Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Episode 20: In Which DFM Becomes Pudding And Eats Fish Heads

On Saturday, Perry had invited me to a "funny speech" today.  After finalizing the meeting time/place I set out for the speech.

The Ubiquitous Media Street of Gang-nam was our rendezvous.  I'm not sure what that means, but there were these giant pillars all over the place with touch screen maps just like at COEX Mall.

There were also a lot of big buildings... and I do mean BIG.  I had trouble trying to find the one that was most beautiful; I mean "ruined the skyline" the most.

Unbeknownst to me, Perry had decided to take me out for dinner.  We had delicious Korean shrimp with some vegetables and rice.  There was also some raddish kimchi (Korean radishes are about ten times larger than North American radishes I'd estimate).  Perry looks a little dazed because I snapped the picture before he was ready.

When we got to the building where the speech was being held I noticed this tree out front.  This is the first budding tree I've seen since I've been here, and it came on a day when it snowed (some sprinkles compared to what Southern Alberta just got).  It's the perfect metaphor to describe how hard it is to peg down the Korean people as they are always changing and doing that which is least expected.

I also met Kim Ji Yeon, a movie director, and we had a nice chat.  Apparently she's off to New Zealand in May to study English and probably promote her movies.  When I told her that I was from Canada she told me that she liked Cirque du Soleil (at least she didn't equate Canada with Celine Dion).

When I got into the lecture theater I was given quite a shock - the speech was actually being given by Perry.  Perry is a motivational speaker and about thirty people had come after work to listen to him give them a professional pick-me-up.  The topic of his lecture was about facing your fears and moving forward to face your goals.  Little did I know at the time, but Perry had brought me here not to listen to his speech, but to be part of his speech.

At the beginning of the lecture Perry asked me to introduce myself to the people and I broke out every bit of proper Korean I knew in an attempt to impress... or at least not embarrass myself.  It must have worked, because I got a big ovation which made me turn about five shades of red.  After that I couldn't tell what was going on, because it was all in Korean, but I could tell when he was talking about me because every so often the entire room would turn around and stare at me in amazement.

After the lecture my neighbour, Bae Soo Hyun, filled me in on what had happened.  She said that Perry had said that I was a brave man because I had come to Korea by myself without knowing any Korean, but every day I tried to make Korean friends and learn a bit of Korean.  He then went on to say that he had a similar experience in China when every day he tried to meet friends and learn Chinese.  

I told Bae Soo Hyun that I apologized if I had messed up any of the Korean phrases/words, but apparently I had in fact inspired everyone.  She said that they all saw how much I had improved (on the faith of Perry's testimony) and that now they believed that anything was possible if they just tried (the main point of the speech).  As Peggy Hill would say:  "The proof is in the pudding, and I am that pudding."

Actually, to say Perry went to China is a bit of an understatement.  Part of the presentation was a short documentary about Perry and a blind man (Perry was the guide) as they ran a 250 km ultra-marathon together across the Sahara Dessert.  

There was also a video of Perry leading a team and dragging a pile of sleds up a snow-covered mountain in Nepal to visit the grave of a dead friend, and Perry gave us a small magic show and played the Toong So (a traditional Korean instrument) to further demonstrate to the audience that anything was indeed possible if you practiced enough.

The building where the lecture was being held was very fancy.  It gave away free soda pop, including the very delicious Fanta Pineapple, and the Men's Room was actually a Better Men's Room.  I was proud to deposit my Fanta Pineapple induced urine in its Better Urinals.

After the speech Perry got a phone call from a friend who invited us out for yet another meal.  Perry told me that it was a very special meal and that many foreigners could not handle the taste of it.

The meal consisted of taking a piece of kimchi, placing some samgyeupsal on it, then adding some hungeo (raw stingray meat), minari (a sort of pickled parsley stem), and finally fish head.  This whole pile was to be eaten in one mouthful of course, and must come after (never before) a bit of makgeolli (rice milk wine).  Individually only the kimchi and samgyeupsal tasted good, but together it was actually alright.  The fish heads were really really powerful and cleared the sinuses quite nicely, and they also contained large, rubbery bones which I was told I should chew and eat as well.

I not only ate one serving, but had another as well.  This endeared me to my host who gave me a big hug and called me a good friend.  After this I was no longer allowed to drink my makgeolli to the side, which meant my elders considered me a peer and I was now privy to a completely different set of rules regarding respectful conduct/language.

Perry said that if I could eat that meal a few more times I would be famous in Korea (not even all of the Koreans at the table could stomach it), but apparently it was enough for the owner of the restaurant since he came out and said my meal ($25) was on the house.  Unfortunately, in all the excitement I forgot to take a picture ("rookie mistake DFM, pull yourself together!").

By this time it was nearing 11 O'Clock, and so Perry and I needed to head back to the subway station.  I guess we had taken a little too long to show up after the lecture, because our host had downed four bottles of makgeolli before we came and now he had to hold onto my arm for support as we left.  "Good friend," he said to me as we left.

My host was fairing much better than some of the men I saw in the subway station.  One man was standing up looking at a sign and then just fell over, and another man in a business suit had just passed right out and was taking a nap on the ground, right in the middle of the platform.  Koreans work hard, and they play hard!

Before we parted ways, Perry made sure to remind me to come to his place tomorrow where I would meet his wife and then afterwards his family could decide if I am allowed to stay with them.  No pressure though.

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