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Blowfish and black belts and bear hats, oh my!

Seoul, South Korea

Happy 2010! It's going to be a good year--I can feel it in the air. I'm now officially down to my last month in Korea, which makes me sad. But tonight is not the night for sap and sentiment. Here are some awesome things to happen lately:

1. We ate blowfish!

In case you don't know, this little guy to the right (photo credit to wikipedia) is a blowfish, also sometimes called a puffer fish. Do not be fooled by how adorable he appears. He is a ruthless killer. Here's a taste of what wikipedia says on the subject: "Puffer fish are the second most poisonous vertebrate in the world, the first being a Golden Poison Frog. The skin and certain internal organs are highly toxic to humans, but nevertheless the meat of some species is considered a delicacy in both Japan (as fugu) and Korea (as bok). . . Puffer's poisoning, usually as a result of incorrectly prepared flesh, will cause deadening of the tongue and lips, dizziness, and vomiting. These are followed by numbness and prickling over the body, rapid heart rate, decreased blood pressure, and muscle paralysis. Death results from suffocation as diaphragm muscles are paralyzed. Patients who live longer than 24 hours are expected to survive. . . In Voodoo, puffer's poison must be ingested by the victim for the black magic of creating "zombies."

Well. What's life without a little adventure. For a being with the alleged ability to create zombies, it was actually quite tasty. We ate it raw, as sushimi, and cooked over noodles and veggies, as bok. It's similar in taste and appearance to halibut. Evidently, our chef prepared the meal correctly, because we're all still here.


I know! Right!?! This actually happened about two weeks ago. The test was big, scary, and all in Korean. But the Grand Master, who is about 72 and looks exactly like a grand master should, said I did very well. I am a ninja! And I have to say, I feel like a rock star tying on the new belt each day. Hapkido has really played a huge role in my year, as it's allowed me to access at least a bit of Korean culture through an easily digestible medium. Also, it's just cool.

3. Continual absorption of culture

The golden statue is of King Sejong, who created the modern Hangul alphabet. Before that, they used Chinese, and that was terrible because Chinese is ridiculously difficult, so only the very elite could read and write. Now they use a logical phonetic alphabet that was easy enough to learn after a couple weeks here.

4.And, it's been snowing here, to the delight of pretty much everyone.

Winter in Korea is sort of terrible, because we get those bitter tundra winds sweeping down from Russia. But it's also sort of awesome, because all the little kids wear these adorable animal hats. I've seen polar bears, wolves, white tigers, pandas, and even a rogue koala once. Sometimes, the hanging-down bits are connected to fleece-lined paws, which act as mittens. Soooo cute.

I suppose that's enough for now. Hope everyone had a happy, fun and safe New Years. See you in three months!

permalink written by  alli_ockinga on January 2, 2010 from Seoul, South Korea
from the travel blog: I go Korea!
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I really loved this latest blog. That little child in the polar bear hat is adorable! I would like you to bring one home for me. Again, I am so proud of you for getting your black belt. By the way, you look really good and happy.

permalink written by  Teresa Ockinga on January 5, 2010

...a koala hat...
I'm glad pufferfish didn't kill you.

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    permalink written by  Kim on January 5, 2010

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    Previous: Holidays with the Surrogate Fam Next: Packing up, moving out

    alli_ockinga alli_ockinga
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    Hey everyone! In February 2009 I left the Pac Northwest for South Korea to teach English for a year. This is what I'm up to! Keep in touch!

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