Meeting the Parents, the Second and Sneaky Smiles

Yesterday I met Good Man’s family again. I’ve never been to the National Museum of Korea, so I suggested we go there. Good Man and I met around 1:40 his parents and younger sister joined us around 2:30. Since it was pouring all day, the museum ended up being a good activity.

With Good Man’s Family
Good Man and his father stand the same way.

At the museum we didn’t talk much, all just sort of wandered around, connecting to answer (my) questions or to decide where to go next. We only looked at about half the museum as it really is rather large. We didn’t get the tickets to the special exhibit on Persia. I thought the most interesting floor was the first floor, with lots of information about Korea’s history. Family records, royal 도장s (name stamps), slave sale records, a whole display on maps…

When I was in junior high and high school, the walls of my room were covered with maps, most of them from National Geographic. Star maps, world maps, sea floor maps, pre-WWII maps I managed to find in Nat Geos at a used bookstore, maps of the USSR. I really liked the map section of the exhibit.


In the exhibit, there was a lot of information about a Korean cartographer, Kim Jeong-ho, 김정호, pen name Gosanja. This man actually walked up and down, all over the country to make a complete map of Korea. He marked the map every 4/10ths of a kilometer (I think) and did something to the scale so that the mountains and valleys were not measured the same way. It made it so that you could more accurately visually guess the walking time between distances. He made this huge map, 대동여지도, daedongyeo jido, which was more than 8 by 64 meters, made of hundreds of sheets of paper that could be folded into volumes so you only had to carry part of the map around. That was really cool to learn about. Though he made this in the mid-1800s, it’s rather accurate, too.

This meeting with Good Man’s family was much more comfortable and relaxed than last time. We didn’t chat a lot in the museum, which took some pressure off, I’m sure, but it was more than that. We all seemed less nervous, which was nice.

Mother and Father
Mother was trying to get Father to pay attention, he just wanted to joke around.

Good Man’s mother kept trying to buy me things. At the first museum gift shop she kept asking about this, then that, then the other. The things in the gift shop were lovely, but I’m not big on getting things I don’t need. I do, just not often. Good Man whispered, “Pick something. She is going to get you something.”

I chose a silver bookmark with a 도깨비 기와 on it. Monster motifs are used on roof tiles a lot, and they’re thought to protect people against bad spirits and disasters. Mother said that I needed another bookmark, because one would be lonely. Good Man told her it was fine and only told me later what she’d said. If I’d heard Mother, I would’ve said the bookmark and the book go together, so the bookmark wouldn’t be lonely. Alas, I’ll have to keep that in the back of my mind for another time.

Later, at the second gift shop, she wanted to buy earrings, a little taekwondo statuette, a dojang case, and so on. Good Man said, “She really likes to shop.”

Good Man’s mother also touched my hands a few times, had me sit next to her for a little rest, and exchanged smiles with me a few times. Since she was the family member most worried about me being a foreigner, it felt nice.


After the museum, we headed to Itaewon to have some food. I rarely go to Itaewon. (I think this was my fourth time there.) After retracing our steps three times (seriously), we ended up eating Greek food. Ordering the food was an amusing little diversion. Good Man’s family really likes getting a salad, soup, etc with their meal. I’m more used to ordering a main dish and splitting an appetizer.

So Good Man’s family was trying to decide what to eat and being very indecisive. (This explains so much about Good Man.) At one point the server came over (we hadn’t even yelled “여기요!”). She was standing behind me and I put my hand over my mouth to whisper something to her. Before I could say anything Sister started giggling and then I did, too. The waitress grinned and said, “OK, a few minutes.”


Good Man took this photo. He says I have a “sneaky smile.” If I have a sneaky smile, then surely his sister does, too.

Sister and Me

So Father pulled out a pen and started making a list on his napkin. Seven main dishes, a salad, a soup, an appetizer. He was so organized with this list, dividing it into portions, writing the item’s name and number on his list… All of us were laughing about it. I suspect it’s nothing new to them, this napkin list.

Father Takes Notes

During dinner we chatted a bit about my childhood (a Christmas tree-less, Christmas wall-wreath year). At one point I managed to act out—with Good Man’s help—the little spiel my brother and I had when we sold candy bars to get to YMCA camp. (Good Man, bless him, is not an actor.) Sister said that it would be hard when Good Man and I have to be apart for six-seven weeks this summer. She’s a smart girl.

Sister, Caught
Good Man took this photo, too. There’s something I find really beautiful about his sister. I can’t put my finger on it. I wish I could just take her out for a day and shoot a couple hundred frames of her.

After dinner (about five hours together total), Good Man’s family headed back home on the subway. I really like how Good Man has met me before these meetings, and spent a little time with me after these meetings. It gives us time to relax together, to chat. And if I had met them, one-on-four, it’d be more overwhelming. It’s not quite an Us vs. Them thing, but it does feel like we are an us when we greet them together and take leave of them together.

I thought Good Man would want to go home soon, but he said last weekend his mother wondered why he got home so early, so we headed out for coffee and a tiny bit of hanja studying.

A very, very nice day with his family.

Next up…a meeting next weekend. At his house. Dun-dun.


Good Man