Hurricane Irene Takes Aims at My Truck

I got home Tuesday night, missing the 5.8 earthquake that struck the area by a few hours. And this weekend we dealt with Hurricane Irene.

So. Apparently I will not be waiting a year to get a new car.

Irene’s Wake

Where’s the Branch?

Hand in the Cab!

Cracked Windshield

From the Passenger Side

We weren’t able to find the branch that caused that damage.

The Blue Book value on my car is only about $2500 (and that’s being generous) so I didn’t have comp on it. I’m not going to bother to pay for repairs considering the value of the car, its age (a ’99), the fact that the rear leaf spring needs to be repaired… No, this is a sign that I need to get a new (used) car.

Good Man will be out of town this week, and preplanning starts at school, but luckily I found several coworkers who are willing to carpool with me.

Good Man and I went for a ~3.5 mile walk around the neighborhood. We saw one downed line (it looked like cable, not power), and a downed robin’s nest. We saw no other property damage. Why my truck? (Good Man’s car was right next to mine and doesn’t even have a scratch on it; we have comp on his car!)

But hey! I will get air con! And a CD player and/or USB hookup! A car with air con, a dream come true!

Like an Ajumma; Like a Daughter

“I am like an ajumma,” I said to Mother, as we walked to Herb Garden. “I am not working. I am exercising. My husband works very hard. I am wearing a hat…”

Mother giggled, “Being an ajumma is not bad,” she said, “it is not scary.”

I looked at her, “Ajummas on the subway are scary. Their elbows are like knives!” I picked up my pace and elbowed my invisible competition before throwing my imaginary purse in a seat to mark my spot.

“Oh my God, oh my goodness, that is true.”


Mother and I went for a walk at Herb Garden when it was rainy. We both had umbrellas and the park was mostly empty. But it started raining really hard, so we stopped for a few minutes under a covered rest area, where two women were already waiting.

“We will wait here until the rain becomes lighter,” Mother said.

“I understand,” I said, stretching my calves, “It will be more comfortable if we wait.”

One of the women turned to Mother. “Is she your daughter?”

Mother smiled, “Yes.”

I had expected I would constantly be referred to as “the foreign daughter-in-law,” but I was wrong. I have mostly been the daughter-in-law. This time I was simply the daughter. Mother hasn’t called me a foreigner nearly as much as I thought she would.

The two women nodded. I closed my eyes and sighed contentedly.

Friends After Thirty Years

“Mother, when you and Father speak, you use banmal.”

Over breakfast, Mother nodded. “Yes.”

“But on Korean dramas, and in books, the man speaks banmal and the woman speaks jondaemal.” (Banmal is the common/familiar form of Korean, and jondaemal is a more polite form of speech.)

Mother smiled. “When we were first married, I spoke jondaemal, but we have been married thirty years now! So I decided a few years ago that we are friends, and I started speaking banmal. When I did, Father got angry. He said, ‘Why are you speaking banmal to me? Are we friends?’ I said, ‘We have been married for a long time now! Yes we are friends and I will speak banmal to you!'”

I laughed, “Mother, you are a sassy woman!”

Mother grinned and said, “A little bit.” She paused and said, “When I speak banmal with someone, I feel closer to them in my heart.”

Well, that would explain why Mother was fine with me speaking banmal to her. At the beginning of the trip, I used only jondaemal, but toward the middle of the trip, I started slipping into banmal. When I realized it, I apologized, but Mother said I was family.

Moments with Sister

“OK, see that swimsuit on that man?” I asked Sister in Busan, at the beach.

Sister looked, “Yes.”

“In America, we call that a banana hammock.”


“Where people sleep in hot countries,” I said, looking up the word on Sister’s handphone. I showed her the phone and she nodded. “And banana is like pepper.”

Sister started laughing and nodded. Then she tilted her head toward a man down the beach, “He is wearing a banana hammock, too.”


I stopped to look at a sculpture. “OK, this…is a little weird.”

Sister looked up, too. “Yeah.”

“What is that in Korean?” I said, pointing to a part of the sculpture. “Man eggs?”

“I don’t know.”

I looked at her. “I don’t believe you. How do you say ‘man eggs’ in Korean?”

“불알,” she said quietly.

“불 like fire? Fire eggs. I am going to remember fire eggs.”

Sister shook her head, “Different 불.”

“I know, but now I will remember ‘fire eggs’ for ‘man eggs.'”

Sister just laughed and laughed. (A few days later, Mother lectured me on how I should feed Good Man a lot of tomatoes so he doesn’t get testicular cancer, so it’s a good thing I learned about ‘fire eggs’ from Sister.)


Sister comes into my room and declares, “Mother took all of the coins from my bedroom.”

Mother took all of my 10 won coins from me when we were shopping. Good Man says she’s like me and finds coins, except I find coins on the street and Mother finds them in other people’s purses.

“Mother!” I call out, “You’re a thief-cat!” (Thief-cat is the literal translation of alley cat.)

Mother comes in the room. Sister and I are sitting on the bed, and Mother is in the doorway, her shoulders square. “You should’ve cleaned your room.”

“How much money was it? Give me my money back!”

Master and Mother Meet

“Amanda, will you drink soju?”

“No, it would be weird. If I were alone with Master, I would drink soju, but since you are coming, it would be weird.”

Mother said, “You should not drink soju. It is bad for your health.”

“Mother, you told me to drink soju instead of soda.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“[Good Man] was there. It was on Skype.”

“OK, maybe I did.”


Last night Mother and I went across town to meet Master. I was nervous, but it went well. Master’s kids were super shy which made everything a little weird. We went out to the dalkkalbi place that I like so much and had a good time.

And Mother. Mother ordered soju. I touched her forehead and asked if she was OK. She laughed and said no.

“Mother, have you ever had soju with [Good Man]?”

“Only at your wedding.”

While we were eating and chatting, a man popped his head in the doorway. “Amanda.”

I looked up with confusion and realized it was Master’s Father. I don’t think I saw him on our trip here last year, so it had been three years since I’d seen him. It took me a few moments to realize who he was and I could feel a look of recognition pass over my face. “Oh!” I cried out, standing up to greet him.

Master’s Father sat down and Mother ordered another bottle of soju. We all shared one shot before Master’s Father headed back home (he had popped in just to say hi and share a shot).

“Master,” I said after he’d left, “your father looks very healthy.”

“He is. He will live a long life.”

When we departed at the subway station, I cried. I know I will continue to travel to Korea since I’m married to a Korean. And I know I’ll always visit Master’s family when I go to Korea, but it’s still hard to say goodbye.

Sassy Mother, Sassy Me

Yesterday Mother and I went to Herb Garden together. This has been our thing. Most evenings, before dinner, we’ve gone for a ~3 mile walk to this local park.

On the way home, I was walking down the middle of the road and she told me to move because I would be hit by a car. It’s a one way road and I could see there weren’t any cars coming.

“Mother, you want to be a rich woman, and if I die you’ll get money.”


I started wailing, “Oh my God, oh my goodness, my daughter-in-law! You killed her! Give me money. She is my only daughter-in-law, she is my foreign daughter-in-law. Give me money.

I continued on while Mother laughed. “I don’t want money that much. You are a comedian.”

“Use your sexy voice. You need your sexy voice,” I said.

Mother wailed in a husky, sexy voice, “Oh my God, oh my goodness.”

I paused. “Mother, I am sorry. I am a terrible-daughter-in-law.” Mother asked why and I made hash of a sentence trying to say if I were a Korean daughter-in-law, I couldn’t talk like I do. I know I said it completely incorrectly, but Mother understood.

“That’s true, but you are not Korean.”

“Mother, I am a sassy girl. Do you know sassy?”


“And I think you like me because deep, deep, deep down in your heart, you are a sassy girl, too.”

“You think?”

I nodded, “Yes, deep down in your heart you are a sassy girl.”

Mother chuckled, “Deep, deep, deep, deep down. A little bit.”

I smiled, “And [Good Man] needs a sassy woman. I need a smart man and he needs a sassy woman.” I couldn’t remember the word for imagine, so I said, “In your mind, can you make a picture of me with a dumb man?”

Once she understood what I was asking, she started laughing, “No, you would be very angry. ‘Why are you so stupid?’ And you are right, my son needs a sassy woman.”

Sexy, Lusty Me

“Amanda! Come eat breakfast!” Mother called.

I dragged myself into the kitchen, coughing from a cold I caught. “This looks delicious,” I said.

“Your voice sounds terrible.”

“This is my sexy voice.”

Mother looked at me, “What? Your sexy voice?”

“Yeah, my sexy voice.” I made my eyelids heavy and glanced at Mother sideways. “‘Hello…boyfriend'” I said, winking dramatically.

“Oh my God, oh my goodness, Amanda!”


“What did you buy?” Mother asked after Sister and I returned from a massive shopping trip on Monday, Korean Independence Day.

I dumped out the bags (minus the Oreos, which I’d hidden in my room so Sister and I could share them later) and we went through everything. I brought out two solid perfumes I’d picked up at Lush and Sister and I talked about the different scents.

“They had a scent called Lust, but it smelled terrible,” I said.

Sister agreed, “It smelled like a urinal cake.”

“Not like lust,” I said, shaking my head.

“What is lust?”

I thought for a minute. For some reason I had expected this word would be Konglishized. Sister pulled up the dictionary on her handphone and her eyes grew large.

I said, “When two people love each other very much,” I put on a dramatic voice and threw my arms out like I was greeting a long-gone lover, “‘I love you!’ ‘I love you, too!’ ‘You don’t need to wear clothing!’ ‘Yes!'”

Mother and Sister were both laughing hard. Finally Mother said, “Oh my God, Amanda, you have a talent.”

Mother Meets a Gay Person

“Amanda! Why isn’t [Mark’s Lover] married? Why isn’t Mark married?”

Mother asks this all the time. I have been wanting to tell her for some time that they’re partners but Good Man has always worried that she would not understand. But this time, Good Man wasn’t around to stop me.

“Mother, are you sitting down?”

“What do you mean? Of course I am, you can see.”

“Mother, Mark and [Mark’s Lover] love each other. They are gay.”

Mother narrowed her eyes. “Really?”

“Yes. I know I tease you a lot, but I am not kidding. [Good Man] and I met in June 2008, they met in August 2008. And it is illegal for them to get married.”

“Wow. Shocking.” Mother thought for a moment. “How does Mark’s mom feel?”

I smiled. “Mark told his mom a long time ago, in high school. She loves [Mark’s Lover] like he is another son. So she is OK with it. And Mark’s in-laws like him, too.”


“Mother, you really didn’t know? We usually see them together.”

“No,” Mother said, shaking her head, “They didn’t kiss each other at your wedding, how would I know? I have never met a gay person before.”

I decided not to press the point that she has indeed met gay people but just didn’t know it. I patted her hand, “Well, now you have.”

“You know, more and more young Koreans are coming out now. It’s on the news.”

“I know.”

“I wonder how their families feel.”

I thought for a moment before saying, “I hope their families love them.”

“Wow. Gay.”

I had half-expected Mother to say she was going to pray for them, or say that there are no gays in Korea. I was surprised at how understanding she was, and thought her concern for Mark’s mother was sweet. And now she’ll quit asking why they aren’t married… to women, at least. I fully expect her to soon start asking why they don’t marry each other.

A Shoe In

Sister and I went to Busan a few weeks ago. Mother tried loaning me a pair of her shoes, but when she saw how wide my feet are, she gave me a pair of Father’s sports sandals for the trip. The sandals I brought, which I thought were well broken-in, were giving me wicked blisters.


I brought one pair of sneakers and a pair of lightweight day hiking shoes I thought were comfortable. However, I realized that the very painful plantar faciitis I’ve been battling for months is either caused or greatly exacerbated by those shoes. Wish I’d realized this two months ago, when my problems started.


When Mother came to Good Man’s graduation last year, we went to the outlet mall together and Mother discovered Naturalizer shoes. Naturalizer shoes are twice as much here as they are in the States, so Mother made two orders one week apart for a total of four pairs of shoes. When I return to the States, I’ll send them to her.

A week after the second order, I was checking my email and realized she ordered one pair twice.

“Mother, you ordered two pairs of the same shoe.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“Yes,” I said, showing her the emails, “Look.”

“Oh, that’s because I asked if you ordered and you said no.”

“You asked if I ordered shoes for me,” I said.

“No, that’s not what I meant.”

I started laughing, “Korean!” Of course this was an issue of Korean being a high-context language. “It’s OK, I can return it to the store.”

Mother switched to English, “I am terribly sorry.”


Today Sister and I attempted a trip to Nami Island. When we got out to Chuncheon, however, it was pouring buckets. We ended up coming home, eating, and napping. We spent approximately four hours of our day getting nowhere.

Although it was clear in Seoul, when we got home, our feet were sill soaking wet.

Hours later, my shoes were still wet and we wanted to go bowling. Mother pulled Father’s sneakers out of the closet. “Mother, those are too small,” I said.

“No, they’re not.”

I held the sole of Father’s shoe against the sole of my shoe. Sister laughed because it was obvious my shoe was far wider than Father’s. Mother said, “Oh my goodness, your feet are so big,” and took a pair of Good Man’s sneakers out of the closet. “He had these in the military.”

I put on Good Man’s shoes and we all laughed. Instead of having one finger-width of toe wiggle space, I had three. I was glad these weren’t his true width, too (he’s a EEE width). “It’s OK,” I said, “it will work.”

Sister and I tromped off to the bowling alley, my feet sliding forward in Good Man’s shoes the while time. “[Sister], [Good Man] has big feet.”


“But he is Korean. Where did he buy shoes here?”

“Ahhh, when he was younger, Mother had to take him to Itaewon to buy shoes. When he got older, he could sometimes find them in department stores. But normally we had to go to the places for foreigners.”

Moments with Mother (Take Two)

At the cross stitch store, I found the DMC floss colors I needed and then browsed through the patterns. I found a very simple pattern for a gisaeng (sort of like a geisha or courtesan).

“No, you can’t buy that,” Mother said.


“No, not good. Where will you put it?”

I grinned, “The bedroom.”

“No, no.”

“Mother,” I said, “if I lived in Joseon Dynasty, I would have been a gisaeng.”

“Ya! Why?”

“I like to learn things! I would learn art, music, and politics.”

“Oh my God, oh my goodness.”


“Aigo, Amanda!”


“Your room!”

“I know, I need to clean.”

Mother looked at a shirt on the floor. “Amanda! When you were younger did your mother clean your room? Or make you clean it?”

“She tried, but after a while she shut the door.”

“Oh my God, oh my goodness.”


“Sit down and wait, Mother,” I said at a “women friendly” park near her house.


“There are babies, and you will start talking about babies.”

“Only if they’re cute,” she said, getting up. We passed the babies and Mother wrinkled her nose and whispered, “Not cute.”


“Mother, why are you always yelling at me? Do you hate me?” I grinned at her.

“It’s just my Gyeongsangdo accent.” Mother laughed, “And I yell at my son and daughter and husband, too. Now you are family.”

I sighed and imitated Mother, “Oh my God, oh my goodness.”


“Your face is getting thinner,” Mother said. “You are more beautiful now.”

“I am always beautiful.”

“You have a big ego.”

“I know,” I agreed, “So does [Good Man]. I need a big ego to be his wife.”

“Ya! Amanda! You are his wife! You should make him have a smaller ego. Oh my God, oh my goodness.”