I want to let you all in on a typical day in the life of Dani Teacher.
About an hour ago, as I was downloading pics of (English-speaking countries’) flags to adorn my classroom, I got a phone call. It was Pak Ki-yoel, the dude in the copy room. “Dani. Copy Room. Comman.” Roughly translated: “Dani, please come to the copy room. I have something to show you.”
At this point, I usually whine ”Pak, I’m busy. Ten minutes. Ship bun.” I am quite over dropping everything and running when he calls. But this time, I simply said “OK.” I finished downloading about ten flags, and signed out of gmail. I took my time walking down the hall, across the concrete quad (if you can call it that), and down to the first floor.
I slid open the copy room door to find Ki-yoel and one of the admin staffers squatted on the ground. In front of them lay a giant pink government-issued trash bag, flat and unopened. on it lay the biggest pile of seaweed I’d ever seen. The big pale green kind with the long, flat, alternating leaves. To its left, a smaller pile of the kind of seaweed that looks more like a large-leafed moss. Tiny little mats of bushy seaweed with tiny little leaves. Also involved in the sea-drenched mess were a large number of mini sea urchins, and a big blob of what looked to be a spotted black placenta.
They were sorting.
On Pak’s table was a puddle of sea, another black placenta, and a tiny stow-away shrimp the size of a child’s fingernail. It was wriggling around in the puddle, trying to stay submerged. A pot was boiling on a portable stove, and Pak was excited. “Dani, lunchtime, sea, chop!” Pak had gone down to the beach and harvested seaweed. Because that’s what he does.
“Pak, what IS that?” I said, pointing to the spotted blob. “Ahhh, delicious!” said he. Of course. “But WHAT?” “Goon-soo” he says. All right. Let’s look it up later.
An hour and lots of Naver-searching later, the admin office, principal, and I discover that “Goon-soo” is really “Goon-so”. This makes more sense, as “Goon-soo” had been translated as various military terms. “Goon-so”, on the other hand, turned out to be a “Sea Hare”. Now, I had tried ‘sea slug’, ‘sea cucumber’, ‘jellyfish’, and a number of other weird, blobby-looking creatures on them…and they had assured me that this placenta was neither a placenta nor any of these things. I assured them I hadn’t the faintest clue as to what a ‘sea hare’ was. The fact that it had the name ‘hare’ in it completely confused me. As a child, I prided myself in my knowledge of the animal kingdom. Since coming to Korea, I’ve been put in my place. I’ve realized how little I know about the edible marine animal world, let alone any of the creatures humans rarely come in contact with.
Turns out, a ‘sea hare’ is actually a type of ‘sea slug’. So I had been kinda right all along. ‘Sea slug’ had been my first guess. But since I didn’t know for sure…couldn’t recognize it on the spot (well, at least not a dead one laying on a person’s desk…weird), and since I had never heard of this specific type, let’s say I’ve been humbled.
They rinsed the fresh seaweeds, they chopped the fresh sea urchins in halves, and they boiled the sea hares. We dipped the different seaweeds in gochujang, this red chili paste that borders on thick ketchup that they like to dip all their hway (raw fish) in. We sucked the insides outta the urchins. The sliced the slugs up and we dipped those in gochujang, too.
My opinions? Fresh seaweed is way awesomer than store-bought. Tho I still may prefer the dried, salted kind that comes in delicately thin sheets. Fresh, it’s crunchy and bright and delicious. Sea urchins really are gross. I would like to try them at a fancy restaurant, and I would also like to try one of the big hand-sized ones. But these little guys tasted like a concoction of sand, rock salt, earth, and maybe a bit of shellfish (actual meat). I felt like I’d just sucked up a bunch of wet sand, and only had a slightly pleasant experience because of the strong salty aftertaste. So I’ll skip the little guys next time. The sea hare was good, but a little overcooked. Kinda chewy, but tastes like chicken.
So now I know why dudes puked after they ate sea urchin on Lost.
I took pics with my phone–not sure if I can upload them or not. Will try to figure it out. In the meantime, enjoy these photos I found on the web. They’re similar to what I had (fresh out of the Hyundai dumping bay–mm!).
ours were a little darker…but otherwise, same-same.
ours didn’t have as many spots, and were a little more iridescent-looking. kinda pretty, actually. I’m sure they also had three eyes.
and of course, since it wasn’t moving, I couldn’t see a head or antennae. it literally just looked like a blob of sea poop.
There are some other random things you should know about my daily life here. For instance, I’ve been meaning to let you all know that every time you hear the song “On Broadway“, you should think of me. Imagine the seven notes leading up to the three to which ‘on broadway’ is sung. You know, the notes that go with “they say the neon lights are bright…” Well, the first four sound out loud and clear every time I open my apartment door. That’s my door’s keypad ringtone. Not because keypads have ringtones, but because keypads have tones like phone pads do, and the combination of tones that my keypad sounds when the door is locking or unlocking just happens to be those four notes. I don’t know if this makes sense to you, but if it does, God bless you.