal meal. One of my first observations here in Korea was that I would never want to be the dishwasher or busboy at a restaurant—they use a million little dishes. You chopstick bites out of each little dish and onto your lettuce leaf (as Max succinctly described) and personally grill your own meat on the table.

Usually the Koreans only feed each other. They know we westerners are a little more germophobic than they.

At first it’s a little overwhelming. The beginner Korean bbq-ers are too focused on their own lettuce leaf and not dropping their chopsticks to really appreciate the community of it all. But as their competence grows so does enjoyment in the pastime.

[1] Max is one of my favorite students, mostly because he laughs at my jokes. The real jokes, not just the pantomiming jokes. And he does his homework

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