“Amanda, why are you leaving Korea? What about Good Man?” A few people have asked in comments, a few people have asked via email. I gave my reason on the Seoul Podcast, and now I can do it here.
(Seoul Podcast, huh? I was invited to do an episode of Zen Kimchi and Jennifer Teacher‘s Seoul Podcast. Go listen to it! By the way, there are some sound qualities for a bit, but we re-Skyped and fixed it, so it does get much better.)
Ready To Go
Yep, that’s Good Man’s brand spanking new student visa! (Good Man applied for grad schools before we even met; it had nothing to do with me.)
Since we’re both leaving soon, I met his family yesterday. I don’t really know what to say about it. We arranged to meet at Il Vino Rosso, a beautiful Italian restaurant set near Namsan Park. It was his younger sister’s birthday, and a coworker said it was a good sign that his family wanted to meet on a special day.
Good Man and I met near Seoul Station at 5 pm, and we wrapped the gifts I’d brought. For his sister, a graphic designer, a book about typography. For his parents, a photo book about America and three leftover Minnesota magnets that my parents brought me so I could give them as gifts to people.
We took a taxi to the restaurant and Good Man told me that his father and sister had asked him what sorts of questions they should ask me. Now, Good Man and I have been practicing possible questions and answers in Korean for weeks now and he didn’t tell them those questions. Oh, Good Man.
We were a few minutes late, but his family was even later, so it was OK. As soon as they got there and we did this “half-bowing, half-not-bowing, oh God, do we act really Korean, somewhat Korean, or Western?” routine, I realized that his family was as nervous as I was.
We made a tiny bit of small talk and his mother asked him to tell me their names. Good Man—who’s never told his parents about a girlfriend before me—knew I knew his sister’s name, so he said, “Why? She isn’t going to call you by your names.”
He’s right, of course. I would call his sister by her name, and his parents “[Good Man]’s Mom/Dad,” but twenty-nine hours later and I’m still laughing about his response.
Good Man’s father speaks English fluently, but his mother and sister don’t. Mother was concerned about communicating with me, so I tried to speak as much Korean as possible. It was typical Korean small talk—my family, why I came to Korea, where I’ve been in Korea, if I like kimchi—with a bit more meat—can I get a job in America, will I come back to Korea?
I tried to make some jokes a few times to lighten the mood and it seemed to work. Sister asked when we met and about our first date. I asked Good Man if I could tell her, and he said yes. “입이 없었어요!” He didn’t have a mouth! It means “he was very quiet.” Mother and Sister laughed and both said, “Father is like that, too!” And Father, who indeed, was very quiet, nodded. I told her that he seemed so bored on our first date that I didn’t think he was interested, but that on the second date he talked more. Mother asked if he speaks more in English and he does, but he’s still fairly quiet.
Mother said that she’s worried about him moving out of the house because he’s never done it. She asked about my problems in Korea (she knew about the eviction) and asked if I miss my mother. I said that I moved out at 20, and I always miss my mother. She said that sometimes living alone must be hard. I agreed and said Good Man would have an even harder time. “왜냐하면 요리할 줄 몰라요.” Because he doesn’t know how to cook! His mom and sister laughed. Mother said Father can’t cook either, and he shrugged. Sister said to Good Man, “You can’t cook?”
“He can cook ramyeon.”
Mother lightly scolded him, “You can’t eat ramyeon all the time!”
His sister asked about my job and I said I liked teaching fifth and sixth graders the most because…I didn’t know exactly what to say, so I acted out how the boys and girls flirt with each other. I hit Good Man and made him spill some of his coffee. Oooops…
His father told me (in English) about learning English from the Peace Corps volunteers in the 60s. There was a lot of dictation and writing. He laughed and said, “Maybe, today, that’s not such a good method.”
Good Man surprised me a few times during dinner, sort of lecturing his mother over some matter about living in the States. I understood most of what he said but asked to clarify. He kept his clarifications short, so I didn’t press it.
I brought some family photos, and Sister asked me if I had any of Good Man and me. Good Man said he had some at home and I found out he shared them today. His mother demanded he give me a family photo they had done a year ago. I know the photo she means, as he keeps it in his wallet.
Near the end of dinner, Mother and Sister decided that we should meet again, hopefully twice before Father returns to his work in the middle east. I suppose that’s a good sign.
After a little over two hours, we parted ways. Good Man’s family went home in their car, we went to a subway station together. I’m really glad we were able to come together and leave together, because I needed the alone time with him. I had spoken Korean a solid 75% of the time. I often asked Good Man if I’d heard correctly in English mostly because his mother and sister were speaking fairly quietly, but I had understood. Speaking that much Korean while trying to be charming and sweet was exhausting. It’s much easier to be charming in English or with Good Man translating.
On the subway, I received a very kind text message from his sister. And this morning she made me a friend on her Cyworld page with a message that she wants to get to know me better. I know she likes me, at least. And she seems lovely.
So the end result is that
a) his family was very happy with how much Korean I spoke and we’re meeting again next weekend. I told Good Man that we can not just do dinner, we have to do something else, such as go to a museum so we can have something else to talk about
b) I want to learn more about his sister because I think we could be friends, I think Good Man gets his quietness from his father, and he surely gets his smile from his mother.
Today, just before Good Man left my house, his mother called and said, “We’re eating chicken soup right now. Let’s eat chicken soup for our next meeting.” That was all she said. Not “oh and when are you leaving,” not “come home,” just “let’s eat chicken soup.”
“Yeah, it is a good summer dish,” Good Man said.