Those Toes Are Hungry

“How are you already hungry? We ate a huge breakfast.”

Good Man pinches his big toe. “This toe, this is for breakfast. And this toe,” he says, pinching his second toe, “lunch. This toe is dinner, then beer, and finally soju.”

I laugh, because Good Man once told me his stomach went down to his feet. “Do you know ‘This Little Piggy?'”

He shakes his head no, and I do it to him. He giggles just like a child, so I do it again. “This little piggy had breakfast, this little piggy ate lunch. This little piggy had dinner, and this little piggy drank beer. This little piggy drank soju and went wee wee wee all the way home.” (Hey, soju and wee weeing, that actually works.)

Later, at the grocery store, I ask, “Is this too much food?”

Good Man shakes his head. “I only did the right foot earlier. I have another foot!”

“Somtimes…” and “It’s Brilliant!”

“Sometimes…sometimes you are…” I’m waiting to hear 바보. “A little dumb.” I burst out laughing and nod. Good Man says (very kindly), “It’s true.”

Math, Amanda. Logic. Remember.

***

I have been exhausted lately. I’m not sure why. I dreaded going to taekwondo tonight because I was so tired. However, I’m paying about 55% more here than I paid in Korea (for 26% of the time!) and so I want to get my (overpriced) money’s worth.

I’m glad I went. Another student lead most of the class, and helped me with the weird forms, although he wasn’t too sure of them himself. I found out these two new weird forms are very new to the studio, a pet of only one instructor and even the school’s head doesn’t know them. (Proof positive that these are not standard forms.) We did a lot of kicking drills, which was enjoyable.

Brilliant

“What’s that thing there?” Good Man asks, pointing.

“A license plate holder.”

“Why?”

“To show school spirit or pride, a club, whatever. I have one for my college behind your seat, but I’ve never put it on.”

Good Man says, very seriously, “That is brilliant.”

“Why?”

“Because the company can make a lot of money, it’s not something anyone needs, and people can make their cars more…um…”

“Individual?” He nods and I laugh, “Make junk, sell junk.”

He nods his head, “It’s brilliant!”

Well It’s a Good Thing We Didn’t Have a Plan

[Post written about ten weeks ago.]

Jeju-do

And it’s a good thing we travel well together, because Jejudo was a bit of a funny trip.

Jejduo is known as the Korean Hawaii and is the primary honeymoon destination in Korea. The vegetation and geography is unlike the rest of Korea and the island is basically built around tourism and agriculture. Whenever I told anyone I was going to Jejudo, I was told I was very lucky and it was very beautiful.

However, I’m pretty sure our super casual, full of mistakes trip was not what my friends were thinking of when they recommended it.

He Can Work the Computer, But Not the Seat

Other than the Ajumma Bathroom freakiness, the flight and arrival were problem free. We picked up our rental car and I started giggling because I haven’t driven on over a year (and I had to drive, as Good Man doesn’t know how to). I’m going to have to get a US license fairly soon after returning next week, so it’s a good thing I got a bit of practice (even though the rental was an automatic and I have a stick), but I’m surprised the woman let me have the car, considering that I probably seemed to be on something.

Good Man tried to get into the car and somehow managed to smack himself in the head trying to move the seat forward. He did, however, know how to use the GPS, which is good, since I was clueless. “I know how to use the navigation, just not the seat,” he said.

We got to our pension (K2 Village, very highly recommended, lovely place, nice owners) without a problem, but then we couldn’t figure out how to open up the trunk. Yes, I have owned two cars and had a license for 8 years, no, I can’t open a trunk.

We got that squared away, stowed our bags in our room and took some night photos along the shore.

A nice first evening.

License- and Cashless at the Sex Museum

Thursday morning I woke up at seven. “Let’s go to the sex museum!”

“Now?” He pointed to the clock.

We fell back asleep until ten and at eleven, we finally headed off to the Sex Museum. Apparently there are two on the island (I suppose…it is the honeymoon spot…) and we saw a different one than most people do.

Despite having navigation in the car, I went the wrong way three times. Then, ten kilometers before we got to the museum, I realized that I didn’t have my driver’s license. Or my wallet. Or money. Or anything else one might deem necessary when driving in a foreign country.

Good Man and I decided we would check out the museum, then head the 40 km back to our hotel to get my wallet. We were hungry, so we ate some ice cream before heading into the museum. As soon as we sat down for ice cream, Good Man said, “Oh. I only have 3,000 won. We can’t go to the museum.”

We looked at each other over our ice cream and just burst out laughing.

Most people that I’ve talked to cram a ton of activities in their two or three days on the island. Here we were, past noon, and we’d done nothing. “Do you care that we’ve done nothing?” I asked.

“No, I just want to be with you.”

We asked where the nearest bank was. Oh, 20 km away.

Getting Lost

Off to the bank! At the bank, I managed to slip on some sort of metal ramp and ended up flat on my butt, palms scratched.

Well now, this day was turning out just great!

Good Man and I got some lunch and even poked around one of the market areas before deciding to head back home. But since the sex museum was on the way, we did get to peek around and see a lot of stuff about sex.

We headed home, taking a back route way, passing a cemetery for resistors of the Japanese. Unfortunately it was closed, so we could only look at it from a distance.

After a brief nap, we went to the shore to take some sunset photos. Then we headed off in search on dinner. There were many restaurants around our pension, but all were seafood and I don’t like seafood. We just drove, at one point playing rock-paper-scissors to choose a direction.

We ended up on a freeway, but the GPS said it didn’t exist. I guess we were driving through the woods according to the GPS. The signs on the freeway had some city name crossed out. It was the city we were headed to. “What’d they do? Move the city?” I joked.

We soon found out what happened when the freeway ended with a 직진금지 sign. DON’T GO STRAIGHT. We couldn’t’ve gone straight, had we wanted to, as it was a forest.

We headed left and Good Man realized we were close to the university. We followed the signs to the university and headed there, figuring food would be easy enough to find. A great plan, and the pork we ate was delicious.

[And that was only the first full day. Things got a bit better the next day.]

Using Up My Words, US from an Alien View, Taekwondo

Using Up My Words

“Hey Good Man, I heard some statistic at my workshop today. Guess how many words women use in an average day.” Of course, this statistic, like any statistic I’ve ever heard at a teaching workshop didn’t have a reference. I don’t bother telling him that though. (As a side note, for once—just once—I’d like to go to a workshop where they don’t include a catalog of junk as part of my “work packet.”)

“I dunno.”

“Ten thousand. Guess how many men use?”

“Fifty.”

Fifty thousand?” I am incredulous. “Women use ten thousand. Man. You think men use o man?”

Good Man grins. “Fifty.”

I laugh, “Is that why you only nod when I ask you a question?” He nods. I laugh, “I need to use up my words for the day! Talk to me, Good Man!”

“You have five words left today,” he smiles.

US from an Alien View

So Good Man is trying to open a bank account. Except he’s having problems because he doesn’t have a SSN or taxpayer’s ID number. Why? Because he’s not a citizen and he doesn’t have a job. And apparently, this measure—requiring an SSN—prevents terrorism.

I’m pretty sure McVeigh and Manson and Kaczynski had SSNs. That didn’t stop them.

Stupid. Really stupid. He has a valid visa. He obviously will need money. He’s not eligible to earn money outside of school (nor is he required to do work-study). School has not started. How is he supposed to get money? Ridiculous.

Taekwondo

I was going to write about tonight’s class and my attitude, but I’m not really sure what to write about. We had another instructor tonight, this strangely macho acting dude whose Korean counting sounded incredibly funny, as if he were counting and passing gas at the same time. I kept staring at him, wondering what in the world he was doing. His Korean counting was so terrible that it took me several moments to realize that when he bark-muttered “swee fee” he was really saying “switch feet.” I was wracking my brain, trying to figure out what “쉬 피” was.

He also had us bow and say kamsahamnida every thirty seconds. We bowed at him. At each other. At the other instructor. At the Korean flag. At the American flag. At our partners. In fact, i’m pretty sure we bowed to our feet. (I’m having issues getting back into the faux formality of American studios.)

We did a lot of punching drills and then ended up doing forms with the other instructor. We did two forms I’ve never seen before and a weapons form I’ve never done before. Other Instructor had me learn all of them by just doing them. No real explanation. No details. No “let’s learn the first five steps well before moving on.”

These forms are fine, but I don’t know them, and past experience has shown that learning them here won’t necessarily mean I ever need them again at another studio. In fact, since they aren’t WTF forms, it’s very likely I won’t see these forms in another studio. So I sort of view the forms with a weird, detached amusement. I’ll learn them, but I’m not at all concerned that I don’t know them today.

I did my best, and I think Master would’ve been proud of me, but my attitude about taekwondo has shifted, or changed, a bit. I respect these instructors to a degree because they are my instructors. But I don’t know them. I don’t know their character or their history. My classmates are nice, but I don’t know them either.

Since I am in a country where I speak the language, and know the culture, and understand (mostly) why I’m being asked to do what I’m being asked to do at work…since I’m in a country with family and friends and I can drive and I know the laws and I know where to get what I need… Taekwondo is different here. It was a lifeline, an anchor, my family in South Korea. Here…not so much.

Now, I was reading people’s comments over the past few weeks. Because of the internet situation, I couldn’t adequately respond. In short, I do thank everyone for their comments. I’m going to respond generally in this post.

I have to remind myself that I am going through reverse culture shock (the especially “fun” part of repatriating that tends to be ignored). At the same time, Good Man is going through culture shock (though he doesn’t want to admit it). It is stressful on both of us, and I think I need to be a bit easier on myself. And him, for that matter.

I do respect Master and the belt he gave me, but I respect it by Korean standards. I know that American standards can be different. Now that I’ve seen a few classes, I feel much better. Furthermore, I just don’t care. I earned my belts, and I don’t really care what this school does, especially since I found out about their three million “tip tests.” (I swear, the Grand Secret is that the “tip” part idea came from a tip jar, not the tip of the belt…)

Because I do have Kukkiwon approved belts, any WTF school is supposed to accept me at my Kukkiwon certified level. And this studio has. If, however, they expect me to pay more money for “studio belts,” I simply won’t pay. I have no interest in paying inflated prices for a “house” belt. I know when I’m eligible to test for third dan, and frankly, I don’t have to test by then. If I really want, I can wait until I return to Korea (which I will do some day) to test.

The ways many studios price is indeed a scheme, as Charlie pointed out. Unfortunately, that’s how the taekwondo studios around here seem to do it. And I’m not interested in finding another martial art at this point. Despite its problems, my heart is in taekwondo. Plus, I promised Master I wouldn’t quit in America. A promise, is a promise.

Especially to him.

It’s 6:25, Dive Into Bed

We have the internet now.

Good Man—I didn’t know this until our recent mega-shopping-for-household-goods-weekend, by the way—is terribly indecisive. So he was up last night, trying to choose computer(s). Or something.

I went to bed. Alone.

My alarm clock went off at 6:25. Suddenly, at 6:25 and 10 seconds, I felt Good Man dive into bed.

“What the hell are you doing? I know you were not in bed. You were up on the internet.”

“No,” Good Man whined playfully, “I wasn’t.”

“Liar.”

Freakish American Chicken

In South Korea, I’d get 4 or 5 chicken breasts, and the package would be about half a kilo (around one pound).

Here, I get 4 chicken breasts (split, yes) and the package is more than three pounds.

What the heck?

Half of my recipes are old and say things like “four chicken breasts.” If I used them as written, the recipe ratios would be totally thrown off.

This weekend, Good Man and I went to Colonial Beach. We went to a pizza joint and ordered a medium tray of pizza. The menu claimed it was good for two or three people. We ate a huge lunch and still had half the pizza leftover as breakfast today.

Hello, America.

Hacked

So last night the ABS light on my car popped on. I was on my way home from taekwondo, drove slowly, didn’t worry about it since I couldn’t get anything done last night.

This morning, on the way to the garage, I realized that I was driving at 10 mph even in third gear, and my odometer wasn’t changing. Sweet, huh? No odometer, no speedometer.

$285 later, I have a new ABS sensor. (Note to self: before deciding to sell the Ford, break the ABS sensor. Drive a gajillion miles on it. Fix the sensor and sell it a gajillion miles below the actual car’s usage. “Only drove it to church on Sundays, ma’am.”)

I called Mom to tell her, only to find out that Maryland sent her a speeding ticket for $40. I know exactly when it happened, too.

Oh, and by the way, Mom said, did I know that one of my other domains has been hacked?

Good Man and I are going out of town this weekend. It’s another way to bleed my wallet dry…but I need it.

New Studio, Two Classes Down

We finally have the internet. And boy, was that an experience (and a post for another time).

So I’ve gone to my new studio twice now. I was terrified nervous to go to the first class, but the classmate who seems to be at my level, a 32 year old woman, was awesome. She was really, really kind. (How nice to train with people my own age!) The instructors made me line up at the front of the class, next to her. I wanted to line up in the back since I’m new, but they wouldn’t let me. Fine.

After class, she and a few other students gave me the low down about the school. She said that it was a good school if you were doing taekwondo for exercise and fun (which I am), but not great if you were interested in competing (OK!).

I got a lot of questions about South Korea, of course. My studiomates were surprised when I talked about taekwondo in Korea, because at this studio, it seems, there is sort of that dumb Korean Taekwondo Turned American Marketing Mystique thing going on. This studio—like most other American studios I know of, unfortunately—is one of those places that charges ever increasing belt testing fees. And frankly, the belt testing fees are a bit crazy. They also “tip” between gups, bow at every opportunity, and so on. This man charges one fee for a studio black belt and another one for a Kukkiwon black belt. Ahh, taekwondo in America.

I should mention that he seems to use the Taekwondo Mystique Marketing thing not to promote everyone to black belt, but rather to promote the black belt to this mythical status thing. Not that it seems like most of them really buy it. But let’s face it, as you progress in the martial arts, refusing to test is a fairly abnormal thing to do. Testing is expected. In any case, I don’t really care.

The first class was fine, mostly taught by the instructor. Tonight’s class was taught entirely by “New” Master. At one point he had us doing some drills. I wasn’t doing too well, and it was obvious that he was sort of testing me. But I haven’t gone to taekwondo class since I was at Tongil, so I wasn’t letting it bother me.

At one point he yelled, “These are basic taekwondo moves!” I’m not sure if he was speaking to me or someone else, but I laughed on the inside. I have now had the pleasure opportunity of training under five different masters—one in Minnesota, one in Atlanta, two in South Korea, and him—and I am well aware that every studio has a different set of “basic” drills. These drills weren’t really technically too difficult, but they were combinations that I wasn’t used to. I didn’t let it bother me. After a few weeks, I’ll get it.

When we did Koryeo, I kiyapped an entire beat before anyone else. I know that is where we kiyapped in South Korea. I left it there, kiyapped just like I always do the second time through. When we did Geumgang, I made a few mistakes, but again, I didn’t let it bother me since I just learned it—since I am still learning it. My stances, blocks, positions are a bit different than everyone else. I know this. I expected this. I just don’t care. I’ll learn this new studio’s way later.

I fear this entry makes me sound like I don’t care about taekwondo anymore. It’s not that at all. It’s that today…

Today I just let things go.

No matter how this man wants to test his students, no matter if he wants to charge for two different levels of belts (what is that? Can anyone explain that reasoning to me?), no matter how the stances may be different than at my heart’s studio, no matter how much he says “I am your Kwanjangnim now“—

I (mostly) know what my skills are, I (mostly) know what my weaknesses are. I know why I do taekwondo. I earned my first and second degree (Kukkiwon!) black belts in front of Kukkiwon judges in South Korea under my Master’s tutelage. And nobody can take that dan card—and more importantly that experience—and most importantly my relationship with Master—away from me.

And so tonight, I let it all go.

And then I got home, and found that Master had written me a message on my Cyworld page. I bawled and wrote him back. Good Man helped me, so I could write.

…내 진정한 관장님은 남윤형 관장님이기 때문이에요.

…My true Master is you.

Eum, Yang

“Sometimes you are like the man and I am like the wife,” Good Man says with his typical nod. That gesture is so Good Man.

“Ha ha ha! Why do you say that?”

“Because it’s true. I am like a Korean wife and you are like a Western man.”

I grin and think, Except you can’t cook.