Yamanda

“[Cool Co-Teacher] taught me 찡찡대다. She says men love it.” 찡찡대다 means “to whine, to whimper, to grumble.”

“I love you the same.”

I turn my voice into a whine. “But do you like thi-i-i-is mo-o-ore?”

“Um. Maybe not.”

***

My school put me in a bit of an awkward situation last week. Last Wednesday they asked if Master could come down to our school and create some sort of taekwondo demonstration with some of our sixth graders. This would be for Sports Day, which was supposed to be Tuesday of this week. They didn’t want to use a local Kwanjangnim because it would show favoritism in the area. But six days? That’s just not cool, especially considering that Master would be getting strange kids.

I told them I didn’t think it would be possible but passed on the message and Cool Co-Teacher’s phone number anyway. Master declined and then apologized to me for it at least four times. I told him that I understood, which I did.

In the meantime, the school found a local guy, and changed Sports Day to today. We only trained Monday and yesterday for today’s demo. I told Tiger Master that I didn’t know Geumgang well, but he watched and decided he wanted me to do it. So for the demo I was the lead student/teacher. I stood in the front row, 12 students behind me, and called out all the commands, a first for me.

After bowing them in, we all did Koryeo together. Then I told the students to sit on one knee while I did Geumgang. I told them to stand up and they did jumping front kick breaks. Down on one knee again, while I finished the demo was a five-break series.

“고려 준비!”

My breaking series was a punch to each side, a side kick to each side, and then a jumping front kick. Ooooooh, everyone loved it.

Punching

Side Kick

It was a quick demo, but I was really proud of the kids. They’d been rushing in practice but today they actually went at my tempo. Wha hoo!

When the demo was finished, Cool Co-Teacher ran up to congratulate us and noticed that my left pinkie knuckle was bleeding. I told her it was fine, but she dragged me to the nurse for some iodine, antibacterial cream, and a Band-Aid. I swear, the iodine hurt more than the cut, but everyone else was making a big deal of my battle wound.

After the demo, we took far too many group photos. And yet I still don’t have an accurate one! After the demo some congressman from the national assembly came and congratulated us all and signed his namecards for us. The kids were extremely excited. I was polite and spoke Korean in the high form, but the man couldn’t even spell 아만다 and it’s on my belt! He wrote it 야만다, Yamanda, which is a version I’ve never seen. Still, it was kind of him to deal with the 12 taekwondo kids and 3 random stragglers who were swarming around him.

Tiger Master, Some of the Demo Team, and a Congressman

Now, if Amanda Teacher in regular clothes is a movie star, then Amanda Teacher in a dobok must be an alien queen riding around on a mermaid something. Oh man—the kids, the parents, the other teachers! Some of the students were in a frenzy over the whole thing.

“Why are you so beautiful when you’re whiny?”

“Why are you so beautiful when you’re whiny?”

It’s a good thing Good Man thinks that way, because I’ve been sick with a really bad cold for far too long and I was incredibly whiny this weekend. The thing that sucks about colds is that you’re supposed to drink tons of fluids. Yet it hurts so much to swallow, the last thing I want to do is drink anything.

On top of it, I passed the cold onto him. There’s some saying in Korean, “Kiss someone and you’ll get better.” Well, considering how much better I felt between Saturday and Sunday, it seems to have worked. Thanks, Good Man!

(Side note to the people who felt the need to email me or call me, concerned about Thursday‘s post: No worries. Nothing is wrong. In fact, nothing was wrong when I wrote it.)

***

I got a haircut this weekend. You can’t really tell because it was basically just a trim but I call it the perfect cut because the conversation with my stylist was short and yet got me exactly what I wanted.

Me (holding fingers apart a bit): 조금. A little.
Her: 3센티? Three centi? [I nod.] 레이어? Rayers?

Me: 네. Yes.

She was done rather quickly, but not so quickly that I didn’t hear the other employees asking the shampoo guy about the foreigner. I thought maybe another foreigner had come in and they were conversing at the sinks. “다른 외국인 왔어요?” I asked my stylist. Did another foreigner come in?

The stylist was so shocked she jumped. Note to self: do not shock a woman who is holding scissors near your head.

After she was done, she pulled out a flat iron and asked if I wanted my hair straightened. This made me wonder if some shapeshifter had been cutting my hair because why in the world would I need my hair flat ironed?

The Perfect Haircut

Dessert

Good Man

Good Man, Again

Good Man helped me get this picture of this very amorous young couple at the bakery. They were sitting perpendicular to us. He was sitting across the table from me. I leaned over, holding the camera towards the couple and said, “Pretend you’re looking at the screen so I can take this picture.” It worked, but they were crawling over each other so much I’m not sure it was necessary.

Young Couple

Thirty Minutes

Last night I headed off to taekwondo. I asked Master if I could jump rope again, and he voiced his approval. He said, “아만다, 조금. 30분.” Amanda, a little. Thirty minutes.

I wasn’t sure I heard him correctly. “30분이요?” He nodded and I laughed and shook my head, “관장님, 보통 20분 해요!” Master, I usually do 20 minutes.

I only did 1,500 turns, owing to the fact that I still had a cold. Practiced a bit of 금강…a nice class.

After class I told Master of my worries again. He laughed, “Amanda, your country! Your country!”

I thought and said in Korean, “True. I was homeless last year, and it was OK.” It was a sort of light bulb moment.

Master’s Mother, whom I haven’t seen in a very long time, was there. She stood there, just listening until I finished my ranting and then said, “Wow, Amanda, you’re Korean is very good.”

미안해

굿 맨 남자 친구: 요즘 스트레스 많이 받아서 난 너한테 나쁜 여자야. 우리가 만난 날부터 난 행복해. 사랑하고 미안해.

“맛있어.”

Since I’m leaving soon, I’m trying to use up as much food as I can, including a slew of baking supplies I’ve acquired, some of which has already expired (coconut flakes) or will soon.

Last night I made some bread. I found a basic quick bread recipe and then changed it.

Cherry Chocolate Chip Quick Bread
Preheat oven to 350 and grease a standard sized bread pan.

1 1/2 C flour, 1/4 C coconut flakes, 1/4 C left over musli cereal with raisins and nuts and stuff in it (was 2 C flour)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Mix dry ingreds together in a bowl or a very large mixing cup.

1/2 C butter, softened (I have no idea how much I used…I can’t figure out Korean butter sizes)
1/2 C sugar and 1/4 C maple syrup (or honey or molasses) (was 3/4 C sugar)
1 egg (was 2 eggs)
1 C milk plus 1 tablespoon vinegar (was 1 C buttermilk)

In another bowl, cream butter and sugar together, add syrup and blend, add egg and milk and mix well.

Put dry ingreds into wet, mix until just mixed.

A large handful of leftover dried cherries, soaked in boiling water for about ten mins (not in original recipe)
A large handful of mini chocolate chips (not in original recipe)

Gently fold in cherries and chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 for 55-65 mins or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for about ten minutes, turn onto plate and let cool about 30 mins, then slice.

The batter was runny, much runnier than I’m used to, but I didn’t want to add any more flour. I’m glad I didn’t. It turned out perfectly; it was delicious.

Good Man even said so. “맛있어…”

Usually I substitute whole wheat flour for part of the all-purpose, but this time I used (basically) rolled oats for part of it and coconut for the other part. I was really pleased with the rolled oats, because I couldn’t taste them or sense them in the texture. I will definitely do that substitution again.

금강
I went to class tonight, even though my co-teacher told me she could “see fever” in my eyes.

I got there before 8 (a miracle) and greeted Master. Master asked if I was sick and I said yes. He asked why. I threw up my arms. “몰라요! 하지만 토요일부터 쉬도 있어요, 왜냐하면…그럼, 시간이 많이 없어요, 미국에서 집이 없어요. 일이 없어요. 기수는 비주가 아직도 없어요. 아이고! 스트레스 많이 있어요!” I don’t know! I’ve been resting since Saturday, but… Well, because I don’t have much time, I don’t have a house in America. I don’t have a job. [Good Man] doesn’t have a visa yet. Oh God! I am very stressed.

I noticed Master was sniffling. I noticed Sabumnim the Man sitting on the couch, sipping tea. “그리고 관장민과 사범님이 아파요! 앗! 우리는 불쌍해…” I muttered to myself. And then Master and Sabumnim are sick. Oh! We are pathetic…

Master laughed and Sabumnim the Man smiled. I looked at Sabumnim the Man and knowing that what I was saying probably wouldn’t be correct, but he’d understand anyhow, said, “오늘 품세 주세요. Today please give me poomse.

My hour of class went well. I seem to have gotten the basic form of Geumgang memorized, so now it’s a matter of actually learning the form.

Friday Night Dinner (a Photo Post)

Friday night Jennifer invited Good Man and I out to some after-Korean-class-someone-from-Canada-is-in-town dinner.

On the way there, in the Seoul Subway station, we found this woman. She was selling puppies, kittens, and chicks from these boxes.

Selling Animals in the Subway Station

On Their Way

I can’t believe this ad has been up for nearly 2 years without being changed. It’s rather daring for Korea.

This is the ten-year kiss.

This is the ten-year hug.
I will love you today like it’s ten years.

Because I love you, it’s OK.

We went to a dalk kalbi restaurant. I am pretty sure that’s the same place I went with Michael when I first got here.

Fixing Her Hair

“건배!”

종가

In Korea, friends of the same sex (male or female) hold hands. The men seem to stop in their teens, the women seen to continue this through their twenties; I suspect when they marry, they stop.

Friends

There were a few homeless guys sleeping near a palace. Korea doesn’t really have any sort of social net to help people. Charity is not common here, soup lines are not common here, Good Man says there’s subsidized housing of some sort, but not much. There are a few organizations that will help people, but there’s no such thing as welfare (in the form of food stamps, for example). If your family won’t or can’t take care of you, there is no support.

Good Man says most of the homeless guys are alcoholics, but I am sure, like home, many of them are also mentally ill. The mental health care system in this country is…not good. The doctors are probably fine, but the sense of shame and lack of awareness is even worse than back home.

Homeless

Friday Night with the Guys

The grating at the top of the subway station was throwing shadows on the stairs.

Light and Dark

Good Man

Me

An Unexpected Sweet Korean Moment

Yesterday afternoon I was waiting for the bus when I spotted one of my coworkers, the science teacher. She seems nice, but we haven’t spoken much. We eat lunch together every day, but she’s a quiet woman and neither of us tend to talk much at lunch.

I asked her which bus she was catching, and it was mine. I said, “I don’t see you in the mornings,” and she explained that this was a one time thing.

After we’d sat down, I asked where she was going. She put her hand over her mouth as if she was going to laugh and said the department store. I asked if he was shopping and she again put her hand over her mouth. I thought she was acting weird and she said, “비밀이에요.” It’s a secret.

“남자 친구 만나요?” Are you meeting your boyfriend? I guessed.

She flushed and asked me how I knew that. “비밀…”

We continued chatting in Korean about how we met our boyfriends, how long we’ve been dating them, whether or not we’ve met the parents, if we want to get married, all four of our respective ages, jobs, and such. We showed each other handphone photos and loosely planned a double date.

I can’t really articulate why it was so nice, but I think it’s because it was so unexpected. I’ve never studied for such a situation, I’ve never tried to mentally prepare for such, but if I hadn’t’ve been studying just for the sake of learning, that conversation never would’ve been possible.

Today at lunch we sat across from each other and just grinned at each other the whole time, two women with a secret.

“It’s Your Friend.”

After taekwondo tonight (2,250 turns of the jump rope) one of the boys said Master wanted to talk to me. I went downstairs and he said, “Amanda, phone, your friend.”

I thought. Good Man would call my handphone. Have I given anyone Master’s number because he can speak Korean? No… I’m faxing off some paperwork to get my teaching certificate in a new state, but they’re all using Mark’s numbers…

I was so confused. “The phone?”

“Yes.”

I took of my shoes and sat down behind the desk he wasn’t sitting at. “Hello?”

“Hello, Amanda. How are you?”

“I’m fine, you?”

“I’m good.”

I still couldn’t tell who it was, but he didn’t sound American. “Um, excuse me, who is this?”

Daniel.”

Daniel, whom I haven’t seen in 19 months, whom I’ve only talked to on the phone maybe twice since he got back from the Philippines, whom I’ve corresponded with maybe a half dozen times. That Daniel. He couldn’t find my phone number, but he remembered which taekwondo studio I said I went to, so he called last night. Master told him I wasn’t there and to call again tonight.

We’re having dinner tomorrow night after class. I told Good Man and he was fine with it but said with a sly little grin, “Nineteen months and he remembered your studio? Maybe he has a little crush. You call me if there’s a problem…”

***

Before taekwondo class I had to run to the bank. There were four or five middle school (maybe lower high school) boys there being noisy, rowdy, and just plain annoying. One of them yelled, “Hi!” when he saw me. I wasn’t in the mood, so I ignored him, figuring he’d see that I was listening to my iPod and shut up.

He didn’t.

He came closer and yelled again, “Hi!” He was right next to me while I was trying to enter my PIN, acting like an oaf, trying to get my attention, waving his hand in my face.

The younger the kid talking to me, the nicer I am. Heck, I’ve had fun with older students, too. But this boy was just plain rude. He would never, ever treat a Korean like that, and if he did, any self-respecting ajumma would give him an earful.

I turned around and glared at him. I said in an icy voice, “What?”

“Ung!”

“What. Do. You. Want?”

He looked shocked, and his friends were starting to laugh. I switched to Korean, to the low form. “누구야? 아는 사람이야? 내 친구야?” He simply stared at me, not answering. His friends were standing with their mouths open. The instigator, the fattest kid of the bunch, was trying to hide behind his friends. He was not small. It was not working. I went on. “아냐! 말하지마! 무례해!”

They started trying to run over each other to get out of the cash machine area. I turned back to the machine. When I looked up not ten seconds later, they were nowhere in sight.

Who are you? Are you someone I know? Are you my friend? No! Don’t say a word! You are rude!

“You’re Not an Albino.”

“공 팔 공! 오 공 공 사 구 사 구! Kong pal kong! Oh kong kong sa gu sa gu! 080-500-4949 ahhh!”

Good Man said very seriously, “You need to go to sleep.”

But earlier…

“I think I have ‘Oculocutaneous Albinism.'”

I laughed. “What? Are you crazy?”

“Look at type 3.”

“Do you have poor vision? Loss of eye pigment? No.”

“Point oh-two vision, red-green color blind, and weird knot on my hair,” he said.

I laughed, “No, hon. No. You’re silly.”

“I don’t know, sometimes I do pre-worry.”

Magnolias

I went to college in the South. The magnolias at my college in Georgia were large, thick-trunked, low-branched trees. You could sit on their branches and climb the trees. The flowers and leaves were huge. The leaves were thick, glossy, waxy, and often longer than my face.

Koreans magnolias are different. They are tall, wiry trees with thin branches. The flowers are still large, but not as large as they were back home.

Still, when I see the magnolias here, when I catch their faint scent, I am reminded of studying under “my” magnolia tree behind Buttrick Hall. These photos were taken around my apartment complex on Thursday.

Magnolias I

Magnolias II

Magnolias III

Magnolias IV

And there were some other flowers getting ready to bloom, too. I’m not sure if these are magnolias or what. I’ll be keeping on eye on them.

Bloom I

Bloom II