This last Sunday I went to Paju with JH to meet his family for lunch. His family consists of his Mom, Father and Sister. I have already met his Mom and Sister, so this time I was going to meet them all at once. I was only nervous when JH told me a few weeks ago that he arranged this meeting. Since JH is a really fun and carefree guy I figured that his father is probably just as nice.
However, in the back of my mind I couldn't help but remember what it was like when I met my ex's parents for a meal or at their house. I recall they were nice to me and said they liked me but underneath that they couldn't accept me as a long-term person for their son. In retrospect I understand their values and know that all in all it was interesting to meet a Korean family. But because of that experience I now have a tendency to slightly not believe whether or not my Korean boyfriend's parents like me enough to get past the cultural differences.
I have talked to JH about this and he tells me I should not worry about it. He says his family is not really traditional and has an open mind. I can tell this is true in the openness I have received from his Mom. A few weeks ago she gave JH a big box of mandarin oranges to give to me along with some hand made tteok (rice cakes). If anything this is a sign I need to study Korean more seriously.
So it was on Sunday that we went to Paju (a city Northwest of Seoul very close to the DMZ) to eat a specialty lunch of grilled eel. Here is a link to a Korean review of the restaurant for those who can read Korean and would like to know how to get there.
JH and his family know I don't eat seafood but they really wanted to go to this place. I compromised by saying I would be okay since sometimes I eat the grilled eel on sushi. Besides I knew I didn't really have a say in this and should just keep my head down and go along for the ride.
We went off the highway and made our way through narrow countryside roads. Earlier on Saturday I had bought his family one of those lotion hand sets and so was wondering when and how I was going to give it to them.
My mind cleared as we got out of the car and I met his father for the first time. I could tell he was a nice guy and definitely the complete opposite of my ex's. For my ex's dad was the very traditional family man type who kept quiet at meals. My impression of JH's Dad is that he is a fun Ahjusshi. Let me just give you this image: His hair was short and permed curly (I don't know if it was natural... but something tells me he isn't). He had gold rings like a disco star on his fingers and a gold Rolex watch to match. He dressed casually and drove an SUV with a Buddhist figurine dangling from the mirror.
Needless to say I was amused by his image and curious about his character.
We went inside and were seated where JH helped translate questions and answers. I didn't feel uncomfortable at all but a bit ashamed that my Korean is still so low after so long being here.
Here is JH's sister ~ she is very nice and I am older than her so I am her "Unni".
This restaurant was packed with customers, which was a sight to see considering we were deep in the countryside. The staff brought in the tables by carrying them with all the dishes on it and placing it before us. Then a little while longer the freshly barbecued eel was brought to the table.
You might be thinking "Eel....ewwwww". And yes the sound of eating eel is foreign to a westerner not accustomed with such sea creature. All I was scared of was whether they would have live eels in the front of the restaurant swimming around. I would have felt bad to eat the eel having known it was freshly killed earlier. However, many folks out there find this fun and thrilling.
The barbecued eel was very delicious. The sauce they put on it made the eel very tasty. Also there was freshly cut ginger on the table to sample while eating the eel. I found this very helpful when sometimes a bite was too...well..eel-ish.
We enjoyed eating and I exchanged stories about America that were funny and enlightening. After we finished eating they served us tea and coffee and we relaxed for a while. Then it was time to take off. I was told we were going to a park but I didn't expect it to be someplace very special. I will tell you more about this in an upcoming post.
The style of the restaurant was based upon the hanok, where for example we ate in a room with sliding doors around us. They had outdoor seating which I can imagine would be fun in the spring or summer.
We headed to the cars to get ready to go to the next place. At this point I took out the gift and handed it to his family. They seemed surprised and grateful. JH tried to convince me I didn't need to give them a gift but I felt it was rude to go to a meeting and be empty handed. Plus his father paid for the meal.
So check in later on as I will update about the special place we went to next. Also as soon as JH can give me the name of the restaurant I will add it to this post.