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My Scholarship entry - Understanding a Culture through Food

SOUTH KOREA | Monday, 23 April 2012 | Views [929] | Scholarship Entry

Homestay in Hanok

The maze of alleys and white washed walls transported me back in time as I wandered across the labyrinth of streets in GyeongGu. I stopped at the one Hanok I was looking for. Standing, door ajar, she beamed at me, smiling through red beetle stained teeth as she ushered me in.‘Hwangyong-Hamnida’, she said. Welcome.

Bowing low, I gave her a packet, Bright pink with a little bow on top. Glutinous rice powder, sugar and jujubes had gone into its making. Tteok. Rice cake.
First look around the Tteok Shop was a riot of colours. Bright shades, various shapes, sesame, pine nuts and host of other things adorned the crafted spread of scrumptious assortment before my eyes. There were around 200 kinds I learned, each symbolizing a different occasion and time of the year.

We sat for supper. On the floor at a wooden table carefully aligned arrays of circular bowls were filled with greens of different shades. Steamed, Fried and Fermented. Banchan, as this was called was shared, much like the warmth of the Hanok I was staying in. I gingerly picked a pair of steel chopsticks looking lost. She looked suggestively towards a bowl of the ubiquitous Kimchi, a component of every meal. The flavour was an assault on the senses and the taste took some getting used to. The crunch of the cabbage, preserved for days had siblings in hundreds of varieties preserving 3,000 years of tradition.

We sat drinking Sujo afterwards, Korean Wine. With each cheering of ‘Ghombe’, the tumbler tip of the one younger was below that of an elder one, displaying respect that age commanded.

Tipsy and Happy, I retired. I was still dressed in the Hanbok she had dolled me up in.The appliqué work adorning a white silk backdrop with patches in bright pink, green and crimson red made me look like a bride. As I lay on my futon drifting off to a beautiful sleep, I found myself humming the tunes of ‘Arirang’, a Korean song she had taught me that night, and a melody that would be etched in my heart forever.

Tags: culture, food, hanbok, hanok, kimchi, love, music, south korea, travel writing scholarship 2012

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