The Strangest Bite I’ve Ever Bitten

November 30, 2008 at 2:13 pm (Uncategorized)

  Although I was born and raised in the United States, most food did not surprise me even after I moved to Korea because I was exposed to Korean cuisine all my life.  Rice and an assortment of banchan was my daily meal;  I laughed as my blonde friends ogled at the pickled cabbages and spiced fish in our fridge.  But I was quickly humbled in fourth grade when my parents took me for a trip down in MokpoMokpo is right next to the ocean, and hosts a thriving fish market.  From all directions Ajummas and Ajushis yelled orders at each other whilst rushing about with buckets of fish, others waved black vinyl bags of freshly cut fish and haggled loudly with customers.

  It was at this fish market that I discovered people could eat the strangest things.  I marveled at sea cucumbers and slithering eels, wondering how my ancestors came to the conclusion that they should actually capture and consume these ugly creatures.     But the most disgustingly fascinating of them all was the nakji (octopus minor).   I couldn’t take my eyes off them as they slithered in the tank, oozing about with their pale tentacles.  Just when I was starting to lose interest, suddenly the ajumma expertly dunked her hand into the tank and yanked one out.  I stared in horror as it desperately tripped to wriggle out of her grip; it flailed its tentacles and wrapped itself around her outstretched arm.  My father excitedly exclaimed to me in rapid Korean, “Saehaya! You must try this! It’s called sannakji; I know you’ll love it.”  I never rejected octopi when it was placed in front of me at the dinner table, but I never really embraced it either.  So I just silently nodded at my father’s suggestion, intimidated.  But as soon as I decided to be brave, the ajumma plunked the poor octopus minor onto her chopping block and deftly severed its eight legs into sixteen, then thirty two pieces.  She scooped the wriggling pieces onto a plate and lightly seasoned them with sesame oil.  She placed the plate in front of us and gave me a wide smile.  My father started snickering when he caught my expression, and then his laugh turned to hysterics when I whimpered.  My father picked his wooden chopsticks up and smacked his lips.  He caught a squirming leg and held it out to me.  I shook my head, feeling sick to my stomach.  My father sighed, “I can’t believe you’re letting me down like this, Saehaya.  Every Korean should try sannakji at least once in their life.”   Whether it was simply because I didn’t want to disappoint him, or because he implied that I was not a true Korean if I didn’t eat it, somehow what he said struck a nerve.  I gazed at the glistening piece of sannakji and winced, sourly opened my mouth, and dreaded the squirming leg to enter. 



It wriggled in my mouth and stuck to my tongue.  I ripped it off my tongue and started to chew.  It was chewy, too chewy.  I was expecting a bitter, gross taste, but to my surprise it didn’t taste like much; it was a bit salty, with the faint flavor of sesame oil.   But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t any less a strange experience. 


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Young and Restless in China

November 24, 2008 at 4:40 pm (Uncategorized)

Young and Restless in China
    China is not only the most heavily populated country in the world; it is also the most rapidly changing.  Soon after the Cultural Revolution, China adopted capitalism, which stimulated Chinese citizens to create a whole new world. Much to the government’s pleasure, the rapid changes brought positive effects to China’s economy.  Creativity burst forth in all directions and new business ideas wrung money in fast.   But this rapid development also brought confusion with it.  Unlike the mindsets of the people before the Cultural Revolution, more and more people desire luxuries they did not have in the past, and the pressure to become rich rises.  So here exists a troubling paradox for Chinese citizens: Should they follow the glamorous, but dangerously soaring, social changes? Or should they stick to the normal, initial conservative ideals of the past? 
1. Why do you think Miranda Hong describes her generation of Chinese as “confused”?

    I think Miranda Hong describes her generation of Chinese as “confused” because she recognizes the abrupt changes in her society.  As the title of the documentary suggests, her generation of Chinese citizens really are “Young and Restless.”  The Cultural Revolution and the following adoption of capitalism brought rapid changes that both excites and frighten the Chinese.  The elimination of rations represents China’s shedding of leftist practices; now the Chinese can eat anything in any amount (as long as they can afford it).  This idea abandons the initial, conservative ideals of the past: to serve your country.  Because the culture in China is transforming so quickly before its eyes, the younger generation would have no other choice but to be perplexed.  The rules their parents followed are abandoned, so they are left with no model to follow.  Because they are allowed to create as they go, the Chinese are left new to everything.  A large number of Chinese also travel overseas for their education.  When they come back they bring a whole new foreign set of rules and regulations.  They come back with different ethical ideals and morals which confuse the Chinese even more.  Even the entrepreneurs themselves are confused.  They go through an identity crisis that leaves them questioning everything. 
2. Why do you think the Chinese government has nicknamed the young people coming home from abroad “returning turtles?”

    I think the Chinese government has nicknamed the young people coming home from abroad “returning turtles” because the Chinese coming back in to China with new worldly knowledge.  The citizens that have left home come back with seeds of future growth that will make China even stronger.  The young generation’s work or educational experiences abroad must have affected their ambitions in China a great deal.  The Chinese go overseas to learn things China cannot provide.  For example, the American and Chinese environment is very different.  Because America is so democratic the Chinese there experience opportunities that they otherwise could not have experienced. The Chinese that are abroad learn to think relatively outside the box contrary to the citizens back home. In a country where everyone is equal, the possibilities are endless.  Because the Chinese that stayed abroad are used to democracy, they bring home these ideals and desire to change China into a more free country.  These fresh and ambitious young people maybe have returned to China to help Globalize their country.  Or perhaps they know that the new techniques they have learned overseas will help them become wealthy fast in a country that has not yet been exposed to these rush of novel business proposals.  Money is worth more in China, and because living expenses are cheap the Chinese that were once middle class in the states find themselves in the upper-middle class.
3. In what ways do you think Ben Wu, the entrepreneur launching the Internet cafe, is representative of the “new” China?

    I think Ben Wu, the entrepreneur launching the Internet café, is representative of the “new” China in many ways.  Firstly, Ben Wu launches his own private business.  After the change of communism to capitalism, businesses have been booming all over the country.  The fact that a man could decide to create his own company and give himself a job is a fairly new idea in China.  Ben Wu is also part of the ever growing group of entrepreneurs that studied overseas, that soaked in the American democratic environment and observed blooming businesses.  The Chinese that travel overseas to get an education represent China’s desire to become a bigger part of the world.  By globalization China advertises itself and develops.  The Internet Café is a big success in China, foreign companies and investors show interest in this new cultural niche.  The Café itself also advertises China, as the internet is the most effective form of promotion of globalization.  With the Internet China becomes more involved in most anything.  The “new” China follows trends and new ideas to globalize itself.

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