Saturday, October 30, 2010

Quiet Alexander and a View

Alexander is three months old today. To honor his longevity and stoic adorableness, we put together this video about our perception of his baby-personality:

Also, we tried to take a panorama photo from our balcony today. We were hoping to catch some of the fall scenery, but the weather was hazy.

From Fall 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Alexander the American

Our week began with a trip to a local photo shop to have Alexander's passport photo taken. There, the couple-proprietors expressed, through lots of famous arm-crossed negative Korean hand-gestures and also through some lengthy Korean sentences about clothes, and stripes and colors and such - that his off-white union suit was inappropriate to the passport photo process, and that we needed to come back with Alexander in darker clothes.

The next day we returned, with Alexander in a brown cardigan (the only dark thing he owns). The woman of the couple then took him and began trying to bounce him into awakeness, while the man of the couple stomped and clicked in front of him with a big camera. Alexander, indifferent to all of it, flopped around and slept. Thaddeus then tried holding him, and the photographer caught one picture of Alexander with his eyes somewhat sort of open, and so these pictures were printed.

Upon arriving home, we read the e-mail that the US Embassy had just sent us, warning that Korean passport photos are a different size than US photos...So we returned to the photo shop and got the right pictures.

Then, we went to Seoul for two days and Alexander slept.

We arrived at the Embassy early (it looks like a mid-American library built in 1965...if you picture such a building surrounded by fifteen-foot walls, barbed wire, and too many Korean guards) and completed all the steps to receive Alexander's Certificate of Birth Abroad, Passport, Social Security card, and Entitlement to Resent and Dehumanize Any Human Being who Doesn't Happen to Have these Items card (he's planning to save this and use it when we return to America and he moves to Arizona...).

While waiting at the Embassy, Malachi requested that we go to a Coffee Shop and then to a bookstore and then out for ice-cream, which is pretty much an accurate description of what we did with the rest of our time. Malachi also had a night-terror about some kind of cracker famine, and that kept him up for a few hours one night, but - other than that - it was a largely uneventful and also perfectly productive trip.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Phone Conversations

Thaddeus has begun calling in the afternoon before he comes home, and Malachi looks forward to the ritual of reviewing his day, working on his phone etiquette, and sometimes astounding us with his memory and talkativeness. Today he was not talkative, but the usual formula was still roughly followed. Thaddeus is asking things like "Did you go outside today?" "What did you see?" "What did you eat?" (this one usually dominates the discussion) and sometimes other overly-personal toilet-related questions that needn't be repeated, but which are natural conversation topics between father and son at this stage...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

One Year Anniversary

One year ago today, we arrived in Korea.

We celebrated by wondering who shut off our water all afternoon, and why, and whether the announcer guy was talking about that or whether he was doing a poetry reading, and by ordering non-Korean pizza from Dominos, and (for me) by going out shopping this evening and feeling moderately satisfied in my ability to communicate (in Korean) to the cashier that I needed a bag, that yes, I'm pregnant and the baby is a male-child, that I 'forgot' my point card, and that I understand there will be dire consequences if I do not bring my point card this weekend.

In other words, for us, it was a classically Korean day. The sakura trees have bloomed, which we don't remember from last year (it's been a late Spring this year - so maybe we never saw them last year?) and Thaddeus took some pretty pictures of them on his way to school:

Friday, March 26, 2010

It's a......!

On Wednesday, Thaddeus' school gave him a half-day off to accompany Malachi and I on our second prenatal visit with our Nurse-Midwife. We took a regional bus this time instead of the usual combination of university buses+14 Seoul subway stops, and it was a wise choice. Regional buses are posh (and comparatively private) after riding city buses all the time - and Malachi napped - so it was an enjoyable journey.

When a bus approaches a terminal here, a palpable panic overtakes the passengers. People begin gathering their items, swaying back and forth, up and down aisles, fortressing themselves in front of the door, and casting anxious glances at our intended destination. If we were paratroopers dropping into occupied-France the aura would make sense, but as it is - the bus just stops, and everyone claws their way out within 2 seconds of one another, and then...the bus waits, for about 5 more minutes, with its doors open, before receiving its new load of passengers. So we watch the spectacle from our seat, and leisurely exit last. It's kind of our thing. Getting on a bus is different; that really is a rat-race. So maybe it's habitual.

We arrived in Ansan an hour earlier than our appointment. The weather was mild and the side-walks in Ansan are spacious and accommodating and mostly free of motorbikes and semi-trucks, so we let Malachi meander his way to the clinic.

A group of women gave him a sucker, through a cute little girl proxy. He treasured it, and also the discovery that he has pockets in his sweater made expressly for carrying gifted candy.

He didn't want to pose; he kept squatting and turning away from the camera.

He's observing a black-and-white and slightly blue bird that we've noticed here often lately. The ladies across the way interpret his interest to be in them, however, and are calling to him and clicking at him.

Our appointment went well. During the sonogram, we were able to see the baby's heartbeat, hand-waving skills, and even eye-ball rolling (?). The picture quality and the midwife's explanations were all so clear that Malachi was able to understand and stay interested, which was gratifying. And, we were able to learn the baby's gender! See Malachi's video at the end of the post.

After our appointment, we went to Starbucks to re-stock our coffee supply and ruin our appetites for dinner with rich desserts.

This was definitely the most peaceful foray we have made into Seoul, and an overall pleasant day. On the way home we modified our original choice of baby names, as reflected at the end of the video.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Malachi can Moo

I'll preface this, first, with the assertion I know Thaddeus always secretly hopes I will make when I attempt something in photoshop... So, the initial 'Mr. Malachi Can Moo Can You?' graphic was not created by him. It was me. It's supposed to be cheesy, and yes, it's also the best I can do.

Secondly, Grandmas - notice that you get an unaccountable shout-out after he makes the "Splat!" 'sound' of lightning...

And lastly, notice how he wants to begin knocking long before the 'knock-knock' sound, and how he has to physically restrain his knocking hand with his other hand until he is finally able to unleash the knock? It's one of his more endearing quirks, so far, I think. Enjoy.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Internet Shopping

For the first eight months of our lives in Korea, our shopping world was exceptionally limited. We would go out, together or individually, with a back pack and a bag, walk to the supermarket or a take a bus to a larger store, and stock up on things that didn't poke our spines too badly.

And we still do, for most things. But for specialty, oversized, formerly unfindable items, we have discovered internet shopping. G-market has an English page, and has recently removed the systemic prejudice of not accepting the numeric pattern of alien registration numbers in order to purchase from the site.

We cleverly manipulated English name brands into their Hangulized equivalent, and found real laundry detergent (I maintain that the Korean brands are mostly sand and pink shards of sparkly glass) and whole wheat flour, and rye flour, and water in mass quantities so we don't have to lug it home everyday, and I think we could also start our own dentist clinic, or even a full surgery hospital with the selection and precision of medical supplies available in the 'first aid' section...

So, we thought, this is perfect. And Thaddeus still thinks it's perfect; the country of Korea is geographically tiny, so when we order something, it arrives the same or the next day. He comes home from school to find a shiny new clothes rack with crisp, clean, non-parchment type clothing and forty-eight bottles of water, so of course it's perfect.

But - an interesting tradition also surrounds the delivery of the products we order. Each product, no matter how small, is delivered separately (because they're from different vendors; G-market is just a storefront) and each deliveryman must call prior to delivery, in order to verify the address, make sure the person is home, and perhaps also chat about the local ginseng crop. I don't really know the meat of our conversations, but I do know that I dread Delivery Days. It means I will be on the phone, between four and fifteen separate times with deliverymen who possess varying levels of anger management and English skills.

Each time the phone rings, I feel that perhaps I should say "yeboseyo?" because - well, propriety or something - I know I'm in Korea, I know this is the way Koreans begin phone conversations, and some part of me feels like it's the proper thing to do. But a stronger, more practical part of me knows that this will elicit a conviction in the person on the other side of the line that I speak Korean - no matter how many times I clearly state that I do not, and that I cannot understand them - so perhaps it's just mean and pointless to say "yeboseyo"... This is the running commentary in my mind as I answer the phone, every time, and every time I say, hesitantly, "Uh-hello?" And a hurried, male voice responds "YEBOSEYO? YEBOSEYO? YEBOSEYO?" and I let there be a slight pause, to ensure that the yeboseyos are done and then I say "Um - I'm sorry - hello?" And then they begin telling me something - animatedly, sometimes upset, and I respond in Korean "I don't understand. I don't speak Korean."And they say "Ohhhhh, uh..." merely a half-second of troubleshooting results in another long tirade, in Korean. I wait for it to finish, and then say "Um, I don't speak Korean." And they say "You don't speak Korean?" And I say "Yes, yes, I don't speak Korean." And they say "Korean...." and then lots of other things I don't understand. Sometimes, the person will then say "Uh, Englisheee?" And I say, "yes, yes, I do speak English." "Me NOOOOO speakee Englisheee" And I give them the integrity of their statement, though, I must admit, I kind of resent that they never give me the truth of mine. I will sometimes try to apologetically empathize by sharing again that "I don't speak Korean" but usually there's just a long awkward pause in which I wonder how I can express to them that I know it's Delivery Day, and that they just want to make sure I'm me and that I'm home.

Some people, I am able to understand, want my address, but others are deeply distressed when I offer to give it to them, and seem to want some other number - once resulting in me communicating that I would be home at "13" (1pm) when really I was just repeating the first two numbers of our address. When the man wisely responded "In due due time..." and hung up, I was left wondering why the address had been cut off, and why he made the cryptic prediction, until I finally unraveled that he meant he would be there "on time" and that my numbers had communicated time rather than location...

Malachi's attitude about the experience is more enlightened than my own self-absorbed embarrassment. He loves delivery days – being visited by so many different people who say interesting sounding things to him and leave him boxes and bottles to play with. Sixty-four bottles this time. And that’s the note to end on, after all.