So, I had been promised to go this event (on Oct. 23) after the Ginseng Festival (10/3) by my motherly co-teacher. She was very vague, and mentioned grasshoppers and apples. So I figured it was some type of Fall Harvest thing like in the United States: pumpkin patch/bobbing for apples. I was like–this sounds like an event geared towards little kids…but whatever. Hope for best–if nothing else it’ll make for an interesting story. haha!
So, we (my coteacher, her youngest son, and myself) hop into her car and head out. I’m like, woot–we’re headed out of Angye, going through some teensy-villages. I’m looking for some type of large town (thinking it’s going to be similar to the other ‘festivals’ I’ve been to). But no…we’re passing through some rural areas and then she turns. Not at all what I was expecting. I was like, okay, this isn’t even a village…this is…a farm. To the left is a giant wheat field and to the right are two houses.
We started walking to where I assume you buy some type of ‘ticket,’ but we passed by a lady passing out some dark things in giant bags. I thought maybe they were some type of seeds/nuts/dried fruit but then I became of aware of the fact that my coteacher was laughing and declining what they were offering and her son was running away from it. haha! So, I became curious and saw that they were fried grasshoppers. They were, of course, being offered to eat as like a free sample. I asked my coteacher if they were any good, and she said maybe like Sesame? (They had been cooked in sesame oil.) She asked me if I wanted one, but I was a little…reluctant. Then the lady behind the table ate the one being offered so nonchalant that I was like, huh, I can do that. So I decided to go for it…that’s right! I ate one of them! Not just one either. There was an old man that had been watching to see what I thought of them. I gave them the thumbs up, the nod, a smile, and “good”. lol. So, he got excited and grabbed 4 more and thrust them in my hand. I tried to offer one to my coteachers son, but he yelled and ran away. hahaha! So ate it and then ate the last 3 at once (the last handful was probably the hardest because I spent some time looking at their eyes and legs…). They tasted kinda like nuts–crunchy but not as salty as nuts.
So after that whole fiasco, we were going to the exciting grasshopper event. Which was–oh yes–catching live grasshoppers. Now this is where it gets rustic. We walked out into that wheat field and started ‘hunting’ for grasshoppers. I felt like I was playing Where’s Waldo with those things. I had no inclination to catch them…haha, thinking of the irony that I ate ’em but I didn’t want to touch them alive. I just did the spotting them and pointing them out to my coteacher and her son–the two of them were very excited every time they found and caught one. They kept them alive and put them in the mesh bags that we received. This lasted about 30-45 minutes.
I must say that I love the communal eating in Korea. The tables were lined with main dish plates and side dishes in the center. Everyone got a plate of bimbimbop (it’s like a variety of vegetables–um bean sprouts, some other green strips, and other vegetables). It was kind of a first come first serve but when you finished, someone took your place and got their own main dish. I was lucky and was able to trade my bimbimbop for curry & rice (the curry was sweet). You added however much rice you wanted to your bimbimbop or curry (depending on which you had in front of you) from the communal rice bowl. Then you could eat up the kimchi, meat, soup, and some other vegetables that you share with everyone else. I ate my curry & rice and then some seasoned pork. So good! On a side note, you don’t drink anything until after your meal. I just skipped on the drink–my curry was more like soup anyway.
We met up with one of my coteacher’s former student who spent a lot of time talking to her and her son throughout the day–so kind of a side companion but he knew what was going on. So I get told we’re going on some type of treasure hunt and something about paper. Not sure what it meant, but I just followed the crowd–hiking up a mountain and then back down to the most gorgeous view ever! We were on a strip of land (to the right was a lake and to the left was another wheat field). So this ‘treasure hunt’ turned out to be looking for little strips of folded paper that were buried. I quasi-looked around but it was almost over before I knew what exactly I was looking for. lol. Needless to say, I didn’t find any papers. Oh well.
The best part of the day was the walk back. After trekking back up the mountain, my coteacher’s son said to me “run”. (He’s like 8 and speaks hardly any English and is normally very shy). So we started running–dodging people while watching our footing (because it wasn’t a trail per se that we were following). It was a lot of fun. We got to the bottom of the hill, catching our breath, and then he decided to run back up the mountain. So we ran back up to meet his mom and the former student. Then he said ‘run’ again, and we ran back down the hill. Haha..what a blast! We ran back up one more time, walked a little bit, took a short break and then bolted down the for the last bit. A few other kids joined in on at least one of our ‘races.’
This is the part that I think my coteacher was looking forward to the most. Throughout the day, as we had passed apple trees, she made comments like “Delicious. I want to pick.” Actually, those were here exact words multiple times. lol. So we were allowed to only have 3 and any more you had to pay for. I only wanted 1 so she told me to get 3 and she’d take the other 2. She took 6 (3 for herself and 3 for her son). THEN, if you can believe this, she grabbed 5 more and shoved them in her purse! And was she done?…nope. She grabbed another one and chowed down. And THEN, she grabbed four more and looked at me and my purse…so my tiny purse had to hold 4 apples. Not small apples mind you…she was eying the biggest apples available. Ay dios mio! These people are poor, and she’s stealing their money… (is it bad I find it amusing at the same time? lol)
Sticky Rice Cake
I had gotten the impression we were going to be shown how to make this rice cake–like it’s very popular…like their staple dessert. But I was in for a bit of a disappointment. They came out with a giant slab of rice cake/patty thing on a giant white sheet and a wooden mallet. So, an old man showed how to whack/flatten the cake out and then some kids went up there and got to go at it. My coteacher’s son wasn’t interested. Where was he? He was back in the wheat fields catching more grasshoppers–lol.
I love sticky rice cake…and that’s what was part of the snack. YUM! It was powdered with something, not sure what, but I’ve had it before. They handed out paper plates and you shared with the people around you. The next plates were–can you guess? — oh yeah, grasshoppers. Everyone was chowing down on those fried grasshoppers and rice cake. Odd combo, I know. There was a fat little Korean girl (3rd grade)…so cute. She had shown off her bag of grasshoppers to me earlier (she was VERY proud and I had given her the ‘wow’); but she offered me more rice cake when my plate (that I was sharing) was empty. When I was done, I looked around for my coteacher’s son…he was still out in the wheat field. He came back and asked me to go with him…so I went back with him to get some more grasshoppers.
Prizes and Going-Away Gifts
They handed out prizes to the people who had found the folded pieces of paper…they won a mesh baggie FULL of live grasshoppers. Really?! lol. So glad I didn’t win. I did get a going-away gift…you got to choose between nuts (I think acorns) or rice; I chose the rice. Oh, if you’re curious about those grasshoppers caught–they’re going to take them home and cook them I think. So with that said: that was the end of the 5 hour cultural experience.
If you’re curious about the event…click here for their home page