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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What we do with free time

You can generally tell I’ve been doing things outside of the apartment when the blog gets quiet. I am an extrovert, so every internet quiz I’ve ever taken has told me, but more and more I love to be at home, just me and the internet and the husband and whatever he’s cooked.

I tell ya, it’s the good life.

But this past week marked the Lunar New Year, so Nate had three days off of work (which NEVER happens) making a FIVE.DAY.WEEKEND.

Why are we leaving Korea again?

Here’s the thing about Life with Nate: ‘Free time’ is a delusion and a snare. For an introvert (seriously a lot) homeboy is the busiest, most people-involved dude of all time. So today, after a five day weekend, we’re both kind of excited to get back to the usual schedule. So we can relax.

Here are a couple of highlights from our busyness: coffee and friends, coffee and friends, food and friends, Bible study, Bible study, Bible study, coffee-food-Bible-talking. The occasional waffle. My newly minted sugar-abstentious lifestyle submerged beneath banana-stuffed French toast. #worthit

We even got a surprise Skype with Mom and Dad, and I can’t say enough what a blessing our parents are to us. On Lunar New Year in Korea it is a big deal to honor your parents, and the fact that Nate and I have such encouraging, strengthening, hilarious people on our side is a great gift of God. Dad is Nate’s mentor in the ordination process, and to see my two favorite men share stories and laugh together brings me more joy than even banana-stuffed French toast, real talk.

A long walk Friday morning for our dream sandwich ingredients took us around a lake a few miles from the house. It’s manmade and I have no idea what’s in the water to make it all bluegreen, because let’s be real, we’re in central South Korea, not Capri. But it was a beautiful morning:

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distant haze brought to you by pollution

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(ps. the sandwiches were chicken and provolone on a baguette with spinach, tomatoes, and pesto. Toasted. oh yes. praise ye the Lord. in the sanctuary.)

It’s another ‘last’ we’ve just had: our last Lunar New Year in Korea. Moving is getting realer and realer. Ifs and whens are jockeying for position in our conversations these days. Life is rich here, how we have been nourished by our people and how fast God answers when we give him our time.

The best parts of the holiday weren’t the waffles, or the pancakes, or the french toast, or the enchiladas, or the sandwiches. (I’m now rethinking this paragraph.) Nate and I got to talk. Talk the way it’s hard to when you’re lounging at home with the internet to distract you (God only knows what we’re gonna do when we have kids). Got to move on purpose and challenge each other and discuss things vigorously, not always agreeing but always on the same team. And packed in and around and between us like mortar supporting bricks were the times with friends who are our family.

I’m trying to write more about that, but every sentence brings me to the brink of the reality that we’re about to leave all of this and go do a new thing. And right now it’s the last week of my vacation, and I’ve got oatmeal to eat and the last load of laundry to hang up, so we’ll save that breakdown for June.

Baa baa, y’all.

Thanksgiving and Life Pioneers

Thanksgiving!

I still get excited about it even though a dull boring grownup bit in my brain keeps iterating that ne’er again shall I have the utterly relaxed Thanksgiving of my youth which, the dull boring grownup bit of my brain drones to me, was so exciting because SOMEONE ELSE WAS PAYING FOR IT. All I had to do was insist on baking things I thought looked fun and partially grate my thumb into a cucumber salad and scrape half the skin off my face in a hammock ‘incident.’

Ah, carefree youth.

It’s hard to make Thanksgiving (and Christmas) feel significant so far from home and family. My family does well for holidays. Full and abounding and joyful to the max, and Nate’s family is those things anyway so I imagine they get that Thanksgiving spirit nailed down too. On the other hand, it’s a pretty grand opportunity for Boy and I to be our own family for our first year at it.  Choices: lament the missing-out of home traditions, or pioneer our own? (I always wanted to be a pioneer. oh man. it’s becoming real. I AM LAURA INGALLS [FROM THE BOOK {illustrations by Garth Williams} NOT THE TV SERIES WHICH WAS GARBAGE  I TELL YOU, GARBAGE].)

Take me there (via)

But that is just what marriage has turned out to be, constant movement forward into unknown territory. Sometimes it’s amazing and sometimes it’s hard and confusing, but mostly it’s Life, and I love it.

As it’s a distinctly American holiday neither I nor the Boy have off work on Thursday, but our schedules permit us to have lunch together, and oh, I have plans. Plans that involve the possibly-expired box of Stove Top we found in a foreign foods market on Geoje Island months ago, a whole chicken to be purchased out of a truck that parks in our neighborhood every Wednesday night, and the little pies they’ve just started selling this season at Paris Baguette. And we will make a salad, and mash a potato or two. It will be me and Boy. Me cross-legged on the bed, him in our lone chair pulled up, our wee tray table precariously loaded with a one-off-from-the-Pilgrims feast. We’ll be a day ahead of the football and parades, but we’ll be thankful.

I’m thinking about ways to show thankfulness (like with my amazing job that at this point in the semester I lack allllll the motivation to do), and maybe on Thursday I’ll do a list. and some pictures! maybe! even! hooray!

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.

Tea for Two

On my first date with The Boy I ordered tea.

I love tea. I loved it when I read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books (it’s all Pa will drink in cold weather and now that I’m thinking about it I think he might have been my first crush? awkward live-blogged realization :/ ). I loved it when I discovered all kinds of weird teas shoved haphazard in our old pantry because Mom was Coffee or Die, and Dad was a teacher, and teachers get weird gifts all the time. Like tea samplers. And the Eternal Christmas Tri-part Popcorn Bucket of Doom.

Drinking tea made me feel fancy. Adult. Different. Like I could any second blink and be 150 years ago with cooler clothes and speech patterns and EVERYTHING. (minus, you know, plumbing indoors, and a bunch of political and social right, but WHATEVZ).

Also, I was allowed to drink it. So.

On my first date with The Boy I drank tea (Earl Gray), and it was discovered that The Boy DID NOT LIKE TEA. He drank coffee on the daily and had no interest at all in the wonderful world of spice and allure waiting for him in a teacup. NONE AT ALL.

And I quote: ‘It’s like hot juice. No thank you.’

This was the closest thing to a red flag I encountered in our budding relationship.

To change his mind, I laughed at him. It was super effective! HA no. No it wasn’t. Wasn’t at all. I tried to explain, to reason with him. Nothing. So we broke up.

HA no. Boy y’all are gullible. We agreed to disagree, and I waited. Bided my time. (Bid my time? Bit? Bidden? Bought? BODE my time? help) and kept ordering tea. (and sometimes mochas.) Eventually I got him some Earl Grey of his own, and he admitted (grudgingly) that it was okay.

OKAY. psh. Had he so blasphemed my beloved Irish Breakfast…well. Let’s be thankful he didn’t.

This summer, the Summer of All the Problems, Nate had to make some dietary changes that included eliminating caffeine, and also, we got sick A LOT. And while caffeine-free coffee just isn’t even worth thinking about, caffeine-free tea is a different story.

Time, consider yourself boden.

BOOM.

fear the spice dragon
allll da flavors

ALL of these (except for a not-pictured classy ziploc full of Throat Coat, which I brought back from the good ol’ USA in January) we got through the wonder of iHerb, my current favorite non-blog place on the Webz. Imported goods in Korea are a wee bit expensive, and they do make Korean tea, but most of it is grain based? It’s like hot barley water. “So watery…and yet there’s a smack of barley to it.”

(I just chortled for a full minute)

I wondered over to iHerb to check out what they had and ended up with a cart full of teas. And some organic rolled oats (Korea doesn’t do oats). And some apple cider vinegar. And peppermint extract (winter baking is coming). They do foodstuffs and cosmetics and a whole lot of ‘health supplements’ that I do not understand and consequently, fear.

(annnnd for first time orderers, use this code: RSG968 You’ll get a discount, and I’ll get rewards when I reorder!)

After waiting for the package to clear customs and getting lots of texts from the Korean post office, Nate came home with a backpack of wonder. His current favorites are peppermint and lemon ginger, with just a touch of honey. We’ll ease into the chai and ‘spice’ territories but if he hates those…more for me. He’s officially converted, you guys. Bless the Lord.