Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Chawaheyo!!!!

I have no idea if I spelled that right, but it means "I LIKE IT!" and I'm talking about korea, my life, this day...everything. Ok, now before I get started, I need to make something clear. This will be a long post simply because I am using my blog as a record of this experience more than as a sounding board for loyal readers...so if you get bored or think there is too much writing, oh well.

This has been such a good night. I'm not sure why. It shouldn't have been anything special especially because it has been rainy all day and I am sort of losing my voice from yelling at kids and singing "Mother Goony Bird" about 6 times a day over the giggling of 6 year olds. But for the second night in a row, I ate really good Korean food that didn't have any eyeballs lurking under the mushrooms AND when I stopped in the street to buy some really yummy smelling flowers from a vendor, an old woman said in korean that the flowers were beautiful. I understood her and I said, ippoyo, which means beautiful and she said in korean back to me, "oh my goodness, so beautiful!" and then told the other two women standing there that I speak korean or something like that. They all smiled politely at me and the woman walked off without buying anything. I bought 2,000 won (about $2) worth of the flowers and as I started to walk back home, I saw the woman up ahead. In a fit of gratitude for the small exchange we shared, I tapped the woman on the shoulder and handed her the flowers . She said in english..."no thank you" which she is supposed to do when given a gift, but I pleaded with her to take them and she did, giggling and smiling and laughing. I walked away feeling absolutely in love with my life and in love with people and so much myself. I felt like myself! HALLELUJAH!

This sounds really dumb, but maybe it's about being able to do nice things for someone else. Ever since I have been here, I have needed other people to take care of me and that has been really humbling. In fact, two sundays ago, a sweet girl in my ward brought me a bag full of groceries after I jokingly told her that I was grocery shopping at the 7-11 (THEY HAVE THEM HERE!) She handed me the bag and I started openly weeping in the middle of the chapel. I couldn't help it. But I've been here almost a month! I have an alien resident card. I have a hana bank account and check card. I meet friends for dinner in strange parts of town. And yesterday, I made a jazz cd for the restaurant owner down the street who wears cowboy shirts and calls himself Richard. It felt good to be on the giving end of kindness. It felt like me. And then there are the kidlets...

OK, so some people have been asking about work. This is a small sample of what I do...these are some afterschool kids (6-7 years old). They are my favorite class...silly and funny and inventive. We sing and paint and learn letters and numbers and we practice saying things like, "Hello. My name is....." You would think that it's not that stimulating, but watching these kids "get it" is the most amazing thing ever. I still need to learn how to balance my energy. I really have to use my voice ALOT and it's taking it's toll. I can barely speak today and I'm sure tomorrow will be no better.

I spend a lot of time planning theater lessons for the kindergarten. It's really very challenging, but again, soooo rewarding when someone understands the concept of "pretend vs. real" and then asks if we can pretend to be a monkey or something like that. Theater is such a demanding thing to teach with kids let alone kids who don't speak your language. You have to rely so much on your body and your tone of voice. I'm learning so much about the value of communication. I think that is why I am finding esl teaching so meaningful.

Oh, and not surprisingly, the kids have a hard time with my name. Some kids can say KaRyn but most just call me Korea Teacher. They get that it's funny since I am so very ani Hangumal and man do they make themselves laugh everytime they say it. Who knew 7 year olds could be so funny? This is a green tea birthday cake and ironically it's the first cake that I have had in Korea that actually tasted like an american cake. What this poor poor picture is not showing you is that the cake is an eery shade of green with green frosting. I was afraid that like most things in Korea it would look really funky and yummy and then turn out to be a barley wheat cake made of rice with no sugar. BUT NO...it was masshasoyo (delicious)!
I took this on the bus today. Domino's right next to kia motors. Don't you find the cross pollination of our cultures intriguing? Almost as intriguing as the fact that if you didn't know I took this in asia, you would be hard pressed to know that it wasn't america or canada or australia.
Everyone keeps telling me that I'm in the honeymoon phase and that culture shock is going to hit in THREE months. that's right, three months and I will wake up and say, "what am I doing here? I want to go home." I don't doubt that the day will come, but I also have a new theory. Seoul is a big city. It's subways and walking and shops and street vendors and weird smells and crazy taxi drivers and bad people and nice people and weird people. A lot of being in Korea for me is adjusting back into city life, not really so much the korea thing. I wonder if the people who have a hard time here are not from cities or don't enjoy cities. Perhaps the problem is population rather than culture? Just a thought.

AND here is my kitchen. Sink? check. microwave? check. minifridge? check. hotplate? check. washer? CHECK CHECK CHECK. conspicuously missing: pots, pans, oven, dishes, food to cook. Please let me know if you have any microwave recipes that have ingredients I can buy at 7-11.

My first homemade korean meal. eggs, seaweed something or other, diet coke. You know you want to come over for dinner....

4 comments:

Sara McOllie said...

You can tell the cake and the frosting is green, just from the picture...

For me the culture shock was never about the city, but little things like root beer. I mean, I don't even drink the stuff here, but I got so homesick for root beer. A friend's parents even brought some over for me when they visited so I was able to introduce a couple people to root beer floats.

Emily said...

That is so funny sara,
When I lived in Australia I became homesick for rootbear too though i almost never drink it normally...

what could that mean?........

lumina said...

this is so interesting....

to watch you make your adjustment to the exact thing I had to adjust to.
thanks for documenting it so well.

I really want to help you feel comfortable however i can. I'll help you practice ordering in a korean restaurant okay?

Adam said...

When it comes to food, sometimes you have to turn off the logic center of your brain and let the mechanics take over. Raw oysters may sound gross, but that could be just your pre-conceived notion.

Actually, they are kinda gross. But my point is still valid, I swear!