Goryeong: Sunday, May 24

Korea in the spring…slays me.

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Photos of hikes and leafy jaunts Nate and I have taken over the past two months pile up in my folders, but for weeks nothing has really reached out and grabbed me. Nothing has given me that insistent nudge: share me. Nothing has stirred me the way that Korea springtime usually does. Who knows why. But though Spring has been around for a few months now, and is starting the uphill climb to summer, I’m only now catching up with it.

Last weekend one of our favorite families in the whole world invited us for an afternoon in the countryside. Jeong Hui and I met because she mistook me for her son’s new English teacher nearly two years ago, just after I moved to Gyeongsan. Our conversation led me and Nate to the Bible study that’s been our Sunday evening staple ever since, at a small, homey church literally two minutes from our door. She and her family are one of my favorite experiences of real, Gospel community. She and her husband Deok Si have 3 kids: Hana, the oldest, Han Byeol, who is the middle child and does nothing that anyone else is doing and thus is in zero pictures (girl, I get it. do you.), and Han Bit, who is crazy and my favorite person.

Jeong Hui invited us to visit her parents’ home last Sunday afternoon to take a half-day trip. Our awkward moment: we bought a watermelon as a hostess gift because that’s how you do in Korea, and did it without consulting Jeong Hui because we assumed that she’d insist we bring nothing, and sure enough, when we toted the monster melon out to the minivan, Jeong Hui burst out laughing and shaking her head. “No, we insist!” we gaily caroled, and then Jeong Hui said,

“My parents have a watermelon farm…”

Hysterical laughter is a great way to start a road trip.

The afternoon with her family was that proprietary blend of serenity and ease with notes of desperate language barrier awkwardness. Lots of bowing, lots of smiling. After nearly 4 years, it takes on its own rhythm and all I have to do is remember not to fight it.

We drove down to the river nearby with its winding paths and signs identifying various wildlife, and Han Bit begged to stop and see if he could find the rabbits he released last summer. He pouted when Jeong Hui, hardhearted, refused. He got over it when he stuck his head out the window to bark into the wind. (although in Korean dogs say mung-mung. Not woof or the ever-inexplicable bow-wow.)

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We took all the pictures as the men talked fishing and Han Bit tried to steal a boat. The light was magic. Everything was magic.

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Hana can smize for days.

 

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how do you say Huck Finn in Hangul?

 

I realized I hadn’t been out of the city in so long, I couldn’t even really recall the last time. Han Bit found me flowers to photograph and Mom and Daughter talked together.

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such a sweet friend.

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I didn’t want the sun to set. I didn’t want to leave.

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Every occasional car that passed overhead made the bridge rumble like a tractor trailer. Thunder and blue skies.

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This is Korea in spring, after the cherry blossoms and festivals go away, just on the cusp of scorching summer days. These bluesy-soft mountain sky edges and purple breezes, these tall grasses and velvet airs. This is what I’ve been hungering for and this is what I’ll miss so much when we go.

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This, and these.

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Note the Rice-Mask Bandit in bottom center.

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Hangouts in Daegu

Last week Nate and I had an awesome opportunity to show some friends around Daegu!

For me they were brand new and for Nate they were 50% new.

Nate went to high school with Soonja and Soonja married Dane and Nate married me! Soonja and Dane were traveling Korea (and taking loads of photos) for a weekish and Nate took some time off of work to show them around. I can’t take off work during the semester but my evenings were free, so I managed to meet up with them downtown for some fun evenings.

The first night was a Tuesday, and I took no pictures because I was too busy eating 감자탕 (gamjatang) which, if you don’t know, is pork spine stew with dark greens and potatoes. Aka Amazing. Wednesday night we went for 찜닭 (jjimdak) which, if you don’t know, is steamed chicken with glass noodles, carrots, potatoes, hot peppers, and a brown sauce that has the addictive properties of illegal drugs. Again, no pictures. Thursday night was a Japanese restaurant that is on my top 5 meals ever in my life. We got there right when it opened and the owner/chef was so kind. He brought us out some free dishes, including a skewered pig skin that was slightly like bacon, but we just called it Candy Pig. Sweet and salty and chewy and smoky and moist and…I drooled on my laptop. And I took no pictures.

Then: Waffles.

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All the glory.

We closed it out at Old Blue. Old Blue is a jazz bar and I had a few gigs there back when I was still doing the live music in Daegu. It’s such a cozy classy place and it was fun to be back.

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In the mornings and afternoons Nate took them up Apsan Mountain and exploring Seomun Market, and we all together hit up the stationery stores and trolled the underground shops for Konglish Tshirts.

hazy days at Apsan!
hazy days at Apsan!

There were so many good ones but Nate and I came away with these:

we wear these in public
we wear these in public

Nate’s got the yellow-Freud-rainbow-square and I have taken the other slogan as my new motto. It’s got…something.

Our little mid-week break with Soonja and Dane was especially great since Nate and I have become Old Married People who NEVER stay out late, and since Nate works evenings, are NEVER downtown on weeknights. We got to take them to all of our favorite places and discover some new stuff too, PLUS we did noraebang (Korean karaoke). Which was no small thing, since S&D are both trained, super-pro musicians and Nate and I were coming off of bronchitis.  We had a blast anyway. And…duh…closed out the night with ‘Don’t Stop Believing.’ Soonja and Dane gave us the chance to go out, explore, eat, and play tourist in the city that’s been our home for 4-5 years. Thanks guys 🙂

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We tried so hard to get a group picture…and this was the best one. #yikes

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The Nanny Diaries

This week I spent two days playing Mary Poppins to the wee ManChild, 3-month wonder belonging to Christi and Trae.  We went to the same university in the States, and they came to Korea a year ago to work at the English Village where I used to work, and we go to church together in Daegu! Christi’s just finished up her maternity leave (yeah, that’s right, in South Korea moms get THREE MONTHS, get with it, America) and her scheduled baby care ran into some probs. As I’m still on my oh-so-luxurious university teaching schedule, I am filling in while they go to work.

(I am not even a little being sarcastic about that luxurious schedule. I get a full summer vacation. I am well aware that this is the best/easiest job I will ever have. I wish I could take this job with me to San Francisco next year.)

Wee Judah and I spent Wednesday hanging in the dormitories at the English Village. Oh, the English Village. Working there, like so many overseas jobs, was an exercise in adjusting to constant drastic changes. Not an aspect of the job I miss.  A bit weird to be back, but having the Lil Man there (and not having to work!) made it way better. We stayed in the air-conditioned dorms on our eat, play, sleep schedule.

Eat, Play, Sleep: the book I would a thousand times rather read than Eat, Pray, Love.

Bonus: the sweet cafeteria lady remembered me! And that just about made my day. Although she did think that I was there with MY baby, which, nope.

Baby Judah has a pretty reliable routine and he’s very observant. Here’s what I learned about him over our 2 days:

Likes:

  • Eating
  • Scrunching his knees in so his butt’s in the air when he sleeps
  • Facing outward
  • Being outside
  • Doing bicycle legs
  • Weird noises made with the tongue in a range of pitches
  • Drooling on stuff
  • His parents

Dislikes:

  • Getting off Schedule
  • Going to sleep
  • Waking up from sleep
  • Accidentally waking up mid-nap and thinking he’s done sleeping
  • Finishing a meal
  • Facing in (looking over my shoulder whilst being carried)
  • When things he tries to drink from aren’t boobs or bottles
  • Not his parents

Oh man. This kid. My favorite is when he screws up his little Winston-Churchill doppelganger face and busts out his gummy grin. Laid back, only fusses when he means it, full of energy, loves to be walked outside. If there were ever a perfect match between parents and kids, this lil guy is it. He’s going to have such great adventures with his folks.

Over the past two days we had giggles, sobs, snuggles, tiny hilarious sneezes, no major poop incidents, and twice he farted himself angrily awake. We’re marking this a big win.

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LOOK AT THAT BABAY. Hashtag thigh rolls.

Judah, thanks for an awesome two days!