Parking in America and Shut Up About Belts, Lady

Parking in America

I

Passing a kiss and ride lot at a school, Good Man wonders, “Why is is always ‘kiss and ride?’ Why is it never ‘hug and ride?'”

II

Passing a Metro station, Good Man asks, “What is ‘park and ride?'”

“Remember how we parked the car at the Metro station and then took the train to the Arlington courthouse to get married? It’s like that. You park. And ride.”

“So…why not call it ‘parking lot?'”

III

In a parking lot with tons of empty spaces I see a woman park directly in front of the store, blocking access to the door and say, “Does she realize that’s not a parking space?”

Good Man responds, “Oh, America! Parking lot land!”

Go Away, Brown Belt

We got a new woman in class today. For all of my complaining about where the women have been, you’d think this would be good, right?

I actually didn’t work with her at all. I got to class and my stomach was in knots and really hurting. I told Special Forces and asked him if I could work in the second room (a smaller room which usually isn’t in use). I told him I’d warm up and work on poomse. He agreed.

I ran through the first four forms and damn, I do not deserve my belt. Messing up on the first four forms? Having to turn to the book of forms I keep in my bag? Ugh.

Special Forces came to check on me after about 40 mins. He ran through some forms with me, told me everyone forgets sometimes. I know that, but il jang? Forgetting that?

I did end up running through all of my forms at least twice. Once I got to yuk jang, I didn’t really have any memory problems. No, then I started to run into “and how do we do that here?”

Even though I was working mostly alone, it was a great workout, physically and mentally. Physically, I was taking my time, sticking the landings, really working on it. I wasn’t just slopping through them. Mentally, it was exhausting because good kimchi! I should remember il jang! But it was also mentally demanding because I was suddenly noticing things I hadn’t noticed before. In il jang almost every turn is toward the side where you’ve already punched (right punch? Next move will be a turn to the right).

And then…class ended.

Apparently we have a new student. I’ll call her Brown Belt Wannabe, because dammit, that’s what she is.

In the course of five minutes she complained that she had earned a brown belt at her other school, so why couldn’t she come in as a brown belt here? Never you mind that she couldn’t tell you what system her old school worked under. Never mind that she didn’t know the names of her forms in English or Korean, but they did them to music. All the time. She had been in the national championships! (Whose national championships? Well, why should she be expected to know that?) She had medals at home. And why didn’t we just test her so she could prove her level? But don’t actually let her be a brown belt, because then we’re going to expect decent work from her! She had worked hard for her brown belt and she wanted to wear it, because after one class everything was too easy and in two or three more classes she was going to be very bored because it was too easy.

Shit.

And I thought I had a hard time adjusting to a new studio. At least I did my complaining here and at home.

Poor Special Forces. Kwanjangnim is in Korea and he said, “Well, OK, when the school owner comes back, we can talk to him and—”

“Does anyone else come in at their old belt?”

Special Forces gestured toward me, “She did, but she got her black belt in So—”

“Then why can’t I?”

I left because I wanted to scream, It’s not about the belt, lady!

Exponential Growth Has Begun!

“[Good Man]! Come, quick, bring my camera!”

“Why?”

Babies!”

Baby Wormand Worm Egg on Some Sort of Matter (Pear Stem, Maybe?)

Programs
I wanted the Chinese double happiness symbol on the wedding certificate. Or the invitation. Or the announcement. Good Man refused. I wanted to use Hanja for the date on the wedding certificate. Or the invitation. Or the announcement. Good Man refused.

But when it came to the programs, Good Man had no opinion on what should be done.

I wasn’t going to do programs because we have no attendants, no music, etc. But I decided that everyone needed an explanation about the no-officiant-stand-and-speak part. And Koreans never know what a Claddagh is, but like it when I explain it. And the non-Koreans might like to know why Mother’s throwing food at us. So we made a program. Since everything else was English first, I made this one Korean first. It turned out nicely and cost $17 to make 27 of them.

Like His Mother
Good Man and I have a balcony, but we rarely sit out there. Today I decided to clean off the table that came with our rent so we could have dinner outside. It was warm but not too warm and bright but not too bright—I always complain about how dark our kitchen is.

Pasta in a Cheese Sauce, Salad, Dressings, Green Apple, and Sunflower Seeds

Hmmm…I had made what I thought was a decent meal, as well as some watermelon-kiwi drinks for dessert. But Good Man complained. The vinaigrette smelled like…vinegar. The salad had celery in it. He doesn’t like plain watermelon.

Watermelon-Kiwi Drink with a Sprig of Fresh MintI grew tired of it. “Wow. You really make me feel good when I prepare dinner for you five or more night a week and you complain about everything. If it were up to you we’d eat ramyeon or spaghetti every night. You can start cooking, go ahead.”

“You are like my mother,” he replied.

“Why? Because I prepare good, healthy food for you and you bitch about it?”

He laughed and nodded, “Yes, exactly.” He grew quiet. “미안해, 미안해.”

A few minutes later he tried the drink. “Oh! This is better than plain watermelon. This is actually good. You are sneaky like that.”

Laughing

Good Man Explains: Why He Married Me

“I know you don’t like exercising, but it’s good for us,” I said.

“I know. I married you because you won’t be in a wheelchair at 60,” Good Man said.

I looked up at him from the floor. I was doing push-ups. Good Man was calling me “US Marine!” because I was doing them full. I let my elbows drop. “What?”

“Yeah, you won’t have that bone problem that women get, because you are strong. And you make me exercise and you make me eat fruit and you will make me live a long time.”

“You married me because I’ll make you live longer?”

Good Man nodded, “Yeah… What’s wrong with that?”

Good Man Explains: Exponential Growth

“We should stop by that garden center and see if they have worms! I want more worms! We don’t have enough worms.”

Good Man half rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Leave worms alone. If you quit worrying we will soon have many, many worms! It is called exponential growth.”

“But the eggs aren’t hatching! We have too much food and too few worms.”

Good Man put on his sing-song teacher voice. “That’s why it’s exponential. You have to have the worms first. And then it’s two times two times two times two times two times two times two times… one, two, four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two and so on. Understand?”

Food!

Wedding Food
It feels like Good Man and I got a lot of wedding stuff done today. We got the site survey done for the tent and it doesn’t need sub-flooring (read: one less thing to spend money on).Dropped off the flowers at Mark’s Lover’s house.

We got three-quarters of Mark and Mark’s Lover’s “thanks for doing so much” gift taken care of.

We went to Costco and priced food. Need to get some more vegan options for my vegan grandparents (thinking of looking at Whole Foods for that).

I helped my dad find and buy a plane ticket online.

Doesn’t feel like there is a whole lot to do in the next week. Finish photo centerpieces and work on the program, mostly.

Food on Our Porch
A few weeks ago a coworker came to our house for the first time. She guessed which condo was ours based on the fact that we had food growing on our balcony.

I’ve been battling aphids. I tried doing a home solution of water and dish soap, but it didn’t help, so I finally bought a commercial insecticidal soap solution. I’ve used that twice. I also ended up getting one of those tape lint rollers. Last week I actually lint rolled aphids off of the plants.

Good Man thought I was nuts, but it seems to have worked. The aphids had nearly killed the red peppers, had attacked the green peppers, and had started in on the cayenne peppers. As of today I’m finding no aphids on the cayennes or greens and only a few on the reds.

The red peppers might just make it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we get nothing. I think I have too many green peppers in the pot, but one is starting to flower. The cayenne peppers are doing great, which is wonderful since those are the peppers we use the most often in Korean cooking!

The cayenne plants are making me so excited. I’m growing food! My own food!

Cayenne Peppers

Red Peppers

Green PeppersWe also have a bunch of herbs going. The peppermint needs a haircut. I trimmed a flower head off of the dill to keep it from going to seed. The basil was a mistake in that I only got one plant—I should’ve gotten two. The leeks? I have no clue why I thought I could grow leeks on a porch. It’d be great if I could because leeks are expensive, but right now I’m basically using the leeks as chives.

Peppermint

Dill

Basil

Leeks

They Did It and Wedding Planning

We got back the standardized test scores from the state.

Every single one of my students passed in every single subject area.

Relief.

(Though I should’ve done better teaching Social Studies.)

Wedding Planning T-17
Good Man and I finished our music playlist. It’s at 97 songs and 57 artists and over 6 hrs long, which means we won’t get through even one play. I might cull it down a bit.

We’re not planning on dancing (no first dance, father-daughter/mother-son, etc) and we’re also not having a processional or recessional so the music is mostly background music for the eating part of the party. Because we’re not dancing, I didn’t really put much thought in ratio of slow songs to fast ones, and I don’t care about order at all—we’re just throwing it in the deck on shuffle.

The list is almost entirely English-language songs, because Good Man refused to choose Korean songs and every Korean song I like is about stalking or breaking up and how everything was a lie. We do have a pretty good spread of dates. In fact, the artist we have the most songs from? Bing Crosby tops the list with ten. U2 and Van Morrison come in second at 5 each.

Tomorrow the tent people come to survey the site, so that should be settled before he week’s out. While we’re in the area we’re also going to get a Costco membership and survey the food situation/estimate cost (we’re doing party platters).

The centerpiece photo thing is about half done. I’m waiting on photos from Sister and from Mom. Once I get those scanned in, we’re good to go. Nixed the photo book idea due to time.

Rain plans are to simply use the first level of Mark’s Lover’s house. He’s crammed 150 people on that level before, so our little party should be completely doable.

Good Man’s Mother told us she’s going to throw “lots of” chestnuts and dates at us at the pyebaek. She also said she caught five at their wedding. Good Man is missing three siblings.

We have a final guest count: twenty people, inclusive of us. That’s the size of my classroom, inclusive of me. Five family members for Good Man, seven family members for me. Mark and Lover, of course. College Friend and her husband. Special Forces Instructor and Language Partner.

I am having total last-minute anxiety about everything. Should we have dancing? Should we have an aisle? What about a processional and recessional? Should we have changes of clothing for the reception? Should we have formal food on the pyebaek table? Should we have some games for people to play since this isn’t a normal wedding reception? Should we track down a huge hunk of acrylic to put over the Quaker wedding certificate so it doesn’t get grubby?

Good Man has basically responded to everything with some variation of no. “No.” “No.” “Quit worrying.” “No. You wanted hanbok. We have hanbok.” “There is nowhere to get special decorated chicken and if we do it will be thousand dollars because this is America. No.” “Only if we don’t buy special games and just bring what we have.” “What is ‘grubby?’… No. There is only 20 people. It will not get dirty.”

My newest melt down is over assigned seating. Should we have assigned seating? Language Partner and Special Forces only know me but both are bilingual. Everyone else knows at least one other person. We have three tables which seat eight to ten people and twenty-eight chairs. There is no wedding party. There is no head table. Food is going to be self-serve buffet style at a long table. All of the guest tables are round with umbrellas. Having reserved seating for family doesn’t really make sense when more than half the list is family. I’m not sure my 외-Grandma and Dad could stand sitting next to each other. If everyone were bilingual I’d mix the families, but mixing the family when only Father is bilingual makes no sense. Is it even necessary to have a seating plan for twenty people? Seating plans are not the norm in Korea or Minnesota. Does a seating plan even match the totally casual tone of this wedding? There are no speeches or toasts planned so hearing isn’t an issue.

These are the thoughts running through my head (and out of my mouth in a very panicky way).

Good Man’s response? “Just let everyone figure out where to sit. This is just wedding planners’ fear mongering wedding rules. They will sit where they want to sit. There is not that much people. You don’t have assigned seating at a party and this is a party.”

Sunday Breakfast, 142,646 Stitches and the Skirt is Done, and Seeing Me

Sunday Breakfast

Turkey Bacon, Eggs, Blueberries, Kiwis, Pears, Milk

Blueberry Pancakes

142,646 Stitch Skirt
About a month ago, I ranted about how thin American clothing is and how I couldn’t find a decent summer skirt at the store.

Well. I took matters into my own hands (literally) and knit this skirt. In four weeks. On US size 0 and 1 (or 1 1/2, depending on how you convert) needles. (That’s very itty-bitty tiny.) I used some yarn I bought from Elann in September 2005, and used 1/2″ elastic for the waistband. Total cost of the project came in at under $30.

Look! It skims the body. Skims! It’s not skin-tight!

Skims

It looks good when it’s moving.

Move, Skirt, Move!

And it’s the perfect length!

Perfect Length

Yes, indeed, I love this skirt. I can dress it up. I can dress it down. It’s work appropriate. And it’s done at a small gauge so it’s got a great hand.

The name? I kept track of how many stitches I knit and it was 142,646.

How He Sees Me
I suspect this is how Good Man sees me, even when I’m at my worst.

Mother Wants to Throw Food at Me

Korean wedding ceremonies (폐백/pyaebaek) involve throwing food at the couple.

Last week, when we video-chatted with Mother, she said she didn’t want to throw food at us. Now she’s changed her mind. So apparently Mother and Father are going to throw dates and chestnuts at us. How many we manage to catch in my skirt will determine how many kids we have.

I am having major “oh my God, this is going to be horrible, should I have a white dress, should we be wearing the traditional red and blue wedding hanboks complete with those red face dots, should we actually plan on having dancing” second thoughts about this whole wedding now that we’re three weeks out.

Today Good Man and I went to look for pyebaek stuff. We ended up at a store in Annandale where those cheap hanbok shoes (whould cost about $5-10 in Korea) were…$55. I almost choked. Everything was insanely overpriced. I need a new wallet and coin purse since mine are three years old and totally worn out. They didn’t have the coin purse and wallet was $25 (would run less than $15 in Korea). Luckily, Mother likes me, so she’ll buy me ones in Korea. Ha ha!

We’re supposed to have six different foods for the pyebaek table: something that I think is beef jerky, food to throw at us to determine how many and what gender kids we have, a special decorated chicken, some special rice cakes and vegetables (I think?), Korean snacks, and special alcohol.

Luckily Good Man’s parents don’t really care what we have on the table (as long as we greet them properly and pour them some alcohol and they get to throw food at us, I guess). And we couldn’t find a place with the fancy Korean pyebaek food. So we’re doing a more modern blend of some fruit, rice cakes, Korean snacks, and some sort of Korean alcohol we like.

Beside throwing nuts at dates at us, we’re also “supposed” to do something where Good Man feeds me a date, I keep it between my teeth, and then he goes in for a fake kiss and takes it from my mouth, like I’m a mother bird feeding a baby.

Um. No.

We did find a rice cake house since we’re having rice cakes and cupcakes for dessert. Good Man is nuts. We’re buying five packs of a three different colored slabs of one kind of rice cake (약식). Then we’re buying two trays of a mixture of 꿀떡 and 인절미. Those two trays? Each tray holds two layers of rice cake. Each layer has approximately 75 rice cakes. He ordered two trays of that.

He kept saying everyone will love rice cake and I kept saying, “Foreigners think rice cake tastes like glue. They’ll eat one, maybe two, to be polite.”

He’s going to be eating rice cakes for an entire month.

Another Year, Over

My students.

They weren’t jerks this week. And so I miss them.

At graduation today I was fighting back tears. And I was mostly doing OK, until Cat’s Eyes came up for his certificate and handshake, bawling, rubbing his eyes. He went in to shake my hand and wouldn’t stop. I lost it, and bawled. I had to whisper to him, “You have to let go, hon.”

When it was Bad Kid‘s turn, he whispered, “Get a hold of yourself, Ms S!”

My co-worker presented her class first and thanked the parents for both of us. “Thank you for giving us your children,” she said, “thank you for trusting us.”

Teaching in Korea was easier in many ways. When I was there, I knew that. The paperwork? What paperwork? The parents? Never really had to deal with them—not directly, and mostly positively. Never had to refer a kid to social services, the counselor, or for special ed testing. Less teaching hours, more prep time (and less need for prep!). Low expectations because, hey, I’m a foreigner!

But in Korea, due to cultural and linguistic barriers, I also never had to deal with a child crying over her uncle’s death. I never had to tell a child to invite the whole class instead of purposely excluding students. I never walked kids home because their parents couldn’t pick them up. I never kept a kid and her little sister after school, just to give the older one two extra hours a week where she could be a kid rather than looking after her sister all night long. Never had to march over to a child’s house to drag her to school when she was failing. Never had to explain how to use a pad for a first period. Never had to tell a child that the reason other kids don’t like him is because he thinks he’s too good for them. Never had to find out why a child smelled so bad, only to find out the water and sewage were out at his house. Never had to deal with a girl’s first breakup, letting her cry on my shoulder, wailing, “But I didn’t mean to hurt his feelings! And I did! And it feels horrible!” (“But honey, you’re going to dump and be dumped by more than one guy in your life, probably. And it always hurts.”) Never had to tell another student to quit spreading lesbian rumors. Never had a student’s little sister crawl into my car after I dropped her older brother off, only to throw her arms around my neck in a big, giggling hug.

While the workload was easier in Korea, the emotional load was, too. And I didn’t consider that, didn’t realize what it meant. Not really.

One of my coworkers said, “Well Ms S, if you’re this upset over your students leaving, imagine how you’ll feel when it’s your own child!”

I didn’t tell her we don’t plan on having kids.

I have 20+ new children every year. I borrow them from their parents for a few hours a day, for 200 days, and then I give them back. For one year, they are “my kids.” Teachers in America are expected to be mothers (and fathers). There are many negatives that come with that expectation, with that role (low pay and lack of respect, for example*).

But today all I could see were the positives.

* A bigwig woman from the board of ed came to congratulate our students. She said, “I hope all of you will become doctors and lawyers!” My principal asked what was wrong with being a teacher. That same scene with different minor characters has occurred so often in my career…

Poison Ivy?

Have I mentioned lately that I love Good Man’s family?

I do. They’re fantastic.

Wedding Planning
We’re doing mostly last-minute wedding junk, and combined with the end of the school year, finding out I’m moving classrooms to a crappy one clear down the hallway and half the size of mine, Good Man’s visa stuff, doctor stuff, etc, I’m feeling a little stressed. “Little” being a major understatement.

(Good Man went to the doctor—a dermatologist—since he’s had a rash on his arm since March. First doctor (GP) said it was a fungus. Medicine didn’t help. This doctor—80 years old “and maybe he will die tomorrow”—says it’s poison ivy.

Really, Doc? Poison ivy since March? Poison ivy that hasn’t spread? Poison ivy that doesn’t itch much? Poison ivy I’ve slept next to, rubbed up against, shared sheets with and yet not caught? Really?)

Unfortunately, much of this wedding stuff involves phone calls and legal contract-y language which Good Man is either unfamiliar or uncomfortable with. (Talking on the phone, as I’ve said, is really hard in another language. Good Man is good with Indian, Chinese, and Japanese accents. Anything else is hard for him. Every hotel I’ve contacted has meant dealing with non-native speakers. And I’ve done most contacting through the phone. Two strikes against Good Man dealing with it.)

Major Stuff Done
We’ve gotten hotel rooms for his family (two rooms) at two hotels and need to add two more days at the end of their trip to one of the hotels.
We’ve gotten hotel rooms for us (I finally said screw it, we’re splurging and staying in the same hotel as our guests, though I did request a room “far away” from the block).
We’ve started the rental process (called three times before getting an answer).
Almost all of the announcements are addressed and ready to go out.
Got a videographer at the last minute (Mother demanded) through photographer (both men are named Jeremy. This makes life easy).
Found a post-wedding hanbok-friendly dry cleaner.

Still Need To…
Book the rest of those rooms.
Finalize rental stuff and get a tent (called once, still no answer, left a message with Rental Stuff Person asking if referred-to Tent Rental Person was ever going to call back; said she’ll call tomorrow).
Copy and mail off videographer forms and deposit.
Finalize music.
Choose music and burn CD for videographer.
Photo project.
Photo book (not too important).
Food.

We tried on the hanboks tonight to double check fit and I couldn’t stop laughing. I never tried on the pantaloons (who wears pantaloons?) and they were so small looking I didn’t think they’d fit over my head. But they fit fine. I thought these things ended above my knee. I was wrong. They reach my thick, cotton, socks. There will be not the slightest hint of bare leg at my wedding.

Pantaloons. Socks. A bra and underskirt that smoosh my chest flat. Oh yeah, my wedding lingerie is so sexy.

Good Man’s mother asked him what I was doing for makeup.

“I’m doing my own.”

“That’s what I assumed,” he said. “How will you do it?”

“Like I normally do.”

“That’s what I assumed,” he said. “What kind will you wear?”

“Foundation, lipstick and gloss, a little mascara, that’s it.”

“That’s what I assumed,” he said.

“Is Mother expecting some heavy-duty wedding-hall makeup? Cause I’m not doing that.”

Operation Immigration: Timeline
* To make this easier to read I will use * for new info.

6/1/2009: Mailed AOS/EAD/AP to Chicago Lockbox
6/3/2009: USPS reports rec’d
6/9/2009: Green registered mail with return receipt postcard rec’d
6/10/2009: I-485 check cashed (with no readable receipt number on the back of the check!)
6/11/2009: I-130 check cashed (with no readable receipt number on the back of the check!)
6/12/2009: NOAs rec’d for petition (130), green card (485), employment authorization (765), and advance parole (131); we now have his A-number; rec’d date 6/3, notice date 6/8
* 6/13/2009: Biometrics appt rec’d for 7/1