Yesterday I met Good Man’s family again, for dinner at their house. It was supposed to be lunch, apparently, but Friday was Good Man’s last night at work, so he had a very late waysik and, well, it ended up being an early dinner.
When we got to Good Man’s house, I gave his parents a box of orange juice and thanked them for the invitation. “초대해 주셔어서 감사합니다!” Good Man went to his room to change. His dad was watching basketball on TV and his mom and I sat on the couch momentarily until she invited me to the kitchen for some water. We sat down, and Good Man joined up.
He asked where Sister was and Mother said in Korean, “She’s at Technomart, buying a gift for Amanda. But don’t tell her.”
I was pretending that I wasn’t listening, trying not to laugh. Good Man just looked exasperated. “Mom! She knows the word 선물!”
His mother looked so surprised. She turned to me, touched my arm and said, “Don’t tell her you know.”
A few minutes later, working on grape juice rather than water now, Mother started talking about my teeth. This was my fault as I mentioned my mouth hurting a bit from a cleaning I’d gotten done Friday. (Koreans love to draw blood at teeth cleanings, apparently.)
I should not have mentioned my mouth.
Mother said, “교정기 있으면 더 이뻐요.”
I was pretty sure I understood what she said, but I asked Good Man for a translation. He shook his head, “I don’t want to translate it.”
“Tell me,” I said.
“‘If you had braces, you would be more beautiful.'”
I thought about a grammar form I recently learned and said, “이미 이쁜 편이에요.”
Mother burst out laughing, grabbed my hands, nodded, exclaiming, “Beautiful, beautiful!” while Good Man scolded her for being so rude.
I’m already rather beautiful.
(Four side notes. First, I wish I hadn’t had to think before making my comment, but I think the looking into the sky, thinking about it aspect may have made it cute to her. Second, Korean mothers are a whole ‘nother breed. Third, there’s some old saying in Korean about a gap in your front teeth meaning that your luck will run out. Fourth, Good Man blames her behavior on the fact that she’s part of the “medical check generation.”)
Beautiful, I Tell You!
Sister Being Silly
Dinner was really good. Mother made a salad, bean paste soup, 잡채, and kimchi. She pointed to the kimchi and said, “Kimchi” in that tone of voice Koreans use with foreigners, as if we’re three year olds. I laughed and said, “I know kimchi,” while Good Man said, “Mom! She’s lived here two years, she knows kimchi!”
Good Man had told Mother that I don’t eat beef or seafood and I suspect he told her I like really old kimchi, because the chapjae was meatless and the kimchi was old and really good. She kept my rice bowl full, which was making me a bit nervous as I was getting full and it’s rather rude not to finish rice.
We had some wine at the end of dinner and though we were all food, his mother put the remaining food on our plates, claiming it was anju.
At one point during dinner, Mother fretted that Good Man would miss kimchi. Now, Good Man is a fairly open-minded Korean in that he eats a heck of a lot more than Korean food. Koreans often travel abroad and then only eat Korean food (and you thought Americans were bad…) But of course he will miss Korean food.
He told his mother that he’d be living in an area with other Koreans and could eat kimchi.
I nodded and said, “하지만 달라요. 어머니 김치, 식당 김치, 달라요.” Mom kimchi, restaurant kimchi, they’re different.
His mother nodded and his father suddenly asked what our intentions were.
Before I could even answer, Good Man launched into what can only be described as a lecture. For a good ten minutes he went on about how he wants to live in many different countries, Eastern Europe, America, central America… He even said something to his father along the lines of, “You two don’t live in Jinju or Busan anymore!”
I understood a good 50% of what he was saying and the rest by context, which is quite good considering how quickly he was speaking, how much he was mumbling, and that he was speaking banmal. Meanwhile, Sister and I just kept shooting glances at each other across the table.
Good Man is a stubborn, independent eldest son. Such a bad eldest son, indeed.
After dinner, Good Man’s mother showed me baby pictures. 아싸! I so wanted to see baby pictures! Sister, Mother and I sat on the couch, looking at photos.
One of the photos, he couldn’t’ve been more than a year old. And the way he was sleeping made me do a double take. Half on his stomach and half on his side, back slightly arched, head thrown back, mouth a bit open.
I have seen him sleep just like that.
I wanted to steal that photo.
Good Man, Exhausted
Also, sometimes Good Man gives me a look. Now I know where he honed that look. He honed that look, every year, on his birthday. There was not one single photo of him looking at the camera, only photos of him looking at the cake, obviously thinking, “Put that camera away so I can eat this cake! Now!”
Finally, near the end of the book, there was a series of naked photos. In Korea, it’s traditional to take a photo of the son naked and display it at his first birthday party, showing off his 고추, red pepper. His mother and sister kept pointing to the photos. He came in the room a few minutes later and I giggled.
“고추를 봤어!” I saw your gochu!
Good Man looked at us and shook his head. “I am waiting to see your baby photos. Tell your mother.”
“Not gochu photos…”
After dinner, we were going to go for a drive, but Good Man’s 이모 (maternal
grandmother aunt) came over with her daughter. I met her and I don’t know if she didn’t expect a foreigner or if she expected me to be bigger or smaller or have more heads or what, but the look on her face was…well, indescribable. Also, she kept grabbing my arms and elbows in a rather confusing manner. I couldn’t tell if she wanted to hug me or what.
Sister, Good Man and I decided to go for a walk. I asked Sister is she has a boyfriend (she doesn’t) and then asked if Good Man’s lecture at dinner was unusual. “No,” she said, “he’s always like that.”
We walked, talked a bit, decided to get some ice cream. We didn’t even talk about anything important, but I really like his sister. I liked her from the moment I met her. And she likes me, too. It’s nice to instantly get along with someone.
Sister had braces.
Before coming over, Good Man and I had stopped off at a market to get a box of juice. It’s very, very rude to come to someone’s house with 빈손, an empty hand. The market had some sort of sticker point system and we got two stickers. I asked Good Man if his mother had a card and he said no.
During dinner, I spotted the sticker tree on her fridge, so after dinner I fished the stickers out of Good Man’s wallet and put them on the tree. His sister saw me and mentioned it to Mother, who had her back turned. They laughed but I thought nothing of it.
Even though this photo is out of focus, I like it.
This morning Good Man and I were chatting online. He said, “My mother likes the fact you saw the coupon tree on the fridge…and gave you 50 bonus points to her satisfaction.”
I may need braces, but I got 50 bonus points!
Good Man’s father left this morning (he works abroad) but next week Mother, Sister, Good Man and I are meeting Sunday for a drive in the country.
Sister and Me
Good Man and Sister