Friday, May 10

We spent the morning doing “business,” if one can call gallivanting around in Seoul businesslike. One of the serious parts of our trip included getting drum supplies for people in our Korean drum troupe, Shinparam.

We set off for Hanullim Drum Shop. Somehow, this shop is connected with Kim Duk Soo and the original Samul Nori – Not sure whether there is still a business connection or not. We had directions from the subway — better ones than last time — but we could not quite get there even with the connections. Addresses are strange in Korea. Even if you can read them, and get to the right subway stop, there is also the question of finding the individual building once you get there.

I even saw an article in one of the English-language dailies this time which said that the idea of street addresses is being revisited once again. At present, street addresses don’t exist in Korea. You are first finding the “gu” subsection of the city, followed by the “dong” subsection. It apparently works. It at least gets you down to a couple blocks’ worth of buildings, but not to the exact building like a street address would. Like all of us, Koreans are not willing to reorganize their mailing address system in such a complete way, so maybe the system will never change.

After getting to a restaurant (which I remembered visiting the last time we bought drum equipment there), I left Steve eating his samgaetang while I poked around the neighborhood. A couple people I asked about it asked me for the “chuso” (address), so I went back to see if Steve had the exact address written down. We had not only the address, but the phone number, and we had the waitress call for us. (Not having a cell phone this time was a major inconvenience).

Yes, there is a sign for it (all in Korean, of course) but it is in a jumble of so many signs, and it is on the second floor over a billiards place that has a few larger signs. These folks obviously do not depend upon street traffic, but they make good (and nice-looking) drums. Going somewhere new in Seoul always includes a good slug of time to find the place.

We bought two janggo drums there and some other supplies, and then we were pretty much immobilized. We had to take them to the corner, and hope to flag a taxi with a good-natured driver. Luckily, we found one, and with one box jammed into the open trunk with a tight the fit and the other in the backseat next to Steve, we made it through the Seoul traffic.

We hauled everything back to our yogwan, then headed out for another adventure, to see what was going on with the upcoming Lotus Lantern Festival, Seoul’s biggest festival of the year.
Seoul was getting ready to turn into a party town for the Lotus Lantern Festival, the occasion of Buddha’s birthday, which is part-religious, but mainly a fun community festival on an enormous scale. This night, we walked around in the Insadong neighborhood, in which things were being built here and there for the upcoming festival.

Jogyaesa worker attaches names of sponsors to individual lanterns in preparaton for Buddha's birthday.  Photo by Steebu

Jogyaesa worker attaches names of sponsors to individual lanterns in preparaton for Buddha’s birthday. Photo by Steebu

Walking into the Chogyesa temple, there were construction cranes here and there, with a gigantic rainbow ceiling of lanterns strung from one side of the courtyard to the other.
In a quiet park nearby, we saw a collection of lit-up handmade lanterns that had been entered into an art contest.
Photo by Steebu

Photo by Steebu

There were also some very charming oversized lanterns (the biggest ones the size of an easy chair) designed with quintessential Korean themes. I liked the little thatched house with the pumpkins.
We went back by way of the Sajik Park neighborhood where we found a “juk” restaurant. Juk is a nice old-fashioned dish that has been making a bit of a come-back. The place we found is actually a small franchise restaurant called Bon Juk, which includes a dozen or so versions of this pureed or semi-pureed rice and vegetable concoction, a bit thicker than a pureed soup, each with its own flavor profile and personality.
I remember some elementary cooking lessons I had at the Korean Institute of Minnesota in which one teacher accused the other of not knowing how to make pumpkin soup (hobak juk) because her dad must have had enough income during the war that their family did not need to eat it. Perhaps it is making a comeback due to nostalgia — the dish that people used to eat when times were tough. Indeed, I think I could feed my family with a dinner of hobak juk, even today, for probably less than a dollar. All you need is a pumpkin, some red beans, and rice flour. When the pumpkin is done cooking, it’s pureed and you add cooked red beans and tiny rice flour dumplings for some extra texture and flavor.
Bon Juk was about to close, so we got our juks to take out. I got hobak juk; Steve got one with mushrooms and oysters. Each one was accompanied by about 8-10 little containers with pickles, kimchi, bean sprouts and other side dishes. We sat in front of our giant TV in the yogwan, watching the most recent Korean drama Jang ku Jang with limited understanding, but fascinated nonetheless), with our side dishes taking up almost all the rest of the floor space in our room. It was a nice end to a fun business day.

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About Martha Vickery

Editor of Korean Quarterly newspaper
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