One of the things I love most about Korea is the random acts of kindness that occur between Koreans and expats. The other day, I was waiting for my friend to meet me at 7-11 so we could pop fireworks for 4th of July. Korean 7-11s have patios with patio furniture on them. I sat in one of the chairs near a family that was enjoying a meal they brought from home (picnic at 7-11?). They saw me and immediately tried to get their timid toddler to say "Hi" to me in English. I smiled and waved at her, then the family started trying to include me in their picnic!
In the same week, my ["Woman of Color Living Abroad"--WoCLA] friend, Perl, told me that her former employer wanted to take her to a very special restaurant and wanted her to bring a [WoCLA] friend to share in the experience. Up until this very day, I had never heard of this woman, nor her of me. But, she drove to my apartment to pick me up and take me to this unique restaurant.
I've said this before and I'll say it again--Love knows no language. My Korean isn't as great as it used to be (thanks to 6 wks in America), but Koreans are very patient with my attempts and they put forth the little English they may know. Meeting new people is no longer intimidating because of a language barrier. We always work it out. Even silence is now comfortable. On our 30 minute ride up the mountain, the silence allowed us to take in the breathtaking view.
The city I live in is considered a somewhat rural area. However, there is a rather thriving city life here, so you can avoid the countryside experience if you so choose. This restaurant was up in the mountains, therefore placing it on the outskirts of town, on a lot of back and windy roads without street signs or signals. If someone where to ask me today how to get to that restaurant, I'd have nothing to go off of except the more green you see around you, the closer you are getting.
When Perl first told me this restaurant only had one table, I thought either something was lost in translation between her and her former employer, or this place was extremely exclusive and required reservations months in advance. Neither was the case. I jokingly said "are we just going to someone's house for dinner?" but when we arrived, that was exactly what it was! This particular family had chosen to split their home into two parts closed off from one another. One part served as the restaurant and pottery barn (as all the dishes they use there, from bowls to serving trays to mugs, etc, they make and sell) and the other the residence. The restaurant was designed with traditional Korean paper all around the interior, and hundreds of hand-crafted items lining every wall and shelf. The low table was handmade as well.
Our waitress/chef/host was very friendly and very curious about the WoCLA who came to visit her on this day. We were her first expat visitors! We spoke as much Korean as we could and filled in the blanks with English. They did the opposite for us. When the food arrived, we were given two different kind of salads. The most interesting part of this was we were served a salad with FLOWERS in it! I was very surprised that the most satisfying part of the salad was a petal! My friend and I devoured this part of the meal, thinking this was the main/only course.
Soon, lightly fried eggplant, pumpkin, and mushrooms arrived, as well as a plethora of side dishes.
The side dishes looked like different shades of green of the same plant (with a few other variations). We tried them all.
As if that wasn't enough, she brought out a soybean stew and traditional (purple) rice.
We wrapped up the meal with omija, a traditional tea that is famous for having "5 flavors" on your tongue.
There was so much food leftover and I couldn't believe that we had a 100% organic and vegetarian-friendly meal that was completely satisfying and delicious! The best part about it was that it cost 10,000won per person (about $9 USD)!
The owner was so happy we came that she gave us our choice of pottery to take with us. I was so glad Perl invited me to take part in this experience. Below is a video she made of our experience. Check it out!
(Perl's comment about eating the dog is because we passed my restaurant that I ate dog at on the way here. That is another story...)