I got back to my hometown of Waukesha, WI* on 4 days ago on Saturday. The WI portion of the USA trip ends this Saturday when we fly out to AZ. Sadly, the OH trip won't happen because of familial circumstances. It's not something I can say much about here.
This time in WI's been great thus far. It's been a race to see just how many old friends can be met with and how many old haunts can be seen before the time's up. Here're the highlights of the trip to date:
Chinese food with the family: I jumped at the chance to get tofu in black bean (jjajang) sauce and resume the family tradition of eating Chinese together. The black beans looked and tasted considerably different here than in Korea, though: the thick, dark texture of the sauce was thin and brown instead. It still tasted good, but I did miss the oil-slick feel of real jjajang.
Korean food near UW-Parkside. My friend Mike found a Korean/Japanese restaurant near his apartment out there and checked it out. He'd been there before and said that a Korean woman ran it. I eagerly scanned the menu and saw that they did a variety of bibimbaps and fried rice dishes, but didn't have any galbi or samgyeopsal on hand for table side grilling. That's unfortunate, because I was keen to show Mike the finer points of Korean barbecue. He ordered chicken bibimbap and I ordered kimchi bibimbap and awaited for those characteristic stone pots to arrive. They arrived with a conspicuous absence of the side dishes so common in Korean restaurants. Once again I had to remember that I wasn't in Korea and restaurants run differently here. Nonetheless, that kimchi bibimbap tasted as good as it does in Korea. The chefs packed plenty of kimchi into it, too. I found this pleasantly surprising. The quality (and quantity--I took half home) of the dish made up for its $14 price--over 2 times what bibimbap costs in its native land. Mike enjoyed his dish too, though he doesn't go in for the kimchi as much as I do.
The Korean owner did in fact come out to check on us, which provided a chance to speak in Korean. My doing so surprised her, for she probably doesn't have too much Korean-speaking Americans stop by. She asked about why I'd been there and was thrilled to hear I lived in Gangwon-do. What's more, she stirred the bibimbap for me, just all the other Korean restaurant proprietors have done. When that happened, WI vanished for a minute and I was shot back to that first month in Wasu. Good times.
Hitting the movie theater: Mike's a fellow movie aficionado and collector. We saw Zero Dark Thirty one night, came back to his place to watch The Life Aquatic, and caught the noon showing of Django Unchained the next day. Yu could ascertain plenty about our personalities and senses of humor from those three choices. I won't talk about the Life Aquatic except to say that it's a fine film. Django and Zero Dark Thirty, on the other hand, make for a dark cinematic outing. One's a you-are-there documentary-like account of the famous raid on Osama bin Laden's compound and one's a searing tale of revenge in the antebellum south. Both films feature graphically dehumanizing scenes of torture. Both will probably make viewers uncomfortable.
For my money, I liked Django more, not least because of my fondness for Tarantino and his work. It's classic stuff from the auteur: ace dialogue, plentiful blood, strong characterization, and poignant music on the soundtrack. You've probably read about now brutal its depiction of slavery is, which is true, but I also enjoyed the verbal duels happening throughout the film. Christopher Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio lay down tense, barbed words like shrewd Southern gentlemen.
On a cultural note, not having to sit in an assigned seat felt good. Also, as far as I remember Korean movie theaters don't have matinee prices like American theaters do.