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.)
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.
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.
I didn’t want the sun to set. I didn’t want to leave.
Every occasional car that passed overhead made the bridge rumble like a tractor trailer. Thunder and blue skies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There were so many good ones but Nate and I came away with these:
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 🙂
This is a bit of a throwback, but It’s something I meant to post about and never did, so let’s be trendy together and call it nostalgia. Or um vintage. Yeah, way vintage guys. Way.
One of the nicest things about The Boy is that he likes method and tradition and routines. I think this is nice because I appreciate aspects of those things without being able to maintain them myself. Kind of the same way I feel about zookeepers. What a fun job it must be that I will never ever be good at.
My one exception to tradition maintenance is Christmas. I have all the tolerance in the world for Christmas traditions and routines, and also very strong feelings about which ones I like to follow and which ones I will not. That’s the same thing as tolerance, right? Yes. Moving on. Nate only has one Christmas tradition he feels super strongly about, and it was a new one to me: every year, Nate goes to see Handel’s Messiah performed.
(swoon. he’s so classy.)
This was a Pagaard tradition that’s now been inherited by our 2-member Pagaard extension, so we’re keeping it going. Of course, living in Korea limits the opportunity to do so. By ‘limits the opportunity’ I mean there is ONE place in the whole of Korea that annually produces the English version of the Messiah, in a little Methodist church up in Seoul, a 2 hour train-ride north of us. Nate’s gone every year for fouryears.
(swoon swoon swoon.)
So we took a weekend off in mid-December to see the show and see Seoul lit up for Christmas. The company that does the production is volunteer-based, which means it’s a labor of love. (Let’s just say that this year, there was a lot of love.)
(Our pictures are also a labor of love, in that we similarly have the very best possible intentions. And yet they turn out like this.)
Once in Seoul we checked out Myeongdong, one of the bigger shopping areas in Seoul. It’s insane and busy and packed and fun to wander in–when it’s above freezing.
Then, gloriously, this happened. I love this place. Some of this stuff was flavored like Ballantyne…scotch? Whiskey? I am ill-equipped to answer this. and there was a Guinness milk chocolate flavor in there too. Neither of them got me tipsy, so don’t worry Mom.
Eventually, we got to the main event.
The church was full. We sat with Koreans and Americans and South Africans and Austrians and all of us were totally captivated by the movement of the music. A few of the instruments weren’t tuned properly. Nate has perfect pitch, and I grew up with people who have perfect pitch pointing things out to me, so it got a little painful at times, but you know what? It was so great. People from everywhere, crammed together, hearing this incredible story of prophecy and fulfillment in Jesus, for us, going on to the end. I’m getting goosebumps a month later, thinking about it.
Christmas isn’t Christmas because of the manger but because of the Cross, and because of the Resurrection and the Ascension and His promise to return.
Behold, I tell you a mystery;
We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed
in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye…
The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
I want to post all the rest of it. Because it’s just that good. But go here and read it and be reminded of the Truth.
After the Messiah we walked around Seoul to see the lights…
Our hotel was located on this mysterious stretch of road in Seoul between some majorly bustling areas which somehow manages to be completely dead after 9pm. In Seoul, literally one of the largest, fullest-of-people, busiest cities in the whole wide world. Luckily, we found signs of life nearby (Korea has a habit of building soju bars and meat restaurants in close proximity) and ended the night on a delicious note.
2014 marked our final winter in Korea, so we’re a little extra aware of everything about it, and extra grateful for everything we get to experience here. It’s weird and amazing to consider where we’ll be hearing the music of the Messiah next December. I can’t wait.