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I’m writing this post from my apartment in Suwon and very much enjoying the feel of the ondol as it warms up. I don’t know how frequently I’ll be posting until I officially get an internet connection, since the wireless connection I’m using is pretty unstable.

I’ve been in Suwon since Friday. My first opinion of the city: it’s cold. Really cold. But more seriously, I like it. The area I’m living/working in is Yeongtong, which is the newest section. The two guys who came here with me from training and I have just been wandering the city, enjoying the many, many places to eat (we’ve pretty much decided Koreans love eating out, and that’s just fine with us) and taking in all the bright lights. It’s not as big or fast as Seoul, at least not the area we’re in, but I like it that way. I don’t think I’d want to live and work in Seoul, it’s just too much. But Suwon is close enough that I can visit on the weekend.

Okay, so my apartment. The one major downside: my washer is broken. The upsides:

  1. I was moved in immediately (although I don’t know who’s paying for it…)
  2. It’s well-furnished (I have two fridges!)
  3. I have hot water! (the guys do not…)
  4. It’s about 5-10 minutes from Chung Dahm and from Homes Plus
  5. My walls/floors are not bubbly
  6. And the only thing that was stinky was the comforter I was given and I just Febreezed that.

The last two things on that list are related to this: One of the guys was moved into the most unfortunate apartment. It. Smelled. Foul. I can’t remember exactly how the smell ended up being described but it was something like a mix of dirt, fecal material, possibly BO and something else. Anyway, it was not a pleasant smell. So we popped over to Home Plus as soon as we could and he bought a ton of cleaning supplies and incense. It smells a lot better now but apparently a large chunk of the smell is coming from his kitchen sink, so it looks like he has to get some Drain-O or something. And as if the smell wasn’t enough, his walls and the laminate of his floor have huge bubbles in them. I don’t know who lived in that apartment before him, but I’m really glad the only thing I have to deal with is a broken washer.

I’m actually really pleased with my apartment. It’s just the right size and the location is really great for me. I have to get some decorations in here though because my walls are basically white. But decorating will not be on my list of things to do until after I get paid.

Tomorrow I get to observe one of the classes I’ll be teaching. And then I get to teach that class twice on Tuesday. So soon!

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Tomorrow’s the big day everyone’s been waiting for: our final exam day! We have to do a written test to show we understand the class structures and then we will have to mock teach one of the parts of each class (listening and reading). We were not told which part we’d be doing so it’ll be a wonderful surprise… For the most part, I can teach any part of the lesson well since we’ve been preparing them all week. I just have to brush up on a couple things and rearrange some notes. And get a good nights sleep. We’ve basically been working out butts off the last two days so I’m a little bit worn out. Not as much as I might have been some nights while in college, but I’m out of practice from staying up and studying for hours. In fact, even when I was a college student I don’t think I studied for as many hours straight as I have to prepare for teaching.

In other news, my location has been changed. I just got an email saying that the school wants me to teach at Suwon Yeongtong instead of Hwaseong Dongtan. They’re run by the same people so it shouldn’t cause a problem for my Visa and it’s not like I’ve moved into Hwaseong yet, so I’m fine with the move. I looked up Suwon’s official website just to get an idea of what to expect, because other than the Hwaseong Fortress I don’t know of anything else there. Apparently, Suwon is very proud of their clean municipal toilets. They even have a bus tour that takes you to them, and their toilette culture is mentioned twice on the official website… Obviously, there’s a lot more to Suwon than just that but that’s the quirky factoid I’ve found so far.

There’s actually another guy training here to work in Suwon (for April English – a different program than what I’m doing) so tomorrow after we pass the tests (and we will pass!), we’ll be bused out to our campus and be introduced to it. And hopefully we’ll get to start looking for housing immediately. Everyone’s still nervous about that. Other than the people staying in Seoul, we have no idea how housing is going to work out.

You’ll never guess what happened to me on the subway this morning. This guy was smiling at me and he took my class binder from me and he was being reeeeal friendly. And I think he might have thought that I was – But wait! I’ll get to that later!

So today was our first day of real, nitty-gritty training. We were bused to the training center again and broken up into groups according to what levels we’ll be teaching. I’m teaching Eagle level, which is the 3rd highest. There are 2 other people in my reading class and 1 more in the listening class. The other groups seem to have more people, except for the group that’s learning to teach the lowest level (E-Chip), which only has two people. There are a ton of people for April English, which is the school for the very beginning students, but they’re on a completely different track than us and have their own leveling system. There are a lot of levels in Chung Dahm.

Classes were pretty straight forward. In the reading class, we were introduced to the reading class curriculum and shown how to teach the first hour of it. In the listening class, we were introduced to the listening class curriculum and shown how to teach the first hour. They went over a lot of information and honestly I should probably be preparing for tomorrow instead of writing this blog, but I wanted to have some fun time before I got back to serious work. Tomorrow we have to present mock teaching sessions based on the chapters they provided us in our training manuals and we need to prepare for the mock teaching tonight. One of our teachers said we should expect to prepare for at least 7 hours… Which is crazy because if we started now, we’d basically be up passed midnight. Crazy.

But now for the fun part of the day.

We had directions on how to take the Seoul subway back to the hotel but unfortunately the group of us that was going back together got on the train going the wrong direction (a rookie mistake!). So we got all kinds of confused and turned around for a few minutes, but it ended up being fine. We just got off a couple stops later and got back on.

About one stop from our station, this elderly couple got on the train and the man sits in the empty seat beside me. I had been sitting down, so I gave my seat to the woman. And as I’m standing there in front of them, the man reaches out and takes my binder, with all my class material in it, and my subway map. He was kind of smiling about it so I thought maybe it was some kind of joke. By this time, everyone else is watching because not only does he not give it back but he places it very carefully under the shopping bag he was carrying and he half-bows to me. Which was very confusing. I started looking around at the others on what to do but everyone was just kind of like ‘Whaaaa?’ Luckily, one person knew what was up. She said that it’s polite to hold the things of people who are standing if you’re sitting. Which was just so very nice of the elderly man. And we all very enthusiastically chorused him with 감 사 합 니 다 (gamsahamnida -thank you) when we got off.

Today a bus came to pick us up from the Coatel Hotel at 10:15 and take us to Chung Dahm’s training center. There seemed to be two things on people’s minds: our upcoming tests and how we would get to training every other day. As it turns out, at training orientation Chung Dahm provided us with T-money cards (which you can use to pay for subway fare, taxi fare and even use at some grocery stores) so yay! Our transportation is completely provided for!

As for the tests – I passed all of mine! Yay again! A lot of us passed, which was a little surprising because I kept hearing that “everyone” fails at least one test. Apparently not. I think the key is to hunker down and actually seriously drill the information for an hour or two – and see if you can find someone who knows grammar very well to help you study that because the way they explain the reading and writing grammar isn’t going to make sense to everyone. And study in groups. At times we did get unfocused, but it definitely helped to talk about the grammatical information so we could really see if we understood it or not. People are going to retake the tests they didn’t pass tomorrow after class, so good luck to them!

After we went through a brief orientation and did the tests, we were bused over to a hospital where they did a basic medical exam: eye sight, hearing, height, blood pressure. And, oh yeah, they took X-rays of our lungs, three vials of blood and a urine sample. We all knew about the urine sample beforehand, but the other two tests were new. The X-rays were for tuberculosis and I had heard about other countries doing that too so it didn’t really surprise me. But the blood was to check for HIV and AIDS… How much would it suck if through those tests you found out you were HIV positive?

From there, we were all bused back to the hotel and a group of us went out for a very late lunch/ early dinner. It was the first time we had eaten since our (complementary, western-style) breakfast, so we were all really hungry. We ended up getting dinner at a hot pot restaurant, with the ladies getting hot pot and the guys splitting a grill beef dish. The grilled beef was really cool. They put the grill in front of them and slapped on these giant, bacon-like pieces of beef and after the guys fumbled around with what to do for a little while, the waiter came back and showed them (unfortunately I wasn’t really paying attention so I can’t really say what you’re suppose to do with it). The US really needs to have more interactive eateries but as one of us pointed out at dinner, someone would probably burn themselves and the restaurant would end up getting sued…

Look at those giant strips of bacon!

We’ve all pretty much decided that Koreans love to eat. Which is fine by me because it means I won’t easily go hungry.

At (complimentary, western-style) breakfast on Saturday, a bunch of us decided to go out and see what was around the hotel, maybe even brave the subway system. It seemed most people had been out already but no one had really ventured far from the hotel. Five of us ended up wandering out at around 11 o’clock. The guy at the desk actually kind of laughed when we asked what was around us that we could go see and he said there was nothing. After maybe a half-hour of walking, we realized that was true. We eventually wandered into another hotel called the Friend Hotel and Ali Baba Lounge and sure enough they were very friendly. We picked up a map of Seoul and they showed us where the big shopping areas were and how to get to the nearest subway station.

Okay, the Seoul subway kicks the DC metros butt. Hard. First of all, it’s cheap.Yesterday I paid 2,200 KRW (around $1.80) for a round-trip into the center of Seoul.  And its extremely clean. And it has TV screens in the center of the cars and at some of the doors that announce the next stop and play commercials during the ride. AND there’s an automated voice system that announces the upcoming stop in Korea and English, instead of having the driver announce them incomprehensibly over a loudspeaker. Once we figured out how to get our tickets (which I’ll admit stumped us way more than it should because we could put the machine in English), it was actually really easy to use the subway.

We got off at Chungmuro station, which is pretty much a museum. There’s a hallway that’s made up like a red-carpet event and one of the entrances is designed like you’re going down into a cave. Very cool. From there we walked to Euljiro (I could very well be spelling that wrong, I can’t fully remember the name), which we were told is a big shopping area. Wandering around there in the early afternoon, we did notice a lot of shops but there weren’t a lot of street vendors, which is what some of us were wanting to see. Also, we noticed that throughout Seoul, there are a lot of places to eat. Like A LOT alot. And there are a lot of the same businesses just a few streets apart, which was problematic when we were trying to find out way back to the hotel – but I’ll get to that later.

Eventually we found Lotte Department store, which someone said is supposed to be a big shopping store in Korea so we went inside. Oh my god. This store was huge. It reminded me of KaDeWe in Berlin, but bigger. We decided to just ride the escalator to look around, rather than wander through the store itself. First of all, there were at least 13 stories. We gave up once we got to the 12th. The top ones are restaurants but the lower floors are divided into specific things, like floor 4 is men’s ware, floor 5 is women’s ware (or maybe not, those are just examples). We spent our time in the food court on the bottom floor. Which was crazy awesome. I ended up buying a bowl of Mongolian barbecue at this place called Mongo’s Kahn Grill, which I really hope is a chain because it was good. Also, we were able to get bottled water for 500 KRW, which is the same amount that you get back when you return your subway card. And is also equal to about $0.45. And the water was delicious, if water can be delicious.

After we ate, we were all pretty tired (especially me since I hadn’t slept since the five hours of shut eye I got on the plane) so we made our way back to Chungmuro station. That was when we saw all the street vendors. The streets were unbelievably crowded and more people kept pouring in. A lot of the stores had people outside on microphones, I would guess to lure people into their store but I have no idea what they were saying.  The street vendors were pretty cool. At one point we saw this group performing some kind of song and dance show with animal masks and in front of them people were advertising a Korean health expo that’s coming up in 2010. They were giving out some kind of healthy tea (not so tasty…) and these apple flavored vitamin tablets (very tasty!). A lot of the street vendors were selling clothing but one row of them were selling seafood, including fried squid tentacles and what looked liked seaweed with barnacles on them. And there were quite a few people advertising free hugs.

When we got to the station, the train was PACKED and yet around noon, there was almost no one riding. When we got off the train, I really think I could have just lifted up my feet and let everyone else push me off because we were just one mass blob exiting the station. On a side note, at the station we learned how to read YOU ARE HERE on a map: 헌 위 지. I don’t know if that translates literally.

We ended up getting off at a station for Seoul University, which was not the station we got on at originally. But it was closer to the hotel and an almost straight walk. And yet we still managed to get lost. Our map didn’t have any street signs over than the highway numbers, so asking for directions was pretty hard. Plus we couldn’t find anyone that spoke English. To make matters worse, we kept seeing stores we had seen before so we’d think we knew where we were – only to realize that we actually saw that store on a completely different street.

At one point we wandered down this side street and found a women who -we thought- was going to the hotel. But it turns out she was going to a different hotel and said we could get directions there. The guys at the desk pretty much told us what we already knew, to just continue down the road. After walking several more blocks, we finally ran into someone who spoke English and he told us the road we were supposed to turn down. And after walking for maybe another 10 minutes we found it.

And I went straight to sleep.

Today everyone’s pretty beat and the plan is pretty much to just stay inside. Training starts tomorrow!

Well I made it safely to South Korea with only a few minor hiccups. It’s 10:30 here and I’m really tired but I want to try and stay up as long as I can to try and adjust. I figure writing a nice, detailed account of my flight experiences will keep me awake.

I went with my parents to pick up my Visa in DC on Thursday. They insisted I get there early just in case the Visa wasn’t ready or something went wrong, so we showed up at 2pm with my scheduled time to pick it up being 4pm. And it was ready at 2pm. So we had about 4 hours to kill before I had to be at Washington National Airport to get my flight. We had a nice lunch at this little cafe called Firehook in Du Pont circle, which took care of most of the extra time. When we got to the airport there was a little confusion on how many bags I could carry and where I was supposed to check in for my flight, so it was probably a good thing I got there two hours early for the flight. But everything worked out. My parents waited with me for for another hour or so and then there were dramatic good-byes as I went through security and got on the plane.

And then waited for an hour. There were heavy winds at JFK and planes weren’t being allowed to land there. Which meant that my plane was taxied over to a waiting zone and we had to wait for permission to take off. I was a little freaked out about this because it could have meant that I would miss my flight to Seoul. Luckily after an hour of waiting, we took off and before I had even finished half of my coke can, we were landing. I had about two hours to catch my other flight but I really didn’t want to risk missing it so I pretty much ran with my 15lbs laptop backpack and my carry-on suitcase from Terminal 8 to Terminal 1 (with a brief break in between to sit on the train between the two) and obviously I made the flight. And let me just say, JFK has a lot of escalators. It might not have been so draining to do all that ordinarily, but it was 10 o’clock and I was getting really tired.

I really didn’t expect to sleep on my Korean Air flight, especially because they had a whole bunch of movies I wanted to watch but about three hours into the flight I blinked and when my eyes opened again, it was five hours later and they were serving breakfast. Now I know a lot of people don’t care for airplane food but I actually like it. For dinner they had this really delicious tomato and mozzarella salad and for breakfast they had tatertots (among other things). How can you go wrong with tatertots? You cannot.

Chung Dahm had sent a list of instructions on what to do after we got off the flight and through customs. From Incheon airport, we had to take a bus to the City Air Terminal, which was about an hour away. Then we had to find a cab from a very specific company to take us to our hotel. Getting through customs was a breeze (although I did get stopped by this quarantine barrier so they could check if I had Swine Flu). Getting the bus to CAT was a little tricker because there were a whole bunch of bus stops outside of the airport (well over 40) and the CAT bus was said to stop at two, except the one that I found the easiest doesn’t function as its stop anymore. But there was a CAT bus two stops down from it and I couldn’t figure out if that was the one I wanted. And no one spoke English. So after some confused wondering, I went to the other stop it was at and got on just as it was leaving. Once I was at the CAT, there was a cab specifically waiting for me, so he threw my bag into the cab (which had no seatbelts) and drove me to the hotel.

When I went to check it at the hotel, I was told I had already checked in. Which was very strange, since how could I have checked in when I only just landed 3 hrs earlier? He gave me the key to the room I was supposed to have been checked into and I went to get it, fully aware it was 7 am and I was probably waking up my roommate. Except I was really waking up two roommates, in a two bed room. It turns out there was another girl with a similar name to me, and she was accidentally checked in as me and got the spot that was supposed to me mine. So the hotel put me in her room instead, which I’m glad about because this one is a NICE room. The other one was basically a hotel room with a kitchen but this one has a living room, two separate bedrooms and each with their own bathroom. Plus it has a much nicer view.

Around 8 o’clock, other people started waking up and a bunch of us went to breakfast together. Which is when my first day in Seoul began.

Well I just finished packing – or at least 99% of my packing. My laptop isn’t packed but it will be later tonight.

So I bought Spacebags for the trip. A friend who’s now in a Master’s degree program in England said she used them when she packed so I figured I’d try it out. The package I got had a giant one, a large, a medium and a travel size one. The giant one is waaay to big for a suitcase but all the others fit and are now stuffed with my clothes, and a pillow. I would strongly suggest getting at least one large Spacebag if you want to travel with a pillow. It only added less than an inch of thickness to what was all ready in the Spacebag. In the medium size one, I stuffed a bunch of my bulkier winter clothes and it’s still pretty bulky but not quite as much as it was. The travel sized bag is a little funny since you have to roll it up to get the air out, instead of vacuuming it out like the other bags. I was skeptical about that because I ended up with all the stuff shoved down in the bottom of the bag and it really didn’t look like it saved any space. So I tried to repack the suitcase without the travel Spacebag and it turns out it did save space. A LOT of space. It was pretty impressive. My suitcases are close to their weight limit, but if they weren’t I would probably go and get at least one more large one.

And now the only thing left to do it pack up my laptop, get my passport back with Visa stamp and get on the plane with my handy-dandy traveling care package Miss Alice made for me. Next stop, Seoul!

Alice's lovely hand-crafted airplane companion!

I just finished watching Fantastic Festivals of the World‘s show on South Korea’s Mask Dance Festival, which is in the Hahoe Folk Village in Andong. The festival is a celebration of culture in Andong, especially their famous Hahoe masks. The narrator ended the report on an interesting note, saying that legend says you must see a mask dance at least once in your life before you die or you cannot get into heaven. And I immediately thought of the 1,000 Places to Go Before You Die book (from yesterday’s post), which did NOT include this festival anywhere.  Hmmm, it seems to me if you have to see this to get into heaven, it ought to be one of the places you go to before you die, eh?

2010’s Mask Dance Festival is 9/24-10/3. I think I might try to use my vacation time to go see this because the festival and the Folk Village look really neat.

I don’t want to breath a sigh of relief, at least not until I’m standing on Korean soil, but the work part of my journey to Korea is just about over. Today I went with my dad to DC to apply for my E-2 Visa and take care of a few other things. The day started off a little rocky, but luckily it ended very smoothly… so I should be hopeful for the flight, right?

The metro stop closest to my house is Branch Avenue on the end of the green line. Unfortunately, Branch Avenue’s parking is… limited… When we got there all the parking lots were full except for the meter spots and the (many) spaces that were reserved before 10am. We got there at 9am and drove around looking for a parking space for 30 minutes, so I don’t know why we didn’t just wait until 10 to park because those spaces were set at $4.25. Instead, my dad decided to park at a meter spot and we ended up with a meter that ate a bunch of our quarters. Also, after putting all the quarters in, we saw that sign that said you can only park there until 3:30pm. Yeah… my Visa interview was at 2:30. There would be no way get back in time. It ended up being fine, we didn’t get a ticket or anything and a bunch of other people were still parked there, but still – why wouldn’t they let us park there after 3:30?

Also, a mini-rant about metro – What is up with the ticket prices? Seriously. When I was in Berlin I got a day pass for the U-Bahn for around 2 Euro. Between me, my dad and our parking spot, it would have been cheaper to just park in DC and we could have walked to all our destinations from a parking garage. So Metro: Shape up. You are not worth $15.

There was a major delay on the red line, but we were there so early to do other things it didn’t matter. We went to a company called Travelex to exchange my money for Korean won. Before I left the house, I thought about bringing my debit card but decided not to. A bit of a mistake. I haven’t personally exchanged money before, so I didn’t realize that if you use a credit card to get the money, there’s a chance they’ll charge you fees BUT if you use a debit card, they don’t charge you any additional fees (other than the ones you’d get anyway – which I bypassed because of the amount I was exchanging). Oops… I hope I fall under the case of ‘no fees’.

Another mini-rant about money exchanges. I do not like them or their fees. I can maybe understand a fee for using a credit card, because they have to forward you the money, I guess.  But when my dad asked if there would be extra fees if I just waited to get the money at the airport the employee said there would be… which is just silly… I don’t know. I just don’t think you should charge people to switch to another currency but then I guess it is a service and they have expenses and stuff. Plus, everything at the airport’s more expensive anyway. On an amusing note, my dad walked around for the rest of the day joking about being a millionaire because he had a million or so won in his pocket. I think his souvenir that I’m going to bring back for him will be a T-shirt that says “In Korea, I’m a millionaire”. I hope they exist.

We stopped at Borders to warm up (because it was freezing for a lot of the morning) and I tried looking for a good Korean dictionary or phrase book. They did not have one. I probably should have gotten those before now but I haven’t been able to find one I think is good. And since the Borders in Washington DC, the capital with diplomats galore, didn’t have a good selection, I don’t know that many other bookstores would. Also, I was disappointed to find that the 1,000 Place to Go Before You Die book did not have any sites from South Korea (or North Korea for that matter). Yet I saw pages for China, Japan, Indonesia, the Phillipines, Vietnam, Cambodia… Azerbijan… How does South Korea not have ONE place you should go see before you die? Seriously, they had 1,000 spaces. There should be at least one from every country in there… There were at least FIVE German castle in there. I think one of those castles could give up its space. Neuschwanstein can pretty much represent them all.

At the Korean Consulate, things finally started going very smoothly. I had to fill out a bunch of forms that were pretty much exactly what I had already filled out on other forms but whatever. At least I knew what to put. But then I spoke to the guy at the check-in window about getting my Visa early. I had talked to him when I called to set up the interview, and he said that the earliest I could get the Visa would be Thursday at 4pm. (Normally you pick it up on Friday) HE said that. When I asked him about that again today, he just kind of nodded and then wrote down on my receit that I could pick it up on Friday… So I asked him again, if I could get it on Thursday because Friday is too late. I would miss my ONLY flight that can get me there on time and I would miss the LAST TRAINING DATE OF THE YEAR for Chung Dahm and that would really suck. And he said Thursday would be fine and didn’t change the date on the ticket… I don’t know if he didn’t understand that I was worried about the date he was putting down or he just wanted to get me out of there or what but… I was pretty worried.

I had to wait about 45 mins for the interview, which wasn’t that bad since they did let me start filling out the forms at 2pm. There were actually a bunch of other people there interviewing for an E-2 Visa. I should have asked them where they were teaching (I knew they had to be going to be English teachers because the E-2 Visa, for teaching, is the only Visa that requires an interview for Korea – lucky us). The interview went really smoothly. She asked me pretty basic questions: why do I want to go to Korea (because experiencing news cultures is AWESOME), what experience do I have as a teacher (BOAT LOADS… but seriously, I’ve worked with kids A LOT and taught A BUNCH – not as a formal teacher though), do I have a place to stay (NO! Okay, I didn’t shout that, but I explained Chung Dahm would help me with it).

Then she asked me when I would be leaving. So I brought up the conflict with getting my Visa and my flight time. She seemed very surprised and was not at all expecting me to need it by 4pm on Thursday. Needless to say, I am glad brought that up. She wrote down on my receipt and her receipt that I need with the passport with a Visa sticker (Oh yeah, if you don’t know, you need to turn in your passport to get a Visa, or at least the E-2) on Thursday at 4pm. Actually,  it said AFTER 4pm… surely it means the same thing… right? I’m still a little nervous it won’t be ready on time, but I’m planning on getting there early on Thursday to remind them in case they’re taking their time or something. Ah, bureacracy…

After that, I called up the travel agent that was holding my flight and I officially booked it. I’m leaving for Korea on Thursday at 8:25pm (Yay!). Provided there is no bad weather. That’s the one problem with my flight. It and the connection at JFK in New York are the last ones of the night to Seoul so if I miss them… I’m stuck here ’til January. FINGERS CROSSED! If all goes well, I will be arriving in Seoul on Saturday at the horrible hour of 5:20am. It won’t really be horrible for me, but I have to call a representative from Chung Dahm as soon as I land and I feel a little bad about that… If I were him, I’d be sleeping.

Tomorrow will be my last post from America!

Today, I went to this nice international restaurant that closes at 3pm, so I don’t often get there in time. As it turn out, for lunch today they were serving Korean ribs over rice. And once they told me they were out of lasagna, I figured I might as well try it. I really wanted to eat more Korean food before going over to get used to it but that hasn’t really happen. Actually, I think the Korean ribs were the first Korean food I’ve ever had. Well, “Korean” food. And I have to say… I did not care for the ribs. At all. It was really disappointing… I should have expected this because I really don’t like soy sauce, which I’m pretty sure it was marinated it.

But they were American-style. Hopefully I like more authentic Korean barbecue because I’ve heard it’s very popular. I remember reading about a city near Hwaseong that was supposed to have the most delicious Korean barbecue but for the life of me I cannot remember its name…

Editing note after the fact: The city is Suwon, where I’m teaching! As of this edit, I have not eaten any Korean ribs, but I’ve heard they’re supposed to be sweet.