Monday, November 09, 2009

On familiarity & becoming part of a community

One of the things I have missed most being in a foreign country far from home has been a feeling of familiarity and a sense of belonging. Today for the first time I had bit of a wake-up call that made me realise again that I had indeed been missing this, but also that slowly but surely Sangju is becoming familiar and I am starting to feel that, in some way, I do belong.

This feeling came to me at dinner tonight. There's a restaurant nearby which Jules and I have come to frequent. It's called 'Loving You' (with Korean pronounciation of course 'leobin yoo') and serves a dish called 'dalk galbi'. Dalk galbi translates as 'chicken ribs' but that would of course be ridiculous: It's prepared in a simlar way to pork ribs in Korea and hence the name, but chicken meat is used instead. It's one of those 'cook on your tabletop' dishes, kind of like a strifry with cabbage, chilli and other veg etc added. One wraps the food in lettuce leaves and voila! Yummy! Anyway, dalk galbi has become one of our favourite dishes in Korea, and Loving You prepares it particularly well. The staff are also friendly and it's less than 10 minutes walk from home.

So anyway, back to the story. This evening the waiter asked us what we wanted and he corrrectly pre-empted that we would want the standard dalk galbi but with cheese and sweet potato added, which is what we usually order. And then as we were about to order our drinks he said 'one beer and one cider (=sprite)'. Wow, I was so impressed and it warmed my heart.

He obviously knows us well by now but remembering our usual drinks orders as well as our dalk galbi additions just made me feel like we were truly 'regulars' - a lovely familiar feeling, one, like I said, that I have misssed. But having been in Sangju over a year now, I think these kind of experiences might just become more frequent and I welcome them. It's nice to start feeling part of a community - particularly when one is so obviously foreign and when communicating with all other memebrs of the community is near impossible!

Another way in which I hope we'll become more part of the community, and contributing to it, is that we are on the process of making an arrangement with the Sangju Public Library that we donate our 'old' English books and that they start a section of English books. At the moment they do have some English books, but these are mostly aimed at students, and I think a place for foriegners to borrown novels etc. would be a great addition to Sangju. I've spent more than enough money on ordering English books online and from Kyobo Bookstore in Seoul and Daegu, and won't be able to drag the lot home. So having a place to leave them where future English-speaking residents of Sangju can benefit from them sounds like a good idea!


EEbEE said...

at this rate it seems like you won't be returning to SA for a while YEss.


more food for me...

(nah it's awesome that you are becoming a part of the local community... nothing worse than remaining a stranger)

Jessica Jane said...

Thanks Eebs. No doubt I miss SA so much and will be back...sometime :) Can't help but admit that the travel bug has bitten. Just a little bite. Just hope it doesn't get infected :)

Stella :-) said...

Oh, wow, Jes - such lovely writing, so from the heart - I so enjoy reading it all - must agree with EEbEE - but, I do know that you have good, strong African Tap Roots - keep watering them!!! Well, I will make sure they keep well-watered!!
You have read such fabulous books - so inspiring!! What a fabulous idea to leave them there in a meaningful manner!!
The dolls' party was just lovely- beautiful pictures - of course I loved OUR dolls the most!!! Your Marma :-)