In the fall of my first year at the University of Chicago, I joined a student organization called Students Teaching at Ray School (STARS). I joined STARS because it runs an English-as-a-Second-Language after-school program, which sets it apart from the many other tutoring organizations on campus. UChicago tutors are individually matched with ESL students at Ray Elementary, and the pair meet for an hour twice-a-week throughout the school year.
I got really, really lucky.
This is Seoyeon! She was my student for a year and a half until she moved back to Korea in December of last year. We hit it off right away; I ended up both tutoring her twice a week and having weekly dinners with her family. I really loved getting to know her and her parents, and we had a great time teaching each other (I helped her with English, and she helped me with Korean). Since she’s back in Korea, I went to visit her and her newly expanded family (she has a baby sister now!) in Incheon on Sunday.
After about 40 minutes on the subway, I arrived at Geomam station in Incheon, which is southwest of Seoul and home to the main international airport. Seoyeon and her mom met me at the station, and from there we walked to their apartment. I brought muffins (cupcakes, rather, but they called them muffins) and chamae (small Korean melons) for the family, which we shared as we caught up.
Seoyeon and I watched a movie, and then decided to go on a walk before dinner. One of the first things we saw was an exercise park. These are pretty common in Korea, though you don’t see them much in busy city neighborhoods. They’re basically weight machines without adjustable weights — they rely on your body weight instead. Lots of kids play on them too — some of the “machines” are just plain fun.
Then we passed a van named “Grace” on our way out…
Seoyeon took me to the Ara Waterway, a manmade river that branches off from the Hangang (Han River) at one end. There’s a little three-story lookout tower that we went up to see the view.
The riverside area is like a park — there’s a big bike path, lots of trees, and plenty of benches — so there are lots of families there when it’s nice out.
There’s also an area with a bunch of clocks depicting the time in various parts of the world.
We even say a little dog with pink ears and a pink tail!
After we got back to their apartment, we all went out to dinner at one of Seoyeon’s favorite restaurants. Like at a traditional Korean restaurant, we took off our shoes at the entrance and were seated around a table on the floor.
I think we had samgyupsal (pork belly slices) as an appetizer, and I had a bean paste-based stew (not daenjang, but I’m not quite sure what it’s called) that Seoyeon recommended.
Both were amazing — this is exactly the type of authentic Korean food that I know and love. I had never tried this bean-based stew/soup before, so it was fun to try something new. Most of all, it was great to see Seoyeon and her family!
Seoyeon referred to the restaurant as “Kong jip” (bean house), but I’m pretty sure it’s actual name is Kong doori (콩두리, 569-5569). If you’re ever in Incheon, give it a try!