Dinosaur Land!

Good Man and I went out of town for my birthday this weekend. We went to West Virginia via I-66, and stopped for a brief break at Dinosaur Land.

When I was younger, I ended up going on a lot of road trips. Road trips with family, debate trips, whatever. Visiting places like Nowhere, Iowa or Wall, South Dakota or Orange, Florida (with a giant orange store) were staples of the trips. Eventually you’ve gotta get out of the car, and you may as well have fun while you stretch your legs. Tourist junk, cheap t-shirts, and pure cheese. It’s part of the Great American Experience in my mind.

Good Man, however, has never really experienced the pure joy and cheese of Roadside America.

I paid our $5 each ticket fee and we started the “self-guided” tour. As soon as we saw the trees, Good Man said, “How in the world did you find this place?”

On the web!”

Eventually I’ll put all the photos in a trip album, but these are the cheesiest highlights. And really, that’s what we all want to see: the cheese.

Really, Honey?

Inside a 60′ Shark

“There Are So Many Dinos…”

This is How It’s Done

Fistless Fist Bump

Dinosaur Land Teaches Life Lesson #1: Death Happens

Good Man’s New Buddy

Praying Mantis Me

Rawr!

He Got Me!

Oh, No, Not King Kong!

(Employed) Culture Shock

When Good Man had been working for a few weeks he came home, flopped stomach first onto the bed, and mumbled, “You Americans work harder than Koreans.”

“What do you mean?”

“Koreans might be at work for more hours, but a lot of times we are just waiting for the boss to leave so we can leave. You Americans get more done.”

A few minutes later, he was asleep.

***

“My boss is about my age,” Good Man said.

“Right.”

“Well, that is already a little weird to me, but that is OK.”

“Right.”

Good Man frowned, “But he is also boss of someone who is older than him. And…is that OK?”

“In America, yes.”

Good Man clucked his tongue, “It is hard for me. In Korea, if you are young, you are junior. Middle-aged, middle level. Older, higher level. Maybe not everywhere, but most of the time. Here I don’t know who is higher level just by looking. And I don’t know what to call people.”

“You’ll figure it out,” I said, laughing.

“I know, but here you have to talk, too. In Korea, when someone higher talks, you just nod and say ‘yes.’ Here, they actually want to know what you think. Why are you asking what I think?”

***

One of the reasons I wanted Good Man to live here for a while was so he wouldn’t have to work the long hours Koreans work.

The joke’s on me.

Since he’s been employed, Good Man has been out of town (during the weekdays at least) more than he’s been in town. He’s been at company dinners (without the forced drinking)! He’s gone to bed at 4 am, and he’s been up before 4 am for conference calls. And he loves what he’s doing.

At first I was angry, and we got into some battles over housework and cooking. But it settled down fairly quickly and now the time we spend together is easier, calmer, and more relaxed.

Still, I’d prefer not to have the alarm go off at 3:45 in the morning!

Good Man, Health Care Doesn’t Work Like That in America

God of American Health Care, bless Good Man.

Friday he took his old latent TB/chest X-ray/waiver paperwork to Public Health to get his nine-month prescription.

They told him they couldn’t give him meds because his X-ray was more than three months old. Wouldn’t it have been nice if someone had told him that earlier? Yeah, I know.

They told him he needed a new X-ray, that it would take two weeks to get his chest X-ray back, but that if he wanted to go to a private doctor, he could.

Good Man didn’t call me. (Not that it would’ve mattered; I was working and couldn’t’ve received the call anyhow.) He texted me, but I didn’t see it until lunch time.

Instead of getting the chest X-ray, he left.

I was so upset when I found out. He had this idea that we could just waltz into some doctor’s office and get a chest X-ray quickly. The only thing we’re waiting on to finish his application is this damn medical ridiculousness, so he wanted to get it done quickly. Which totally makes sense. Right now, he’s in a sort of visa-limbo. His student visa is valid, but he can’t leave. He can’t get an SSN. He can’t do a ton of things on it that he will (eventually) be able to do even when he’s in AOS limbo.

I explained to him that although we have great insurance, we can’t just waltz into an office or hospital and get a chest X-ray. I reminded him of how many doctors I had to call before finding one who could get him in on short notice when he really needed to go to the doctor last month.

I wasn’t upset at him. I was upset that how he thought American medicine should be isn’t how it is. I was, in short, frustrated with America. Again.

In the meanwhile, Good Man went and found something online that said that the waiver he already signed should be good enough to pass immigration’s requirements. But for whatever reason, his doctor isn’t signing off unless he agrees to go on the meds. (The doctor better sign off on the paper before the medicine is completed. If he doesn’t, we’re going to have to find a doctor who won’t make us wait nine months to turn in the paperwork.)

He also found a bunch of stuff about how hard the medicine is on the liver, how he can’t drink anything for nine months, how he can turn yellow, how he has to visit the doctor monthly, so on and so forth.

He was complaining about it all night.

Finally, I said, “It’s been three hours. How much longer are you going to complain about this? Because I can’t handle it. I’m sorry. I sure I complained like this in Korea, but I can’t handle it.” And kimchi bless the man for putting up with me, because by hour three I was going nuts. I said, “Let’s treat it now, in case something changes in the future, so it’s just done.”

Good Man went back to Public Health yesterday and got the damn chest X-ray. $46.

On the positive side, he got back all the blood tests and he’s free of every blood-borne disease they test for.

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: ~30 minutes of fixing Kwanjangnim’s computer
Chest X-ray: $46
Total: $309.56

Overheard, The First Time, Naming Conventions, and Dinner Decisions

Overheard While Out for Lunch One Day

Man: You know, I wish I had been on a bad date, so I could know what it feels like for a girl to not like you.

Woman: Ung. [Eyes rolling]

The First Time

Before taekwondo tonight I did 500 turns of the jump rope. A fantastic warm up, I made it to 453 before tripping. Ahhh, so close. Then Kwanjangnim (New Master) made me run warm ups for the class. First time I’ve ever done that.

Naming Conventions

I called the dentist to see if I could get Good Man an appointment at the same time I have one on Wednesday. “First name… and same last name?”

One of my students asked me if she was going to have to call me by a new last name. “No, I’m keeping my own,” I told her. I didn’t tell her my first name with his last name makes a great stripper name.

In Korea it’s not traditional for women to take her husband’s last name. In fact, Good Man’s not even sure it’s possible. So when I asked Good Man if he wanted me to take his name, he looked at me like I was nuts. (Which is good, because I wasn’t going to take his name in any case.)

A few weekends ago Good Man and I worked on ordering our Quaker-style wedding certificate. We were reading on the website that many couples will sign as a couple, so you should order enough lines for 75% of the guests.

Good Man was confused. “What does that mean? ‘Sign as a couple?'”

I signed ‘Mr. and Mrs. John Kim’ on a piece of paper. (No Good Man’s name is not John; no, his family name is not Kim.)

“Where’s the woman’s name?”

“She’s here, in the Mrs. John.”

Good Man stared at me for a moment. When he realized I wasn’t kidding he yelled, “that’s bull! That’s so sexist—what about her name? Where is her name?” He then started muttering. “Stupid. Go to hell.”

I said it could be “John and Jane Kim” and he still just stared at me.

More than half of our guest list is made up of couples, and I really don’t want only sixteen signatures on this document. I said that we could just quietly spread the word to sign one-by-one. Good Man looked at me, “Yes! We don’t allow any stupidity at our wedding!”

I couldn’t stop laughing. I’d never expect Good Man to feel so passionate about names. Then again, in Korea if you share a name and house with a woman your age, she’s your sister.

Dinner Decisions

Last weekend we went out for dinner with Mark and his Lover. Good Man looked at the menu. “There is too much to choose from in America,” he said. He told me to start picking for him.

I laughed. “That’s rather old-fashioned and backwards,” I said to him. “A long time ago, the man would order for the lady. Sometimes he’d let her choose, and other times he’d just choose for her.”

“Yeah, that’s OK, you can just choose for me any time we go out. Menus are too big in America!”

“Menus were just as big in Korea,” I argued, “Go to one of those orange places and they have walls of menus.”

“But it’s all the same—ramyeon, cheese ramyeon, curry ramyeon—here you have all those options in one menu option,” he said, pointing to the “choose two sides from the list below to go with any meal above” section.

One thing that I heard foreigners complain about in Korea is that you can’t special order foods. Like the cough syrup incident, I hadn’t considered the flip side, feeling like there are too many options when you can special order.

Electric (Reverse) Culture Shock

Reverse Culture Shock
“Why don’t we have more friends around here?” I lamented.

“Because we don’t believe in God,” Good Man answered.

(Reverse) Culture Shock
“I hate it here. I want to go back to Korea.”

“How can you be unhappy in a country with electric staplers?” Good Man asked me.

I stared at him. “What?”

“America! You have electric staplers! Americans are lazy, and being lazy is good for invention. Because you want what you want, then you imagine, then make reality. Heaven for lazy people, and you want happiness? Then you buy it…”

My jaw dropped. “I don’t want to buy friends.”

“No, but we can make more friends.”

I laughed, “Make more friends and buy electric staplers?”

“Exactly.”

Culture Shock
What is that?”

I looked in the direction Good Man was pointing. “Public Storage? You can—”

“I know, I know. You rent—pay—and put stuff there, right?”

“Right,” I nodded.

“That is so—! Stupid! Americans have huge cars. Huge houses. Huge yards—yards they are never outside in! And then they rent more space to keep stuff! America is so…awkward!”

HR Woman, You Fail. America, You Fail.

I had to call HR today. “Hi. I need to make a change to my insurance because I was just married. But my husband doesn’t have a SSN. Do I need a dummy number?”

[Note for non-SSN readers: A Social Security Number is a nine-digit number which was originally supposed to be used for tax purposes only. Over time it’s become this radically abused number and is sort of a national ID number, even though we aren’t supposed to have those in the US.]

“You need to find out his SSN.”

“…” I repeated myself. “He doesn’t have one.”

“How doesn’t he have one?”

I really didn’t want to explain that he isn’t eligible for one. “He doesn’t have a SSN. What should I write?”

“Um, write that he doesn’t have one.”

Like I’m the first person in the entire district to marry a SSN-less foreigner? Doubtful.

Then I asked if I needed to send a certified marriage certificate or if I could send a copy of the commemorative, non-official one they give you.

She said, “You need the license.”

I said, “The license was returned to the state by the officiant. I do not have the license.”

“You have some sort of license.”

It took all of my self-control not to say, “I have a driver’s license.” Instead I explained, very slowly, how it works and that I only had the decorative certificate. The one that reads “this is not a certified certificate.” She told me I could just send a copy of the fake certificate. Fine.

It’s a bit moot now. Monday we sent off for ten legal copies figuring that in our half-SSN-less-Green-Card-and-in-state-tuition-applying-he-is-my-husband-even-though-he’s-not-white-and-this-is-our-proof situation ten copies was a good guess as to how many we’d need. We got the legal copies in the mail today. I will probably send copies of both through interoffice mail. God knows if I send an official copy they might flip out and not know what to do with it.

Then I called Walk All Over Ya, my bank, to try and add Good Man to my account.

I asked how I could add him. They put me on hold for 15 minutes.

And then they hung up on me.

So I called again. And was immediately told it’s impossible to add him without a SSN or TPIN (another tax ID number). I said, “So basically there’s no way for me to add my husband to my bank account?”

“Right.”

America. Sucks.

“Wife” and Expat Medicine Woes

Last night in a moment of stress…

“I’m stressed! I’m sorry I’m being so bitchy!”

“Nooooooo,” Good Man said. “You are not bitch. You are woman! You are wife! You are my wife!”

“You like that word,” I said.

“‘Wife’ is best word ever! All Korean men like the word. ‘Wife!'”

I started rattling off the Korean words related to wife and newlywed. “부인, 아내, 처, 신부…”

“No! 와이프!” He said “wife” in the Korean way, making it almost—but not quite—sound like “wipe.”

Good Man went on, “와이프 is best word ever! All Korean men born since, hmmm, 1970, love 와이프! Wife Magic!”

Meanwhile I keep calling him my boyfriend and fiancé.

“Nooooooo! I am ‘husband!'”

***

One common complaint of ex-pats in Korea is that getting decent over-the-counter drugs is impossible. Going to the doctor is cheap. Getting prescription meds is cheap. Getting decent over-the-counter medicine? Not as easy.

Mother sent Good Man to America with a mini-pharmacy in his bag, much as my mother sent me to Korea with a huge bottle of Advil and other meds.

“American medicine is too strong,” Good Man explained.

Today I took Good Man to the store to pick up some cold medicine. I immediately reached for cheaper store-brand versions of DayQuil and NyQuil. “This is what you want, this is good stuff.”

“That looks scary.”

“No, it’s not. It’s good, but be careful you take day during the day and night at night ’cause the night one will knock you out asleep.”

Good Man looked horrified. “Why is American medicine so strong?”

“Well, your Korean medicine isn’t working, so go American-style. Do you want cherry red flavor or original green flavor?”

“This is medicine, not food.”

“Right, but it’s American medicine. So red or green flavor?”

Good Man nodded. “Green.”

I picked up the green night bottle and the orange day bottle. “This will taste disgusting.”

“It’s OK. I have had Chinese medicine.”

Dual Culture Shock

His Culture Shock

“Why are those letters backwards?” Good Man points to an ambulance.

“So you can read the words in your rear view mirror if it’s coming up behind you.”

“That! That is so brilliant! America is brilliant!”

I laugh. Shortly after we arrived in America, some ambulance went speeding past. I did what you’re supposed to do, you know, slow down and pull over? Good Man was so confused. “Why is everyone doing that? Oh my God! In America they stop!”

***

“왜 야드에 사람 나오지 않아?” Why aren’t people in their yards?

“미국이야. ” It’s America.

And Mine

Sometimes I feel like those two years in Korea didn’t actually happen. It’s not that life stopped in America. It didn’t. I don’t even live in the same state that I did when I left. But sometimes I have to stop, step back, and ask myself, “Did it really happen?” And then I look at Good Man and realize that, indeed, it happened.

And then there are the reverse moments. Those moments where I am suddenly struck, and I realize that Korea(n(s)) got under my skin.

A few months ago I reached for a new tub of gochujang (spicy red pepper paste) from our pantry. I started chuckling to myself. If anyone had told me five years ago that I’d be cooking Korean food on a weekly basis, I would’ve rolled my eyes. Yet here I am, with a kitchen stocked up with gochujang, dwenjang, and ganjang.

A few weeks ago, I was walking up the steps in a library. I was nearing the top and someone started to come down the steps. She glared at me and I couldn’t understand why until I’d already completed my ascent. Of course. I was walking up the left side of the stairs. I didn’t think anything of it, I was just doing it. I’ve lived here over 8 months now, and I still do it.

I also realized that I keep handing people things with two hands or my left arm tucked under my right. Nobody else cares or notices, but I do.

Last night Diana and I were chatting online and I said that I have very few friends here. But is that true? Last weekend, over dinner, Mark’s Lover asked me when we were going to have an engagement party. I said, “We’re not. Our wedding is tiny and besides, we have no friends here.”

Mark’s Lover gestured to everyone else sitting at the table and said, “What are we then?”

I didn’t really know what to say. Indeed, Mark and his Lover are friends. But their friends aren’t yet our friends, even though we’ve met them several times.

And last night, chatting with Diana, I realized that before Korea, I’d have called these people friends. Not close friends, but friends. After Korea, not so much.

It seems to me that Koreans don’t have friends. They have adjective friends. “This is my seonbae,” “he’s my hubae,” “this is my military friend,” “this is my sixth grade friend…”

Have I picked up the adjective friend thing? Is that why I don’t yet consider my taekwondo studiomates, or the people who go to Korean Meetups my friends? (Maybe “location friend” is a better descriptor than “adjective friend.”)

It’s almost as if there’s a B.K. (Before Korea) Amanda and an A.K. (After Korea) Amanda. How could two years of conditioning overcome 26 years of my natural environment?

F.U.D. and Sharpie Dangers!

So Good Man and I were supposed to have our engagement photo session this weekend. But brilliant, brilliant woman that I am, I managed to strain my neck reaching for Sharpie markers at work today.

I was in deep pain, and was thus unintentionally slightly evil to my students for the rest of the day. Poor students, I hurt my neck before 10 am!

My neck still hurts, so the engagement session has been put off till the weekend of the 14th so that we don’t get 100 pictures of me unable to turn my head, staring straight into the camera.

Engagement session scheduled, check.

Mom finally sent me the jewelry I left at her house (long story, blame my truck) though she was curious about why I have a rosary (long story, blame Mark) and a giant silver cross with a hunk of turquoise in it (long story, blame a gay ex-priest) and she took my Buddha (Mark again) because she claimed it was too heavy to send (hmmm, fishy sounding). Wha hoo! All of my jewelry (most of it gifts from my father) is back, which means I can wear some for the engagement photos.

Jewelry, check.

Good Man and I also ordered our wedding rings tonight. They’ll ship in about three weeks.

Wedding rings, check.

Good Man has never had a massage, and I haven’t had one in years, so in a fit of neck pain and frustration tonight, I scheduled us for an hour-long couple’s massage next week.

Massages, check.

***

“So my coworker asked what we were doing for Valentine’s Day and I said ‘nothing,’ and she said we need to start our relationship traditions,” I said to Good Man over dinner.

“Our tradition is to not celebrate Valentine’s Day. Or White Day.”

“I told her that, I told her we have our own rituals that don’t depend on a holiday, but apparently the fact that we’re not doing anything spells disaster.”

Before ordering the rings, Good Man and I had discussed how the gold karat that a wedding ring is “supposed” to be has changed over time. In the more expensive direction, of course. He mentioned that and then said, “American companies and holidays are all about F.U.D.,” Good Man replied.

“F.U.D.?”

“Fear. Uncertainty. Death. Doubt. If you do not do something on Valentine’s Day, your relationship will die!” Good Man stabbed at his orange chicken, “All of America is like that. But we have not died yet.”

Edit to correct: Good Man says the D is Doubt.

“These People Are Piggies!”

Good Man and I weren’t going to register for a host of reasons, but Mark talked us into it.

We decided to register tonight because I wanted to avoid a Saturday morning store rush. We headed over to Bed, Bath, and Beyond. On the way there, Good Man crossed off items we didn’t need on a list I printed out from one of those Wedding Industrial Complex websites.

Good Man read each item one-by-one and we decided “yes” or “no.”

“Red wineglasses, white wineglasses, water goblets, champagne flutes, double old-fashioned glasses—what is this stuff?—margar…ita, martini, pilsner? Juice, highball. Twelve of each! These people are piggies!”

Later he asked, “What is a ‘citrus jester?'”

“Jester? Juicer?”

“Jester.”

I looked at the list. “Zester. You know how sometimes I made things that need the peel of an orange or lemon? It helps you scrape off a little bit of the peel.”

Good Man stared at me. “Americans!”

A half page later he came to the panini press. “Huh?”

“You know those squished, grilled sandwiches at Panera? It makes those.”

Good Man said slowly, “OK…but we’re not doing sandwich business.”

When he got to the bathroom section he asked what a soap dispenser was. “It’s something you stick liquid soap in, so you can squeeze it out. Or you can get a soap holder to put bar soap on.”

“Huh?”

“So the sink doesn’t get that grimy soap stuff on it.”

Good Man pretended he was washing his hands. “It’s exercise to pick up the soap from the sink!”

With the list drastically shortened, we filled out the paperwork at BB&B. Their list was, amazingly, even longer than the WICy one. They also suggested we have 100 glasses in our cupboard.

The woman brought out the fine china binder. “We’re not doing fine china.” She brought out the silverware binder. “No silverware.” She brought out the luggage binder. “We’re good for luggage, not doing it.”

“Wow! You guys are easy!”

The manager came over and offered us cold water and asked all kinds of details about the wedding. The woman who was helping up was really interested in learning about Korea. She asked if I speak Korean.

“Not well.”

“You lived there for two years and can’t speak it well?”

I wrote down my name in Korean. I pushed it across the table to her. “Can you read this?”

“No,” she looked very surprised.

“That is just the beginning,” I said.

We got the scanner. In the first half of the store, we scanned three things. Three things. Good Man refused to get any soap holder. One was glass, so that was out. Another wasn’t the right color. Another was “too sharp.”

Good Man must think he’s marrying my grandmother based on the shower curtain he wanted. We don’t own a shower curtain. Our landlord owns our shower curtain. And we won’t own one, as long as he thinks I’m 70 years old.

Good Man is so indecisive. He told me he was like an ajumma. ㅎㅎㅎ

By the time we got to the last section of the store, kitchen utensils, Good Man had really loosened up. He doesn’t cook or bake much, so if I said I wanted a muffin pan, he didn’t question it.

Choosing dishes, glasses (regular old glasses, not stemware), and flatware was remarkably easy at least.

We both liked the same two patterns for dishware. He liked the dishes with the red pattern more. I liked the ones with a different brown pattern more. He couldn’t make up his mind. “Do you want to look at this for twenty years?” I asked.

“We will not have this for twenty years. It will all break.”

“We’re using Caro’s Mother’s wedding dishes and those are more than thirty years old.”

“Really?” Good Man thought for a moment. “Hmm, well, yes, I like this because it had red flowers on it and you should know, sometimes I am like a girl.”

“I don’t know, I like the brown ones better,” I said. Good Man dithered for about five minutes. In that time, I changed my mind. “Actually, I think we should get the red pattern.”

“Yes,” Good Man nodded, “my plan worked. I wait until you agree with me. Yes!”

ㅎㅎㅎ