Monday, September 27, 2010
As most teachers who work in a hagwon in Korea do, we get about 10 days of vacation in one contract year. And they’re not usually taken all at the same time. While we listen to our public school counterparts regaling us with stories of weeks spent in Thailand and Vietnam and other tropical locales – during the winter no less – we had to wisely choose where we wanted to spend our one available week to visit another country in Asia. So we chose Indonesia.
Now, I’m no Elizabeth Gilbert, but I easily understood the allure of Bali. In her book (duh, Eat Pray Love), Bali was followed by a stint gorging on Italian food and then another meditating in India. She went to Bali for its balance between the pleasure-seeking world and the devotion to something greater. I immediately saw this upon setting foot on the island, and it’s something I would like to explore further one day. But when you have one week to relax from life in Korea, you head straight for the beachee vacation.
And beach it up, I did. I turned the same Pocahontas shade of red-tan that I’ve been turning every summer since I was 4. I ditched the Korean diet of odd sea vegetables and bottom feeders and ate something that included an avocado everyday. I gradually moved from poolside to beachfront and back again. I read 2 books in 6 days. It was positively glorious.
But getting back to the food. Korean food is an entirely different post I will have to create in the near future. There are many dishes that I don’t just like, I love. But the ones that I don’t like, I hate. Actually, many of them just confuse me. Plus, being enveloped in another country’s cuisine for 9 months straight deserved its break. In Bali, I ate the most wonderful tropical fruits and fresh seafood. I discovered what I think is the perfect hot sauce (aside from Cholula of course) called Sambal and brought two bottles home with me. It’s so pleasantly spicy I want to put it on everything. And for the first time in about 28 years of eating solid food, I discovered a place on Earth where I actually like green beans.
I know, Mom, I hope you were sitting for that. Seriously just ask my parents. I’ve never met a green bean I didn’t hate. My parents can tell stories of my refusal to eat them before I could even utter the words, “Dude, that’s gross.” I would just open my mouth and let them fall out in protest. But in Bali, they looked different, thinner, less waxy. So I gave them an honest effort and ended up eating them with nearly every meal. If that alone doesn’t speak to the magic of this island, I don’t know what does. It was capable of changing a fundamental piece of my very being.