Dalkkalbi and Soju and Very Large Trucks

Friday night’s taekwondo class was a test. We started with a lot of running, then some poomse (I need to work on my stances) and kicking drills.

It was a good class, but when we were changing in the closet, Crybaby asked me a funny question.

“아만다, 기분이 나빠요?” Amanda, are you in a bad mood?

“아뇨. 왜?” No. Why?

“조용했어요! 말 안했어요.” You were so quiet! You didn’t talk at all.

“심사 했어!” We had a test!

She just laughed.

After class, Master asked if I wanted to have some dinner and soju. Master, his wife, their children, Officer and I went to the restaurant where we met Good Man. On the way there I was holding Master’s Daughter’s hand. A very large truck passed as and I held her close to me and hugged a car to keep from being run over. At the very last moment she yanked free from me.

Oh my. God.

She ended up hitting her head against the very back of the truck while her mother and I were both yelling at her.

Oh. My. God.

Everything happened fast and in slow motion at the same time.

I scooped her up, she started bawling, the truck stopped, Master ran to talk to the driver, I reached up to touch her head, felt for blood, his wife yelled at me, “괜찮아?” Is she OK?

I felt no blood, no cuts. I nodded, “괜찮아! 괜찮아!” I started whispering to Master’s Daughter, 괜찮아, 괜찮아.

The driver came around the back of the truck and talked to us, Master’s Wife and Officer checked her head while Master explained what had happened.

I felt terrible and I couldn’t even explain what happened because I was so freaked out. I was just clutching her and whispering, “You’re OK, you’re OK” over and over.

We got to the restaurant and I took her shoes off. We sat down, Master called her to the other side of the table. Her tears were already dry, not three minutes later. I looked at her, touched my head and mouthed, “괜찮아?” She grinned and nodded.

The owners remembered us and asked a) where I was from and b) where my boyfriend was. This time Master appeased them by telling them I was American and from Minnesota. The husband pulled out a little planner with a map of the US in it and made me point to my home state. The wife drilled me about Good Man.

We ate some delicious 닭갈비 and had some soju. I think poor Officer wanted to go home and I sort of felt bad. Since Master is her boss, she was basically being subjected to a wayshik while I was just enjoying the company of my Korean family.

At one point Master and I were chatting about Korean because I’m having a heck of a time with the relative clause. He was trying to explain it and we started talking about studying Korean in general.

“관장님, 작년 만났어요. 하지만 한국어를 말 할 수없었어요. 조금 긴장 했어요?” Master, we met last year. But I didn’t speak Korean. Were you a little nervous?

Master and his wife both shook their heads and spoke at the same time. “아니요.” No.

“그래요?” Really?

They spread their hands apart and Master said, while his wife nodded in agreement, “많이 했어요!” I was very nervous!

I laughed because I expected him to save face a little bit, but he wasn’t afraid to tell the truth. He told me that he’d never spoken to a foreigner before. I’m sure if he really meant never or if he meant he’d never made a foreign friend. I know I’m the only foreign student he’s ever had.

He said that his brother had called him and warned him that I was coming, so he had about five minutes to prepare for me.

For some reason I found that terribly funny.

Master said he speaks English well when he drinks, so perhaps he should drink soju before every taekwondo class. I laughed and shook my head and tried to say in Korean, “If you drink soju every day, your wife will not like me!”

“No, my wife likes you.” She nodded.

“I know,” I said. “But if you drink soju ever day…I think she won’t like me.” She smiled and nodded.

Master said, “I like soju, you like soju. I think you drank a lot in the US.”

He thinks that? I shook my head, “No, Master, I only drink soju because I practice taekwondo.”

“Huh?”

“태권도 연습하나까 관장님 만났어요. 만났으나까 소주를 마셔요!” Because I practice taekwondo, I met you. Because I met you, I drink soju.

We all laughed.

But it’s true!

“You Are Korean.”

When Master told me his brother’s wife was pregnant, I asked if she was having a boy or a girl.

Master’s Wife said, “They don’t know. In Korea, doctors can’t tell because parents want boys and…” she seemed to search for a way to explain it at my level of Korean. I understood.

“Ah, I understand,” I said. “But if they give a doctor money? Will they know?”

Master laughed. “Oh, Amanda! You are Korean!”

Romantic Christmas with your Lovers

According to the English-language Everland guide I have, you want a “Romantic Christmas with your lovers.”

Wow. Korea’s got a sex revolution going on. Who knew?

Christmas is Korea is not really treated as a family thing. Christmas here consists of one day off of work and going to a coffee shop with your lover(s).

Today Good Man came over around noon. I was feeling suddenly very sick and asked him to pick up my grocery list for me. I made some foil packets filled with boneless chicken breast, small potatoes, onions, a bit of cream of mushroom soup, olive oil, salt, One Shot pepper blends, and herb and garlic or red pepper blends. Roasted those for an hour and had that for dinner with kiwis for desert.

We spent the day chatting, watching downloaded shows, and just enjoying being together.

A wonderful day.

Seafood for Sale

Seafood for Sale on Christmas Day

Christmas Eve Moon

This post from Brian in Jeollanam-do sums up why I will not be extending my contract in Korea.

***

“Master’s Wife,” I whispered, “is Master here?”

“Yes.”

“Is Officer here?”

“Yes.”

I scrunched up my face. “Um, I have a Christmas gift, but I forgot about Officer!”

She nodded knowingly, and took my gift.

After class (a Christmas party that consisted of watching some horror movie and eating snacks), I went to say goodbye to Maser. Master, Grin, Officer, Master’s Wife and another man I don’t know were chowing down on the gift I’d brought: two dozen molasses cookies and Snickerdoodles. I’d baked them Saturday and they’d kept very well. I’d found a straw woven tray from some Chuseok gift and used that for the cookie tray.

They enjoyed the cookies, which felt good.

I can bake.

***

I’m not sure if it’s a full moon, nearly full moon, or just was full moon. Photo taken at 1954, ISO 100, shutter 1/100th, f/16. I have a tendency to really overexposure moon shots but remembered that the Sunny Sixteen rule basically works with the moon. Heavily cropped (I only had my prime lens!) and contrast lightly adjusted in Lightroom.

Christmas Eve Moon

Crane Shots

Taken through a bus window. I think it’s a dump. It’s near several schools and a big open market area. Korea, Sparkling!

A Month of Random Photos

Random photos from the past month.

At taekwondo.

Crybaby, A Budding Photographer

Near Costco.

Depth of Field Study on a Branch

Pine Needles

Near my apartment.

Biomass

From a night out with Jennifer, Gym Guy, and Annie.

Meat

Good Man Laughing At…

…Gym Guy Describing How He Likes to Sleep

Shin Ramyeon Socks

Near the subway station.

Merry Soju Christmas

Quoted Speech and Team Crazy

Tonight’s taekwondo class was fun. There’s this new fourth grade student who came to us from another studio. He has no balance. We were playing soccer and every single time he went to block or kick or hit the ball, he fell on the floor. At one point, I swear, he managed to do a flying side kick (or something like it) from a standing position. I couldn’t stop laughing.

I was in charge of Team Crazy again and we totally kicked butt! I scored three goals, nearly all of them by accident. It can be nice being a tall woman in a game full of short kids. They kick the ball, I block it without even moving, and somehow manage to scores goals.

아싸!

In between games, Officer Sabumnim helped me with my Korean homework. I had to ask her three questions then used reported speech (which is a giant pain in the butt) to repeat what she said. I was glad she helped me cause the elementary students were just plain confused. Also, Officer seems very shy with me and I’d like her to feel more comfortable with me.

I’m not sure why she’s so shy with me. I think it might be the fact that I’m 8 years older than her and that I’ve been at the studio for over a year.

Degree Scandals

“Good Man. If you had to describe Korean culture to someone, what’s the first thing you’d start with?”

He thought for a moment and nodded. “Fake degrees.”

I walked into the kitchen. I was afraid I was going to spit out my tea and wanted to be sure the sink was close by.

***
So Good Man met some teacher-friends of mine tonight, one of whom was black. Twenty-six and he finally met a black person. So odd.

As we were walking home (after dinner and ice cream) he said, “I will do your dishes. Will you make me a snack?”

“You’re still hungry?”

“Yes.”

I shook my head. “I don’t have any food.”

He grinned and said in a sing-song voice, “Yes, you have!”

Santa Gets Soju and Kimchi

Last night Master and I had soju together. We haven’t had soju together since he met Good Man.

Good Man was supposed to join us, but he was stuck working until 12 am in Ansan, so he couldn’t come. Master’s Brother and the Sabumnim from his school were also supposed to join us, but that Sabumnim was teaching swimming and Master’s Brother’s Wife is 4 months pregnant, so they were spending the evening together.

So…it ended up being Master, our new Police Officer Sabumnim for a while and another friend of Master’s for a while.

Master always speaks English better when he drinks soju, but since Officer was there, I tried to speak Korean. I’ve only met her twice and she’s very shy and I was trying to make her more comfortable. She’s not used to drinking soju and I taught her the rules, which Master found very funny.

Shortly before Officer left (around midnight) another friend of his came over. This man is one year older than us (his birthday is the last day of this year) and they met at a military training. He owns a Lucky supermarket in the market area.

Lucky had never met a foreigner before, so he was really fascinated by me. He kept asking all these questions and then I’d start to answer and he’d freak out and ask Master what I was saying. Master and his wife kept saying, “Listen to her! She’s speaking Korean!”

I know Master and his wife understand me very well because they’re used to me, my accent (North Korean!), we have our own little language and the like. But I think part of this guy’s problem was that he’s so unused to hearing foreigners speak Korean. I don’t think it was simply an accent thing, I think it was some sort of a mental block.

Lucky was extremely interested in the fact that I am dating a Korean. Master said something about my boyfriend and he said, “What? Who is he? Is he Korean?… He’s KOREAN?”

I have no idea why this was so interesting to him. He kept asking why I love Good Man. Well, really, how do you explain that?

I said that Americans, Koreans, Chinese, Europeans, black, white, yellow, are all different but that their hearts are the same. I said that language and food and culture may be different but that heart, mind, and ki (energy) are the same.

I’m not sure he believed me though.

He kept pushing, why do I love my boyfriend? I said, “Do you have a girlfriend?”

“I’ve had many girlfriends.”

“And why did you like them?”

He laughed, “Because I am a man!”

“OK, same thing.”

Master thought I wasn’t understanding the question and repeated it in English. I fully understood what he was asking, but when I’d answered “[Good Man]’s smart and nice and kind and I think he’s handsome. I like him” that hadn’t been good enough.

I said, “When we are together, we have fun.”

But my answer still wasn’t enough. Master asked me the question again for Lucky. I turned it on him. His wife was sitting next to me. I said, “Master! Why do you love your wife? Master’s Wife, why do you love your husband?”

They looked at each other across the table, smiled, and she blushed. Master said, “OK, Amanda, I understand.” He then said something to Lucky to get him to understand.

But Lucky was still interested in knowing why I’d ever date a Korean man because “foreign women don’t like Korean men.”

I asked why he thought that and he said that Westerners have stereotypes. I laughed and said Koreans had stereotypes about us, too and then started listing them, including “Korean men don’t like foreign women.”

After that I said, “I think many Western women think Korean men are too traditional. But…” Here I was a little uncomfortable because Master’s wife was sitting next to me and I didn’t want her to misunderstand me. But I think she knows me well enough to know that Master and I just friends, so I continued. “I came to Korea. And I met Master and his brother the first day. And I practiced taekwondo every week with Master and he is very nice. And his wife is very nice. And his kids and my little brothers and sisters. And I met my temporary Master and he was very nice. So I think not all Korean men are like ajosshis.” (Master laughed at that.) “Some Korean men are not good. Some American men are not good. Some European men are not good. It’s the same in every country. But some people are good. It’s the same in every country.”

That answer seemed satisfactory enough.

His wife and I got to chat a bit more when Master and Lucky were going on about I don’t know what. She asked me a bit about my first date with Good Man. Then, when we were done, Lucky asked what our first date was like. Master’s Wife and I both just laughed.

Lucky was so curious about me that I had to ask if he’d ever met a foreigner. He hadn’t and I said he had a lot of questions. He said he wanted to form a closer relationship. I said, “I know. We are drinking soju together, so now we are friends!”

Master laughed and said, “See! She is very Korean!”

Lucky asked how I learned Korean and Master and I started talking about my studying at the studio, on my own, with language partners and Michael. Lucky was really surprised that I came to the studio speaking no Korean. I was really surprised that I was using the past, present, future tenses, “if…then,” when, after, before, and must grammar patterns correctly.

Master’s kids were cranky and we threatened them that Santa wouldn’t come. Master called Santa and told him that if his kids weren’t good, he couldn’t come. I asked if kids put out milk and cookies for Santa here and they don’t. I explained the tradition and said, “Maybe, in Korea, Santa drinks soju.” Can you imagine? Soju and kimchi for Santa!

Apparently I was really on the ball last night because Master kept laughing at what I intended to be jokes.

Master’s Wife kept the food coming and made some frozen crushed raspberry slush to mix with the soju. Master had frozen some soju beforehand, so I said “얼음 소주 머리가 아플 거 예요!” I will get an ice soju headache. Master promised I wouldn’t. I have always wondered why his wife doesn’t drink with us. She said she gets sick whenever she drinks, so now she just doesn’t.

Since Good Man couldn’t come, Master asked me to call him. Good Man apologized for not being able to join us and asked how I was going to get home. Master said I was going to take a taxi and that I was fine. Then I talked to Good Man, who asked me the same things. I said, “[Good Man], I heard Master tell you. I’m fine, I’ll take a taxi home.”

“OK, I just worry about you.”

“But I’m with my Korean family. I’m OK.”

When I did leave (after 1 am), Master and Lucky went out for beer. They invited me, but I knew better than to continue the evening any further. I am not Korean. I will break up a group.

The only problem was that Master told the taxi driver that I spoke excellent Korean. He was doing this to try and prevent the guy from screwing me on the price, but the guy then asked me questions the whole way home (about 25 mins) when my head hurt and I just wanted to sleep.