“I Will Never Challenge You”

Good Man’s mother overnighted copies of his birth certificate and family record shortly after we married. In order to submit these as proof of his citizenship and existence, Good Man needed to get them translated. Good Man could translate them, of course, but he couldn’t sign off on his own translation.

So Good Man came to taekwondo with me tonight to ask Kwanjangnim or Special Forces for help.

Good Man completely ignored me while I was practicing taekwondo. He sat on his laptop and chatted with Kwanjangnim. At the end of class we did Koryeo. I like Koryeo. Good Man didn’t even see it.

I walked off the mats at the end of class and whined, Korean-wife style, “남편, 왜 날 싫어해? 날 안 봤어! 야, 여기 앉아. 사범님, 컴푸터 있으면, 칠 수있어요!” Husband, why do you hate me? You didn’t watch me! Hey, sit here. Special Forces, if he grabs his computer, you can hit him.

Good Man laughed and sat down.

Special Forces sat on the floor in front on me, back on his heels. “Demonstration,” he said.

I did Koryeo for Good Man. I made that dobok snap. I made my kiyaps loud.

After I was done, Special Forces clapped. I sat down next to Good Man.

“After watching your taekwondo, I will never challenge you,” he said.

Operation Immigration: Translation

So the reason Kwanjangnim kept talking to Good Man is because he needs his computer fixed. Apparently we’re picking up his desktop tomorrow, and Good Man will fix it over the weekend. I asked Good Man if he was going to get me a month’s fees discount. He smiled, “No, but he signed the papers.”

Hey, that’s worth it!

Operation Immigration: Health

So Good Man went to the doctor Tuesday. He got a blood test and some other stuff done for his immigration health check. He went to public health Wednesday to get some immunizations. He went back to the doctor today. He doesn’t have syphilis, HIV/AIDS, or any of the other major red flags that would make his application a nightmare. He does, however, have level 2 TB (TB infection) according to his chest X-ray, done after a positive skin TB test.

We actually knew this back in August. When he was diagnosed in August, he was offered some meds. He “chose not to recieve treatment for latent TB infection. [He would] see [his] health care provider if [he] developed any symptoms of TB disease.”

Well, you can imagine what’s happened, right? Now, in order to get the medical check signed off on, he has to get the medication.

He has to take this medication daily. For nine months.

When I read that I said, “My God! It’s like my birth control! Awww, we can take our birth control/TB pill together, nightly!”

Good Man goes back to public health tomorrow to get his prescription and some signature on something.

After that, it’s back to Dr Kim for the immigration form.

Operation Immigration: Cost

Total cost so far:
Fiancé & Marriage Visas: A Couple’s Guide to U.S. Immigration: $27.56
Passport photos (got a few extras, because we know how red tape is): $38
Health Check: $150
TDAP and MMR: $48
Translation: time needed to fix a computer

Total: $263.56 and the time needed to fix Kwanjangnim’s computer

벌레 and “One of The Bad Kids”

Good Man and I are going to start worm composting. You should’ve seen his face when I told him that.

We’re starting a bin. A coworker is starting a bin. I just talked Mark into starting a bin.

And then, when Coworker and I have figured out how it works, we’re starting bins at school, in our classrooms.

Next year is going to be a whole new year for our students. We’re asking the students to bring their own flatware to school since they use two to three plastic forks and/or spoons in a day. They use these trays that are Styrofoam to carry their food on. The food comes wrapped in plastic and/or served in plastic, stuck on a Styrofoam tray. I think the trays get reused a few times. We’re making the students get one tray. They will use their one tray (with their name on it, they can decorate it, whatever) until it finally falls apart.

We’re doing a big, year-long food and plant unit, as well.

In the middle of talking about this I decided that we should start worm composting. If we start composting (at home) soon, by the time we get to composting in the school, worms should have multiplied in both our boxes. If we can get enough worms for one box in each room (or even half the worms needed), we can save some money when we start with worm bins in the rooms. I figure if we end up with too many worms (apparently they reproduce quickly) we can get more boxes and start composting more waste.

I also figure we’ll turn it into a big science/math project. Have the students collect their waste in a composting bin for one week. What happens to the waste? Why is it starting to rot? Add it to the worm bins once a week. Heck, weigh the amount of waste they make each week and graph it. How much landfill are they saving by composting their food?

So excited about this. Hell, I might start a graph in our kitchen.


I have this student whom I adore. He came to our school in January. On his first day he said to me, “I’m one of the bad kids. I can’t help it. I’m a bad kid.”

I said, “Well, we don’t have bad kids at this school, so I don’t know who you’re going to be friends with.”

“I’ll be friends with the baddest kid.”

I looked at him. “If you know you’re a bad kid, why don’t you change?”

“I can’t,” he said, very seriously, “it’s just my personality.”

Well, Bad Kid went and got straight D’s and F’s through his first quarter. I was encouraging him to do better work the whole time. Then something clicked about a two months ago. He started gradually doing better on tests. I made a big deal of it. He started coming to after-school math. He started asking more and more questions in class. He started answering more and more questions. He scored a 94 on a language arts test. I made a big deal about it to his mother, to our assistant principal, to my coworkers.

He pretended that he hated it. He’d say, “Shh, Ms S, don’t say that” and duck his head. But he always had a grin on his face. He was proud of himself, as he should’ve been.

Bad Kid would hand in a test and then hover there. One day I teased him, “Are you going to stand there until I grade this?”

“No! I just—” Bad Kid is defensive a lot. “I just…want to know how I did. I think I did OK.”

And he was doing OK, and better than OK.

Bad Kid tells me I should pay him $5 every day he does his homework. I tell him he should pay me for doing my job. He responds with, “I swear to God, I’ll bring you the money tomorrow. But you gotta pay me first.”

Bad Kid has a strong, solid B+ in social studies this quarter. He’s got a C+ in math. He’s got a B in language arts. This child was getting Ds the quarter before.

Bad Kid, who scored in the 60s on a county test for language arts last quarter scored a 75% on his practice state standardized test last week. Today, he scored an 87% on his practice state test for language arts. He has been working slowly, methodically, taking his time. Thinking.

(The naysayers are thinking, “He’s cheating.” But there are six people in the room when he tests for the state test and they are spread so far apart that there’s no way they’re cheating.)

My whole class did poorly on a Civil War test two or three weeks ago (“I can’t teach!” I whined to Diana). I re-taught them the subject matter and the whole class did substantially better on this re-test today (“See, I can teach.”).

Bad Kid scored an 87% (up from 70% the first time) and was standing there as I graded his test. I pointed to his incorrect answers. “Ahh,” he said, “those were my two hardest ones. I think the answers are…” and he told me the correct answers.

I smiled and said, “You know, for one of The Bad Kids, you’re doing well in school. Shouldn’t you be getting bad grades?”

Bad Kid grinned at me, his dimples showing. He ducked his head, and held his palms up. “Look, look. Let’s forget I ever said that, OK?”

I smiled, “OK.”

We shook on it.

Intercultural Unease and Why Twice?

This weekend MJ (my new language partner) and I chatted about marriage. MJ is my age, and unmarried, which means in Korea she’s a spinster now.

During the English portion of our meeting I asked, “Would your parents care if you married an American m—”


She asked me about Mother and I was reminded of being a different daughter-in-law. She said I was very lucky to get such a nice mother-in-law. Yes, even if she lectures us about ramyeon…

I have a work wedding shower next week. It’s the only wedding shower I’m having, and I’m really, really uncomfortable with the fact that I’m going to have to open gifts in front of people.

Chalk that up to Way That Korea Changed Amanda #189.

Things I didn’t know about Good Man before we lived together:

Good Man is afraid of bugs.
Good Man can sing or hum many, many theme songs. And he will do so. Often.
Good Man can speak without moving his lips. Mouth mostly closed, mouth open in a big D-shaped grin? Doesn’t matter. He can speak.
Good Man doesn’t like mint food or candy but can handle mint toothpaste and floss.
Good Man will eat damn near anything I put in front of him and say it tastes good.
Good Man showers twice a day most days of the week. He will be in the middle of doing something on his computer, and suddenly he’ll stand up and say very matter-of-factly, “I will shower.” I haven’t figured out what the catalyst for the second shower is.

Happy Mother’s Day and Birthday (Twice)

In case you’ve been under a rock, today is Mother’s Day in America. Called Mom.

Today is also my father’s birthday. Called him.

The 11th (which it was in Korea after 11 am) is Sister’s birthday and the one year anniversary of meeting Good Man’s family. So I left a message on Sister’s Cyworld and also made this video.

(Go ahead and laugh at my Korean. I sound like a North Korean. I’m working on it. Based on how Good Man speaks, I have way too much inflection. Based on how the women on the dramas speak, I have a little too much inflection. I’m working on it. I also really act over-animated when I’m on video. I don’t usually look so stupid.)

Popout시누이, 생일 축하해! from Amanda on Vimeo.

시누이, 생일 축하해!

Friday night Good Man and I called Mother. That woman cracks me up. She asked me to teach Good Man to cook. I made the mistake of saying he can cook spaghetti and ramyeon.

The word “ramyeon” caused Mother to go into a five minute scolding “라면 먹지마!” Good Man sat there, nodding his head, “알았어, 알았어…”

In the meantime, he opened up a text document and wrote:

Banned Words


His mother told us we couldn’t eat raymeon or drink soda. Ice cream is OK sometimes, and soju is OK anytime.

Ahhh, Mother.

I had a second meeting with my new language exchange partner yesterday. We ended up speaking in English (and working on her resumé) for the first hour. Then we chatted in Korean for the second hour. I was pretty pleased that I managed to stay in Korean for that long. I like this woman, so far. But she’s graduating next week and needs to find a job or her visa status will force her out!

I had another woman—an undergrad student—express an interest in doing a language exchange, but she quit responding to emails. Trying to find a language exchange partner in NoVA’s been frustrating.

After the language exchange, I stepped onto the yellow line at Pentagon City station and saw a book on an empty seat with a huge pink Post-In note on it. The woman who boarded before me eyed it as if it were a bomb, but I hoped it was a BookCrossing book. It was! I was so excited. Only one of my released books has ever been caught, and I’m never caught one. I snatched it up, though I probably won’t read it since it’s a romance. I’ll re-release it eventually.

If We Spoke Korean…

If you spoke Korean (or read my Korean blog)…

You’d already know that Good Man is pregnant and I am craving Pig Bars.

If I spoke better Korean…

After disconnecting the video chat, I turned to Good Man. “Did Mother just tell me to eat hamburgers?”


“잘 먹을것 헴버거?”

Good Man laughed. “잘 먹을 거 해 먹어!” Eat well.

And this is why I need to study Korean more…


We went on a walk today. Didn’t go on Sunday because it rained all day.

A mile and a half into our walk, we swung by the jeweler and dropped off our wedding rings for engraving (surprisingly inexpensive). We wanted a 33 character (including spaces) phrase engraved over both rings. The engraver misunderstood what I meant and thought I was 33 characters on each ring. He pointed to Good Man’s ring, “I could fit the whole thing on here, because his ring is bigger. But yours…”

When I explained that we wanted to chop the phrase in half (12 and 20 characters), things became easier. Except the jeweler was afraid he’d have to skip the purity stamp, leaving a gap in the engraving.

“Whatever, we don’t care,” I said.

“We can remove it, but it will cost more because we’ll need to re-rhodium it.”

“Nah, doesn’t matter.” He raised his eyebrow as if to say he didn’t believe me. I laughed, “We’re about the most laid back wedding couple you’ll meet.”

He smiled, “Well that’s good. And when do you need these by,” he asked, sounding a bit weary.

I understood the sound in his voice. A coworker is getting married May 24th; she just ordered her custom-made ketubbah last week. “I don’t know, June 17th?” I said, figuring that gave up a three week grace period.

“Oh, no problem at all then, you’ll have it long before that.”

Around mile two, it started raining. We weren’t able to buy umbrellas until a half mile later.

Operation Immigration: On

Well Meaning, Unknowing Person: But now that you’re married, he’s a citizen right? Or at least he has a green card? I mean, doesn’t marrying a citizen mean you basically get everything automatically?

Me, smiling, because I know they mean well: Not quite…

3/6/09: Get legally married, in part to get started on Good Man’s AOS (adjustment of status).

3/15/09: Fill out I-130.

April 2009: Do nothing related to AOS.

5/3/2009: Order transcripts of tax years 2005, 2006, and 2007; order account transcript of 2007. Can’t order 2008 since it’s not processed yet. (Used to support I-864 form.)

Begin to fill out G-325A (for me). Addresses for the past five years? OK. Find first address in Korea on my Korean driver’s license. Find second Korean address in an old email. Find third Korean address on a draft of my resume. Find third Korean employer’s address in an email to mom. Can’t find second or first employer’s address. Can’t even remember first employer’s name. Email Jeonju Friends for help.

Laugh over “the average time to gather the requested information, complete the form and include it with the appropriate application or petition for filing purposes is 15 minutes.” Ha! Yeah right.

5/4/2009: Jeonju Friends are awesome. Complete my 325A. This is used to prove I’m a US citizen who can sponsor Good Man. Am curious as to why the government can’t just type my SSN into some computer and realize I’m a citizen. Form comes with no decent instructions and limited spaces, so I ignore the times I lived on friends’ couches in various states of homelessness here and in Korea.

Fill out I-864EZ. Worry that my negative income from my full year abroad in Korea will mess things up. Find past tax returns through Turbo Tax and save those. Actually complete form in decent time.

Fill out I-765. Have minor freak out over which immigration center address I’m supposed to list on I-130. Will highlight that and put Good Man on the search.

Realize I didn’t use ALL CAPS FOR I-864. ㅠㅠ

Wonder why some documents want only all CAPS, and others mixed. Wonder why some documents have fields for everything whereas others require spacing across to get where I want to type.

Get into some insane groove and decide to fill out everything in a go.

Fill out I-485, leaving blanks that Good Man needs to fill in, mostly about his “associations” here and abroad. Consider that since we volunteered for Obama’s campaign, that must be an “association.”

Fill out I-693, which is short, since I’m not a “civil surgeon.” Wonder what half of the diseases are. Wonder if Good Man will have to get an HPV vaccine even though he’s a male.

Stuff to do:
I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative. Need to photocopy all pages of my passport, marriage certificate, get passport photos; $355 fee)
I-864EZ (Proof I can support Good Man’s butt. Thank God I get the EZ form. Photocopy tax return and W-2s, photocopy 6 months of pay stubs; possibly get letter from employer and banks as backup proof; $70 fee)
I-765 (Employment Auth; fee included in I-864)
G-325A (Biographic Information; one sheet filled out by both of us)
I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status; Photocopy Good Man’s passport, visa, I-94 card $1,010 fee)
I-693 (Medical Exam; Good Man should do this right before we file the package—his GP is eligible to perform this, luckily; doctor fee unknown)
I-131 (Advance Parole; $305 fee ETA: May not have to pay if filed concurrently with I-485)

Total cost so far:
$27.56 for fiancé & Marriage Visas: A Couple’s Guide to U.S. Immigration

“We are Super Mario Couple.”

“봄이 왔어!” I squealed in the grocery store today. Spring has come.

And thank goodness, because I hate winter cooking. I get so sick of potatoes and carrots and squash!

They had some crazy mushroom sale at HMart today. Eight oz of button mushrooms for 50 cents (which, for the first time ever, put them in my $1 limit), 400 g of King Oysters at $1.99, 8 oz baby bellas for 99 cents, and 200 g enoki for $1.99. I bought one pack of everything except button mushrooms—I bought four packs of those.

I dumped the seven packages of mushrooms in the cart. Good Man started humming the Super Mario Brothers theme song. “We are Super Mario Brothers couple!” he exclaimed.

Making it to the Second Date

I met someone today.

A possible language exchange partner.

She’s Korean-Korean and a grad student. We met near her place and shortly after meeting she said, “Um, can I ask how old you are?’

Ha ha! It was so Korean.

It was also very first date-like, because we were both sitting there trying to figure out what to talk about.

We’ll see how this goes. Unfortunately, her English is really good, which means I’m going to have to be a hardass about staying in Korean for half the time.

We’re meeting again next weekend.

The Lost Photos, and the Caught Ones

On The Day I Hated Life, I didn’t bring my camera to school. I didn’t think I’d have time to take photos.

That was a mistake.

I was the first one to get to school, so I had to wait for the principal. While waiting, I caught sight of some small birds in a flowering tree. They were fighting each other for seeds and making a noisy racket. Around the tree there was a ring of long, thin stalks of a wheat-like grass.

I watched a bird flit over to the grass. It bowed under its weight and the bird furiously flapped its wings while gripping the grass tightly.

I watched it happen over and over. Each bird surprised that the grass wasn’t holding it up.

I wished I had my camera then.

And then there are the shots I do get.

Not an E, but a ㅌ

Backlit Leaf with a +4 Macro


(Don’t) Go Speedy Dog, Go!

Electric Leaf

Leaf and Bud

Manhole Cover