September 17, Fish

I powered through another 4 hours of online class, just barely, and on the advice of my nutritionist tried to take a breather. She explained to me that our body does not differentiate the type of stress we experience– physical, mental, emotional– and it’s all coded the same. Therefore powering through or “pushing through the pain” will only cause your stress bucket to overflow.

With that in mind, I haven’t worried so much about making it to the gym. I already follow a fairly regulated eating plan and walk 2 to 6 miles a day. If I’m adding cups of stress to the bucket, the cups this week have been going to Seoul to get my visa and wading through opaque immigration guidelines regarding quarantine and documentation if I want to take a trip to the US, then it’s okay to move a little more slowly in other areas of my life.

So the solution was, take myself out to lunch.

I thought that Busan calling itself “Marine City” would mean seafood would not only be plentiful but also cheap.

Not so.

I could throw a rock and hit a noodle restaurant but seafood, affordable seafood for one person at least, has been a challenge.

The houseowner told me that Kakao maps is more like Bing in the sense that it’s older and less informative.

“If you want to find a copy store or a pajeon restaurant, use Daum apps like Kakao. If you want everything else, use Naver.”

Naver is Korea’s Google and it has been a game changer. You can shop on there as well, demonstrated by the giant crate of mango ice cream my interesting roommate ordered.

Naver Maps gave me local seafood restaurants and on this rainy afternoon I walked into a small lunch restaurant run by two type A ladies.

They seemed a tad bit suspicious of the foreigner at first, but once I ordered 생선구이 from their three item menu of the day, I sat back and watched the rain.

One of the women placed thirteen side dishes in front of me along with a steaming bowl of tofu soup and a whole fish, guts included.

She told me she rice was self serve and we had a funny moment where I had to ask for her help in opening the giant rice maker.

I had been trying to open it from the hinge.

I was so excited to plow through the extravagant amount of side dishes and happily bounced in my seat as I ate.

Another older man came in later, destroyed soup and fish in five minutes, then left. I had flash backs to the office staff and my stomach gurgled with phantom pain.

After I paid, one of the women told me I speak Korean well and also use chopsticks well.

This falls a bit into the category of “things we say to foreigners” like “can you eat kimchi” and “do you know BTS” but I don’t mind the compliment.

After all, eating fish on the bone with chopsticks is not easy— I remember my hand cramping terribly the first time I did so in 2016. I was a beginner then and ended up shredding the fish into a thousand tiny inedible pieces.

I would say I prefer Spanish Mackerel in Seoul to the catch of the day here but the roasting sauce was good and the side dishes were amazing. My favorite was sweet marinated potato.

As I had an exam the following day, I trekked down to Starbucks on my once yearly trip to see if it indeed had brewed coffee. Dunkin Donuts at the airport did not which baffled me; isn’t that their signature drink?

I’m adding a Dunkin Donut latte and PSL to the growing list of things I want to eat when I’m in the US again.

I was actually looking forward to the familiar burned taste but “coffee of the day” at Korean Starbucks is still hand drip. It was delicious and I hate them for that. Burn the beans and give me a taste of home, dammit!

The houseowner who also runs a cafe told me that the demand for brewed coffee is simply not high enough in Korea to put it on franchise menus here.

I watched the sky darken as I drank my cooling coffee and powered through worksheets.

It was a good way to unwind after the stress of the previous day, previous week, 2020 in general.

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