I Miss Good Man, but Not This Much

I miss Good Man and am counting the days until he gets off that plane.

But much as I love him, I could not live within 15 feet of him 24 hours a day.

Ten years ago, Michael Roach and Christie McNally, Buddhist teachers with a growing following in the United States and abroad, took vows never to separate, night or day.

By “never part,” they did not mean only their hearts or spirits. They meant their bodies as well. And they gave themselves a range of about 15 feet.

“I Gotta Fly to the States First.”

Sometimes, I like to worry.

I worried and worried (I still think with good reason) before meeting Good Man’s parents. In one of these worrying sessions he told me to quit pre-worrying and to not get pre-upset.

(“Pre-worry” gets 540 Google matches, by the way. Good Man is onto something here…)

Tonight we were chatting online and I was (pre-)worrying about not having a job, moving to another state while homeless (though I have friends and family there and I won’t actually be homeless), not wanting to own a TV, sheets and towels, money, cars, and whatever other thoughts popped in my head.

Good Man said, “One thing for sure.. […] we have time to think about it..[…] so take it easy :) I gotta fly to the States first.”

I wrote, “I LIKE TO PRE-WORRY!”

Good Man, who knows to handle me, answered, “사랑해. Let’s sometimes post-worry. :)”

Hedonistic Ascetic

“Mom, I’ve got most of the books sorted and packed,” I said, sitting at the kitchen island. “But I think I’m going to come up with a new book rule.”

I love books. I always have. My last apartment in Atlanta had huge built in bookshelves in the dining room and I filled them all. Before I left for Korea, however, I got rid of about a quarter of my books. In the last few weeks, I’ve gone through my books again. I almost didn’t as they were already packed, but I decided to look at which books I’d kept. Only to discover…that I wanted to gt rid of another quarter of them. (I also got rid of all of my undergraduate papers yesterday. Damn, I wrote a lot to get my philosophy degree!)

I explained my new system. “I have a lot of books I haven’t even read yet. When I unpack them, I’m going to decide if they’re one or two year books. If I haven’t read them in that time, they’re going to charity. This is excepting all of my books in Swedish, of course.”

Mom nodded and I said, “I’m starting to get…what’s that word?” I found my reverse dictionary and found the word. “Ascetic.” I thought, “OK, except not in a religious way. But in a ‘not wanting what the media tells me I’m supposed to want as an American’ sort of way.”

“Except you like waxings, Clarins…” my mom teased.

“Yeah, I’m a hedonistic ascetic!”

Mom Compliments

At Grandma’s house, spotting me stretched out on Grandma’s bed in my pajamas, Mom said, “Amanda, you look really good.”

“It’s ’cause I’m happy.”

“Yeah, but I mean you look healthy and strong. I think it’s the taekwondo.”

Later, in the car, “Well, I haven’t met [Good Man] yet, but the way you talk about him, I can tell that you two work very well together. He seems to know how to handle you. I’m happy for you.”

Damn, those were nice things to hear.

Baby Photos

This weekend my mother and I went to Grandma‘s house to help her pack, as she’s moving next weekend.

I saw hand-tinted photos of Grandma, her junior year yearbook, my grandfather’s Navy graduation photo, and my mom’s baptismal program among other family mementos. I also found these photos.

Amanda, 3-6 Months (?)

Good Man always says I have a sneaky smile. Yes, I think I do.

Dear Santa, 4 Years Old

We also found this photo. We decided I must have been four. I was staying with my grandparents’ for Christmas. My grandfather dressed up as Santa Claus and this was my first time “writing” a letter to Santa and leaving out milk and cookies for him. Look at those cookies! I think they’re Thin Mints! I hope Santa left me some good presents that year! (Unfortunately, I have no memory of this event.)

Also, though you can’t tell, I am holding my marker the “wrong” way in this photo. I am holding it with my pointer and middle finger on the marker. I still hold my pencil like this. I don’t remember teachers trying to correct my grip in school. I also type “wrong,” but I type quickly. I DO remember people trying to correct that in school. I tend to type without using my pinkies or my ring fingers.

And I got these photos outside.

Pine

Caterpillar

Mother, Your Son Will Not Starve (Yangnyeumjang Sundubu and Japchae)

Good Man can’t cook. His mother never taught him how (and his father can’t cook either). Actually, that’s not quite true. Good Man can cook ramyeon in the package, military style, and he taught me the finger method for using a rice cooker.

Yesterday Mother called and I told her I was making chapjae. She was so excited, and so happy I was cooking.

I think Mother has a bit of a fear that Good Man with a) starve to death and/or b) die of a massive heart attack from a) not eating good food and/or b) eating too much fast food in America .

Well have no fear, Mother, as I like to cook, and unbeknownst to you, your son likes to do the dishes. So we are a Very Good Pair.

In the airport, with some of the last won in my wallet, I bought The Food of Korea (which also seems to be titled Authentic Recipes from Korea). Mother says she’s going to give me some recipes, but I thought this book was worth picking up. The book is written for people living outside of Korea and has some possible substitutions listed. All too often I find specialty cookbooks have an all or northing mentality about the ingredients. This one seems rather realistic. Also, the recipes ranged from “fancy” stuff to regular food. There’s a lot of seafood that I won’t cook because I don’t do seafood, but I might use those recipes as bases for other things.

Last night I made 양념장 순두부 (soft tofu with a spicy sauce) and 잡채 (glass noodles with mixed vegetables). The tofu is often eaten as anju (side dishes) at bars. The chapjae/japchae was something Mother made when I was over at their house. I love chapjae. It’s sort of like Korean comfort food.

Yangnyeumjang Sundubu (front) and Japchae (back)

Here are the recipes plus my modifications.

양념장 순두부, Yangnyeumjang Sundubu, Soft Tofu with a Spicy Sauce

1 lb (500 g) silken or soft tofu (I used firm tofu and cut it into chunks)
1 spring onion, minced, to garnish (I left this out)

1/2 red chili, deseeded and minced or dried chili strips/flakes, to garnish (I left this out)

Sauce
1 T soy sauce
1 t sesame oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 red chili, finely minced (optional) (I used 1 full reconstituted dried chili)
1 t ground red pepper (I used chili power because my parents didn’t have red pepper!)
1 t water

2 t toasted sesame seeds, crushed (I am lazy and used plain sesame seeds)
2 spring onions, minced (I used 3)

Combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl, mix well. Dump mix over tofu and garnish if you have more patience than I do. I chilled it in the fridge for about 15 mins while cooking the rest of the meal. Serves 4 as an appetizer or side dish.

I really liked this. It wasn’t as spicy as the stuff I got in Korea, but it was good. Mom and George didn’t like it so much; George doesn’t like tofu and Mom didn’t want to eat scallions before going to work.

잡채, Chapjae/Japchae, Glass Noodles with Meat and Vegetables

10 oz (300 g) rib eye or other beef fillet, cut into thin strips (I used about 12 oz/350 g of some sort of boneless pork cut into thicker-than-they-should-have-been strips; you can also use really firm tofu)
3 T vegetable oil

1 large egg, lightly beaten (I did not beat my egg, which I just realized is probably why my egg was messed up)

Marinade
1 T soy sauce
1 T sugar
2 t sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
5 spring onions, cut into lengths (I just sliced them)

Noodles
1 packet (10 oz/300 g) dried sweet potato starch noodles or thick Chinese glass noodles (I used 210 g of glass noodles, these noodles were very thin but they worked, and 210 g was more than enough!)
1 T soy sauce
1-2 T sugar
1 T sesame oil
1 t salt
1/4 t ground white pepper (I used black as we didn’t have white)

Vegetables
1 onion, thinly sliced (I did chopped)
4 dried, reconstituted black Chinese mushrooms (I used one big portobello instead)
1/2 C (15 g) reconstituted dried wood ear mushrooms (I used some porcini mushrooms, much to the shock of the girl who bagged my groceries, who asked, “What are you doing with these?”)
1 carrot, cut into sections, then thin strips (I grated thin strips off!)
1 zucchini, cut into sections, thin strips (I should have grated the strips off…)
1 red or green bell pepper, cut into thin strips

1 T soy sauce
1/2 t salt
1/2 C (125 ml) water (I used the water from reconstituting the mushrooms)

Combine the meat and marinade, mix well, set aside for 30 mins.

Cook (or soak) the noodles according to directions, then season with the rest of the “noodles” ingreds.

Heat a 1/2 T of the oil in a skillet and add the egg. Swirl around to create a thin omelet, slice into long strips and set aside. (I didn’t beat the egg, which is probably why I ended up with scrambled egg. I also just dumped the egg on top of the noodles.)

Heat 1 T oil in skillet and stir fry the meat until cooked. Set meat aside (or dump over noodles).

Heat the remaining oil in a wok over medium heat (use the same skillet!). Add the onions and stir fry until translucent. Add mushrooms and stir fry 2 mins. Increase heat slightly and add the rest of the vegetables, stir fry 2 more mins. Add soy sauce, salt, and water. Stir fry until veggies are tender and liquid has evaporated.

Toss the noodles, meat, and vegetables together. Garnish with the sliced egg and serve. (Or, in Amanda’s Easy Cooking World, just dump the vegetables over the noodles and mix everything.) Serves 4 to 6.

This turned out pretty good. The noodles weren’t quite right (not potato starch) and my ability to slice anything thinly is abysmal (maybe I need a food processor), but the food tasted good! And it was even better today as left overs.

Note! The book says that each recipe serves 4-6 for a meal “consisting of rice, soup, one or two side dishes, as well as two or three main dishes.” I used about 2/3 of the recommended noodles and still came out with 4 huge servings of chapjae. I really, truly, don’t think you need rice and soup and another main and two sides with so much chapjae.

Meeting Good Man

Two years ago I completed my move from Atlanta to Minnesota in preparation of coming to Korea. One year ago Good Man and I had our first date.

I never really wrote about how we met or how our first date went, so in honor of our first anniversary…

Meeting Good Man
Good Man and I lived very close to each other when I worked for Evil Woman Who Got Me Evicted, but that’s not how we met. After I’d moved to Anyang, I posted an ad on Seoul Craigslist.

I Like Smart Men.

똑똑한 남자 만나고 싶어요. 미국 사람이에요. 한국어를 공부하지만 잘 못 해요…

Translation? I want to meet a smart man. I am American. I study Korean but don’t know it well.

I got a lot of responses to the ad. Some were from white guys who were angry I wrote in Korean. Some said, “I can’t speak Korean but I want to have a pretty Korean wife.” One was from a creepy Chinese Australian guy who wanted to sort-of cheat on his Korean wife by acting out things from Japanese adult movies. Most were from Koreans who had lived abroad, and I got some from foreigners who could read Korean, too.

Good Man’s reply was the first one I received. He wrote that I could call him Daniel, that he liked playing basketball and having beer with friends and that he’d recently graduated. He also wrote, “If you want to learn more Korean, it would be also good idea to hang out with Korean guy like me :)”

He seemed like a nice guy, and after a few more emails (where I did not call him Daniel) we exchanged contact details and arranged a date for that weekend. I suggested we see Monet, figuring that even if the date were horrible, I’d get to see the water lilies. We were to meet Sunday at 1.

The Date: Monet
Sunday morning I woke up and I was sort of tired and cranky, and I actually considered canceling the date. (I’ve never told Good Man that.) I told a friend that I wanted to wear my new purple Cons with my black skirt and she scolded me for not dressing up, so I chose black flats. I ended up running around trying to find a black purse to go with my black skirt and black shoes because kimchi forbid I take my brown one. I settled on a black pocketbook. (Anyone who knows Good Man is laughing now, because he is the last man on earth who would notice what color purse I had or care if I’d worn purple Cons.)

Well before I left the house, Good Man text messaged me. “Where are you?” I worried that I was late. I double-checked the time and wrote back, “We’re meeting at 1.” Now I understand that it was not an “I’m waiting, where are you?” message, but Good Man’s typical, “Where are you?” message.

I read a book on the subway because I didn’t want to bring my iPod on the date. I arrived at the subway station on time and he texted that he’d be a little late. We met and he didn’t even introduce himself. He just said, “OK, let’s go.”

We went to the museum and the exhibit was beautiful. Making conversation however, was a bit tough. Good Man complained about not having a job and not having money. I knew he’d just graduated and was looking for a job. I decided to change the subject. “So, what did you do in the military?”

“I did communications. I volunteered to go to Afghanistan.”

“Why?”

“Because you get paid more.”

OK, I decided to try a different question. “What do your parents do?”

“My father works in the Middle East, my mother is a housewife. I need a job.”

One thing I have learned about Good Man since our first date is that when he has his mind on something, he is focused on that topic and he is stubborn about it. Another thing I learned since our first date is that the economy in Korea is very tough for new graduates. In retrospect it’s no wonder he was worried about getting a job, but at the time I (incorrectly) thought, “All this man cares about is money.”

The Date: Lunch
After the museum, we wandered around, then found a pasta place (near Myeongdong?), where we had a late lunch. The thing is, Good Man wasn’t talking. I would ask questions and he’d answer with a nod, “yes,” “no.” It felt like I was pulling teeth to get him to talk. I figured we’d part after lunch.

Nope.

He suggested we go to a market. We went to the market (Namdaemun?) where I found the little black purse I wish I’d found earlier that morning at New Core Outlet. I said nothing. While I said nothing about the purse, Good Man continued to say…nothing. So the date was going to end after the market, right?

Nope.

After the market he suggested we go to Yeouido. I couldn’t really figure out why he kept making the date longer since he wasn’t really talking. I also couldn’t figure out a way to gracefully exit from the date since he’d asked at the beginning if I had any other plans that day.

At Yeouido, we spent some time at the Han River Park. We were able to chat a bit more. I remember he said he wanted to adopt kids. I was surprised because Koreans usually don’t adopt. I said as much and he said, “We’re more into exporting them.” He talked about computers and how I should switch from FireFox to Opera.

The date still wasn’t over.

The Date: Church and Soju
He asked if I wanted to see the largest church in Korea. It was just down the street, so why not? And it was, indeed, huge.

After visiting the church, we decided to have drinks. We had some soju, and after drinks—before I could even offer to pay for them—he said, “Uh, you need to pay for this.”

I laughed it off, but I was convinced we would never go on a second date. He was barely talking, only shrugging or giving one word answers to questions, not really asking me questions, and he just seemed bored.

And still. The date went on!

After drinks, we grabbed some ice cream and headed back to Yeouido Park, where we sat on a bench and (sort of) talked.

We had walked so much, my feet ached and my feet had blistered, despite wearing comfortable, broken-in shoes. I still couldn’t read Good Man because he wasn’t talking much. Plus, I’d always had a harder time reading dates in Korea than at home. The whole lack of a goodnight kiss/hug messes with me.

Finally, at 10:30, we went our separate ways at the subway station. I thought, “I will never see this man again, because we just didn’t click.” It wasn’t even that I thought the date was horrible (it wasn’t really), I just thought we wouldn’t meet again.

Ahhh…the mythical click.

After the Date
The next day, after taekwondo, Good Man and I were online at the same time. We started chatting. Usually, in the States, I would try to be more mysterious with a new guy, or try to be flirty.

When Good Man started chatting with me, I threw my rules out the window. I didn’t think he liked me, really, and I wasn’t too interested in him. I figured we wouldn’t meet again, so I just acted normal. We chatted quite a bit Monday night and I wondered why he didn’t talk on our date.

The next day I got a letter saying I needed to be back near where I worked to go to Labor Board. Normally I would let a guy ask for a second date, but since I figured Good Man didn’t even like me, and didn’t really think I was interested in him, I didn’t worry about it. I told him I had to be on his side of town Thursday evening, did he want to have dinner?

Well, our second date went much better than our first, and our third even better.

I love our first date “story” because it’s not what I would’ve expected from such a great relationship. Good Man thought that it went well while I thought the opposite. I’ve had lots of great first dates that turned into nothing more. I’ve had a few very bad first dates. I read him so wrong though, I’m glad I gave a second date a chance.

Actually, now that I think about it, meeting Good Man’s family was a lot like our first date!

굿 맨, 사랑해.

Franconia Sculpture Park

Yesterday my mom and I went to Franconia Sculpture Park.

On the way to the park I got to drive my truck, a stick shift. In Jejudo I tried to remember how to drive a stick, but couldn’t. A few nights ago I had a dream that I was driving a stick. As soon as I switched gears once, I remembered how to handle the clutch.

At the sculpture garden I got more practice with my new lens. It is hard to find the sweet spot/focal point with that lens, but I think I’m getting better. My favorite photo in the bunch is the one of the house. Very Aunty Em, Kansas, Wicked Witch feeling. In the meantime, Mom got to test out my prime lens. If Good Man ever gets a camera, I’m sure it will be a Nikon so we can share lenses and accessories.

On the way home we took another road, only to find a little lake.

Cattails

Lilies

Algae

Near the Shore

“The Smell of Kimchi is Gone.”

Today I met some man at the gas station who’d lived in Busan for three months while working for AT&T. (He hated Korea, for the record.)

After talking—briefly—about soju he leaned in close and touched my shoulder. He looked at Mom and said, “Excuse me, I’m not going to be inappropriate.”

He dipped his head to my shoulder and sniffed me. “At least the smell of kimchi is gone!”

When I got off the plane, I could smell everyone. Today I walked past some young man and was assaulted with the scent of aftershave and deodorant. I had said as much to Mom at the time. This man had no way of knowing this.

Mom and I both burst out laughing.