We left the restaurant with a little pump in our chests.
Earlier in the evening we had set out to find 치맥 (chimaek or chicken & beer), but somehow grew more and more lost along the way. We invaded local’s personal space on the streets of Beomeo Station, searching for anyone who knew even the tiniest sliver of English. Eventually we stumbled into a convenience store off the main road, hoping a little google translate would do the trick. The lady behind the counter seemed frightened by our requests and the possibility of having to speak English to two foreigners. She retrieved a man from the back of the store, who soon ushered us into a hidden room filled with computers.
A momentary feeling of panic filled my lungs…
Visions of abductions in Aruba and scenes from Taken blinded me for a brief second, until I realized he was pulling up Google Maps; the satellite version. He dropped the little orange man right in front of the shop and pointed at the screen, saying “here, is here.” We nodded and then something sweet happened…
How Many Google Attempts Does it Take to Find a Chimaek Restaurant?
We witnessed three grown men flail around louder than average Korean, throwing in some over dramatized hand movements.They were fighting for us. They were fighting for our Chimaek. I can only imagine them saying, “No, Frank, it’s across the street,” and “Piss off Arnold, it’s on the other side of town!” The hullaballoo ended as an air of consensus entered the room. They looked at us in unison, pointed in a general direction resembling North East and said, “neeeehhh!” So, off we went, in search of their “neh.”
We found it, approximately 7 minutes later, sitting happily lit in the night, five feet from where we started.
With a crisp pitcher of Cass pored (which was far too exciting after a long trek for this beer nerd, since Korean brands pretty much all tastes like Coors Light), and an order of fried chicken placed a little “Korean (spicy),” we smiled with satisfaction. Looking down, we noticing the arrangement of side dishes already sitting before us, as is customary for all Korean meals. A little pickled radish, kimchi dyed in red paste, and then something a little different. Something we hadn’t seen before, at least not outside of images on the internet. Something that looked strangely un-ingestible.
We debated: Maybe it’s a type of nut. Perhaps it’s a beetle. And then we settled it… it has to be maggots.
Moment of Truth
Lauren went first, taking one bite and swallowing it whole. I went next, smelling my creature before placing him daintily on my tongue. I sucked a little, noticing the spices and peppery rub against my taste buds. Not too bad. Then, I took about five big chews that I instantly regretted as an earthy, quite offal taste seeped into my mouth. Swallowing and gulping down Cass to diffuse the flavor, I grinned showing all my teeth, hoping no organs were stuck in between them.
We found out, after rehashing the story of our wormy triumph half a dozen times, that what we had tried was not maggot (to our relief), but silkworm (to the sting of my aching guilt). Regardless of what we tried, we were willing to do it and I’m incredibly proud of Lauren and myself for stepping far outside of our comfort zone without thinking twice about it.
More and More Korean Every Day
As it turns out, our spontaneous conquering of a fear meant more than just getting a mouthful of something inconspicuous. It meant that even though I’ve still been very overwhelmed with what some would call the “rage stage” of living in a new country, there will always be a deep rooted part of me that is non-judgmental and willing to explore uncharted territory. Looking back I realize that we were accepting South Korea and local customs. I’m here to learn about myself and other people, see new places and embrace a culture that can sometimes seem backwards to my western mentality. I know after this year I’ll be a better-rounded and more tolerant human, which may be the most rewarding aspect of traveling.
A special thanks to all the silkworms who were harmed or murdered for the sake of my self-discovery.
Check out the video below! How’d we do?
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