Hungry In Yeosu

I’ve been having a few problems here in South Korea. Nothing to do with work, of course. I’m far too talented to struggle with anything as simple as programming the show control system of the world’s biggest water screen, along with fountains, lasers, lighting, video and so on. No, communication and dining are my two main barriers at the moment.

I’ve been here twice before, so knew when I got here that nobody in this former fishing village speaks English, and no Berlitz pocket guide to Korean is going to be any use. But last year we were a large team consisting of me, some Americans and the French guys. Somehow tackling the world outside of the Control Room is far less daunting when you’re one of a big group. At the moment, it’s just myself and Jason, MD of LCSS, who are attempting to survive all alone.

We ventured out for our first meal to the Korean barbecue down the road. The hotel is largely out of the question for evening meals because, despite it’s claim to a five star rating, it only serves food until 9pm. In this profession, eating before 10 o’clock is a luxury only reserved for slackers. So, hardcore as we are, we need to rely on the local restaurants to satisfy our hungry bellies. Oh dear.

The Korean barbecues are fine. But picture the scene … the waitress (hunched over old lady) hobbles to the table, leering at us as if we’re from another planet. Silence. Then Jason goes bravely for the charades technique. Us Brits point and grunt when faced with a non-English speaking shopkeeper or waitress. In Europe, photographs on menus help enormously. However, Jason’s tactic beats any I’ve ever tried. He mimicked a duck, complete with flapping wings and impressive sound effects! I immediately found something that needed close attention on the tablecloth until the act was over. The old lady shrugged and waddled off. Then Jason and I looked at each other in panic: what if the duck sounded like a dog? It did a bit. Have you ever tried to make a quacking sound? It’s quite hard. So up he sprang and followed her into the kitchen, ready for a repeat performance, with much more exaggerated wing movements. I think our resulting meal was duck, but I only ate a small amount, just to be on the safe side!

The following evening saw Jason and I joined by Mr. Lim, the lighting guy. Having a Korean join us definitely made the ordering process easier. So when the waitress asked how spicy we’d like our meal, anywhere between 10 and 100%, I went for the obvious 10%. Jason and Mr. Lim, however, refused to let a little heat get in the way of their obvious strength and masculine pride. The 100% proved too hot for either of them, as they gave up their Man v Food challenges, with tears pouring down their bright red cheeks! Even the 10% beat me, and left me feeling slightly delicate the following day, so I can’t begin to imagine the torture involved in consuming their dishes.

So tomorrow, before work, I’ll be popping along to the supermarket to pick up some plain food. Fruit, bread, cherry coke. I’ll be giving both my belly and my nerves a well-earned rest!

David Birchall