many small things


The gayageum class has shrunk by over half.  Unlike all the other classmates, I am the only one sporting a fresh new blister every week.  No sooner does it heal with fresh new baby skin, then it’s time to abuse my flesh anew.  The week before I had to stop so I didn’t bleed all over the strings.  This week I got an instrument strung so tight it felt like wire instead of silk.  So I switched instruments which kind of bothered the instructors, because they had to tune it.  Anyway, I kind of think that unless I can get a gayageum of my own to play regularly and build a callous, then I don’t think I can stomach the weekly starting over again.  I mean, I literally get nauseous sometimes.

The bus ride also makes me car sick.  It’s so weird.  I’ve always been tough as nails.  It’s just some really weird isolated things that make me ill – The Blair Witch Project, that Glenn Close exhibit, and now Gayageum strings and long bus rides..

It’s also not the social engagement I thought it would be.  Everyone splits before the class period is even over.

Even though I’m always whacking away bit by bit at the pile of adoption-related work, I haven’t had much to write about it lately.  I guess it’s because blogging is really me writing letters to someone and I’ve had three pretty in-depth correspondences with adoptees the past few weeks.  All three of them are abused adoptees; one of them not Asian.  It seems me writing letters on blogs and making websites to expose our realities really does touch people and change their lives.  I’ve been the recipient of many hugs this week, and it feels good.

Like always, I’m always making new work for myself as well.  I’ve re-edited the Collection of One video to a longer, more appropriate song that Miwha chose and it now includes all of the adoptee photos submitted, some which arrived after the installation.  Just have to add Korean sub-titles to it for Korean audiences.  I’ll be sure to post it when the translations come in and I get it captioned…I’m also half finished compiling calendar information for a N. American / Korean pocket planner, which will includes observed holidays, unofficial holidays, and important historical dates concerning adoption, women’s empowerment, and fun facts about Korea.  It will have hand-drawn illustrations and might also include a couple recipes and there will be an English and Korean version.  It will just be a nice, special thing for people to have.  My daughter’s begun a Korean language study group at her college, and I’ve also culled my billions of Korean language books to set up a nice curriculum for them.  I’ve tried a quarter of the books out there, and I know what does and doesn’t work, so it was really fun to put together the first module.  Plus, in order to keep doing this, it will force me to get some discipline on and keep up.  Maybe all I needed all this time was to not be studying solo…

During the research for the planner I got a kick out of some of the insights people had about Korea at a travel forum.  One of them said Koreans do not like sweets, so candy was not a good gift.  I guess they visited a different Korea than the one I live in, because I’ve never seen so many people eat so much candy so often in my entire life.  What you DON’T see is people drinking huge soft drinks all the time.  And they are sold in reasonable sized containers as well.  The office crowd is always buying gift sets of beverages to distribute around the office (and donuts and rice cake and pastries and…) and popular ones are so-called well being drinks, which are little tiny (maybe 6 ozs. or less) glass bottles of super-sweetened syrupy vitamin or herb fortified drinks.  I figured they were something recent, but the other day caught a picture from the 60’s and there they were in the movie.  There’s half a dozen of these things lined up on my desk.  People keep giving them to me, and I don’t drink them and offer them to my co-teacher, who drinks hers but doesn’t want any more.   And then she is always trying to pawn off her gift snacks on me because she’s trying to diet.  I’m hoping people will just quit giving me these fat bombs, but even though I refuse most of the time, they still keep coming.  It almost feels like a conspiracy – let’s be a super weight-conscious society and let’s try and fatten up the competition – ha ha!

Korea does coffee really well.  Some of the best lattes with the coolest foam art I’ve ever seen.  Impressed by a leaf or heart?  bah.  Try a bunny.  Or a panda bear. Or a kitty cat.  But that will cost you a meal.  And that’s also only in Seoul.  Here in the country people can’t afford those kind of luxuries.  Most people think any whole bean with arabica or blue mountain means gourmet.  The chief teacher in my office thinks of himself as a gourmand and he makes a great fanfare of opening up the improperly stored bag of beans and intently grinding them up to make drip coffee with.  He’s one of those types who is pretentious but so genuinely enthusiastic you can’t help but really have a soft spot for him.  Plus he always offers me some.  It blows my head off and tastes bad, but I take it anyway.  Coffee has ceased to be worth the hoo-ha for me now.  Seattle probably won’t let me in once I get back.

All of which is making me really dehydrated – that on top of the fact that Koreans don’t serve water with their meals.  The function of water is only to rinse the pepper flakes from your mouth after dinner.  I always cause a traffic jam at the water cooler in the cafeteria, because I’m actually drinking one of those tiny cups of water while everyone else just takes enough for one mouthful.

Winter is fast approaching and everyone is already freezing to death. I’m even wearing long johns to work.  It’s a hot walk to and from work, but sitting at my desk sedentary the body temperature lowers.  It’s either that or bring an afghan or fuzzy throw like all the girl students do.  I looked at my closet and there were only about four long sleeved shirts – how did I ever survive last year?  How does anyone survive these bitter winters?  And then if you commute at all, then you’re fast dripping in sweat.  And then everyone will crank the heat up to sauna levels and someone near the window will crack it open so there’s a biting cold draft and…Anyway, the answer is layers.  Many layers.

Fortunately, layers are cheap here.  Basics can be had for $5.  These would cost half again as much in the ‘states, but they’re made here.  So stocking up on lots of those is advisable.  Of course, everyone and their brother is wearing these so they’re only good beneath more stylish things.  I’ve discovered that cheap shirts and sweaters here are really crappy, so it’s almost always worthwhile to spend over $25 for a shirt and over $35 for a sweater.  You’re going to get better quality and it will have some style to it – because it’s Korea.  A lot of these mid-priced clothes look like high priced boutique clothing – because it’s Korea.  There are also a lot of designer knock-offs, which I avoid like the plague because they just tell everyone you aren’t even close to what you wish you could be.  But Korea’s also home to lots of really good minor designers, and I’m beginning to be able to see how before I leave this place I can gather a lot of the architecturally constructed clean shapes I prefer, and which aren’t offered in the ‘states except at premium prices.  It’s easy to shop here – I just eliminate everything flowered and ruffled, anything with appliques, anything with cheap stitching and anything shiny.  But then there’s a mile of stores to walk through, so it’s work.  Maybe that’s why my pants are tight – I’m not shopping enough.

But tonight I’m sick.  I hope this doesn’t turn into one of those month-long bronchitis spells…There aren’t that many people sick at school (except my co-worker, so I will give her a hard time tomorrow)  but NOT having soap in the bathrooms doesn’t help, I’m sure.  I wonder how much money the NOT having soap in schools costs society in the long run?  And the toilet paper – I am always watching teachers take twice or more what they need from the giant cylinder because they can’t anticipate how much they might need once they get to the toilet stall.  Same goes with public bathrooms that only have one cylinder roll for multiple stalls.  So in the trash can next to the toilets you’ll see huge mountains of rolls of toilet paper from everyone taking more than they need.  And then there are those places who just refuse to provide toilet paper.  One time I was waiting for a train and some girl asked for huge and her friend pulled out a wad of paper she’d stolen from one of those cylinders, and then she began giggling hysterically as she kept pulling and pulling and pulling – her entire kabang was stuffed with stolen toilet paper.  Some cost savings…

On the dating scene, I had one guy become an IM pest so I had to dispense with him.  Got a message from one handsome 50 yr. old Korean guy who had a cool job and lives fairly nearby who can speak English.  He asked if I was Korean.  I told him yes, Ibyeonga from America!  Last I ever heard from him…

It’s okay.  I don’t even have time to put my clothes away.  Who needs company?

I guess I do.  Crap.

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9 thoughts on “many small things

  1. I think the first year i was in Korea I was sick the entire year!!!
    Winter was the worst. i lived in one small room for 4 years…Had to go outside to us the toilet, and when one is sick and its the middle of the night and 40 below..well, you get the idea.
    We had ondol floors and it was nice and comfy, UNTIL you had to get up..egads it was cold.
    I don’t think i took off my long johns until August!!!
    back in the day, by the way, SOFT toilet paper was worth more to us than fresh kimchi.
    ahh memories….

  2. All those fashionable clothing that fits without going to the kid’s section. One good thing about living in Korea.

  3. true! now if I could only find shoes small enough…

    Ignorant Person to me: “Were your feet bound?”
    Me: “No. That was CHINA.”
    IP:
    Me: “I’m from Korea.”
    IP:
    Me: “They made that illegal years before I was born.”
    IP: “Oh! Well I’m glad you escaped that!”

  4. “My daughter’s begun a Korean language study group at her college, and I’ve also culled my billions of Korean language books to set up a nice curriculum for them.” The irony here is that Sara might learn more Korean in Seattle than you would in Korea. That would be funny.

  5. There’s no maybe about it. She’s got a gift with language acquisition, and she’s got people to practice with.

    And it’s not funny. :(
    Though it is ironic.

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