The Day I Ate Dog

Halfway up the mountain on the path to Inwangsan, Seoul’s most famous shamanist shrine, I realized I was definitely not in America anymore. Ahead of me was one of the most intricately painted roofs I had ever seen, sheltering a candle and incense-filled space of devotion to a higher power I fail to comprehend. Below me was Seoul, an overwhelming expanse of buildings and apartments interspersed with palaces and the occasional temple weaving through the traffic jam.

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We hiked past a Buddhist shrine and rocks eroded into eerily human-like formations. At the top of the mountain was a fortress wall—testament to a long history of conquest. On the way down we found ourselves in the midst of an outdoor exercise station, complete with three tiny Korean woman listening to loud music while they hula-hooped and used the machines. None of them spoke any English but they gestured for us to join them. After trying this crazy spinning machine and almost falling off, I decided to stick to hula hooping. I made Richard do it too, it made for some great pictures!

Next we headed to the Gyeongbokgung Palace of the Joseon Dynasty. We wandered around the buildings for a while, taking pictures and trying to imagine what all of the carefully designed buildings were used for. Perhaps the funniest part of our venture was when we were taking pictures inside one of the prayer rooms, sitting cross-legged, pretending to pray and a Korean girl came up to us with a camera. At first I thought she wanted us to take a picture of her until she gestured to me and Richard to sit next to her and handed the camera to her friend. After we took a picture with her, two of her friends came up and gestured for us to take a picture with them. Richard and I felt like celebrities!

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After our morning of hiking and posing, we headed to a restaurant in Insadong, an area famous for its traditional crafts and restaurants. The food we got ended up being a little more traditional than we expected…After spending a tedious few minutes attempting to explain to the non-English-speaking waiter that I preferred vegetarian food, I gave up and just pointed to a few dishes that looked vegetarian. I soon found out that I had pointed to hanjeongsik, a traditional banquet that includes twelve side dishes and used to only be available to the King. Few of the dishes were recognizable so I just decided to toss my vegetarian tendencies to the wind and try everything. As we later found out, everything included dog…All I could think of for the rest of the day was my own golden fluff-ball Bozzie…Sorry Bozzie, you taste kind of like ham.

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