It’s the first week of summer vacation in Korea but vacation doesn’t have quite the same meaning here as it does in the rest of the world. The precise translation is business as usual. With a few exceptions, all of the staff and pupils are here in school teaching and studying as normal for the best part of the day, five days a week under the guise of ‘extra-curricular lessons’. Only my role has really changed. This week is English Summer Camp (as proclaimed by the daunting banner plastered across the school gates). So from 8 – 3 I desk warm and from 3 – 6 I lead 20 students in camp activities.
I’ll admit I was pretty anxious in the run up. Having been studying solidly for around 6 hours I wasn’t optimistic about the students’ motivation levels, and on my first day I gloomily awaited the arrival of my listless charges. Instead I was greeted by 20 bright-eyed and bushy-tailed boys whose energy and enthusiasm has only seemed to rise and rise. Four days in I’m having a great time. My only gripe is this desk warming malarky. I’ve tried to use the time as productively as possible but frankly there’s only so much future lesson planning a person can do. And so I’ve decided to take 10 minutes this afternoon to issue what I think is a public service announcement.
It turns out South Korea has been quietly sitting on the eighth Wonder of the World.
Let me introduce the unfamiliar among you to patbingsu (팥빙수). Otherwise known as HEAVEN IN A BOWL. I can sense some of you turning your noses up – I was one of you once. Are those…BEANS?! Yes, yes they are but they are in fact magic beans (more commonly know as sweetened azuki).
There are so many possible combinations available but generally the key components are ice shavings, milk/cream, beans and fruit. Don’t ask me how the seemingly nonsensical addition of a bean elevates this otherwise pedestrian combination to the sublime. I don’t question perfection.
Notable extras include ice cream, syrup, cereal flakes, jelly and tteok (rice cake). Yes people have been known to come across a rogue tomato from time to time (it is technically a fruit afterall), but this is a rarity and certainly shouldn’t deter you from pursuing the Path of Patbingsu.
It’s a long, hot summer here in Korea and I intend to sample as many varieties as I can, safe in the knowledge that the resultant fillings will only cost me the equivalent of a UK cinema ticket.