I went to Seoul yesterday, to see Kwangjang Market and the War Memorial. I took the express bus in, and got there in about 3 hours.
First thing I did was to go to Kwangjang market by subway. I was able to get there on my own, by following the directions in the newspaper article (which I've been saving since March) and the small subway map that Mrs. Lee gave me. I was very proud of myself.
The article said that Kwangjang Market was huge, and they weren't kidding. It goes on for days. There also doesn't seem to be an organized way to explore it -- way too many possible directions to go. So I figured, since I was primarily here to look, and not do any serious shopping (I didn't bring a ton of money), that I would just wander aimlessly, and not figure on being able to find a booth twice on purpose. This had the big disadvantage of not allowing me to comparison shop, which is apparently a good thing to do there, but it kept tension levels low. I was reluctant to do much pricing anyhow. If you show much interest, sometimes they're so helpful that you eventually feel like you have to buy something.
It's a good thing I'm not in the SCA any more. Otherwise I'd have had a terrible time passing up roll upon roll of silk fabrics, and booth after booth of trim, not to mention booth after booth of buttons.
I only saw a few booths with beads, but there well may be bunches more that I didn't find. A lot of what I saw, it being summer, was mosi, the ramie fabric that I saw made at the ramie festival. The prices, what few I asked, were comparable to the prices there. There was also a lot of what looked like the hemp fabric that Mrs. Lee told me about, that I have a couple of rice covers made of, that is the favored fabric for shrouds. I didn't try to price that, because I'm not sure if it's ever used for anything else, and I didn't want to end up in a discussion of who died, or to seem morbid or anything. It's so hard to be polite sometimes.
Along with fabrics, buttons and beads, there were ready-made clothes, Chinese medicines and food, both prepared and ingredients. And we thought we invented shopping malls. This was bigger than any mall I've ever seen.
After wandering around for a couple hours or more, I went upstairs to see what was there (yes, there was an upstairs, too, even though this seemed to be primarily a covered-over set of alleys rather than a building). Upstairs seemed to be devoted to people who make hanbok, the elaborate traditional ones that Koreans buy for their weddings at $700 or more a pop. They seemed altogether too eager to help me, so in spite of the beautiful figured silks that were all over the place, I cut out of there pretty quickly and went back downstairs.
I found that I did end up in the same places several times, probably due to my tendency to go around in circles. By now I was getting hungry and thirsty, and eyeing the food vendors. It was pretty interesting just to look at the different foods, and to watch the women rolling out and cutting the noodles (no pasta machines here!). So when one of them smiled at me and showed me her noodles and a cold broth with ice cubes in it, I was glad to sit down and try it. She even turned the fan on me.
Noodles in cold broth I've had a few times, but this was a new broth. It looked like milk, although I suspect it was either soy milk or some sort of liquid tofu, and had julienne cucumbers in it. She put the noodles into a bowl, put on a generous portion of the broth, and added a little salt and sugar. Boy, was it good. I've got to ask Mrs. Lee about it, and see if I can get the recipe. That and a dish of kimchi made a very nice meal, and I couldn't even finish it all. I was pretty amused when she asked if I wanted more noodles. All this for only 2000 won!
Well, this gave me the energy to wander around some more, and I did end up talking to a nice lady who was selling mosi clothes. I needed a shirt to go with my silk skirt that I bought at Tano anyhow (for a class I'm teaching at the electric company starting tomorrow -- Mrs. Kim says I have to dress nicely for it). The unbleached mosi looked to be about the right color. So I got one, and she even managed to talk me into a pair of padgi (women's pants) to go with it. See what happens when they're nice to me?
There were some other interesting things there that I'll have to ask Mrs. Lee about, and probably go back and get. One is silk. It's a huge bag, weighing 3 1/2 kg, that as best as I could gather from the guy's answer is some sort of blanket. Or maybe it's a mattress pad. A lot of Korean style beds I've seen for sale don't have mattresses. They're basically wooden tables, or fancy ceramic heated ones like I saw at Tano. So a mattress pad would not be a bad idea.
These were in plastic bags, so I couldn't get a good look at the silk, but what I could see through the package looked like a giant silk cap. I'm hoping Mrs. Lee or TJ will go with me next time, and talk them into opening the package and letting me examine it. Because, of course, I'm not going to use it for a mattress pad. If I get one, it'll be for spinning.
The one person I asked said the price was $90. Since he told me in dollars, it makes me wonder if he wasn't raising the price a bit on the assumption that all foreigners are rich. I didn't ask anyone else the price, since I wasn't going to buy one then anyhow. Even if I found one for less than $90, I'd only allotted 100,000 won (about US$90) for the weekend, including transportation, so I couldn't have bought it. I'd already blown my budget on the shirt and padgi.
Besides, the thought of carrying around a very bulky extra 8 pounds for several more hours was less than thrilling. I'd already been walking for about 3 hours, and was getting a little tired. That, combined with the fact that I'd spent as much as I felt I should at the market, led me into objective #2 for the day, a visit to the Korean War Memorial.
Now this may seem like an odd thing for me to be interested in, and normally it wouldn't have been on my list of things to see. But I had just read an article in the Korea Herald that said in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Korean War, bronze tablets had been put up with the names of all the South Korean and foreign war dead listed. So I figured, as a matter of family history, that I'd go find my Uncle George's name. I couldn't help but wonder how Grandmother would have felt about that.
This was an article about the commemoration ceremony in general, not specifically a "go see this as a tourist" article, so it didn't really give directions -- just mentioned that it was in a specific neighborhood downtown. So I took the subway to that neighborhood and started asking around. I figured it was a big enough thing that most people would know what I was talking about.
True to form, people were very helpful. I don't know how people can complain that Seoulites are rude; they've always been nice to me. Anyway, one guy drew me a map, and another one walked me partway there. It was a little far, but not too bad. The easy thing would have been to take a taxi. But I had no idea at first where it was, and the taxi ride might have been 100 yards, or he might have taken me 20 miles out of my way without my knowing it. Once I got the directions, walking it was easy.
I was not expecting the monument to be a really big deal -- a structure, like the Washington Monument maybe, and somewhere some bronze plaques with names on them. I was hoping they would be in alphabetical order, so I wouldn't have to read through the entire list of 69,000 names in order to find him. There was always the chance that they'd be listed by date of death or something.
Well, the Korean War Memorial turned out to be much more than I was expecting. First was a very large courtyard with fountains. It gave a wonderful impression of peace and serenity, and yes, respect, which kind of set the mood for my visit. This sense of quiet was undisturbed by the construction that was going on, and even by the children being children. There was a huge building at one end of the courtyard, and I figured that was as good a place as any to start.
The building turned out to be a war museum as well as a war memorial, and covered war on the Korean peninsula from Paleolithic times to the Korean involvement in the Vietnam war. Oddly enough, there was no mention of WW2. Since Koreans were subjects of Japanese oppression at the time, and were forced to fight on the Japanese side, and are now friends with us, maybe the designers decided it was impolitic. Or maybe that's a time they would rather forget.
Needless to say, the section on the Korean war was the largest, and the whole thing went on for days. The Korean war had several rooms, the Vietnam war had a few, war in general and the history of war had several, there were rooms for each branch of the service, there were rooms for small equipment and for large equipment, there were a mock fortress, boat and airplane you could go into, and lots more.
It was really quite interesting. It also took forever to get through. I got there about 4:30, and it closed at 6:00, and I was afraid I'd get kicked out before I found George's name, which was really the reason I went there. I finally made my way through the entire building -- no tablets. So I went outside to see if they were there somewhere. There were wings on either side of the building, sort of open, not unlike the part of the complex in Pisa where the people were buried under the floor. Somehow it reminded me a lot of that, although this was modern brick rather than ancient marble. And it turned out that not only was this where the tablets were, I had had the good fortune to wander into the section where the Americans' names were. They were grouped by state and in alphabetical order, so it was easy to find George's name. I took a couple of pictures, and I hope they turn out. George's tablet has the misfortune of being on the outside wall, which has open portions that let the sun in, so it's not the best place to take a picture.
They also had a set of 5 books called the "roll of honor," with all the names listed, the dates of death, and what section of the room the name was in (I guess in case you didn't know what state someone was from, or somehow couldn't figure out the system).
So now I've seen that, and in addition I know when George died. Next step is to figure out where he died, and to see if it's someplace I can go. I was going to go to the UN graveyard in Pusan next month, but probably won't since he's not buried there. Apparently there are only 35 American graves there. All the rest of the bodies got sent back to the states.
The one thing that really seemed out of place at the War Memorial was that there were 8 tents set up selling things. It just didn't seem right somehow. Well, one of them was selling military and war related souvenir type stuff, which at least had some sort of logic to it, but the others looked like antique shops, which made no sense to me at all. There was a spinning wheel for sale in one. I didn't quite catch the price, but it was over 100,000 won, and as much as I could tell when he told it to me it might have been 100,000,000 won, so I didn't pursue it any further.
I was already tired when I got to the museum, and even more tired after my trek through it, so I took the subway back to the express bus terminal to come home. And you know, every time I think I have these busses figured out, they throw me for a loop.
There are express busses, and intercity busses. The express busses run straight through with no stops, and cost 13,500 won from Kangnung to Seoul or from Seoul to Kangnung. Intercity busses make stops along the way, arrive at and depart from the East Seoul terminal, and cost 9,500 won. The Central City terminal in Seoul is where you end up when you take the express bus, and when I've gone there and bought a ticket to go back, it's been an express bus ticket.
Simple enough. So I took the subway to the Central City terminal. The subway stop is in the terminal, so I can't get lost. It's the same terminal I arrived at. It's huge -- they really seem to like things that go on for days. So I had to walk for ages to find the ticketing area. I actually stopped at one of the coffee shops and had an iced tea.
Now there's a difference between the US and Korea. In the US, a coffee shop inside the terminal would charge 3 times as much as one outside. And this one not only didn't, it was actually cheaper than similar coffee shops in Kangnung.
Anyhow, after a rest and an iced tea (which in Korean was called iced tea, not iced cha, and was tremendously sweet) I made my way to the ticket booth. I had my 13,500 won ready, and asked for a ticket to Kangnung. Well, I couldn't get it there. I had to go to the ticket booth on the other end of the terminal.
So I tromped all the way to the other end of the terminal, and asked for a ticket to Kangnung. Well, I couldn't get it there either. The clerk said something about "other building."
Still clutching my won, I wandered outside and looked around. No likely looking buildings that I could see. So I went back in and asked someone. They waved in the general direction of the stairs, so I went upstairs. There were stores, but nothing that looked like it had anything to do with busses. So I wandered back downstairs, and found a tourist information booth. Nobody there. So I took the elevator and tried the third floor. It was all dark, and seemed to be flower storage more than anything else.
Back downstairs. Asked a couple of people "If I want to go to Kangnung, where do I buy a ticket?" They waved me in the general direction of the stairs. So I walked around the stairs and found a hallway that was under construction and walked down it (what, the place isn't big enough already?). It led to a whole new section of terminal (aptly named. You could die trying to find the right place), and I found the ticket booth. Said "Kangnung," and handed her my money, which I'd been carrying in my hand all this time. She looked very confused by the amount I gave her, handed me back all but 10,000 won, and then gave me change from my 10,000 won along with my ticket. This of course confused me, because I didn't realize you could take intercity busses from this terminal. I had to hurry though, because she said the bus was leaving now, and I rushed out to catch it.
This was the first bus I've been on that had assigned seats, which I found out when some guy tried to claim his seat from me. So I ended up sitting all the way in the back. Fortunately, I don't get carsick nearly as badly as I did when I first got here, and made it home without incident. I guess it was an express bus after all, because we didn't make any stops except for the regular bathroom break we always get halfway through.
The really wild part through the mountains just outside of Kangnung wasn't wild at all. In spite of the fact that it was eleven at night, traffic was bumper to bumper and crawling. What normally takes about half an hour took an hour and a half. There were times when I was tempted to get out and walk. I didn't think Kangnung was that exciting a place, but I guess people were headed for the beach. If you figure getting off work or out of school at noon on Saturday, then getting ready and loading up the car, and a few hours' worth of drive to get there, it makes sense. All that for just one day at the beach. So I got home at twelve thirty and went straight to bed.
I saw a lot of foreigners on this trip to Seoul, more than on previous trips. A pair that I saw in the museum seemed to be Korean war veterans, and they looked like they were reminiscing. Most of them, though, looked like students. I'm so used to seeing nothing but Koreans that they looked strange to me. Much too tall, too thin, altogether too blond -- one of the war vets had brown hair, and the other had grey, but all the student-aged ones were blond and fair, and definitely scruffy-looking.
I rarely see scruffy-looking Koreans. I wonder if I look that bad to the people around here. At least I have dark hair. And I don't dress scruffy since I left all my scruffy clothes at home. I'm sure I'm too tall though. Sometimes I feel like a giant.
I called Mrs. Lee to see if she wanted to go along, but she was in Seoul. She had to go there to do her husband's laundry. One of the joys of being a Korean wife. But she mentioned that Janet had called her and complained it was too hot to study (which it was, and still is). So, being a "bad" mother who cares more about her daughter's well-being than her grades (as she often jokes), she asked if I would like to take Janet along. I was glad to. Janet's a nice kid, and a fun kid, and is old enough that I don't need to worry about her.
So we went to Kyongpo. It's amazing what a temperature difference there is. I'd say it was 75 there. The water was icy cold, so we weren't planning on going in too far, but we waded along the edge where the waves were coming in. Then we started catching different kinds of seaweed, and next thing I knew I was in up to my hips. That made Janet a little nervous -- she said it was dangerous. My, they do worry about danger here. "Dangerous" is probably the second most common thing I hear from people, with of course "Good Health" being number one. But we had a good time making sand castles and collecting shells to throw into the water.
We got some stuff to eat, too. I wanted to try the steamed crabs, but they were expensive, 3 for 10,000 won, and that was more than I had with me. So we just got basic food vendor corndogs and ramyen, and some sort of fish-on-a-stick. By the time we ate it was getting downright chilly, not to mention dark, so we caught the bus to head home. I'd say while it was 60's at the beach, it's still 80's here in town. From being cold enough to have goose bumps, I've gone to sweating.
I walked Janet home, because she's a little afraid of ghosts, and she lives just a 15 minute walk away from me, but in the country. (And I'm right smack unquestionably in the city. It's funny how it works that way here.) Her being afraid of ghosts isn't that unusual. A lot of Koreans still believe in ghosts. She is unusual in that she tells herself that there are no ghosts.
Tomorrow after my 10:00 class, Mrs. Kim is going to pick me up and take me to the electric company. Starting Tuesday I'll be teaching a class there at (ugh) 7:30 in the morning.
Had my first class at the electric company this morning. Since we were supposed to pick out a book today, I really didn't prepare a lesson, so we just talked. There were about 10 students there.
This class is apparently offered to them as a benefit of employment. Work starts at 9, and class runs from 7:40 to 8:30. So the students are coming in early to take it. They all seem very nice, and enthusiastic about learning.
Mr. Kim made up some sheets for my benefit, with people's pictures and names, and they wrote brief descriptions of themselves. They all have English nicknames, and they're pretty funny. John is an ordinary name, but the others are Devil Woman, Sunny (a man), Mr. Sir, Flying Pig, Girlrae (also a man), Seagull, and Neo. A few turned in their papers to Mr. Kim (Seagull) today, and he said he'll give them to me tomorrow after he puts on the pictures.
Some of the hobbies are funny, too. Mr. Sir likes tennis, fishing, golf and "enticing girl." I think he's the one who also said his hobby is eating out with co-workers because he's single and hates to wash dishes. John likes "talking about with Soju." Seagull likes picnics with his family and drinking Soju. I don't know -- does drinking count as a hobby in America?
I rode in with Seagull as planned, and then one of the students gave me a ride home. He lives just beyond here, near the express bus terminal. He works nights sometimes, and so was on his way home.
Neo is fairly newly married, and his wife lives in Seoul. So I guess Mrs. Lee's arrangement [her husband lives in Seoul] isn't all that unusual.
They chose the Interchange One book, which I'm fairly familiar with, so it shouldn't be too hard to plan the classes. The plan is three days a week with the book, one day a week with a newspaper article and discussion, and one day a week as game day.
Still very hot here. It's 9:00 and probably already 80, so I expect we'll be well into the 90's before we're done. Don't know if we'll get as high as 96 again though.
I had Mrs. Lee and her daughter Janet over after work last night. We had tea and coffee and scones. The scones went over OK, but nothing like the strawberry shortcake. I tried to whip up the last of the cream to put on them, but it was old and wouldn't whip. Janet wanted to keep trying though. So off and on, between embroidering, she went at it with vigor. Boy, was she surprised when it turned into butter! So I have fresh butter on my scones this morning, without the ton of yellow dye that they add to their butter. You wouldn't believe how yellow my biscuits and scones turn out.
I'm semi-teaching Janet to embroider. Some of her friends at school were doing it and she wanted to learn. So I gave her one of my beaded kits. It was on hold last week, because she had a big test to study for. Even the elementary schools have finals here.
There was a big English test in Kangnung -- apparently they have these competitions in various towns throughout the country every few months. Only 5 students passed. Four of them were from our hagwon. Not bad, huh?
I've checked out the budget and decided I can't afford to do anything major this weekend. But Mrs. Lee is home, and she said we can get together today sometime to do something, and Carol said to call if I have nothing to do. So something should happen. Not this Monday, but next Monday is a holiday, so I have a 3 day weekend next weekend, and am trying to decide what to do with that. I might go to Damwon and see if I can learn anything. Another possibility is to go back to Hansan and see what more I can learn about the ramie.
There's a rumor that we'll get a 5 day "it's too hot" holiday sometime soon, but we don't know for sure or when. I hope we get some advance notice so I can make plans. 5 days is almost enough time to come home for a visit. If it's 5 days plus a weekend, I'll be awfully tempted.
It probably makes more sense to go someplace around here, though. It's a good opportunity to see another part of Asia, and will be cheaper, too. Maybe I could go to Japan. I know 2 people there.
Well, it's the weekend, and I've got no particular plans. I was going to go to Kyongpo with Mrs. Lee her kids, but Janet came down sick, so that was put on hold until tomorrow. So I went grocery shopping instead.
That doesn't sound very exciting, but it's actually a lot of fun. See, I don't go to the grocery store if I can help it. I like to go to the traditional market downtown.
Saying it that way makes it sound like it's one place, but it's not. There's a main part, which fills about 5 or 6 blocks worth of alleyways, and also all over the streets everywhere in the vicinity are people (mostly older women) selling their wares. While you kind of get general themes (vegetables, fruit, and fish are the most common themes), there is always other stuff mixed in.
I mostly see plums, apricots, and peaches, and watermelons and Korean melons (being the fruit that's available now). Lots of leaf vegetables that I don't recognize, along with eggplant, zucchini, cucumber, hot peppers, and tomatoes. Corn and potatoes, too, and sweet potatoes, which was initially a surprise to me.
Kangwon Do is the only part of Korea that eats potatoes, and the rest of Korea rather looks down on them because of it. They make mighty good potato pancakes, though. Mrs. Kim eats potatoes just boiled with the rice, and eaten plain with rice for breakfast. It makes for a rather starchy meal, especially at 7am.
When you get into the market proper there's other stuff as well. Chickens with the heads still on, which they fry whole in a huge vat of oil. Fried chicken heads don't look very appetizing to me. There are lots of kinds of fish, which vary by season, and plastic tubs with small eels swimming in them. Mrs. Lee says the eels are cooked into a kind of soup (very healthy). Apparently you don't clean them or cut off the heads -- she says they cook down so much you don't even know what part you're eating. She didn't mention, and I didn't ask, if they're cooked alive or not.
I had a good time wandering, but I could tell I wasn't really in the mood to buy anything. You know how that is. I had one of those great potato pancakes. There's lots of little booths where they cook those, or kimchi-buckwheat pancakes. So the food booths sell to the raw ingredients sellers, who sell the raw ingredients to the food booths. And they both sell to everybody else who comes through. Works out pretty well that way.
I'm getting a little better at talking to people. Still can't have a conversation, but I can pick up a word here and there and sometimes even make an appropriate response.
I bought some beans and bean sprouts. I wanted to get some fish, but that mood got in the way. I wanted to get a watermelon, but didn't want to carry it home. A guy comes driving down my street selling watermelons sometimes. I'll wait for him.
I found a yarn store and went in to take a look. This wasn't part of the traditional market, it was just a store, but I can never find one when I'm looking for it. Most of the yarns were pretty basic. Not the usual acrylic knitting yarn like we have at K-Mart in the US, but mercerized cotton, the flat ribbon type of yarn, a few bumpy knitting yarns, a few variegated.
Koreans are really keen on crocheting purses, with or without beads crocheted in. So the saleslady told me that some of the yarns were for that, and the others were for other things. I think I'm going to have to find one of the purse patterns and make one, just because it's so Korean.
I bought a couple of balls of cotton to tablet weave. I need to make new straps for my tote bag -- I've actually worn them out.
There was one type of yarn that looked interesting, but I didn't think it would tablet weave well. It was a wrapped yarn, made like the old gold threads, where they spin a core, and then cover it with the gold, only it wasn't gold, or any sort of metal. It was just fiber. I couldn't tell what kind of fiber it was. It was one of the purse-making yarns. Maybe someone can tell me if there's anything similar in the US.
Crochet seems more popular here than knitting actually -- at least I see a lot more of it being done. Crocheted lace sweaters are very popular. You're not supposed to have bare shoulders here, so they wear something sleeveless when it's hot and put a lace or gauze sleeved top over it. I'm not convinced it's really any cooler than just a short-sleeved shirt, but they must think so.
Since I didn't buy any fish, and hadn't had any protein all day, I decided to get some fried chicken on the way home. There's a fried chicken place on the corner just down the road from home, and I ended up right in front of it on the way. The door was open, but it was dark inside, and I was hesitating, trying to decide if it was open or not. I think they really weren't open, but a guy waved me in anyhow. He managed to scrape up enough English that we could work out what I wanted, and I managed to tell him I wanted to take it home. He asked if he should deliver it, but that seemed kind of silly to me. So he apologetically asked if I could wait ten minutes, which didn't bother me at all. They sat me down near the fan in front of the tv to wait. I'm sure they weren't really open yet, because they were mixing up the batter and starting up the fryer. They brought me some plums to eat while I waited. (Compare this to the stationery store in Perugia, Italy we went to. It was 5 minutes to closing, and the guy kicked us out.)
It was more like 20 minutes before the chicken was done, but that gave me time to practice reading the menu (not that it told me anything. I had no idea which menu item I'd ordered, I just knew I'd ordered one). It was fairly expensive, 9000 won (about US$8). So I was curious to see what I'd get for 9000 won.
When I unpacked at home, I had what looked like a whole (but cut into parts and no head) fried chicken, a container of radish water kimchi, one of the funky Korean salads (shredded cabbage with a dressing of ketchup and mayonnaise mixed -- this one had a little corn added), and a bottle of Coke that I couldn't drink because I have no bottle opener.
Koreans must rarely eat alone. They gave me two pair of chopsticks. Anyhow, it was very good, and iced tea went fine with it.
We have a red sky tonight, so it should be good weather for Kyongpo tomorrow. I hope Janet's feeling better by then.
I went to Kyongpo today with Mrs. Lee and her three daughters: Janet, age 11, Jean, age 5, and Julie, age 2. Jean and Julie really haven't seen the beach a lot, because Mrs. Lee gets bored sitting there with no one to talk to. So they had a wonderful time.
Now, Jean's not scared of anything (remind us of anyone we know?), but Julie had fun running away from the water screaming. Janet played on the edge, but like last time, was afraid to go in too deep. I finally got her to go in with me, but it was only OK as long as I held both of her hands.
They do have big waves here. A lot of them were big enough that if I didn't see them coming, they knocked me off my feet. But they were also big enough that once I was down, there was enough water that I didn't land too hard.
Jean wandered off, and Mrs. Lee asked me to watch Julie while she went to look for her. So I took Julie by the hand and introduced her to the water. It went pretty well. We got in about halfway up her thighs (about mid-calf on me). Mrs. Lee commented later on how Julie wasn't scared of the water any more, because she kept playing on the edge of it now. I said that was the nice thing about not being the mom, you could teach them all the bad things.
Koreans are really into getting buried in the sand, so we did quite a bit of that. First Jean asked me to bury her. Then she and I buried Janet, and then Jean wanted to be buried next to Janet. Then Jean wanted to bury me. Well, that took a long time. About halfway through, Jean looked at me and said, "Teacher big!" After my turn was done, Julie wanted to be buried. That only took about 2 seconds.
Then I went in swimming to rinse off all the sand. I've never had so much sand on me in my life. An amazing lot got inside my swimsuit. When I got in the water and it sank, I had so much padding on the crotch that it felt like I had a diaper on! I shook out as much as I could while I was in the water, but I still brought a ton home. With 3 kids, I expect Mrs. Lee has enough to build her own beach.
Mrs. Lee and I agreed that we needed to do this more often.
Tomorrow is John's birthday, so I went downtown to buy him a Harry Potter book (#1, since I don't think he's read any of them). It's a lot smaller than the one I have. I don't know if Hangul is that much more space-efficient than English, or if they cut books as heavily as they cut movies.
While I was there, I also bought a couple of books on Maedup, Traditional Korean knotting. One is mostly a picture book of traditional examples, the other more of a modern how-to for friendship bracelets, but with good pictures that might at least give me a start.
Coming out of the bookstore, I was greeted by a woman with a cart. I'm a sucker for anyone who tries to talk to me, so I asked what she was selling. I thought she said ppang, which I've had before and like, and said I'd take some. Then she asked me something, and I had no idea what. So after we went back and forth for a minute, she took me and her cart down the street to a store and called inside for the owner to come out.
He spoke English, and he asked if I liked Korean food. I replied yes. So the woman opened up the top to her cart to show me what she was selling. The store owner, now our translator, asked if I liked that food, and I answered that I hadn't had it before, but would like to try it. So he went into the store and brought out some plastic bags, and she dished out some of the food, 2 kinds of kimchi, and some sauce.
I brought them home, and called Mrs. Lee to ask how to eat it. I wasn't sure where the sauce went, you see. The main dish was about 50/50 rice and barley with potatoes, and Mrs. Lee said to mix the sauce with it. She said it would be hot, and it sure was. I just added a little of the sauce, and it was plenty hot for me. I'm getting better about the hot things, though.
This is apparently Korean comfort food. The old people like it because it's what they ate all the time when they were kids. (Kids today prefer pizza and hamburgers.) The kimchi were radish kimchi and zucchini kimchi. I was very disappointed in the zucchini kimchi -- it tasted like zucchini. But all the rest was good. I'll have to ask Mrs. Lee what it's called, and how to make the sauce.
It's very hot today. My thermostat reads 33. Mrs. Lee couldn't believe I went downtown in this heat, but it's no fun to just sit at home, and it's just as hot in as out, so why not?
I found out why the first Harry Potter book here is smaller than in the US. It's only half the book! And as luck would have it, it's the second half, chapters 10 through 17. Fortunately Mrs. Lee, who is the one who pointed this out to me, hasn't bought John's birthday present yet, so she's going to get him the first half.
It's pretty strange sometimes, being immediately recognizable. I was on the bus yesterday, and the girl sitting in front of me turned around and asked, "Is your name Margaret?" It turns out that her best friend is one of my students. I'll admit, I do look odd even to myself sometimes, just because I'm so used to seeing Koreans. By Korean standards my nose is very large, and my glasses are ridiculous. I wore my mosi outfit yesterday, and Randy at the electric company said it made me look like a Korean girl. I laughed and said yes, as long as I cover up my face.
I didn't feel like hanging out at home all afternoon, so I called up Mrs. Lee to see if she wanted to go to Be and Be cafe with me. She brought Jean along.
They serve food now. According to the guide books I read before I came here, cafes couldn't serve food by law. I guess the law has changed.
Mrs. Lee got a pork cutlet for Jean for lunch. Talk about a bargain: soup, 2 large pork cutlets, rice, mashed potatoes, salad and pickles, only 4,000 won (about US$3.50). It was very good looking, too. There was a nice herb garnish on the cutlet, and pretty little purple flowers on the mashed potatoes. In a western style restaurant it would have cost 12,000 to 15,000 won.
Mrs. Lee just had coffee, and I had what they call a parfait. This is the second one I've had, and I order them as much because they're funny as because they're good. They throw in everything but the kitchen sink. They start with fruit juice (I had peach this time, kiwi last time), put a scoop of strawberry ice cream on top, sprinkle on some Froot Loops, then a layer of whipped cream. Their whipped cream is very stiff -- you could slice it. They stick in a couple of chocolate covered pretzels held together with whipped cream, a cookie with more whipped cream, tuck in some fruit slices (including cherry tomatoes, which are considered a fruit here), lay a Ritz cracker flat on top, put a dollop of whipped cream on top of that, and a maraschino cherry on top of that. The first one I got had a paper umbrella in it too, but I didn't get one this time.
We had a nice visit as we ate and drank. One nice thing about Mrs. Lee is she never runs out of things to talk about.
Tonight Mary is taking the 8:00 class out for dinner. We're going to have makwuksu -- basically a noodle soup. Korean seems to be different from English in that, in English we have a general term for something, and specify by means of adjectives; but in Korean, they have all different words. We say noodles, and specify rice noodles, buckwheat noodles or whatever. Koreans have Nangmyen, makwuksu, ramyen, etc. I had thought that myen meant noodles, but there's other words too.
They do that with colors, too. I'm not even going to try to learn colors while I'm here.
Boy these Korean Holidays are nice. Not because they seem to do anything interesting with most of them, but because there are so many of them. Monday the 17th was Constitution Day.
That gave me a 3 day weekend to play. I dug out my saved up newspaper clippings and made my plans.
Saturday I went to Yangpyong, which is out in the country not too far from Seoul. It's very pretty there, but then I always think the countryside is pretty. Took the express bus to Yangpyong itself, and then the local bus to Battangol Art Center, which is having a Summer Arts Festival.
I'll admit it wasn't quite what I expected. That's the problem with having expectations, and I try not to as much as I can.
But I did have fun. They had an exhibit of some famous Korean artist's work. He builds things, mostly robot shaped things, out of old TVs and radios and such. They were kind of interesting, but mostly I found myself wondering where he found so many matching old TVs and radios.
There was also a pottery exhibit, which I liked a lot more. Mary (from the 8:00 class) said that the Yangpyong area is famous for ceramics. They had some "make it and take it" events, and so I played for a while.
This is the part that didn't really live up to my expectations. The newspaper article said festival attendees could "learn how to ... make a traditional Korean fan." Sounds like fun. But it turned out to be paint a traditional Korean fan. They gave you an already-made fan and some paint. It was fun painting it, but I didn't get to make one from scratch, which was what I was after. I painted one side of the fan with mountains, a rice paddy with birds, and a ginkgo tree. On the other side I painted Kyongpo beach with the squid boats.
Another suggestion in the article was "build a clock featuring the 12 [Chinese] zodiac signs." So I did that. It turned out to be cartoonish clay cutouts of the zodiac signs, and you chose one to paint, and then they put a quartz clock into it. They were out of chickens, which was my zodiac sign, so I did a horse, which is my boyfriend's. Again, it was fun painting it, but I had been hoping to build a clock from scratch.
They had pottery you could do from scratch, and I wanted to try that. It was fun when I did it at the ramie festival, even though I'm terrible at it. But they weren't very encouraging. The person said you had to be an expert to do it well, and besides, I'd have to come back in a month to pick it up. I really couldn't see coming back in a month, so I skipped it.
They have concerts in the evenings, but the last bus was at 6:30, and there were no minbak or yagwon (low cost Korean motels) nearby, so I couldn't stay for it. Just as well; it was opera arias anyhow, and while I like them all right, they're not my favorite thing.
It turned out that the bus I caught wasn't going back to Yangpyong, but rather was heading to Toichon. Toichon sounded awfully familiar to me, and then I remembered that that was the town I passed through when I went to the Magnolia festival at Damwon. It's a tiny little place -- one Main Street and just country. I was trying to come up with an equivalent town in America, and the best I could do was Mayberry. All the towns I could think of in Ohio either have too much downtown, or not enough. This has one street, and you can walk from one end of downtown to the other in 10 or 15 minutes.
I decided to stay in Toichon for the night, since there were a couple of motels and some restaurants right there. If I'd caught the bus to Seoul to stay the night, I'd have had to search a place out, and it would probably have been more expensive.
The motel was rather nice. It was a small room, but clean, and had a private bathroom. It had a cute little curtained alcove with a table and two chairs (they were comfy chairs, too). There was a huge TV with a VCR, and a bookcase of movies out in the hall. There was air conditioning, which I've had in all the motels I've stayed at (all 3), but which apparently isn't always the case.
The normal things in motel rooms were all here: soap, liquid body soap, shampoo, lotion, aftershave, hair gel, hair spray, hairbrush and comb, toothbrush and toothpaste. But except for the toothbrush, none of this was the little individual bottles like you get in the States or Europe. It was all full size containers. There were towels, and a body scrub cloth, but no washcloth like we use. It had a western toilet, and a Korean shower.
If you're staying in one of these motels and you want to go out, you have to ask for a key. When you come back to your room, you return the key to the desk attendant. And there's no paperwork to fill out. In Europe I always had to show my passport and fill out a form. Here, you just hand them the money, and they take you to your room. You pay in advance.
I went out for dinner to a kalbi place. This is where you grill your meat, and then wrap it up in lettuce leaves to eat. They were very nice there, and kept bringing me extra stuff. For 4,000 won (about US$3.50) there was more food than I could eat.
After that I went back to the motel room, and since it was still fairly early and there's really no night life in Toichon, I watched a movie and went to bed. The next day I visited with the lady at the rice cake shop who was so nice to me the last time I was in Toichon, and then caught the bus for Seoul.
Sunday's plan was that I would call Mrs. Lee when I got into Seoul, and we would go to Toksu Palace together. They have the Museum of Contemporary Art there, and it currently has an exhibit of Russian art. Either they have a loose definition of "contemporary," or it was the only place available, because this exhibit included pieces from the early middle ages up to things that would be called contemporary.
So when I got into town, I called Mrs. Lee. No answer. That was OK, because I wanted to go to the Korean War Memorial too. The film that was in my camera when I was there before wasn't loaded right, so I had 36 shots all on top of each other.
So basically I went there to take pictures of the tablet which has my Uncle George's name (he died in the Korean war), and I also took a few shots of the grounds. I didn't bother going into the museum part again.
I tried to call Mrs. Lee when I got to the War Memorial, and again when I was finished there, but still no answer. Since I wasn't too far from Toksu Palace (just 2 subway stops away), I headed on over there. Called Mrs. Lee again just before I got there -- still no answer. So I went ahead and went in.
It's very nice there. Not a palace the way European palaces are. It has the same architecture as the rest of the country had at that time, only a little larger, more buildings, and higher quality. I guess the biggest difference would be the gates, which are very elaborate, and sort of frame the entrance to important buildings, like audience halls. You can look at the old buildings, but can't go in.
They have a more modern building on the palace grounds that holds the Museum of Contemporary Art, and I went in to see the exhibition, which was very nice. Lots of icons, some really fine vestments, a couple of great examples of embroidery, and lot of paintings. There was a bunch of posters, both movie posters and propaganda posters. I was trying to explain propaganda to one of the classes not too long ago, and I really wished for a way to show them those posters.
There were supposed to be some really fantastic valuable jewels, each one with its own Russian security guard, but I couldn't find them. I asked someone, and she said those were coming in August, with the Russian First Lady. So I guess that's an excuse to go back in September, when my boyfriend's here.
After I looked at the exhibit I wandered around the grounds. You'd never know you were in the center of a major city. It's very green and quiet, and had some woods to walk in. I liked it very much.
They have the Royal Museum in one building there. After the Japanese took over, they took the Korean crown prince to Japan, and had him marry a Japanese princess. After they died, Japan put their personal belongings in a museum, and these were returned to Korea a few years ago. I bought a few books and some postcards in the museum store.
After I left the Palace grounds, I called Mrs. Lee again, and surprise!, she answered. She was about to take the kids to Kyobo bookstore, which was close to there, so we met in the subway and walked there. It's an underground bookstore, which is not a description of the type of books they have, but rather of the facilities. You have to go underground into the subway to get there.
It was a nice enough bookstore. They have a foreigner's section, mostly in English and Japanese. What was disappointing was that these were not at all Korean books in English and Japanese, but just English/American books, and Japanese books. I tried to find books in English about Korean textiles. Nothing. I then asked for Korean books about Korean textiles. Nothing. I then asked for Korean books about specific textiles that I knew about, in case they just weren't understanding me right. Nothing. They don't seem very interested in their own textiles here.
After we finished in the bookstore Mrs. Lee's husband (his name is Mr. Kim and he's the brother of the school's director, but according to Korean etiquette the proper way for me to refer to him is "Mrs. Lee's husband") met us, and we went out to dinner. There were some places near the bookstore, so we went into one and had a sort of oyster pancake made with bean flour, followed by sort of mini oyster omelettes (one oyster per omelette, just over oyster sized). After that we went to a restaurant two doors down and had naengmyen -- noodles in cold broth. Mrs. Lee thought the restaurant hopping was pretty funny, but I liked it.
Then we took a cab across town to the neighborhood where Mrs. Lee's husband's apartment is, and they found me a cheap motel nearby. This one had more floors than the one in Toichon, and followed the Korean superstition of not having a 4th floor. It was very similar to the one in Toichon, with the addition of a disposable razor, but the TV was very small, and had no VCR. I looked at my books for a little, and went to bed.
Monday was pretty relaxed. I met Mrs. Lee and the kids at 10:00, and we took the subway to Inchon to go visit Christina. Mrs. Lee hadn't been to Inchon for about 28 years, and the rest of us had never been there. It's on the west coast, and is one of the major port cities in Korea. It took about 1 1/2 hours to get there on the subway, but once the car cleared out enough for us all to get seats, it was a pleasant ride.
When we got there Mrs. Lee called Christina, and she said she'd meet us in about 40 minutes. Mrs. Lee didn't want to sit around in the heat for 40 minutes, so we caught a bus to the shore and waited there. It wasn't as nice as Kyongpo at all, though. There were lots of ships, and an amusement park (the kids got to ride the bumper cars. They were so happy!), but we never did find a beach. It wasn't significantly cooler there, either, the way Kyongpo Beach near Kangnung is.
After the kids had their ride, we sat and waited for Christina, who finally showed up. Her husband drove. Apparently she did finally get her driver's license, but she's afraid to drive around Inchon. From what I saw of the traffic, I don't blame her.
We went out to lunch, and then Mrs. Lee said she and the kids had to be getting back to Seoul. It hardly seemed worth the trip for that short a visit.
After dropping them off at the terminal, Christina and I went to her apartment and visited. I saw her wedding video, and all her wedding and honeymoon pictures. It was kind of interesting. I'd gone to her wedding, but she also had a traditional Korean ceremony later, and I got to see that. She didn't like it very much, because it's just for the groom's family. (Traditionally, once you're married, the bride's family doesn't much exist. Officially, that is. Nowadays there's still a fair bit of contact.)
The ceremony basically seems to consist of the couple bowing over a cup of wine, which is then drunk by a member of the groom's family. This is done for each member. And we're not talking a basic bow here. It's a full end-up-on-the-floor bow. Christina said they had to bow over 20 times before they were done. After all that, the groom took the bride on his back and carried her piggyback around the table, and then did the same to his mother. I asked why, but Christina and her husband didn't know. "Just because."
I went to the bus station in time to catch the last bus, which turned out to be late, so we had time to go to a cafe for some tea and red beans over ice (really good), and more visiting. This was really the best part of the visit, because it was just me and Christina. Her husband stayed in the car. Husbands seem to do that a lot in Korea. I felt bad because he waited about 45 minutes altogether, but Christina didn't seem to think it was anything unusual. She saw me onto the bus and waited until it pulled out. It was a fairly quick bus ride home, just 3 hours. I read one of my new books on the way.
The weather's been tremendously hot lately. When I wake up at 6:15, it's already 30 or 31 degrees, and usually stays at 33 or 34 all day. Even with air conditioning, the classroom doesn't have a chance to get cool for the 10:00 class, so today we had class at Kyongpo.
Since we were at the beach, the students really didn't want to study, so we played and had free talk. I'm always surprised at how many people in Kangnung, who have the ocean right there, never learn how to swim. Out of the 5 of us, I was the only one who could swim. But we played in the water quite a bit. We hadn't brought suits, so we just swam in our clothes, and boy did we get soggy and sandy.
Watching other people there, I'd have to say that in general Koreans play pretty rough. Lots of splashing, and picking people up and bodily throwing them into the water, usually kicking and screaming. I watched a group of boys, about college age, having chicken fights, and the next thing I knew they had managed to steal one of the boys' swim trunks. He stayed in the deep water asking them to give them back, and the other boys were tossing them back and forth, putting them on their heads, and basically doing everything they could to gloat. The ending was undramatic. They got bored with it and tossed the trunks back to their owner.
They have speedboats at the beach, and Good Speed (that's my student's English nickname, not the name of the boat) thought a ride would be fun. So I had her ask the price. It was just 30,000 won (about US$27) for all 5 of us, so I sprang for it. It was a fun, moderately wild ride. They have an area set up for bungee jumping, too, but that I'm not at all interested in doing.
The beach wasn't too crowded, even though it's peak season, probably because it was a working day. There were lots of umbrellas set up in the sand (most of them advertising Lipton), and we could've rented space under an umbrella if we'd wanted to. But we just spread out our blanket in the sun.
The umbrellas are popular, because Koreans try hard not to get tans -- white skin is the ideal. It just goes to show that people are never satisfied. Naturally dark skinned people try to be lighter, and naturally light skinned people want to be darker.
The students took me out for naengmyen (buckwheat noodles in cold broth) and then we came back into town. Getting off the bus was like stepping into an oven. But the trip was fun, and the voting is in favor of doing it again in a few days.
Some interesting food differences, besides the obvious ones. Koreans have chocolate, but it seems to be just in candy bars, and maybe ice cream. Chocolate desserts seem not to be. If you see something that looks like it might be chocolate, most likely it's red bean paste, which is good, but easy to get tired of.
It's funny how salads work, there vs. here. In the US a good, classy salad has no iceberg lettuce. In Korea, iceberg lettuce is expensive and exotic, so only the finest restaurants use it.
Mrs. Lee told me they don't eat chicken feet, but it turned out that the little bar/restaurant near here serves them. She was pretty surprised.
I'd like to fix some American food for some of my students. These are older kids, and the timing with the class right now leaves an empty hour after, so we can probably just come here to cook. So I've been trying to decide what I might fix.
Jello is about as American as it gets, so I may try to get some of that. I've had a hankering for brownies lately, and pancakes also sound like a possibility. Maybe I could get some maple syrup sent from home -- even 4 oz. would be enough, and might not cost too much to mail.
Tex-Mex is American, too, but it might be hard to do well for lack of cheese -- all they have around here is pasteurized processed cheese slices, and not very good ones.
I was thinking of making perogies. All the ingredients are here, and I can get a rolling pin. [But is that really American? -ed]
Maybe hush puppies would be fun. I don't think Koreans use cornmeal, even though they have corn. They consider corn on the cob a great treat, and I don't think their corn is as good as ours -- all tough and starchy. I wish there were a way to bring over some good, tender American sweet corn.
I had a nice time at Be and Be Coffee Shop today. Christine, a student from my 10:00 class, was there when I arrived. She was supposed to bring along her friend Elizabeth, but Elizabeth got called into work. Her boss had to go put together a computer for someone.
Apparently that's standard in Korea. When someone buys a computer, the computer person takes it to your house for you and sets it up. Something a lot of us in the US could use, but it's not too likely to happen. [Only if you're willing to pay for it. -ed]
Anyhow, Christine and I had a nice visit. She really prepared for it. She figured out questions she wanted to ask me, and looked up the words in the dictionary, and wrote down how to ask them. Of course we talked about a lot of things she hadn't prepared, too.
Both of us spent quite a bit of time looking things up in my dictionary. I had more luck than she did -- the English-Korean section is much more complete than the Korean-English section. But between English, Korean, drawing pictures, and writing words (which is often easier to understand than hearing them), we did pretty well. I told her the right English way to say some things, and she told me the right Korean way to say some things. So we had a pretty good time.
Elizabeth finally managed to get there, and brought a friend with her. The friend spoke very little, but when she did, her English was almost perfect. She and Elizabeth have been going to the same hagwon, but you'd never know to hear them that they'd be in the same class.
By the time they got there, Christine and I had already been there over 2 hours, so Elizabeth and I really didn't get to visit too long. I like the cafes very much, but there's only so much I can take of sitting there.
They have a very nice summertime treat here, that I'll have to make when I get home too. It's another everything-but-the-kitchen-sink thing, like the parfaits, and I've had several variations. It starts with shaved or crushed ice. Sweet red beans go on top of the ice, and then there are various fruits and jellies (sort of soft jellybeans without the candy coating), and milk or condensed milk poured over top. It sounds really awful, especially when you remember that cherry tomatoes are considered fruit, and are often used in this concoction, but it's really good. One version had froot loops in it, and today's had a scoop of green (unidentifiable flavor) ice cream on top with whipped cream and chocolate syrup. It's very cool and refreshing, not overly sweet, and like I said, it's really good.
We had an English competition yesterday. We took 11 of the kids to Wonju, where it was being held. I don't know how the listening or writing parts went. Three of the kids (all from the same class) did the speaking, in which they had to memorize a short speech and recite it. One of them, Yoo Jin, is younger than the other two. She was in another room, so I got to hear her, but not the others. She did better than anyone else I heard, and I suspect better than the other two students we had in the contest. That's judging by what I heard when they practiced this morning.
Mrs. Lee says it usually takes a couple of weeks to get the test results. We'll have to live in suspense until then.
My 8:00 class is down to one person, with Carol and Mary on vacation, so Mrs. Lee is canceling it after this week. I'm kind of bummed. I was enjoying it. This week she's taken away my 10:00 classes so I don't have more than six. So my schedule is teaching at KEPCO (the electric company) at 7:40, then the hagwon from 9-10, a break from 10-11, hagwon from 11-1, off for the afternoon and back from 5-6, an hour or two free, then class again from 7-8 or 8-9, depending on when my student can make it.
It's kind of an awkward schedule. I'd rather work through and get the overtime. But next week will be better. KEPCO, then the hagwon from 9-1, then back from 5-6. It'll be back to afternoons and evenings by September, but I think I'll have KEPCO still by then. It's a 3 month contract.
I had a strange night last night. I was sleepy, so I went to bed about 8:30. I had just fallen asleep when the phone rang. It was Annie. I hadn't much heard from her since her class got canceled.
She asked what I was doing, and I didn't want her to feel bad about waking me up, so I said just hanging out and planning to go to bed early. She asked what time I go to bed, and I said usually about 10. So she said she'd call a half an hour after.
Now this could mean after a half an hour, or it could mean a half an hour after 10, depending on whether she used "after" correctly. In English we say "after" before the word it modifies, but many Koreans say it after the modified word. It gets very confusing, since it gives the phrase the opposite meaning. In the US, if someone says "Lunch, after shopping," we take that to mean we'll go shopping and then eat lunch. Koreans mean that we'll eat lunch and then go shopping.
So anyway, I lay down on the bed and waited for her to call back. I was hoping she meant call on the phone, and not in person, since I was in my nightgown. Sure enough, she called after half an hour, which was about 10:15. She said she'd meet me at the corner at 10:40. I tried to make an excuse, but she'd already hung up. So I got dressed and went down to meet her. What the heck, it's all an adventure, right?
So she picked me up, and we went to Kyongpo to the Hyundai Hotel to meet some friends of hers. She's taken me there before, to the cafe, to see the Philippine singers she likes so much, and now they sing outside in the garden. So we sat and visited with her friends. One was Mr. Chong, who has a hotel in the Philippines, and the other one I didn't catch the name of.
We all sat and talked, which meant that they and Annie did most of the talking, and she would translate some. They tried to converse with me a little, but I did even worse than usual. It's hard enough at the best of times, and really hard when there's really loud music playing. About midnight they all made "it's getting late" noises, and we left.
Funny thing about Annie. I've gotten together with her and friends of hers on several occasions now, and they're always men. I wonder sometimes if I'm her only female friend. Hmm, there's a single male student in my KEPCO class, Young. I wonder if I could fix her up with him.
I think I'm turning Korean. Matchmaking is a big part of their culture, and I'm picking up on it. Mrs. Lee has a fairly new student, a woman about my age, who is single. We all went out for coffee and tea tonight. Before the evening was out, we'd arranged to fix her up with Young tomorrow or Friday.
Koreans's attitudes about marriage are quite different from ours. This lady, whose English name is Sun, says she wants to get married before winter, but doesn't even have a boyfriend picked out yet. They decide when they want to get married, and find the first suitable person on the same timetable. Seems odd to me, but it seems to have a better success rate than most American marriages.
I've decided I like the ice and beans dish well enough that I bought an ice shaver and am making it here, and will make it there at home too. It's called Paht Bing Su.
Thought I'd update you on what's happening with Young. He and I had dinner and a movie last weekend, and he mentioned that he'd like to do something the very next day. Well, the dinner and movie felt enough like a real date to make me nervous, so I turned down the invitation. I don't know if I need to worry, but better safe than sorry.
We talked a lot over dinner, and he has some unusual ideas for a Korean. For one thing, he says he likes to be alone a fair bit of the time. I have my doubts about this though, because he calls me up pretty often now, and asks me out a lot. So I think he's really lonely, and maybe just doesn't want to admit it. He's from Seoul, and had to transfer to Kangnung for his job, and really wants to go back to Seoul again. He hasn't made many friends here, and may be avoiding making friends so he won't miss them when he leaves. Of course, that's just speculation on my part.
He's 37 and still single, and says he doesn't want to get married, which is very unusual here. Since Seagull (Mr. Kim) has been away on a business trip, Young has been driving me to the electric company class, and says he'd like to continue driving me even when Seagull gets back. But he said Seagull wants to keep driving me too. So I told him they'd have to take turns.
Anyhow, like I said, I'm just a little concerned about the situation, and I decided that Young really needs a girlfriend. Well, lo and behold, Mrs. Lee has a student about my age who is female and single. We went out for coffee together, she and I and Mrs. Lee, and talked a lot. Like Young, she likes to travel, she's studying English, she seems very nice, and she's pretty enough. When Mrs. Lee said she'd like to find a boyfriend for her (by the way, her English name is Sun), I immediately thought of Young. Matchmaking is a still strong Korean tradition, so this didn't seem odd at all.
So we arranged to go out for coffee again the next night, and I invited Young to join us. He was very pleased to be included. It seemed to go well. Most of the conversation was in Korean, with Mrs. Lee occasionally translating for me. It was kind of funny, because Young usually has no problem talking to me in English, but that night he would speak in Korean and look to Mrs. Lee to translate. She finally reminded him that he could talk to me himself.
I wouldn't say Young and Sun hit it off big time, but they seemed to get along OK. Young didn't know that he was being set up, but Sun did. After we finished our coffee (and you know it's tea for me when we go out), Young asked me to go in his car. I had left some stuff in Mrs. Lee's car and said I had to get it, and he misunderstood and said goodbye. So I went with Mrs. Lee after all. It's just as well. I'd had enough socializing for right then, and just wanted to go home.
Well, later that night Young called up, and said that he had wanted to take me out to dinner, but since I didn't go with him he'd had a hamburger and was shopping, and could he call me later. I told him OK (what else would I do?), so he called again when he got home, and told me about his grocery shopping. He's got to be lonely big time.
Anyhow, after we got off the subject of groceries, I asked him what he thought of Sun. He seemed fairly non-committal at first, but sounded more interested after I mentioned that she was single. He'd thought she was married.
I'm surprised that didn't come up in the conversation. Seems like the first two things I always get asked when I meet someone new are "How old are you?" and "Are you married?" That shows the disadvantage of not being able to follow the conversation.
This morning he seemed like he was going to ask me out again, but I mentioned that I was busy Saturday. So nothing there.
I'll have to get the 4 of us together again soon, and see what happens. I like Young, and I don't object to spending time with him, but I'd feel better about it if he had other female friends too (dare I even say "a girlfriend?").
I went to Sogumgang again today, this time with 2 of my college age students, Christine and GoodSpeed. We took the bus, since none of us drives. That's good, because now I know how to get there on my own when I want to.
We walked up to the waterfall and played there for a while, then sat and talked before we came back. So there wasn't anything new, but it was a very nice time.
I had fun watching the people. A lot of them swim in the pool under the waterfall, or sit in the fall itself, but you can't sit there too long. It's a popular place to pose for pictures, and when Christine and GoodSpeed wanted me to take their picture there, we had to stand in line to do it. The rocks are pretty slippery there, and I fell in once, but fortunately the camera didn't get wet.
You know how Koreans are about shoes, but it seems like anything goes in the river. Some people take off their shoes while they play on the rocks, some only take them off when they go in the water, and quite a few wade with their shoes on.
After we got back into town we went and got something to eat. I'll never be able to find the place again -- it was down about 3 alleys. The restaurant wasn't much to look at, but the food was good.
I got to try all new things. One was ttok in spicy red sauce, good but a little hot. Another was odang (a Japanese dish, but all over Korea now) -- it's a pressed fish cake that's boiled and served in its broth. There was sweet and sour something, but I never quite figured out what. And the final dish was a combination of several batter-fried things.There were squid, sweet potato, and clear noodles rolled in kim (seaweed, like the outer wrapper on sushi). Apparently this is normally served with the spicy red sauce, but Christine and GoodSpeed ordered it without so I could eat it better. I was given a dish of soy sauce and sesame seeds to dip it in instead. Christine and GoodSpeed dipped theirs in the leftover sauce from the ttok.
I'm really starting to worry about Young. He called last night, a little after midnight. Actually he tried to call earlier, but I was in bed and didn't want to get up to answer the phone. It was only on his third try that I gave up and answered it. He'd been out drinking, which is nothing unusual in Korea, and I'm still not sure why he was apologizing to me about it. Then he said he was near work, and wasn't sure if he should drive home. Did I have a driver's license, he asked. No, not in Korea, and I couldn't see much point in my taking a cab out there, so I suggested he just take a cab home.
He called again after he got home, but I didn't ask how he got there. Maybe I should have. I'm a little curious now. He said he had tried to call earlier, but my line was busy. Good thing too, or I'd have had to have come up with a good reason why I didn't want to go out.
It's not that I have anything against going out with Young, but I just wasn't in the mood yesterday, and I'm also hesitant to encourage him too much. He says it's just a student-teacher relationship, but he's the only student who calls me up so much.
Well, he's going out of town on a business trip for 3 days, so maybe I can set up a date for him and me and Mrs. Lee and Sun to celebrate his return. With any luck, I'll get Mrs. Lee to sit next to me this time, so he can sit next to Sun.
By the way, GoodSpeed's dog had puppies today. She was still having them when GoodSpeed left this morning, so I don't know how many she had. Her dog is a traditional Korean dog which I believe is called Chindo-dog. I hope I get to see the puppies sometime.
Today's lesson at the electric company started off with a pie chart of spending habits in the United States. So we did a comparison between that and spending habits in Korea. This was all in percentages, so it was all rough guesses on the part of the people, and I didn't write down the numbers, so I don't know if anyone really totaled out to 100% or not. But I was pretty surprised at what I learned.
Quite a few people in the class spend nothing on housing, because they live in company dormitories. Food runs 10-15%, clothing 10-15%, entertainment 10-15% (do you sense a trend here?), health and personal care maybe 5-10%, savings about 40%. Could you imagine being able to save 40% of your income?
One out-of-pocket expense that we don't necessarily have in the US is education. It costs about $150 a month to send your children to public school. Now the guy who said that has 2 kids, so I assume that's for both of them, so about $75 per month per kid.
I went to Kyongpo again on Saturday. I was planning to go alone and look at all the tourist things, but Young called up to see what I was doing and wanted to go along. We had fun walking up the beach. It was actually cool enough for a change that I didn't feel the need to go swimming.
Young made the comment that he'd like to try boating on the sea, and I mentioned about the motorboat rides. Next thing I knew we were putting on life jackets and climbing in. This ride was actually a little tamer than the last one, but Young admitted afterwards that it scared him a little. He said it was because he doesn't swim very well. We watched the bungee jumpers, and both agreed that wasn't for us.
Kyongpo changes a lot during peak season. Tents spring up everywhere. It seems like anyone who owns a patch of land near the beach rents it out to campers. Nothing fancy, just a porta-john or two and a water spigot if you're lucky and tents put up smack next to each other in a field or harvested garden.
Men tend not to use the porta-johns much. If you see a man standing with his back to the road, you pretty much know what he's doing. As Mrs. Lee put it today when we saw someone along the highway, "There's a man over there excusing himself!" She blames her time in the US for making her shocked by it. Apparently women do it too, but they're a little more discreet.
After wandering the beach, we went to the Chamsori Museum. Chamsori means "true sound," and the museum is one person's audio collection. Along with collecting audio, he also collects Edison's inventions, and Edison memorabilia.
It was really pretty neat. The guy has traveled to 600 countries collecting his stuff. It's entirely a private collection, and he doesn't have a proper museum for it, so it's in 3 different buildings in an apartment complex. There are lots of old gramophones and music boxes; some orchestrions, or mechanical orchestras; several of Thomas Edison's inventions, some of which are the originals; and a great collection of light bulbs.
There were guides in the rooms, and Young was able to tell me some of what they said. Apparently the filaments in the early light bulbs were made of bamboo. [The bamboo was baked to carbonize it, so that it would conduct electricity. -ed] There was an old electric gramophone that still had the glass battery attached. Just tons of stuff. Apparently he can only display about 10% of it.
What was best about the place is that they actually played some of the things. They lit some of the light bulbs too. At the end they had us all troop upstairs and we watched a couple of music videos on a large screen TV. I didn't quite understand the point of that, unless it was to show us where it all led.
Because I was still trying to get Young interested in some other women besides just me, I had called Annie, and arranged for her to meet us at the Hyundai Hotel Cafe. We had a nice visit together, and Young did seem quite taken with Annie. She's 10 years older than he, so I doubt if a boyfriend/girlfriend thing will happen, but he did like her a lot.
He also liked the cafe a lot. He was a little nervous about going in because he wasn't all dressed up, and I think he expected the coffee to be about 10,000 won per cup, but when they sat us down with no problem and he saw that the prices were about the same as anywhere else he relaxed and enjoyed himself.
We got there before Annie, and I was telling him a little bit about her. He thought it was pretty funny that all the women I've introduced him to were older than he, and I had to admit that all the women I know are either in their 40s or in their 20s. At 37, he's exactly the wrong age. He decided that older women are OK though, because they give good advice. Like older sisters. I'm rather happy to have older sister status. It's quite a relief. He started off by saying like mothers or older sisters, but I stamped out the mother part really fast. I'm not that much older than he is!
Kangnung has been in a drought, with no rain for a month. So about 3 days ago the mayor prayed for rain. It worked. It started raining last night, good and hard, and kept it up until about 4:00 this afternoon.
There are several possible explanations for the rain.
Take your pick.