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A Very Sokcho Chuseok

It’s Chuseok here in Korea. Chuseok, pronounced like chew- sock but the k is real soft. It’s the Korean Thanksgiving. They celebrate the coming harvest, and families travel to their ancestral towns to visit their loved ones. That’s the extent of my knowledge on it - so I'll stop with my 6th grade level social studies report on it. It’s the first time I’ve been an outsider for a major holiday. You can tell there is an excitement in the air, and while I can’t understand what people are saying, I recognize the sentiment. There is an unmistakable festiveness in their greetings. And in this moment I get a little homesick as I watch families reuniting. Because of COVID and the distance, visitors are pretty challenging for the foreseeable future.

We traveled to Sokcho last weekend and stayed in a little surfing cove. It was our first vacation since we got here. That is if you don’t count our two week stay in quarantine. Tim and I realized that while we have traveled to Asia together as a family of four, this was our first family getaway. All in all I would say we did pretty well! There’s a fair amount of work as parent when traveling with your two babies in any country - most of which revolves around food. What will they eat? When will they eat? Will we be able to get hot water for Olive’s oatmeal? Will they have high chairs? Will one container of Puffs be enough? The result is a backpack that has enough supplies for an apocalypse...stuffed to the point you cannot actually find the one spoon you need. I used to carry a cute purse or a cross over bag - something small and stylish. Now, I carry a gray utility backpack that has a thermo section and has more pockets than a pair of 1990s cargo pants. One day I’m coming back for you, little black cross over bag, one day.

We checked out the fish market while we were in town. We spent about an hour circling the parking garage looking for the entrance and an hour in the fish market - give us a break - we are not from here. The fish market was incredible. I have never seen anything like this. The first floor was all dried fish - piles and piles or dried marine life. I have no idea how they consume this. Do they cook it? Is it already cooked? Is it like jerky? I’m fascinated. The basement was the live wet market full of tanks from every creature that swims. Rosie ran from tank to tank with a grin on her face. They even had live octopus in nets. Actually, this part was pretty sad. Each octopus had a little ball to play with in captivity. Something to keep them occu-pied. It made them feel almost like pet dogs that want to play catch with you. It didn’t feel right.

In the center of the market were different restaurants that would prepare your fresh catch selection. Diners were seated with their shoes off on small mats on the floor. I was in awe of these locals that know exactly what they want to order and how they want it cooked. I could hardly identify what was in the tanks. The crabs look more like large cats - they are jumbo for sure.

Other highlights from the weekend include a beautiful temple overlooking the ocean, Rosie using her chopsticks at a Korean brewery, and the ramen I had at a rest stop along the highway on the way home. It was delicious. Yes, rest stop ramen.

What I’m reading: The Good Earth by Pearl Buck. Highly recommend - even if you don’t live in Asia currently.

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Margie Spence
Margie Spence
Oct 07, 2020

I showed Brittany the pictures! She said she misses you all! (I do too)

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