Phew, after numerous time spent anxiously awaiting for documents to come back, umpteen runs to FedEx (like I would use UPS after 5 years working for Brown, two of which were a waste of life in hindsight…) I’ve finally finished all the bureacratic paperwork towards going to Korea. Tomorrow I’m sending all my documents to Seoul, one quick interview with the Seattle Korean consulate and then I receive my plane tickets from my Hagwon (private school). What started as an idea kicked around last fall has finally materialized from dream to soon to be reality. Now the next true battle begins…

What to Pack?

   I’ve spent numerous hours over the past two weeks scouring blogs and forums to ascertain what I really require, and what I can easily get upon my arrival. Or just live without until my first paycheck. I know that a pillow and cotton sheets are must have. Based on my stature probably want to bring most of my shoes. Early boredom making due with limited initial budget will necessitate bringing a plethora of different novels and magazines. That being said most of this has been covered from the get-go earlier this year. The real chin-stroking deep pondering has revolved around one crucial theme…Grub!

  I’m no uber-foodie but anybody who knows me well knows how much I love culinary pursuits. Numerous family feasts in college featuring cuisine based on Thai, Italian, Americana, Nuevo Irish and Indian food have only cultivated my skill in the kitchen. Pops worked as a cook in some of the schwankier restaurants up in Bellingham during his time at Western Washington University and this early upbringing only served to instill a real appreciation for decadent homecooked meals for me from an early age.

MMmmm, soy deliciousness!

   Add to this my specific diet (no red meat for last 11 years and no poultry for nigh on 10) and the real gratification I’ve gained from the endearing feeling of putting TLC into a meal for a significant other on a special occasion or the camaraderie formed by collaborating with other like-minded friends for an epic gastroheavy evening. I have to say I’m proud amateur cook (no pro in the making like my little bro who only gets more proficient in the restaurant industry with each passing day) who will pursue this hobby for the rest of my life. 

   Hence my trepidation concerning this with the departure date looming on the calendar horizon… As I said before I won’t have a real flexible budget when I first arrive. Did I mention Korean cuisine is filled with veggies but still really proud of it’s BBQ and meaty broths (think Kalbi ribs and “hangover soup”) and doesn’t even really consider poultry to be meat? Couple this with an inability to read the menu at numerous restaurants or even the products at the grocery store. Well, I love challenges and this is going to be one of the first ones I tackle head-on with the passion of an ex-rugby player turned cuisine fan. I’m seeing a lot of tofu dishes mixed with curry powder/taco seasonings. Really can’t wait to see what new yogurt smoothies I’m going to concoct with the multitude of different fruit options at the local markets and fruit trucks. On the flip side I do see many, many dishes of brown rice, kimchee and mung beans in the near future.

   I already kinda see why my school was a little disappointed that I won’t be experiencing the full Korean culture without succumbing to a meat-friendly diet. My old college flatmate Paul Suh (soon to be initial tour guide due to past friendship and his ability to speak fluent Korean) is ethnic Korean and has lived back in his mother country for the past three years. He has proudly declared on more than one occasion “I eat like a King over here man!” and asks me every other time we correspond whether I’m sure I don’t want to take a small hiatus for the duration of the trip from my mammal friendly diet. Haha, dig the love man, but not in my cards!

   I’ve dealt with overcoming obstacles to keep to the diet I want to obtain just hope I’m not overusing that Korean Costco card too much. Now back to the list. Hmmm, dill’s gotta be on there, hollandaise sauce and vegetarian gravy and baco bits. Some good cheese, say manchego and feta would go great with a small amount of imported olives. Oh jeez, wish I knew how many bags I can check in. That comes next week, not gonna delay the gastrobrainstorm session though….