So, a few days ago, I got my driver’s license in Daejeon. Just barely, but I got passed the exam, and was licensed to drive in South Korea. I could, in fact, have immediately gotten an International Driving Permit as well, if I’d known.
This, of course, is terrifying. I hadn’t, until recently, driven a car in twenty years. But it’s a nice change: certainly, the expansion of our mobility is a huge help. Not that it wasn’t an entirely bizarre, baffling experience, getting the license—about which I’ll write more soon, I’m sure. But there’s perks to having it, like how, last night, we were feeling like eating outside. Without a car, we’d have been limited to the restaurants either in our neighborhood, or within sensible taxi distance. The problem with that is that there are very few decent ones.
So we hopped in the car. Jihyun’s still getting used to telling me which way to go (though since her phone has 3G, that’ll be her job during our ventures outside the city until we update and set up the navigation unit that came with the car), but she still managed to explain enough for us to reach our destination… a wonderful little restaurant out in the countryside outside town, called 구름나그네.
It’s run by a cool older woman whose haemul pajeon (seafood & green onion pancake) is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. You can see it down in the gallery above, and yes, it’s almost as deep as a water glass, and not densely packed. Definitely not artery-friendly, though, so we won’t be having that often. (We only managed to eat half of it, and brought the remainder home.)
The bebimbap (that rice dish in the other shot) and all the side dishes were good too, and she even gave us a dessert tea made with “a hundred different kinds of flowers” that, however many flowers are actually in it (I assume she’s rounding up) was really, really nice.
There’s other good stuff on the menu, too… and the dong-dong-ju is available as a takeout item (very reasonably priced for takeout, actually), which is nice since I was driving us home.
Gah, what’s happening? This isn’t a food blog! Well, I’ll just say a certain big hominid asked me to give him a picture to feast his eyes on:
… and since I have snapped any of the stuff he asked specifically for (some stuff I cooked over the weekend), I thought I’d oblige with this outing’s repast instead.
But actually, my point is that this was only possible because I got my driver’s license last Friday, and since we bought a car from a departing colleague, we’re no longer restricted to the very narrow selection of places in our neighborhood: one gets tired of the same three passable restaurants, and tired of cooking.
It’s also nice because the car provides us with a protective bubble of sorts (something most “international couples” I’ve talked to here have mentioned as a perk of having a car) as well as making it easier for Jihyun to get around, since she’s now seven and a half months pregnant. (!) And all it costs is a little of the planet’s future! (Ahem.)
Which is also to say, I still have my misgivings about cars, and about the idea of using them constantly to get around when other means of transport could be equally viable. I definitely need to get a bike, because I fear that once I get comfortable with driving, I could otherwise just end up driving everywhere, and that’s “no good for man or beast,” as my late father used to put it. We actually checked out a bike that was for sale by a woman on the other side of town—she said her husband was my height and was using it happily—but, well, I have no idea how that was possible: the bike seemed built for Gimli or Bifur or Bofur, or maybe Legolas at a push. I’m Aragorn-sized, and it was not happening.
Still, being able to drive now leaves us with a nice option for places that were previously out of reach, or were too much trouble to go otherwise. This was, incidentally, our second outing after I got my license. (Not the second time I’ve driven, of course, but the second time I’ve gone out without my colleague/driving tutor.) The first was just was a trip to the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon, also pleasantly uneventful. In neither case was anyone maimed or injured: no incidents of any kind, which is encouraging after everything I’vce heard people say about the dangers of driving in Korea. Our second (third?) hand Hyundai Sonata needs some work done, but it’s serving us well.
So… hooray! I’m even starting to get better at parking competently in the tiny spaces here.
Bonus for the day: seems like the restaurant was named after an old song. Here it is: