Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pre-Christmas Post

Malachi put together a glog to wish everyone a Merry Christmas:

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sunday, November 8, 2009

내가 임신 (Or, We're Expecting...)

The Korean pregnancy test was called "Happy time PLUS"...

Friday, November 6, 2009

"American" Lunch

I've always hoped I would grow up to be a hospitable adult.

Instead, I'm a very private one. I say instead not because the one naturally excludes the other but because my mind often uses the excuse of privacy and shyness to justify myself against the feeling that I both want to be and ought to be more generous in offering my opinions, presence, food-creations and home to others in formal acts of hospitality. My choice of husband offers no hope for constructive rehabilitation; he's not very hospitable... or even sociable most of the time... (I'm stating; not criticizing. He nodded when he read it...)

But - people have been so hospitable to us for months here - have taken us out to eat, to tea, to see sights, invited us over to their houses, and taken us shopping and explained how to eat poisonous nuts in small enough quantities to not die ( that was valuable advice; for instance, Malachi should not eat more than one) and so, I took the plunge, and invited two of the ladies from our apartment complex to our apartment for lunch today.

And I think we all enjoyed it. I enjoyed it, and Malachi went crazy. And I felt that I was an adequate (if starkly American) hostess. We talked about: linguistics of course (Sunny is an English teacher) and how children learn language, and feminism and the western habit of changing your last name when you marry (this they do not historically do in Korea, and they think it's an odd practice to give up your fathers name, and applauded me for keeping my father's name as well as taking my husbands - it was a conversation with lots of cheering in it, but I don't know why...)

It went well...This was the older of the ladies, with her son "Min-Su." (Her, I know only as "Min-Su's mom")

And this is my friend Sunny's daughter "Tey-Hee" (on the left) and the other ladies' daughter (whose name I sometimes think is also Min-Su, but must be different but I can't distinguish's an ongoing mystery, and one that i fear will get more and more frustrating)

Tey-Hee will be 1 next month. Note her gypsy-skirt!

My friend Sunny (English name).

Malachi was overwhelmed, but elated.

Monday, November 2, 2009

After Purchasing a Winter Coat for Malachi, I thought about some things...

Yesterday we winterized Malachi's wardrobe.

We folded ourselves into tiny children boutiques that are - ostensibly - where people buy children's clothes here. Most boutiques have two or three pricey, plush, often plaid outfits that are patly impractical and also whimsically androgynous. And not warm. We eventually entered a sort of outlet store, or a place that said "sale!" in English (though, there wasn't actually a sale. The key in Korea is often to merely use English; not to use English in a way that means anything in particular)

So, I was browsing the racks of this non-sale-outlet-type place when I found some unwarm long-sleeved shirts for little girls (a range of 2yrs.-6yrs. old) featuring a playboy bunny and the words "player" in repeated patterns on the shirtfront.

Or - different anecdote. Last week at the bus terminal I saw a normal, middle-school aged girl walking hand-in-hand with her mother, with a large Beatrix-Potteresque rabbit on her shirt, and the words "Let's do it like rabbits all day long, first I'll do you then you do me."

Or, there's the mannequin I saw (my not so subtle way of clarifying that this is a corporately-presented ideal; not a mysterious flop), with a knee length t-shirt that announced in bold purple "I am a SLUT," with 'SLUT' in thick, elongated letters that spanned over half the shirt.


I have a theory. Somewhere in mid-America, there is a panel of adolescent boys with uniquely unimaginative senses of sex and humor, that are asked which text they would like women in Asia to brand themselves with, without their real knowledge or consent...

I'm not sure in which category of thought I expect these observations to belong- bewildered humor, like the grammatically crooked notebooks? Paranoia - the fear that I've become psychotically feminist or moralist by even noticing and storing up and connecting these sights?

Or - and by bringing it into a new paragraph, I'm hinting that this is most often where I want take it - is it only possible to consider parabolically?

For instance, perhaps fashion is an art always in a foreign language. What says "I'm self-assured and stylish and unashamed" to one person, says "I'm a slut" to someone else. But wearing it doesn't actually make the person a slut... no one really interprets it that way....(except men sometimes, and sometimes other women?)...

I think what bothers me the most is that unmistakable consciousness behind it - borrowed and corporate, and, it seems, designed to undercut the very empowered confidence that women here (as everywhere) so delicately seek in fashion...and the parable extends...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Story in Pictures

The night we arrived in Korea was appropriately dark, wet and confusing(despite the assurance of the beeping, blinking, finely detailed GPS display on the dash of our likely bullet proof limo-taxi).

The driver had never been to our city. Now, this makes sense to us. Then, it felt suspicious. He did u-turns in one-lane roads lined with construction signs that said things like 'no entry either way' and 'turn this way - no - that way - because the first way is blocked', indicated all his driving intentions by the liberal use of his horn and hazard lights. He kept a running commentary of his opinions by cursing quietly at the GSP system and snapping his xytol-laced chewing gum. He paused at the gate of our apartment complex to parley (in our early interpretation of it - insult) the "guard" on duty, and then finally called Thaddeus' co-teacher to be painstakingly directed through the labyrinth parking lot of what we now estimate to be our Neosho-sized apartment complex.

It all felt complexly strange and unadjustable. The next day, the city felt even larger as we took the "shortcut" to Thaddeus' school and saw the 'first' version of many things we've now seen in multiples of ten.

It's different now. We realized this as we leisurely took one of about fourteen ways we know to get back from Thaddeus' school last week. We know the layout of our area, we know that our "area" is not the extent of our city, we know the mountains that contain our little area, all the buses to get away, the best places for pizza and nail-enhancing mineral water...we've come to feel that we know this place, as we have never known a place before. In part because we walk it at the pace of a 17 month old toddler, and in part because we look at things with more precision, and speak of them with more generosity than we have our previous locations.

We wanted to share pictures of our evening walk and let your own perceptions fill in the story behind them. Our present perception is rather simple: this is where we live.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

English Cafe

Last Saturday Thaddeus and his co-teacher hosted an "English Cafe" where students could spend their fake US dollars (earned by good performance throughout the semester) on food, beverages, notebooks, sketchbooks, candies, pencils, etc.

Malachi and I came to help, or to be inspiring, or inspired, or overwhelming, or overwhelmed...or cute, all depending on your perspective.

The children were proud of the money they had earned and many were hesitant to let it go. We noticed that about half of the students kept some money for keepsakes...or maybe in the hope that it's real currency....

Thaddeus and I hosted the "Stationary" (non-food) table, and, overall, I thought it was (exhaustingly) great fun.

I observed that many of the students were going through the exact same range of emotions and shortcuts I encounter when first using foreign currency - for example, when in doubt use the largest denomination, or the temptation to buy something you don't want just because you understand how much it is, etc. Suckers were a popular purchase. They were $1. Easy.

In the midst of it, Malachi discovered that he can sprint cheerily - which is different from walking - with placebo-assistance.

The end. Sorry it's a bit outdated.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Malachi's Accomplishments

Mom asked me if I had compiled a list of Malachi's vocabulary and accomplishments. So I did. It follows:

Malachi-to-English -Dictionary:

Assat?/! - "what's that?,"" How exciting!," "This is the same as that other thing is some fashion!"
Baby (and accompanying sign) - Malachi, exclusively. For other babies, see "Assat?"
Bundy - "Bunny!" Very proud of himself for this one, though he continues to work on nasalizing.
Bye-bye -good-bye, Leave me alone already, Korean admirers, why aren't we leaving yet? etc, along similar themes.
Cot - Cat. Only on rare occaions and with much prompting. strong (untraceable) british accent.
Dadda (and accompanying sign) - male parent, as in 'when is male parent coming home' or 'male parent would allow me to touch the television with impunity; why won't you?' or "My father has arrived!
Dakka - Thank you... and you're welcome.
Dog/dok - Canine. Or, animals in general.
doggididogididogidida, or gogidigogidigogidida - gibberish mocking the Korean language. Most useful when someone begins speaking Korean in earnest - Malachi responds (or interupts) resolutely with one or the other of these words.
Duckkkk - duck
EYEEEEE - Eye. Must involve stabbing someone's eye while saying it...
Ffffshss - Fish.
FFFSHKKK - Infant profanity.
Hi - self explanatory. But sometimes he just repeats it for no conceivable reason. It's newly acquired, so presumably that's the reason.
MMMM - I intend to kiss you; prepare yourself.
Momma - Mother, I'm lost, where are you, I'm upset, why is life so horrible, etc.
Nonono - usually directed at the mother, to inform her that what he is doing is unsuitable. He still engages in the behavior, but accompanies it with a firm 'nonono,' to let us know that he is aware of his misconduct. It is exasperating.
NOSSSsss - nose. Russian pronunciation preferred, because otherwise he thinks it's 'no.'
Num-num - interesting history. It began as "yummy" but has now become representative for food or drink in general - so, now it can mean "i'm hungry," "i'm thirsty" or "this is tasty"
OOFFF (or roof) - The bark of the dog.
Whersa? - where is that? Where did it go? Useful in hide-and-seek (or pookooh) games.

Can't think of any more at the moment, but thought these would be appreciated...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Immigration, Legalization, Fortification...

Soon, Malachi and I hope to be legal.

Yesterday afternoon we went to Suwon (a neighboring city) to visit the Immigration Office. We had meticulously prepared for the the appointment... we thought. Upon presenting our documents and passports and forms and certificates, the kindly gentleman behind the counter indicated that, though he did not speak any English, he wished us to understand that we had it all wrong.

After much subdued gesticulation, he finally decided to rally his broken English skills and say "You needn't have filled out this form, you see. You are already a sojourner, and need only fill out this purple form indicating that you desire a change of status, thus enabling you to apply both for your F3 visa, and for your Alien Registration card."

Why he is working in an immigration office and not writing modern screenplays for Henry James' novels, I do not know. But we are grateful to him, and to the generous Korean government for putting us on the fast-track to legalization, and saving us multiple visits to the Immigration office. We now only await the return of our documentation and the arrival of our Alien Registration Card (which also means, library card!).

We were so relieved that we decided to be adventurous - and in the middle of the week noless. Suwon is a city with history dating back to the Silla dynasty, and they've preserved as public grounds massive portions of old palaces, watchposts, and, most interestingly, a long and winding fortress wall. We saw portions of it during our bus-ride, and wanted to see more.

We were fortunate - we happened to climb the mountain on the foresty side, and were therefore both surprised and pleased when we crossed at the top to the other side, and saw the view of Suwon city, the wall, and the temple below. I like to be jarred into view of something beautiful...

Our evening was completed by eating Curry Pizza, drinking coffee at a less-than-crowded coffee shop, and then attempting to amuse a screeching 1-year-old Malachi for the 1 1/2 hour bus ride home.

View pictures (of all but the screeching son-son) by clicking the thumbnail on the right.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Day in the Life of Rebekah Markovna and Thaddeus Charlesovich...

It occurred to us that we have not done a bland "daily life" post, which might be interesting, and at the very least will assure everyone that we neither starve nor even lack in the indulgences of our vices...

First: we buy water almost every day, in jugs like this:

And almost everyday, Malachi eagerly awaits the prized 'empty-bottle' toy. We let him play with it for a day or two, and then it goes into recycling. We recycle everything, by the way, which deserves a more extensive blog-post....

Next: Yes, we like Korean foods. Thaddeus tries more than I do, because he eats lunch at school everyday. Traditional Korean meals are composed of many smaller portioned 'sides,' and everyone at the table shares from the central dish and places it on his/her little plate, sampling each side. Here's some examples of recent (and common) foods we have eaten:

Thaddeus said that in many restaurants this is more noodly and less meaty. But from the place we were eating that night, it was like very marinated (very moist, very tender) roast-beef.

Now, the famous Kimchi:

Koreans eat kimchi with every meal. We don't, but we do like it - particularly the spice of it. It's fermented cabbage, but that doesn't really express much about the flavor. The taste is unique and somewhat an acquired thing, but we pretty much liked it from the start.

This is Malachi's opinion of kimchi.

The last food item of which we can provide a true-life picture is Gimbap, which is a variety of vegetables and meat wrapped inside of rice and sea-weed.

I think that the ingredients in our gimbap that day were: ham, cucumbers, carrots, eggs, and radishes. But any variety of vegetables would be ok. It's quite delectable, and the aftertaste serves as an excellent reminder to brush your teeth.

Finally, beverages. With effort, nearly any beverage to which you are addicted could be found here. We don't drink pop, but we do see coke and pepsi everywhere. Juices (orange, grape, apple, and mango!) are also available, and tasty.

Western alcohol is available and slightly less expensive than it is the U.S., but - Korean alcohol is extremely cheap. We recently tried a bottle of wine that cost 1,500 won (about $1!). Sadly, it tasted like medicine with the flu... I have high hopes for traditional Korean rasberry wine, though. It sounds good, and looks classy and is slightly more expensive - we have not tried it yet.

We have tried (tried is a tame word) their Soju. It's clear, nearly tasteless, like a very modest offspring of vodka, and extremely cheap.
A bottle is around $1, and six pack is around $4.50.

And... Coffee.

Coffee has been the bane of our Korean existence. Entire evenings have been spent searching the town for real (not instant) coffee, and, more recently for a coffee grinder. Thaddeus' brother sent us 2lbs of whole bean Starbucks coffee (for which we are truly grateful, ZACHARIUS) but we could not find anyone to grind it for our french press.

In a slightly larger radius than our immediate neighborhood, however, there are many options, including multiple Starbuckses. That will definitely be one of our weekend activities...