Check, Check

“OK, have you ever written a check?” I ask Good Man. Checks don’t exist in South Korea. Well, “bank checks,” which are basically bills bigger than 10,000 won exist, but not checks as we have them in America.


“OK, so first put the date and name, then the amount…” I watch him and point, “You need to include the decimal-zero-zero for the cents.”

Good Man looks at me, “But there are no cents.”

“Right, that’s why you put zeros. Now, put the amount in written words…. And then write 00/100s and draw a horizontal line.”

Good Man lifts his pen from the page and stares at me. “Huh?”

“Like this,” I show him on some scratch paper.

Good Man sighs, “Why? This is crazy!”

“Because you don’t want people to steal the check and change numbers and stuff.”

“This is stupid. America should just do bank transfer like in Korea.”

I laugh and agree with him. I love bank transfers, and I wish America would switch to that method.

That Pot of Gold

“So we were driving through the City, and there was the most brilliant rainbow I’ve ever seen. It was a full arc, huge, beautiful. [Good Man] was shooting photos through the window while I was driving.”

Mark asked, “Did the rainbow stop at the Capitol Building with a pot of $700 billion worth of gold?”

We all laughed. “That’s going on the blog,” I said.

Hope There’s a Big Pot of Gold Waiting

Yesterday Good Man and I went to Johnny and Ashley’s, where we met Mark and Mark’s Lover. Johnny’s family is moving to another state soon, so this was our last chance to see them for a while. Ahh, we were sad, as Liam hasn’t even learned to call us 고모 and 고모부 yet (“father’s sister” and “father’s sister’s husband”).

We ate Chinese food, watched Blood Diamond, and just chatted a whole lot. Good Man learned a lot of slang. A lot of slang I hope he never uses…

Taekwondo Man in Training
Kwanjangnim’s Family Gave Liam this Shirt, so It’s Appropriate

“This Is America.”

“Will we go soon? I don’t want to be late.”

I look at Good Man. “Half the time, in Korea, you were still asleep when you were supposed to be at my apartment.”

Good Man gives me a half grin. “Yeah, but…um…” He stares at the ceiling, thinking.

I know what he’s thinking, so I say it. “‘Yeah, but, um, this is America. Not Korea.'”

Good Man cocks his forefinger and points it at me. “Yeah, you are right!”

“I know you.”

Buhang Rears Its Bloody Head Again

Eleven years ago I bought some wooden clogs (made in Sweden) at Marshall’s for $25.

Those things have been handy while driving my stick, because I can’t move my toes. I can’t really feel the clutch well either, but…

I went to the foot doctor today because I wasn’t really happy with the way that the regular doctor handled (read: ignored) me and my toe. Since I’ve fractured bones in that foot before, and since I’ve had knee problems, I wanted to see an actual foot doctor.

Foot Doctor, who was rather young and attractive in a Republican way, looked at my foot and said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bruise such a perfect round shape before…”

I scrunched up my face. “Ahh, yes, that’s because I had buhang, traditional Chinese bloodletting, done last night.”

Foot Doctor slowly raised his head to look at me. “You had what?”

“Um do you know what cupping is? Blood cupping.”

He shook his head, “No…”

It was pouring rain last night, so I picked Good Man up from school. Afterwards we went and bought rice (a 20 lb bag! We’re moving on up in the Asian cooking world!) and then swung by my studio to show School Head my toe.

That. Was a mistake.

“Amanda, you know buhang? We do that.”

I looked horrified and switched to Korean, “아니에요! 부항 많이 아파요!” No! Buhang really hurts!

“No, Amanda, why you whine? You want to heal faster, right? You are strong, right [Good Man]? Buhang, good?”

Good Man laughed. He’s never had buhang before, “I don’t know, I’ve never tried it.”

After several minutes of back-and-forthing, School Head said, “Well how about acupuncture, you like?”

“Oh!” I brightened, “I love acupuncture!”

“OK, come into my office. You go doctor, pay $80 for acupuncture, I do it for free.”

We went into his office. He made a show of looking for the needles while I took off my shoes. “Oh, I can’t find them,” he said, “So we’ll do buhang.”


I stared at Good Man. Buhang hurt the last time it was done. He opened up his buhang kit and I noticed it had a sticker on it from the Korean market.

He sterilized everything, took out a thin needle gun and pricked my skin 5 times. He stuck a bell on it, pumped the air out of the bell, and watched the blood come out of my bruise. (Photos on the next page.)

“Oh, very good, now you will get healthy sooner.”

“Kwanjangnim,” I said, “Next time I get injured, I will stay home, I think.”

To his credit, it didn’t hurt.

Walking to the car Good Man said, “You whine but I think you kind of like it.”

“No. But yes. Because…um…”

“Because he would not do that to foreign student, but you are Korean,” Good Man said, “See? I know you.”

I Want Another Birthday

I chatted with Master last night. He wished me a happy birthday. I told him I missed Korea. He laughed and said, “한국에 있을 때는 생일이 되면 미국보고싶다고 했었어요.” When you lived in Korea, you always missed America on your birthday.


Let’s go back, shall we, to 1986.

One night in September, my brother threw a tantrum about my kindergarten back to school night. He wanted to come; Mom wanted him to stay home. He tossed his head back against the couch, which had wooden arms, and split his head open.

Neither of us went to back to school night. Instead I got to see doctors stitch his head closed. (And it took four men to hold him down while they did it. They thought one would be enough. Mom shook her head. And she continued to shake her head while they brought in the second guy, and the third. Finally, four of them were able to hold him down.)

I remember peeking at the other people in the emergency room. I saw one guy with a toe split wide open.

I remember walking behind Johnny, angry that he’d ruined my back to school night, looking at his bald spot thinking, “That looks ugly.”

Less than a month later—the day of his fourth birthday actually, which was also his “golden birthday,” as we call them in Minnesota—he climbed up a pine tree. He fell, got caught on a branch, and ripped his armpit open.

Back to the emergency room for stitches. This time they started with the right number of burly men to hold him down.

Last time I checked his armpit (years ago), it was still scarred. Nice fourth birthday party, huh?

Today is my 28th birthday. And it could be better. Yes, it could be.

So after doing R, I, and E (rest, ice, elevation) last night, I woke up to a black and blue foot. I thought I’d be fine at school, but I got there and started crying because it hurt so much. I couldn’t walk, I could barely stand, even sitting and lifting the foot hurt.

My principal started by scolding me for coming in and then told me to go home. Tomorrow I have a sub because of some training elsewhere. So I had to write up sub plans for tomorrow and today. Luckily, I work with great people and the other teacher on my grade is taking my whole class for social studies and my nine students for math (the math class will work on their own packet). Another woman is taking over English, so the day is pretty much set for the assistant in the room.

I got home, thinking I’d rest before going to the doctor’s office (I found an office that opened at 8:00 and was able to get me in at 10:45).

Instead I found a message from my grandfather telling me that my father was in a car accident and he’s in the hospital. My brother told me that he’d talked to him, and Dad was completely out of it, and talking about Jesus and The Man and he’d been reading some Vonnegut and was talking about “hiccups in time and other Dad Stuff.”

Other Dad Stuff. When Dad talks about it, he’s put under psychiatric watch. When men with degrees talk about it, it’s called quantum physics.

(Hell, when men with degrees talk about it, they can decide to build a giant machine that is searching for “God particles” and may create a black hole—but they’re not crazy! Someone explain that to me, please.)

I started bawling, but calmed down before going to the doctor.

Doctor Dude looked at my foot and said I probably fractured or broke it, though it might be something else. He then sent me to another office, 5 miles away, to get an X-ray done.

So I went down there (driving a stick, by the way) and got the X-ray done, only to discover that Doctor Dude wrote that it was my right third toe that needed the X-ray. It’s my left big toe. How you go from the left big toe to the right third toe is beyond me.

After the X-ray was done, I was sent home because Doctor Dude was out to lunch. I called the office at 1:00 (when lunch was supposed to be over according to their message) only to hear the message again. And again at 1:30 and again at 2:00, when I finally decided that Doctor Dude was not going to be Helpful Dude because apparently he was still out to lunch. I left a message.

Doctor Dude’s Office called and said that Doctor Dude had left for the day and couldn’t look at the X-rays, other Other Doctor did, and it was fractured. But since Other Doctor hadn’t actually met me, she had no advice on how to take care of it. Sub plans, doctors, learn to write them!

All I wanted to do today was go to work, come home, bake a carrot cake, pick Good Man up from school, order Chinese food, and watch a movie. That’s all. Is that really too much to ask for?

I want to start this birthday over again.

Oww, My Toe and Mother

I went to class tonight because this week is so hectic.

I wish I hadn’t.

We had the Weird Counting Teacher dude today, which meant a ton of conditioning. This is good, I suppose, but I totally smashed my toe against this brown belt during light contact sparring. Or rather, I got my toe smashed.

Brown belt has extremely powerful kicks. He also has no clue when to use all of his power and when to hold back a bit. It pisses me off every time I have to deal with him.

He smashed my toe to the point that I can’t walk.

On top of it, I gave myself a second-degree burn (which is blistering quite nicely) Sunday night while taking something out of the oven, and I was trying to be careful of it and he wasn’t listening when I told him to knock off trying to hit that forearm.

At least I got my two classes in this week.


Mother called us tonight.

“아만다… 내일…생일이야. Happy birthday!”

I laughed and thank her.

Mother speaks no English, so whenever she breaks it out, my heart warms.

Mother needs to learn how to speak Korean to me, though. She says, “Amanda…these are…the easy words…that you…know. ButnowIwill speakquicklythrough allthewords youdon’tknow!”


I am really missing Korea tonight.

It sucks, especially since Good Man has not gotten homesick yet (and he—being the Blue Frog he sometimes can be—claims he will never get homesick). My homesickness makes him feel jealous.

Taking Care of Him

Whenever I walk into taekwondo, the School Owner says, “Amanda! How are you? How is [Good Man]? Are you making him happy? Take care of him.”

Mother and Father have asked me to take care of Good Man, too, but they know me. They know us. Mother and Father also tell Good Man to take care of me, and they tell us to be kind to each other. I like it when they say it.

When School Owner says it, I feel like he is coming from a different place. I don’t like where he’s coming from. It takes all of my self control not to smack the man or answer, “Yes, I take good care of him, but he ignores me for soju and gisaeng.”

Instead I just smile and say something inane like, “네, 저는 김치 찌개 요리했어요.” Yes, I made kimchi jjigae.

Taekwondo, Kimchi Jjigae, Fortune Cookies


Taekwondo has been going well. Not, mind you, because of the school owner, but because of Special Forces Instructor. He’s rather nice.

However. There are two kids in taekwondo now. Apparently they were gone during the summer (which is why I’d never met them) and they’re a diplomat’s son. Pakistan? Iran? I’ve heard a few different possibilities.

These kids are annoying. Very, very annoying. And spoiled. Monday evening, while we were doing sit-ups, they started throwing out random numbers just to confuse everyone. And they talked through the entire class. (This school is pretty formal about where you stand in line—eye roll—but not very concerned about minor talking in class. But these two just would not shut up.)

During Thursday’s class they were just plain rude and at one point I said to a Korean-American girl in class, “싫어!” I hate them! She said to Special Forces, “It’s so nice having another Korean in class!”

Kimchi Jjigae

Tuesday night, at Good Man’s request, I made kimchi jjigae.

I was a bit worried about making it, because it’s one of those Korean dishes that every family has their own recipe for. But I guess I did a good job, because Good Man had two servings of it!

After we had dinner, we went to the Obama office to do some volunteer work. As soon as we walked in, I heard, “Ms!”

It was one of my math students and she was there with her mother. I laughed and said hello to her and her mother, and told her mother that her daughter was one of my rock star students who had a solid A. (This student, like half my class, was in remedial math last year, so she’s a bit unsure of herself, but she gets it.)

While my math student read and studied, her mother made phone calls, and Good Man and I entered data with our laptops.

I really didn’t want to go to the office. This week has been report card week, and the quarter is nearly over, so everything’s been really busy. On top of it, Tuesdays I have an early meeting at work and I had several after-school meetings, too. And I was getting a cold. I just wanted to rest at home.

But like last time, I’m so glad we went. It was nice to meet some new people, and to feel like we are helping Obama’s campaign in some way.

And Good Man was so happy his eyes were shining. We walked in there and saw people on phones, people stuffing envelopes, people at computers, people running around, people on cell phones, people scarfing down take out and pizza. Cheering when someone got someone else to do something (“I just got this guy to come out to canvass for us…”) He was sort of in awe at what was going on, and just kept grinning.

(As a side note, I got a phone call Thursday night. “Hello?” No answer, so I repeated myself.

I heard a somewhat flustered, “Ms! This is Mrs. [Math Student’s Mother]! But I’m not calling about [Math Student], I’m calling on behalf of the Obama campaign! I’m here at the office. I dialed and then looked at the name and realized it must be you!”

I thought that was pretty funny.)

Fortune Cookies

Coming home from the campaign office, we were in front of the main building door when my foot hit something and made a crunching noise. I looked down and found three fortune cookies. One crunched, two in the clear. Someone ordered Chinese food and didn’t get their fortunes. We took the cookies inside and inspected them. They were unharmed, so we ate the two uncrunched ones.

For starting off as a head-coldy, stressed-out day, Tuesday ended up being pretty good.

True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.

Blood Type Diet

While looking for a recipe using pomegranates, I ran across the Blood Type Diet website.

“Hey, have you seen this?” I asked Good Man, “You’re supposed to eat different foods based on your blood type.”


I nodded, “I agreed, but Koreans like blood type, so I’m surprised it’s not in Korea yet. What’s your blood type?”

“A,” he answered, shaking his head.

“Apparently you’re supposed to be a vegetarian and I’m supposed to eat tons of red meat. And what are you supposed to do if you live with someone of another blood type? Cook two or three meals every time? Dumb.”

I thought about how Koreans judge people by blood type. Apparently B-boys are very bad to date. The year before I came to Korea, there was a movie out, My Boyfriend is Type B.

“[Good Man], you’re the only Korean guy I’ve gone out with who isn’t type B.”

Good Man looked at me. “How many boys—!?”