When I told my parents about the cherry blossom festival, I mentioned how yes I was excited for the flowers and the pictures and crossing it off the bucket list, but that honestly I was more excited for the promised BBQ.
Little did I know that I would be the one making it.
I had walked across a squishy soaked lawn and through a garden with an upright shovel that looked like freshly dug graves in the pitch black night carrying a bag of vegetables and arrived at a pension (a hostel without beds) that wasn’t actually my pension but another one that supposedly had a “kitchen” but it actually only had a portable stove with one can of gasoline, some large bowls and a couple of tongs and knives. Then myself, Silvia, my new Korean friend, a Russian girl, and an Indian guy chopped up the veggies and poured some questionable looking (yet delicious) bulgogi into the pot and just chatted. The food was taken down to the other pension and delivered to the 80 other people who had no idea there were just four kids and a mason burner on the other side of the lawn making it. And yet–it was my favorite moment of the entire trip. We were all trying to make the food “our way” meaning that our cultures were all stirred together in this weird primordial soup.
Like when we found a giant grey bowl in the sink and were like, “hey let’s use this to put the bulgogi in” and when New Korea Friend saw this he straight up laughed out loud telling us that that was the laundry bowl. As in–the one you pour bleach to swish your clothes around because there is no washing machine.
He promptly instagrammed it and tagged all of his friends.
This is the same Korean friend I had chatted with on the 5 hour bus ride about everything from legalizing weed in Colorado to why Sulli really left f(x). That is not hyperbole we actually covered those and the entire spectrum in between. He also joined my friends and I on a vicious two mile hike to the top of a mountain which was supposed to be covered with azaleas but was actually just covered in drunk ahjusshis and fog.
This photo is actually a great representation of the entire trip. After a five hour bus ride, we got stuck in traffic for an hour, so our tour guide–a lost soul who “discovered the joys of walking” and now wears a do-rag and takes foreigners on adventures–declared we were getting off the bus and we commenced walking along the highway for 8 kilometers
across busy intersections and through a tunnel where we emerged, rather dizzy from the carbon dioxide
I was actually grateful for the traffic because that’s the only time I got actual pictures of blossoms on trees.
The bus didn’t catch up with us for another three hours, after we had arrived at the festival, which turned out to be a bunch of carnival games and street food covered in tarps that dropped bucket loads of water if bumped accidentally. That’s because it was pouring rain from the moment we reached the festival till late into the night.
Meaning that virtually all of the blossoms had fallen on to the ground. Which provided some interesting photos.
As it approached dusk we learned that bus 3 still hadn’t arrived. For reasons not entirely understood, they were on the bus for 15 hours. But we were done and decided to look for a coffee shop and something warm. Along with everyone else. We popped into 7 shops–no joke–and were turned away like Mary at the inn. We finally found a hospital, where people were pretending to have ailments so they could sit in the waiting room, and there was a little shop and the guy let us come sit because we “were cute.”
We sat there ordering drinks until it was time to meet Do-rag at the bus. We went on a windy bus ride across the ocean to a forsaken island and got to our pension around 11pm and everyone just wanted to eat and sleep and that’s when a little cultural microcosm ended up making dinner.
On to day two–where we got back onto the bus after 4 hours of sleep and some boiled sweet potatoes were dropped off at a pretty bay
We had three hours here and the weather wasn’t exactly Hawaiian so we decided to go into this “Theme Museum” which had creepy Disney music echoing through an empty parking lot.
The scene got increasingly uncomfortable the closer we got yet we kept going
The lobby had one woman cranking a popcorn machine who took our tickets and sent us on our way through what could pass for a Korean cultural history museum if it weren’t for the anachronisms
It was just a shadowbox of rooms ranging from an 1800s school house, to a room with victorian dresses and a giant throne, to a room with wax figures of Batman and R2D2.
I came out of that museum a different person and I’m not entirely sure it was in a good way. But no time to ponder. Back on to the bus and to the aforementioned mountain which turned out to be much more difficult than I expected, especially since it was mainly muddy switchbacks at the top to be met by hundreds of tipsy Asians who may or may not have asked to take pictures with me and a whole valley of fog.
And then a 6 hour bus ride home!
While this trip was nothing like I had pictured, I certainly learned a lot and met a lot of people, which will come up in later posts at another time as they relate to the topic.
But I think the most important thing I learned–marinated bulgogi can be bought by the pound at the grocery store. And only takes a few minutes to fry up.
Good bye rice and curry packets. Hello BBQ.