notebooks and a t-shirt

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Every week I correct diary entries for one of the Korean teachers at Matthew's school. (Her English is nearly flawless, but I do have that lovely English Education degree, so I might as well use it for something.) Some of the notebooks that the students use are hilarious. I took pictures of some of my favorites.

Korean kids really love candy...

But when it comes to people, they are realistic...

In the end, after double redemption, you can only rely on yourself...
(Love that ENGLISH, of all words, is misspelled.)

This is actually my notebook, which the package misled me to believe was rosemary-scented. It is not. Luckily, it's not bulgogi- or kimchi-scented, either.

And, finally, a t-shirt we spotted in the traditional market area. Such sweet sentiments...

the haps

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Interesting (to me, anyway) and random events from the past few weeks:

Crazy Weather
We had a solar eclipse (about 70% here in Korea) yesterday, but it was so overcast that you could barely even tell. I really hope I'm not jinxing myself by saying this, but we've had unseasonably cool (read: livable) weather so far this month. Last year, July 5th was the beginning of almost two solid months of "air conditioning weather": hot, sticky, yuck.

Couch Surfing 101
After Matthew invited home a random Dutch backpacker he met at the bus stop several weeks ago, we decided that hosting couch-surfers actually works okay for our family. Since changing our status to allow guests, we've had a Swiss tourist and two expat English teachers from Seoul stay with us. Since Matthew's profile clearly states that we have two young children, we've had guests who like kids. We have another American coming this weekend, and could easily end up hosting all summer unless we decline.

When Halmonis (grandmothers) attack:

One Saturday afternoon, we got on a bus going downtown. Since Matthew was carrying the stroller, I was carrying Rowan and holding Liam's hand. There were no open seats and no one moved to give theirs up, so I instructed Liam to hold on to the handle corner of one seat, while I held one of the handle ring hanging from the ceiling. I heard the voice of an older woman, and caught a few familiar words including "baby" before one of the middle school boys right by us got up. I helped Liam sit down. The voice became a little more persistent and another boy surrendered his seat. I sat down and turned to the woman who had been speaking. I thanked her, which let her know that I understood at least some of what she was saying. That was all the encouragement she needed. She became louder, haranguing the boys for all to hear. The gist of her lecture was, "When a woman with children gets on the bus, you give up your seat now, now, NOW!" They didn't look at her, but kept their eyes downcast, which is the proper way to respond to a scolding. When she got off the bus, I gave her a little nod (head bow) and smiled. Sometimes halmonis totally rock.

And I learned...
...Fenugreek (a "galactagogue," which sounds like something off of Star Trek) is apparently illegal in South Korea. (That doesn't mean that foreigners don't bring it in, or that they aren't willing to share extra.) to say "It's not f***ing cold" really, really politely. Will I ever actually say that to an overly-pushy halmoni who insists my child is improperly dressed? Probably not, but knowledge is power, right? feels really good to squirt kids with a super-soaker when they call me waegook (foreigner). (It was a one-time thing. Liam was using some girl's super soaker and I had just finished helping him with something on it. These kids have seen me many times before, so it was just ridiculous. Maybe I should start carrying a squirt gun with me for that purpose.)
...gim is really good wrapped around rice and tuna salad (tuna + mayonnaise). It's my minimalist/ghetto version of chamchi (tuna) gimbap.

hurt: a flashback, a language lesson, a doctor visit and a video

Monday, July 13, 2009

March 2006: Shortly before we found out I was pregnant with Liam, Matthew and I took a weekend trip to Seoul with some friends. Oh, how easy it was to just throw a few things in a bag and hop on a bus in those days. My friend Sara wanted to get her eyebrow pierced while we were in Itaewon and I decided to get mine done as well.

Sara and I, modeling our newly pierced eyebrows:

When we returned to Sokcho, all the Koreans we knew seemed very concerned about how much it must hurt. I tried to explain that it didn't hurt any more than getting one's ears pierced, but I don't think they were convinced. One student told me it looked, "very very very very very very sick." I was a bit offended at first, until I found out that in Korean, the word 아파 (a'pa) means both hurt and sick. She just chose the wrong translation...I think.

Which brings us to yesterday when I told various medical professionals 귀 아파요 (kwi a'payo, "[My] ear hurts"). The family practitioner I initially visited took a look at my ear and referred me to an E.N.T. (ear, nose, and throat specialist). Yes, my ear hurt, but that was just the beginning of the pain. My rather nasty middle ear infection is caused by my equally nasty sinus infection. The E.N.T., a Dr. Song, told me that ramming several long cotton swabs up each nostril is the most effective treatment. Apparently, it opens the clogged nasal passages and allows them to drain more freely. It also felt as if red-hot pokers had been rammed up my nostrils. My eyes watered. I couldn't see. I gasped. I whimpered. He left them in there and then wanted me to look at the x-ray type picture he'd taken of my face. Even though the pain faded to a dull ache, I couldn't see anything without my glasses, which I'd removed. After the little torture session was finished, his assistant helped me with a nasal rinse (cross between a neti pot and the rinsing spout that a dentist uses). He prescribed two days of medication and told me to come back, evidently for more of the same. It will apparently take 2-3 weeks for the infection to clear. (The good doctor's wife is a dentist, quite a sadistic pairing.)

And, finally, while I'm on the topic of "Hurt," I will leave you with this video. Although I loved the original Nine Inch Nails version as an angst-filled teenager, it never touched me quite as much as this cover by the late Johnny Cash. Now there was a man who could sing about pain.

Incidentally, the eyebrow ring only lasted three or four weeks. I liked the way it looked, but would forget about it every morning and hurt myself when I rubbed my eyes. Alas, I'm too low maintenance to be a hipster.

standard conversation; strange question

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sometimes when I try to speak Korean, I am embarrassed by my pathetic language skills. Other times, like today, I feel like I'm not too bad.

I was at the playground with the boys, actually waiting for my friend to come down with her children. A woman sat down beside me on the bench after removing the baby boy strapped to her back with a podaegi.* She also had a little girl a bit older than Liam. She looked at Rowan in the stroller beside me and pronounced the usual expressions of cuteness. She was soon joined by two men (husband and brother-in-law would be my guess) with another little girl around the same age. The two little girls ran off to play and the men began conversing with the woman. The man I assumed to be her husband asked her if Rowan was a boy. I replied that he is, at which point she decided to start a conversation with me, since I obviously understand and speak a minimal level of Korean.

The following conversation took place almost completely in Korean, except she did say "teacher" and "January" in English, although I know those words in Korean.

KW: How old is he?
Me: 6 months. Your son?
KW: 7 months, born in December. Your son was born in January?
Me: No, December. December 30. Your son?
KW: December 13. Do you live in Buyoung? (That's the name of our apartment complex.)
Me: Yes. (gesturing vaguely at my building)
KW: You speak Korean very well.
Me: No, just a little. I don't speak well yet.
KW: Are you a teacher?
Me: Me? No. My husband is a teacher.
KW: Korean? American?
Me: My husband?
KW: Yes.
Me: American. (Amazingly, I said this without laughing.)

Now, maybe she hasn't seen many babies with mixed Korean and Caucasian parentage. I have. They're almost all absolutely gorgeous, and they have very definite Asian features. She had looked closely at Rowan before this. I'm pretty sure it would be genetically impossible for a child with a Korean parent to look like Rowan.

The conversation basically petered out after that. I was, however, proud of the fact that I did not once have to say, "I don't understand" or "I don't know," phrases which I find myself uttering all too often in Korean.

I'm still scratching my head over the question of whether my boys are half-Korean, though.

*The podaegi (also spelled podegi and pronounced po DEG ee with a long "o", a hard "g" similar to the "g" in "golf" or "go" and a long "e") is a Korean carrier with a medium to large rectangle of fabric hanging from a very long strap. Traditionally the rectangle is quilted for warmth and wraps around the mother's torso, while the straps are wrapped snug under the baby's bottom and tied around to the front to support and secure the baby on the mother's back. Western interest in the podaegi style has led to new wrapping methods which do go over the shoulders, and to narrower "blankets". (Definition courtesy of Wikipedia article: Baby sling.)

red, white & blue

Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy 4th of July!

Liam is evidently not feeling photogenic today.

Rowan, however, is loving the camera.
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