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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Dongseongro Festival

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This festival is a Big Deal in the Pagaard house, you guys.

Because a year and a half ago, it was at just such a festival that I felt feelings for The Boy. Watching him do an acoustic cover of Electric Feel on the stage by Debec Department Store. And totally freaking out and going straight home afterwards and scrubbing all my floors, Cinderella-style, in an attempt to calm my brain down about feeling things about a Boy.

And yes, I was an adult with two university degrees, why do you ask?

But this year, lo! hark! how different it all was. Which is a testimony to 1. the grace of God 2. the patience of Boy and 3. the virtue of floor-scrubbing as mental exorcism.

Thanks to Nate’s open-mic days his first few years in Korea, he’s pretty well-known to the guys responsible for organizing entertainment for big festivals like this one. Dongseongro is the name of Daegu’s big downtown center of the city, where all the big stores and shopping and flagrant consumerism flourish. We met because of our musician-y hobbies (someday I’ll post about our story, but for now, our wedding website will suffice) and Nate’s connections mean that when they need to fill space for live music, they call on us.

So we got to play two sets this weekend on two of the festival stages. One Saturday and one Sunday. We had two weeks of warning, so two weeks to prep a set list: we wanted to do songs that would be mostly recognizable, since we’d already be subjecting these poor Koreans to songs all in English.

If we wanted to sing in Korean, we’d probably go with this:

Just for the sake of mass appeal. Obvs.

Koreans have a totally understandable fascination with diva pop. I can’t tell you how many times a taxi driver has seen me get in, and immediately and proudly switched to his collection of Whitney, Mariah, and Celine. So we threw in two Whitneys and a Winehouse. And one of my favorite covers ever, The Civil Wars’ take on the Jackson 5’s ‘I Want You Back.’

Awesome camera work by our best buddy, So Young.

Um, can we please talk about The Boy in that color? Teal. Tan. Shades. hashtag dang.

We ended up with six songs, which balanced nicely, since the MC at Saturday’s show cut us off early, and Sunday’s MC asked us 2 minutes before the set to extend it by 10 minutes. No exaggeration. That’s two jittery people in a tent behind the stage having this conversation:

‘What other songs do we know?’

*crickets*

Bill Withers came through for us in a big way:

We had a great time. Everyone was in a good mood, and even when they had no idea what we were singing, people stayed to listen, which was 1. flattering 2. awkward 3. there as a pigeon who landed on the stage in front of us and strutted back and forth during one song who was probably the real star of the show.

Singing with The Boy is one of my All-time Favorite Things. Oprah style. We’re going to miss this when we move back, but that we get to do it at all is pretty great. (but watching these videos back reminds me I should never ever ever clap in public or wear any of what I was wearing or leave my house ever again.)

And this is what I married:

For which I say, Praise. the. Lord.