Mother’s Demands

We talked to Mother and Sister over video chat today. Mother gave us a list of things she wants us to buy. So I just bought $150+ worth of vitamins online. Mother wanted three Centrum Silvers and five bottles of Vitamin C. I added some Viactive chocolate calcium chews. She also wants ten pounds (!) of honey powder as well as pine nuts. They have pine nuts in Korea. Apparently she wants American pine nuts. I asked if there was some 암시장 (black market) for honey powder.

I bought a trio of Clarins lip glosses for Sister and 사모님 (Master’s wife). I also bought a baker’s box of spices and herbs from Penzey’s because Sister’s been baking a lot lately.

Our Korean trip schedule is starting to take shape. 12/27 and 28 we’re going to Jinju to visit Good Man’s grandfather’s grave. I’m not clear on whether or not we’re all staying in a hotel or just Good Man and I are staying in a hotel. 1/4 we’re meeting Diana.

I told Mother I want to go to the green tea fields and bamboo forest. I’ve been there in May and in August, so I’d like to see it in the winter. We’ll probably take a tour together (Mother, Father, Sister, us) because a tour would be more comfortable than cramming us into one car.

Finally, I posted an essay about studying Korean on my Cyworld page and Mother read it. She’s going to buy 삐삐. I completely understood what she was saying, laughed and thanked her. Good Man kept telling me, “No, she will read it.”

“Yes, I know.”

He pointed at the screen. “No, my mother will read it.”

“Yes, I know.”

“How did you know?”

I laughed. “I wrote the essay!”

“What essay?”

Oh, Good Man!

Open-Heart Taekwondo

The Korean Embassy hosted an essay contest about taekwondo. I entered and didn’t place (I got the “thanks for entering, loser” letter today). Long-time readers mnight recognize this story, which took place in December 2006.

Open-Heart Taekwondo
I rushed to the studio, weaving around the Korean street vendors. Tonight I would be tested on the entire tae guek series. In eight weeks I would test for my black belt in Korean, a language I barely spoke. And this would be my last class at my studio for one month; I would have to train on my own. I was nervous and didn’t want to be late.

As I reached the top of the steps, someone called my name. I waved through the window and put my shoes on the shelf. I faced the studio and looked around in surprise. Master, his daughter, and sixteen students sat in a circle on the floor. In front of them I saw a chocolate cake, pizza boxes, soda, and chopsticks.

“Sit down,” Master said, grinning and pointing to the empty spot next to him.

“I need to change.” Everyone else was in their doboks.

“No, not now, last day of the year. Sit down. Then test.” He handed me chopsticks and said, “We have party, Amanda.” He pointed to a pizza, “American pijja?”

“Yes, pizza,” I emphasized the z-sound.

He tried again, “PIZ-JA. This,” he pointed to a dish of pajeon, “Korean pijja.” He pointed to another student. “His mother do.”

I nodded and reached for some pajeon. Why didn’t anyone tell me about this party? I always knew about the activities. No matter how long it took, in our blend of simple English and Korean, Master always made me understand. I would have recognized “party.” And why was everyone from our class? During tests, people from all of the classes came together. The very young students always stared at me.

I looked around at the people I’d come to know over my six months of studying taekwondo in Korea, where I was an English teacher. The younger boys were roughhousing. Master’s daughter waved at me, “Annyeong hasaeyo!” One student quietly greeted me in English. I said something slowly in Korean, using a grammar structure I’d recently learned and Master gave me a high five. Someone started joking around in English, “Korean pijja! Yes, yes, Korean pijja!”

I breathed deeply, waiting to test. Was I ready to do eight forms? I had studied my forms book on the long subway ride across Seoul. I had mentally practiced each form—especially the problematic yuk jang—several times.

Master had us do pal jang together. “Back stance!” he yelled in Korean. That was directed at me.

When we finished, Master spoke to each of us individually. “Slow down” and “more power.” He nodded at me. “Amanda! Fighting!”

“Nae!” Yes.

Master addressed the entire class. I didn’t understand most of it, so I assumed he was talking about philosophical aspects of taekwondo. Finally, Master called me to the front.

I stood, ready to test, and sensed movement behind me. I glanced to the sides, hoping to see my classmates seated against the walls. Instead, they were tearing down the testing materials. Master told me to remember back stance and use double knife-hand strike on one of the moves.

“Test? Test today? What are we doing?” I asked in Korean.

He grinned. “No test today. Your test yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. Every day.”

I punched him on the arm and cried in Korean, “Yesterday I practiced at home!” He hadn’t told me to, and I hadn’t said I would. But I had.

“I know. Good. Every day is a test. You come here with cold, test. You train alone, test. You call me when you’re late. Good. Test. Every day. Yesterday, today, tomorrow, here, home. Korean. All.”

I blinked at him incredulously. Nobody else was testing. Nobody else was surprised. Master had set up the entire studio to fake my test, and my studiomates were in on it!

Tears rushed to my eyes as a wave of understanding passed over me.

In the time I’d been training at Tong-Il, I had come to depend on “my little brothers and sisters,” Master, and his family. They taught me about Korea’s culture and language. They took care of me, and I needed them.

I had always thought I was a burden. I was the foreigner who couldn’t communicate, who was only a color-belt, who asked for numerous demonstrations of the same techniques, and who stayed late asking Korean language questions.

But I wasn’t only a burden. If I said “thank you” in English when offered Pepero sticks, my studiomates said “thank you,” too. When I left the studio, I said goodbye in Korean, but my studiomates replied in both Korean and English. One day a teenager greeted me excitedly, “Amanda! I—get university! I—am so happy!” I’d taken the high school boys out to dinner after class.

I realized that outside of their English classes, I was the only foreigner my classmates had regularly interacted with. I was also Master’s first foreign student. Just as I thought of my studiomates as my “little brothers and sisters,” they thought of me as their “big foreign sister.”

Master knew I was homesick. He knew I was worried about my black belt test and about having to train alone. Master knew that my spirit had needed some strengthening. So he planned this trick, and my studiomates had kept it a secret. For me.

Now I could learn the philosophical aspects of taekwondo from Master. I had thought the language barrier would hinder us, but I was wrong. It had never been about not speaking English or Korean fluently. Master had always been willing to teach me; I had not been ready to learn. The heart had to be open, not the ear.

Finally, I understood what jeong meant.

I told Master I’d study hard for my black belt test. Master simply nodded and smiled.

Spirits lifted, I walked back to the subway station. I was ready for my black belt test. My body was ready, and my heart finally was too.

Good Manisms

Good Man: You’re making me crazy because you’re upset that I’m crazy!

Me: What does that even mean? I don’t understand.

Good Man: Me either!

We both started laughing uncontrollably.

Good Man: 웃음보가 터지다! You touched my funny spot!


Me: Do we need to do laundry today? When did we last do laundry? It wasn’t Friday, was it?

Good Man: We did it on day we don’t have to do it.

Me: Huh?

Good Man: We don’t have to do today. Quit worrying.


Good Man: You know, even when you are whiny and trying to be angry at me, you are soooooo beautiful.

Me: Stop it. I’m trying to be angry at you.

Good Man, singing: 얼레리 꼴레리~ 아만다는요, 굿맨을 사랑한대요, 사랑한대요~

Me, laughing: I wish I didn’t know Korean! Then your silly song wouldn’t make me laugh.

Good Man, shocked voice: It is not silly song. I did not make it up. It is kid’s song. And see? You study Korean and speak Korean! True or false?

Married and Foreign: Men vs Women

Good Man found two recent articles detailing the number of Korean-Not-Korean marriages in Korea.

Foreign Marriages in Korea

For non-Korean speakers, the left column is the number of foreign men married to Korean women. The five nationalities in order from greatest to least are American, Japanese, Chinese, Canadian, and German. The right column shows the number of foreign women married to Korean men and the top five nationalities in order are Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, Filipino(a), and American.

Three of the top five countries for men are considered Western countries. Only one of the top five for women is considered Western.

And that trend only continues.

외국인 남성을 국적별로 보면 미국이 7만3천512명(51.3%)으로 가장 많았고 일본(3만9천900명)ㆍ중국(1만7천493명)ㆍ캐나다(3천369명)ㆍ독일(2천894명)ㆍ영국(1천596명)ㆍ오스트레일리아(1천 532명)ㆍ프랑스(1천143명)ㆍ파키스탄(836명)ㆍ대만(832명) 순이었다.


외국인 여성의 국적별 분포는 중국이 7만878명(52.5%)로 가장 많고 베트남(3만621명)ㆍ일본(1만2천355명)ㆍ필리핀(6천355명)ㆍ미국(3천572명)ㆍ캄보디아(2천913명)ㆍ태국(2천762명)ㆍ 몽골(2천405명)ㆍ우즈베키스탄(1천555명)ㆍ러시아(1천415명)가 뒤를 이었다.

For men the 6-10th nationalities are English, Australian, French, Pakistani, and Taiwanese. For women married to Korean men the 6-10th nationalities are Cambodian, Thai, Mongolian, Uzbekistani, and Russian.

Again. Compare.

So it’s not just a stereotype to say there are very few couples like “us.” There are very few couples like us. (Yes, yes nitpickers, we live in America and these stats are for people living in Korea, but the trend holds true.)

Please Answer Me, Sister

Good Man and I both had pretty stressful Fridays. Good Man was harshly scolded for something by Mother over the phone. He called back several minutes later to explain why he shouldn’t’ve been scolded. Mother was out (really?) but he talked to Sister.

With a voice full of care and sympathy, Sister said “어, 형…”

When Good Man hung up, I asked him why his sister called him “hyeong.” Hyeong is the term men use with older brothers; obba/oppa is the term Sister should use.

He shrugged, “I don’t know. Ask her.”

So I sent Sister an email. Here is it (complete with typos!).

시누이, 정에 [굿맨이] 널 전화했어. 그리고 [굿맨] 마음이 앞았어, 그리고 시누이는 “어… 형” 라고 말했어. 왜 “형” 말 했어? 남자 아니야. [굿맨]한테 물었지만 몰라 라고 말했어.

대답해 줘. ^^


Sister replied Saturday afternoon.

아하! 형이라고 부른건,
어릴 때 부터 그냥 오빠에게 형이라고 가끔 불렀어요ㅋㅋ

옛날 (1980년대?)에 대학교 여학생들이 친한 남자 선배들에게 ‘형’ 이라고 불렀어요.
물론 지금 2000년대에는 그렇게 안 불러요..^^

저는 그냥 가끔 오빠에게 형 이라고 불러요ㅋㅋ
마치 미국사람들이 hey man~ or hi guys 라고 인사 하듯이요ㅋ

조금 이해 됐어요?? 크 크

Sister’s reply was that in the 80s on college campuses girls would often use 형 with male friends (it’s not as common now). Ever since she and Good Man were young, she’d occasionally call him 형.

Well, that makes sense… I guess.

Longstocking, Långstrump or 롱스타킹?

Pippi Longstocking is one of my literary heroes. She’s street smart, funny, and sassy. And she lives alone and doesn’t go to school. At nine!

So it should be no surprise that I own several copies of the book. I own two in English (the one I got in second grade…and the one I bought in Korea), one in Swedish (Pippi L?ngstrump), and one in Korean (삐삐 롱스타킹).

Pippi was written by Astrid Lindgren, a Swedish author, so the English is a translation of course (by Florence Lamborn). And I find it very interesting to see how the translators deal with this book.

In chapter 4 (“Pippi b?rjar skolan,” “Pippi Goes to School,” “어린이에게 학교가 팔요한 이유 단 한 가지”), Pippi goes to school.

In the Swedish version she learns the letters i and o with the words igelkott (hedgehog) and orm (snake). When she’s shown the o/orm, she’s told that the snake is in the shape of an o. (There’s even a picture to go with it in the book.) She says the i looks a streak with a fly over it. She says the o reminds her a time she dealt with a snake in India…

In the English version she’s shown an i for ibex and s for snake. The S is in the shape of a snake, as you can imagine. She says the i looks like a fly speck and the snake reminds her of India…

Of course, Korean doesn’t use the Latin alphabet. She’s shown a ㄱ with the example of 고슴도치, which is hedgehog. (No, I did not know that word before reading this book, and it’s not a word I will bother memorizing.) She’s shown a picture of a snake to teach ㅂ (뱀). Pippi says ㄱ looks like a rod with fly poop (똥) on it. (I don’t get why it’s fly poop…maybe Brian’s theory that Koreans like poop is true.) And for ㅂ, she goes on about the Indian snake.

In the Swedish version, when talking about a math problem, the monetary unit was kronor and ?re (of course). The English version uses quarters and cents. The Korean version uses kronor and ?re with a translator’s note.

I wonder how other non-Latin alphabet languages make a letter look like a fly and a snake…

Journal Writing in Korean

Paul has an interesting discussion about journal writing in a foreign language going on in the comments section of a recent post.

One of the comments left was that the writer tended to write simple sentence in Japanese that he knew were correct. I wrote that I’ve read that students don’t get much benefit from corrections (whereas reading seems to improve writing). And Paul (and a few others) commented that keeping up a journal can be hard in any language because sometimes you just don’t know what to say.

One of the reasons I included writing in my Korean study plan was because I think writing is important. And when I write in Korean, I can post it on my Cyworld page and share it with Good Man’s family. But I limited it to one page a week (though I usually go over that) so as not to force myself to write more than I can really think of. And I write simple sentences.

I used to try and use new structures and I used to try and make sentences with complicated structures. Now I write what I think it right (even though it’s not always right). And despite the studies that show corrections don’t help, I post my writing on Lang-8. I do so more to get feedback on how understandable my writing is, rather than to get corrections. Of course, that feedback often comes in the form of corrections. But the most useful feedback is the form of the feedback itself.

“I don’t understand. What do you mean?” means I have obviously failed at communicating. “I think I understand, do you mean…?” means I’ve mostly failed. “You need X instead of Y” is a correction but I was probably still understood.

“I understood X but we usually say Y” is a correction. “You could say X instead of Y” is showing another way to use the language. “괜찬은데 위에는 계속 반말로 하다가 여기서 존댓말 쓰니까 이상합니다. 그냥 ‘식당을 알아?’ 라고 쓰는게 자연스럽습니다” is a “that makes sense but sort of sounds funny in Korean because you just changed tones completely” point. My usage was not wrong but it wasn’t exactly right.

These various corrections show me how well I’m using what I think I understand. I’ve found that the more I use structures I think I know (instead of using structures I think I should know, or structures that look fancy) the more of those really useful, “you could also…” corrections I get. And those sorts of corrections make my reading clearer…which in turn makes my writing clearer, which…

Reading in Korean

I’ve been reading in Korean nightly for about three weeks now and I’ve realized that 20 minutes at a time is my Korean reading limit. It doesn’t matter what I’m reading—a graphic novel, a children’s book with illustrations every few pages, a newspaper article, something online—and it doesn’t matter the time of the day or night. After about 20 minutes my brain stops understanding what I’m reading. I’ll try to force through it only to realize I didn’t get a word of the last half page I was reading.

I’m starting to accept it. As I learn more Korean and study more consistently and get used to reading in Korean, my endurance will increase!

(Actually, the 20 minute limit it nice. I read 삐삐 in bed and I know in 20 minutes I’ll be sleepy!)

His Liver and Their Crushes

Good Man doesn’t feel well.

“My liver hurts,” he complained.

“How can you feel your liver?”

“I talk with my liver.”

I stared at him. “You and your liver talk?”

“Yeah, and she says—”

I stared at him harder. “Your liver is a ‘she?'”

“Yeah,” he nodded like it was the more natural thing in the world for him to be talking to his sick female liver, “and she is not happy.”

Every single day Good Man says something that just cracks me up. I love this man. And his female liver.

It’s a well-known stereotype-supported-by-stats-fact that white guys in Asia often bring home Asian wives. Well, there’s a sudden (to me) slew of foreign (by Korean standards) chicks dating/crushing on Korean guys and blogging about it. (Not all of these are work safe!)

Doing it Korean Style (not updated too often ㅠㅠ)
Dating in Korea (updated constantly)
Hot Yellow Fellows
Sparkling South Korea
Annyong Anyang (who wrote a hilarious post about a bad date)

Anyone else to recommend?

Good Man’s Birthday

Normally on Tuesday nights I go to a math class. However, tonight it was canceled.

Good Man also had class tonight, so we had decided to celebrate his birthday (which is today) tomorrow (which is his legal birthday and the date I have to remember for all immigration paperwork). Since class was canceled though, I decided to make him a nice dinner.

Good Man asked for 돈까스 (deep-fried pork cutlet) about a month ago. I told him I don’t deep-fry things. Then I saw Jeanny’s post about it and decided that maybe I could deal with deep-frying something. It is, after all, his birthday.

So tonight I made 미역국, 옥수수, 밥, 돈까스, and 초코 게잌 (seaweed soup, corn, rice, deep-friend pork and chocolate cake).

I only got a photo of the 돈까스 part of dinner.


For dessert, Good Man claimed he wanted a “crappy cake” from Safeway. Well, that just would not do. I found a recipe for a chocolate cake made in the slow cooker. When it’s done, you get a sort of runny, gooey sauce at the bottom of the pot. I served it with vanilla ice cream. It was very good.

Crock Pot Cake

Crock Pot Chocolate Mud Cake
(with my edits)

1 cup all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 C whole wheat and 1/2 C white)
2 teaspoons baking powder
6 Tablespoons butter
1/3 cup chocolate chips
2/3 plus 1/3 cup white sugar
3 Tablespoons plus 1/3 cup cocoa
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1 egg yolk
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cup hot water

cooking spray
vanilla ice cream

Generously coat the inside of a 2 1/2 to 5 quart crock pot with cooking spray or butter (I used butter).

Whisk together the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, melt the butter and chocolate chips in the microwave. Whisk in 2/3 cup of white sugar, 3 tablespoons of cocoa, vanilla extract, salt, milk, and egg yolk. Add the flour mixture to the melted chocolate mixture and stir until thoroughly combined.

Pour this batter into the crock pot and spread it evenly (or…just kind of leave it lumpy…)

In a medium bowl, whisk together 1/3 cup white sugar, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup cocoa, and hot water. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour this mixture over the batter in the crock pot.

Cover and cook on high for 1 to 2 1/2 hours. (I started cooking it around 6:30 and it was ready around 8:00 in a 4-qt crock.) The larger the crock pot, the less time this cake will take to bake. (I don’t know what that line means. The more surface area, perhaps?) Check the cake after one hour. The cake is done when nearly all of the top is set and the edges begin to pull away from the sides of the pot. There will be a layer of molten chocolate on the bottom and around the edges. (I let mine cook past the done mark with no ill-effect that we could find.)

When the cake is done turn off the power of the crock pot and remove the lid. Let it cool in the crock pot for at least 30 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Makes 6 to 8 servings. (Or 4 servings if you’re like us.)

This is how Good Man felt about his birthday dinner:

생일 축하합니다!

Fixing the Toilet for Me

Mother called tonight. It’s Good Man’s birthday tomorrow and it’s tomorrow in Korea.

When she called, I asked why we weren’t video chatting. She said we weren’t video chatting because of the bathroom.

The problem with being not-fluent in Korean is that I pick up key words and miss the details.

“시어머니…누구가 화장실에 있어요?” Mother…who is in the bathroom?

She explained again, in rapid-fire Korean and Good Man said, “the bathroom is getting fixed.”

Then, totally changing the subject, mother told me to make 미역국 (seaweed soup) for Good Man for his birthday. I asked her how to make it delicious. The only words I picked up on were water and soy sauce. OK, gotcha. I didn’t tell Mother that he was eating it for dinner instead of breakfast because a) I don’t cook that early in the morning, b) I have to be at work 15 minutes earlier than normal on Tuesdays, c) he isn’t even awake then.

Then Mother went back to her bathroom and said she was fixing it so I would be comfortable. We have more than a month before we go to Korea. I don’t think this is just about my comfort.

Mother ended her bathroom rant with, “아만다 엄마가 사랑하는거 알지?” Amanda, you know how much I love you?

Awww. Mother loves me. And her bathroom.

Elephant Brand Griddle

Good Man and I bought a Zojirushi Electric Griddle today. We lucked out in that it happened to be on sale.

We bought it specifically so I could better make 닭갈비 and damn if it didn’t work beautifully!

Dalk Galbi

After we’d eaten a good amount, I scooped out portions of rice and galbi for tomorrow’s lunch and dinner. Then I mixed the left-over rice with the left-over galbi and some left-over mozzarella cheese that was hanging out in our fridge. I turned the griddle off and let the rice form a nice crust. So delicious.

치즈 닭 갈비

“I think I am turning Korean,” I said. “Elephant rice cooker, griddle, grill for making samgyupsal… buying five bunches of pa [green onions] at a time…”

Good Man shook his head. “Well now I can tell you. You have more gadgets than my mother. True or false?”

“I don’t kn—”

Good Man answered himself. “Daaaaaaamn true!”


Sleeping Good Man