Eugene Cho

back in seattle & missing budaejjigae

After six weeks or so in Korea, we returned to Seattle this week.  It was a long flight but we’re glad to be back home.  There’s nothing like “home, sweet, home” but we’re certainly going through some reverse culture shock right now. 

Here are some random thoughts from our trip and our return & my homage to a Korean stew called budaejjigae:

1.  It was so darn hot there.  I hate humidity.  I have no idea how I worked through in 1993-1995 – in a suit every day.  When we returned to Seattle, the weather was in the 80s and as crazy as this sounds, we were all a little cold.  Our daughters wore jackets on occasions the first couple of days.

2.  Korea is so crowded as I shared with you earlier.  On the one night we went to a street shopping area called Dongdaemun, I was shocked how packed it was – at 3am in the morning.  I’m guessing there was at least 50,000 people there at 3am.  It is so quiet here in Seattle.  I’m feeling weirded out…feeling like I’m living in a bubble completely isolated from the larger world.  Seattle almost seems like a suburb or a rural area compared to the hustle and bustle of Seoul.

3.  It feels weird to be driving.  We drove once in Korea.  Seoul has an incredible subway system.  You can get anywhere you need to.  Wish we had a subway system here in Seattle.  What do you think about building some sort of Monorail system?

4.  Asides from the subway, we walked like we’ve never walked before.  I wish I had a pedometer because I’m curious how many miles we walked over those six weeks. I’m going to guess 15 miles – likely more.  I suspect that is one of the reasons why obesity isn’t as big of a problem in Korea.  People are constantly walking.  In addition, hiking is the unofficial national hobby.

5.  I miss Korean drama.  Never enjoyed it before but may need to watch with Minhee in the future.

6.  We were eager to return to Seattle when we were in Seoul.  And now that we’re here, we’re missing Seoul.  Strange.  I miss my mother-in-law…Spending time with her was the main reason why we went to Korea for the first leg of our sabbatical. 

7.  Did I mention it’s really quiet here?  Did the rapture take place?

8.  It feels really weird to be carrying around my smartphone.  It was refreshing [most of the time] to be without a cellphone in Korea – except when I really needed to make a phone call or when people stare at me because I tell them I don’t have a cellphone.  When I returned back this week and turned on my Treo phone, I was amazed that there was only one phone message – and that was from a telemarketer.  Cool.

9.  I’m going to miss the total access to Korean food – anywhere and anytime.  Food like the bu-dae-jji-gae.  What is budaejjigae?  From wikipedia:

a thick Korean soup similar to a Western stew. Soon after the Korean War, meat was scarce in Seoul, Korea. Some people made use of surplus foods from U.S. Army bases around the Uijeongbu area such as hot dogs and canned ham (such as Spam) and incorporated it into a traditional spicy soup flavored with gochujang (red chili paste).

Budaejjigae  is still popular in South Korea, and the dish often incorporates more modern ingredients such as instant ramen noodles and even sliced American cheese. Other ingredients may include ground beef, beans, minari (dropwort), green onions, tteok, tofu, chili peppers, kimchi, garlic, mushrooms, and onions.

It’s a mixture of many things but I have to be honest, I was really weirded out to see macaroni in our budaejjigae.  That just seemed a little wrong.

Here are some pics of one of our budaejjigae meales in their natural progression:

Filed under: family

7 Responses

  1. Shaun King says:

    Welcome back man! Glad you had such a rich experience and got to spend time with family. Wondering how you will integrate your experiences this summer back into the work you do.

    Give yourselves a week or so to make the transition back to the States. It gets us all.

    -Shaun & Crew

  2. Welcome back. Come to Arkansas and you’ll feel right at home… Temperature wise that is!

  3. gar says:

    welcome back!

    and a Korean stew with SPAM in it? mmmm, sounds tasty…

  4. rachelsumner says:

    yay, back in seattle! i wasnt sure when the cho’s were returning. i will be back just for the first week of september. looking forwarding to seeing you and my quest home! anything i can bring you? a brat? some kraut? a real beer?

  5. eugenecho says:

    rachel: yay!

    all those stuff sounds great.

  6. Tracy says:

    Those look good to eat. Yummy. Glad to know yall are back in the States.

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She was so hospitable in inviting us to her small and temporary home. During our conversation, I learned that ​Sahara traveled 300 kilometers (a little under 200 miles) – some by cart and some by foot – as they sought to escape the worst drought that has impacted East Africa (Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia) in the past 60 years.

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