Sunday, July 6, 2008

Happy Birthday Me!

I inhaled a great weekend of celebration with my family, in a new and exciting place. On Saturday we spent the morning getting ourselves packed and organized for an island getaway. We planned to head to a place called Nam Hae (South Sea) to soak up the sun on a white sand beach. As most of you probably know, this is precisely my favourite kind of adventure. On our way out of Jinju, in the early afternoon, we stopped by the school to pick up Jonathan and say hello to Kyung-Me. Bonnie bought a goguma (Korean sweet potato) cake - So yummmmmy.

After a 2 hour bus trip, we arrived in the small village of SangJu, and checked into a hotel. We strolled to the beach at dusk. The air was full of moisture in a thick layer of fog that blanketed the tops of lush mountains around us. The street that ran parallel to the beach was lined with neon signs highlighting seafood restaurants. In front, their welcome signs were large salt-water tanks full of squid, octopus, abalone, crab, eel, and an array of fish.

We decided on a spot where Christine and Jonathan had eaten before, and ordered what the people behind us were having. A huge bubbling seafood stew served on a propane stove with a multitude of Korean side dishes. I could feel that this was going to be exciting.

So far my Korean culinary adventures have been as diverse as they are extraordinary. I have tried and loved jelly fish, octopus, stingray, and dried whole anchovies. Not to mention the many other delicious unnamed, unidentified items I have tried. We eat out about 50% of the time here, and as per my experience, a meal in a Korean restaurant - any Korean restaurant - is a culinary adventure.

So picture this: you have a minimum of 20 different flavours to compliment the main dishes, creating combinations that satisfy every square mm of your tongue. We enjoy the standard proteins (pork, beef, fish, chicken or soy), accompanied by sides of fresh vegetables, marinated vegetables, pickled vegetables and fermented vegetables, bean pastes, seaweeds, dried fish products and spicy hot things galore! I have not yet experienced the sensation, at least that I am aware, of trying dog, which is common fare on dining tables here.

We spent a lazy Sunday on the beach, grateful that the Korean holiday crowds were not yet out in full force. We all loved watching Rohanna put her feet in the ocean for the first time, and feeling the texture of sand between her toes for the first time. The beach was beautiful, and I found hours of inspiration in the shoreline shells, my new book, a little white wine and the warm sun.

We took a late afternoon bus back to Jinju. As we travelled through the Korean hillsides on our way home I recalled as many previous birthdays as I could. This is a personal tradition I engage in every year, and this time I decided it might be a good idea to document these events somewhere. Lately I am addicted to journaling and I am excited at the opportunity to share these memories with all of you. It is a little like cheating for next year, but some of these memories are far too good to let slip away into the depths of my well-withdrawn memory bank. There are some very special moments, and monumental experiences tied into these past birthdays. The people who shared this special day with me over the past 29 years are all dear to me in an assortment of ways. I am grateful to have shared my life with each and every one of you who have undoubtedly played a major role in the development of who I am today. I thank you and I love you.

2008 (29) - NamHae, South Korea -

2007 (28) - Kingston, Ontario -
I woke up at Pine St. having spent my first 2 nights sleeping there since returning to Canada from Colombia. I had only a backpack of clothes, no food, or household items because I hadn`t actually moved in yet. I drove a rental car to the public library to check my email, activated my cell phone and headed back to Burlington to get all my belongings. Nana cooked me dinner.

2006 (27) - Southern Ontario -
I woke up in the peaceful surroundings of Ellie's cottage on Bala Bay in Muskoka. Aaron and I hit the road early, with plans of making it back into Toronto before things got too busy. Half way home we detoured into Orilla and spent the afternoon exploring Casino Rama. Then we headed back to Ellerbeck St. for dinner and a hot tub.

2005 (26) - Cali, Colombia -
Aaron, Theory, Mark and I woke up early and enjoyed a LaBuitrera morning with coffee on the front porch. We headed out to the Cali artisanian district and checked out the galleria market before an afternoon of bowling and beer at Linea 10. In the evening, Aaron and I splurged at SunSai, and had superb sushi in style.

2004 (25) - Grand Cayman Island, W.I. -
Jason and I woke up at our apartment in West Bay. Bonnie was visiting and we picked ackees from the back yard for a traditional Jamaican breakfast. We also had Colombian coffee and Californian fruit smoothies. By noon we were on a catamaran headed for Stingray City. We followed that with cocktails at a pool bar. Next, we drank a bottle of wine on the rocky coast beside the turtle farm watching the sunset before an exquisite meal at Passione with friends from the Westin and the Hyatt.

2003 (24) - Lunenburg, Nova Scotia -
Rita, Shelly, Dustin, Aaron, Nana and Bonnie were all visiting Jason and me in Lunenburg. Diane and David planned an amazing backyard BBQ party to celebrate my birthday. I finished off the night with Jason, Karen, Sandy, Hoss, Lohnes and a few others at the Knot.

2002 (23) - Wolfville, Nova Scotia -
Jason and I planned a birthday getaway weekend in front of the fireplace in the Bayport house I rented for 5 weeks. On my birthday we woke up early and headed to Wolfville. We drank daiquiris on the back patio of Joe's Food Emporium all afternoon. Later, as we strolled down main street, we made an impulsive visit to a tattoo parlor, barely leaving us enough time to get ready for our reservations at Grand Pre Winery. We had a spectacular 4-hour dinner, wrapped up with Pomme D'or apple ice wine under the grape vine pagoda. We continued to celebrate after dinner with Lohnes at the Anville. The next day we returned to Lunenburg to meet Karen, Sandy, Dan, Jeff, Kevin, Jill and the rest of the OFF crew at the Knot.

2001 (22) - Lunenburg, Nova Scotia -
Another birthday party at the Knot. This was the infamous Grey Goose year. I lived in a grey house on Montague St. with Bub, Todd, Craig, and Ashley. There were many fun nights spent on the back lawn, front stoop and crowding in the carpeted living room to play Excite Bike and listen to Pearl Jam. On the night of my birthday as the crowds returned from the pub someone shouted with excitement, "Oh goody, look! There's a tent on the lawn". Whoever it was fled in embarrassment after almost curling in with Bonnie for the night.

2000 (21) - Lunenburg, Nova Scotia -
I worked the lunch shift at the Fish, knowing that small party arrangements were being carried out for the evening. Pete and I lived in a small apartment across from the Bank of Montreal on King St. Along with a few others, Bonnie, Pete, Jacqueline, Bub and I drank fresh strawberry daiquiris and ate strawberry shortcake. We celebrated the night away at, well yes, I am sure you guessed it - the Knot.

1999 (20) - Lunenburg, Nova Scotia -
My first summer in Lunenburg. I worked at the art gallery all day and then followed Trevor, Todd, Kelly and Lohnes out to Bub's shack in Sunnybrook. We played no-friend-o and drank beer.

1998 (19) - Kingston, Ontario -
I worked the dinner shift at Whiskey Willy's and proceeded to celebrate turning of legal drinking age with Dan and his boys at The Brass. We played pool all night and ate Bubba's poutine on the way home to Bear who was waiting patiently for us.

1997 (18) - Kingston, Ontario -
Dan and I went to A.J.'s to celebrate with friends. I remember our celebrations couldn't be overly public because the I.D I had used to get in said my birthday was December 12th, 1975 (my sister's birthday). We had moved into the Quebec St. apartment 4 days prior. Around 4 days later, we adopted Bear from Dan's mother.

1996 (17) & 1995 (16) - Kingston, Ontario
My sixteenth and seventeenth birthday celebration happened in the same place, with more-or-less the same people. I share the same birthday with Jen Rodney and Sara Thompson and for years they had been celebrating together. These 2 years I jumped on the party bandwagon at the Rodney's place in Grenadier. On my seventeenth birthday my family came to Kingston and we went rock climbing at th Boiler Room. With many fun Kingston family friends we had a picnic-style party in the back yard of the Russel St. house.

1994 (15) - Kingston, Ontario -
This is where things begin to get a little fuzzy, which may or may not be am effect of how this summer was spent. I believe I spent this birthday with Katelyn, Ryan, Adrian, Johannes, Fraser, Alyssa and Malissa at the John St. house. The deck hadn't been built yet and we sat on lawn chairs around a wagon wheel table in the 2-meter by 10-meter strip of grass between their house and the next. That's about all I can pull from the depths of the memory bank. Sad, I know.

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