Day 170 -- Coffee Friends

I really like doing work in coffee shops. I don't know if it's the caffeine or the soft artsy-music or the we're-too-good-for-you patrons, but I feel like I'm more productive in that environment. Unfortunately, Nonsan has a grand total of three coffee shops. Two of these lack that environment and serve their drinks in super-classy plastic cups, which leaves me with Coffee Flower, conveniently located just a few minutes' walk from my apartment.

I've been there a handful times, but this was the first in a few months. It was empty besides the barista and me--just the way I like it. I order my caffe latte (because I love the cute designs they make with the milk, today I got a heart), spread out my Daegu University application, and settle in.

A few minutes later, a boy walks in. He's clearly friends with the barista and they chat for a while. I keep my head down because I've totally procrastinated this application... it's due tomorrow. Oops? Then suddenly there's a piece of cheesecake in front of me and I look up to see the guy sitting on the other side of my table. "It's for you," he says by way of explanation. We chat for a while. He's a hotel management major (read: needs to know English) and wants to practice English with me.

It's pretty common to be bribed with things in exchange for a chance to English practice with a native speaker. We traded numbers--hey, the barista is his brother and having an "in" with the ONLY coffee shop in Nonsan is not a bad idea--and we'll probably meet up at Coffee Flower again in the future.

In a related topic, this is EXACTLY why I have to go to the gym every day and run. This morning, I woke up planning to cook myself some egg whites and oatmeal for a nice, healthy breakfast. Instead, host mom swoops in and gives me pizza. Then I get unnecessary cheesecake bribes which I must accept because you *don't* refuse food gifts in Korea. ...good excuse to eat cheesecake, right? ㅠㅠ (sad face in Korean)


Day 168 -- Daejeon Double Date and Class Contest Pizza Party


Sunday (yesterday) I met up with Sarah and her (Korean) boyfriend, YH, in Daejeon. The original plan was to have DH meet me there so we could all go out for dinner and a movie, but he was being whiny about the inclement weather. Note that it snowed MAYBE 1cm. (holla atcha New England--my province wouldn't know WHAT to do with that much snow)

I put Sarah on the phone after a bit and she convinced him to come and join us. It was nice to go on a real, traditional-American-style date, and it was even better to have another couple there. We did get a few curious looks, but I'd like to think that it's just because Sarah and I are foreigners, not because we were being judged as "global couples", as Koreans call interracial couples.

Before the movie, we had some time to kill and DH brought his Polaroid camera. He gave me the photo and told me to hang it by my desk at school. I think you could guess what all my students were obsessed with today.


Speaking of students! This semester, I held a stamp contest with all my classes. Each class had the opportunity to win stamps based on effort and behavior. Considering my favorite classes were the ones that participated the most enthusiastically but stayed respectful of me and their classmates, it's easy to guess who won...

Yes, you have seen these kids a lot. It's baby-bunny-Taeyang-look-alike's class, filled with the goofballs who stored their numbers as Husband, Soulmate, and Prince in my phone.

Me, "Soulmate", and "Prince" (aka baby-buny-Taeyang). So much love! and sugar cookies. Can we just pause to talk about Prince's hair? It was totally shaved as of a few months ago, but now it's growing back and it is SO FUZZY OMG.

These two kids are in one of my lowest level 1st year classes. They gave me so much trouble at the beginning of the year, but along the way I must've won them over. Now, they stop by in the afternoons (when they're not in detention) to fog up the glass and write love notes on my door. That's what the one boy is doing now--writing in a fogged-up part of the glass.

It's really sad I won't see them again until March... today, after the pizza party, Prince, Soulmate, and Husband were hanging out in the hallway while I blasted music and cleaned up the place. They walked in after a little pushing and shoving.

"Um... Lindsay... today, last class. Finishy. We meet in March. So long! Um... good-bye hug...?"

Awww, OF COURSE I will hug you! C'mere, you guys... d'aww...


Day 166 -- Short Shorts, Sleeveless Tee, and Other Guy REVEALED!

Yesterday at the gym, I was standing on a treadmill stretching while I tried to untangle my headphones. Sleeveless Tee came up to the machine next to mine and clears his throat to get my attention. I turn, and he's standing there with Short Shorts and Other Guy, forming a sort of half-circle around my treadmill.


I am totally shocked because they have NEVER actually approached me. Other Guy says hello a lot. Sleeveless Tee volunteered advice on my side bends the other day, but I'd never even heard a word from Short Shorts. We talk for a few minutes, then they start falling apart and tell me to go ahead and run.

So I run for maybe 20 minutes, then something moves quickly next me. I lose my stride and fumble a little but it's just Sleeveless Tee. "So, after you work out, do you want to go get some chicken and beer?" The expression on my face must've given it away, because he quickly adds, "With them! All of us. Four people." Okay, that sounds safe and not-date-y enough.

He comes up a few more times during my workout to remind me--11:30pm, outside the gym. Aparently the guys work for the place, that's why they're always there later in the day. They help close the gym down.

So we head over to a bar across the street and hang out for a few hours. It was so weird to finally meet them... you know, as opposed to staring at them in the reflection of a dark window...

Sleeveless Tee is Seong Yoong (I think?). He's a 21 year old hair stylist and was very interested in my "golden hair".

Other Guy is Jun. He's an architecture student at Konyang University and the youngest of the group at 20.

Short Shorts is Hoon. He's a 25 year old Nonsan townie, graduated from Konyang with a degree in economics. Surprisingly, despite looking and acting super masculine while he's working out, he is the biggest goofball of the group.

They told me that I should work out with them, so that's good. I've been wanting to get back into weight training, but I've been too intimidated since that area is ONLY DUDES and I already get enough looks for being foreign. They said they wanted to work out together and then go out after the gym sometimes, so hurray for having more friends in Nonsan!

p.s. -- thank goodness I deleted that creeper-cam shot of Short Shorts from my phone, because they were looking through the pictures on there to see my students, host fam, etc. CLOSE CALL.


Day 165 -- Making a Boyfriend, the Kdrama

It's Friday and it's cold and I have no plans, between the Nonsan best friend leaving for America and the boyfriend having night work. Also, dad joked with me today that, with all my free time, I could write a book. Therefore, I will cuddle up under a blanket with my HP mini and pound out an epic saga describing the soap opera (K-drama?) of how the boyfriend became the boyfriend. Buckle up and brace for a ridiculously over-dramatic, mushy, high school style story of love triangles, texting, and too-cute dates.

I. can anybody find me somebody to love?
II. you belong with me
III. can't fight this feeling
IV. hate that I love you
V. with you
VI. taking chances
VII. because of you

~ can anybody find me somebody to love? ~

*around two months ago*

I don't usually hang out with the foreigners in Nonsan. It's not that they're bad people, and it's not that I don't enjoy hanging out with them, it's just that I have a homestay so a lot of my time is spent with the family instead of with friends. When Jane* said the foreigners were going to meet up at a bar one Friday night when I was free, I took the chance to see everyone. I wasn't drinking--dieting to lose the rice weight--but I hung out with them, met some new faces, and enjoyed myself. We closed down the bar and then came the fateful decision: do we head home, or do we go down to another bar? We decided to stay out late, taking cabs down to a place I'd never heard of but would soon become The Hangout for Nonsan's foreigners.

설탕 수박. Seol-su. Melanie argued that it was a dance club, so it would be fun. Sure, why not? Except we get there and besides two boys sitting in the back and one kid dressed like a gangster, we're the only ones. Foreigner invasion begins. We drink (well, they drink, I didn't), we dance, it's a good time because there's basically no Koreans there to remind us that we're being obnoxious foreigners. I'm not as trashed as everyone else, so I sit down for a bit, texting a friend.

The night goes on, a group of Koreans come in and we're all dancing like fools together. I look in the back where the few tables are and Jane's making out with one of the boys from when we first got there. Strange for Korea, but not unusual for her.

Dory, another foreigner, approaches me while I'm dancing and says that he told that dude's friend he (the friend) could dance with any girl in the bar if he had the confidence to just ask. I roll my eyes at basically being pimped out--as one of the only single girls in the group--and flat out refuse without even a look in the corner.

And that was the first time we met.

*two days later*

Jane got the makeout boy's phone number and they texted all weekend. They decided to meet up a second time and bring friends. Jane brought me, JP brought two boys, DY and SC. As we're talking, I'm definitely feeling attracted to DY. He's bright, graduated with dual majors from the university not far from my apartment. He's ambitious, a career soldier co-piloting helicopters with the ROK Army. He's also attractive and has the best English of the group. I'm starting to think this pseudo double date has worked out pretty well for me.

Until Jane whispers that she has a thing for DY. Respectfully, I back out of the game. Besides, I dated a Korean boy about a year and a half ago and it ended pretty badly, so I'm in no rush to jump into another Korean relationship.

*two weeks later*

I'm in Daejeon and texting DY, telling him about the Christmas decorations hung around all the shops. I tell him how I'm starting to miss my family back home and hint that I wish I had a boyfriend for this time of year.

"Think of me as your boyfriend and your family," he replies. My heart skips a beat.

"Really?" I send back. Then there's a long pause.

"Haha" is all he replies. How non-committal is that.

JP texts soon after, saying "So, you and DY? Couple?"

"I don't know," is my honest answer.

"You should seriously consider it."

In the end, after a lot of round-about questioning, DY says he was just kidding and it was all a joke. Jerk.

A few months go by and we hang out with the crew several times a week. DY brings his Army friends to our meetings, the social circle grows to basically his entire office. We all text and call each other daily. Things are feeling pretty good for me. Except that it seems things with Jane and DY are working out. I never tell either about how I feel--I don't want things to get dramatic. Besides, it seems like DY honestly likes her. He gives her wake up calls, hangs out with her alone one-on-one. It's not my place to get between that. As a result, I end up hanging out with JP more and more, since we're the third wheels.

~ you belong with me ~

*29 november*

One day, Jane tells me that DY promised to kiss her the next time the two meet. In Korea, a kiss basically means you're dating. The next day, JP calls me up to hang out and go get something to eat. He picks me up, brings me to a bar. We're talking, and then DY walks in with another Army friend. Not particularly the person I want to see since I'm still trying to get over him, both for my sake and for Jane's sake.

I immediately start joking with him, asking him where Jane was and why wasn't she there with us. He starts pounding beers. I call Jane up and tell her where we are. We all have a few drinks, then head over to his apartment for a few more.

While we're there, JP, his Army friend, and I all start taunting him, telling him to kiss Jane. We refuse to leave until he's made good on his promise. He finally goes with her behind the corner and kisses her.

*02 december*

I decide that I'm close enough with the the boys to start calling him 오빠, "oppa", literally "big brother" but more loosely a term that girls use for males older than themselves who look out for them. DH and Jane have been hanging out a lot, but DY and I still text regularly enough that I decide I'll ask if I can use the less formal, more friendly Korean verb conjugation that I had been using with JP for a few weeks and the term "oppa".

"Sure, that's fine," he responds, "beautiful (little sister) Lindsay."

I'm not sure I understood the Korean, so I text back to ask if that word really is "beautiful".

"Yes, you're beautiful."

Ah, awkward. "Oh, I'm not beautiful! haha, I'm so short!"

"No, you're perfect."

"Um, thanks."

"What about me?" he says after a pause. Now things are really uncomfortable and the feelings I had buried start bubbling to the surface. You're smart and funny and caring and adorable--

"I can't say."

~ can't fight this feeling ~

*03 december*

I forgot about the previous day's conversation, and go about my daily business. Christmastime in Korea is pretty brutal to a single girl not going home for the holidays. In America, Christmas is all about family. In Korea, it's all about couples. It's practically Valentine's Day, but with more evergreens.

I get a text from DY. "What are you doing?"

"At the gym because there's cute boys. I need a boyfriend!"

"Boyfriend? Me me me me!"

Okay, we've been this route before. "You cannot trick me twice."

"No no, you don't understand me..." (he switches to English--oh man, now we're serious)

"Don't understand what?"

"[edited for grammar] I liked you from the first time we met, but you didn't like me, so I'm sad."

"Well, to be honest, I did like you."

"No, I don't think you do because you told me to kiss Jane."

"I thought you liked her."

"... So now?"

"I guess we'll see."

"Okay, I'm happy now. This is a secret. Thank you. This is really, really good."

*04 december*

He must've spent all day editing and re-editing, but I get an epic text message.

"Minji [my Korean name] ~ I wasn't joking yesterday. Because my English isn't as great as I'd like it to be, it's always hard looking through the dictionary creating phrases that I want but still not getting my thoughts delivered the exact way I want them to be understood. In this sense, Jane is only an English mentor and friend who helps me. But you're different."

He must've spent hours writing that. I reply, telling him that although I like him, I think it would be hard to have a relationship because I'm American, he's Korean, and there's too many cultural and languistic barriers, despite his decent English and my slowly improving Korean.

"But does that make any difference as long as we like each other? We may be American and Korean, but before that we're just human. And we share emotions."

~ hate that I love you ~

*07 december*

I decide to tell Jane about how things are progressing with DY. I find out that they kissed AGAIN on Saturday night, at the same time I was getting texts and calls from him that definitely did not make it seem as though he would be kissing other girls.

I tell him I'm extremely upset, that it turns out he's just like all the other Korean boys: just in it because he likes the exotic look of foreign women. I am so done.

Over the next few days, he contacts me like mad but I don't answer. He begs and begs that I just talk to him once, so he can try to at least be friends and correct the "misunderstanding". I cave and agree.

He calls me a few hours later but when I answer the phone, it's not his voice. It's... somebody speaking perfect English, no accent or anything. He formally introduces himself to me, explains that he's one of DY's soldiers, and that DY has asked him to try to clear up what DY couldn't himself due to language barriers. This soldier tells me how DY is caught in a difficult situation with Jane, especially since his English isn't good enough to tactfully maneuver this kind of social situation. He tells me how, for the past few days, DY has done nothing but stare out the window at the sky, not eating or sleeping well, drinking every night. He says that DY desperately wants a second chance to prove that he's not actually how I think he is, that he's different.

I ask this random guy if he, personally, thinks I should give DY a second chance, and he fervently agrees. Fine, he gets a second chance. But he's starting back at square one.

~ with you ~

The next few days, DY takes me out on date after date, dinner, drinks, the works. We hang out at his apartment, watching TV but mostly chatting. I could tell he'd be studying, judging the phrasing and vocabulary he was using and how he tried to only use English, despite the fact that I'm able to handle a reasonable amount of social Korean. One night, he struggles through explaining what had happened with Jane. How he felt trapped because she liked him, how he felt pressured by me and his friends to kiss her, how English was difficult when he was drunk and/or tired, which was when he was usually with her--late at night at a bar with the group. How he had misunderstood what she meant and how that misunderstanding turned into her thinking he wanted to kiss her. I don't think he was lying. Honestly, he seemed almost to the point of tears, between the frustration of trying to explain in English and thinking about the situation he was put in.

He drives me home that night and I try to distract him. We're talking about the music that's playing, the suddenly bitter cold temperatures in Nonsan, the beautiful Christmas decorations that've gone up recently. I realize that I really do like him.

*13 december*

We meet up after I spend the weekend in Gumi. We're talking more and he mentions a Korean word I don't understand. He tries to explain the meaning since neither of us have it in our dictionary. It's something like boyfriend and girlfriend, but it's not. I don't understand and I don't want to get myself into something I'll regret so I just say we'll talk about it later. "So... just friends?" he says. "For now, just friends."

He keeps asking me all night if I'm hungry. I'm not, so I tell him so. He keeps asking keeps asking keeps asking... at the end of the night, he lets me know that he's disappointed. Apparently, it's Korean custom to just say "yes, I'm hungry" after the second or third time the question is asked because it meant that he was hungry. Whatever, I'm not Korean, how am I supposed to know? I'm a little ticked at him.

~ taking chances ~

*14 december*

DY calls me numerous times during the day to confirm that we would be meeting that night after I'm done with school and he's home from work. Yes, yes, we're meeting. I just need to go to the gym first and run, so how's 8:45?. No, he says, it's not good manners to make him wait, I must meet him at 7. Absolutely not, I have to run and shower, 8:45. 7. 8:45. 7.

Fine, 8pm. He'll meet me outside the gym at 8pm.

7:55, he calls and asks if I can take a cab to his place at 8:10.

Omg, I am going to kill this kid. Whatever. whatever.

When I get to his place, I'm pretty ticked. I'm walking down the hallway and, for the first time, his apartment door is closed. He's down on the end so he usually just leaves it cracked when he knows he's having friends over. I knock. He doesn't answer right away. I am not in a mood for that.

Then he opens the door. He's not... okay, he's pretty fashion challenged. He makes strange wardrobe choices. He opens the door wearing a white tee shirt, black PT shorts, and a red apron. A red apron. Oh that's right, he was cooking me dinner.

I have never had anybody cook me surprise dinner.

He finished up the dokkbokki, transfers it to a bowl, and ushers me towards his bedroom. [[**NOTE FOR PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS READING THIS: No, nothing hanky panky happens--Korean apartments are just really small, so the bedroom triples as a place to sleep, a living area, and a dining area. Especially since in his case, he just eats off of a little Korean-style table, no dining table or anything.]]

Through the frosted glass sliding door, I can see the outline of colored lights in the dark bedroom. He didn't...

Oh yes, he did.

He pushes open the door. "Surprise."

He decorated his apartment for me, remembering on the drive home the other day I had mentioned how pretty all the Christmas decorations were. So that day, he got off of work half an hour early so that he could come home, decorate, and cook me dinner. That's why he wanted me over at 7pm. I feel kind of bad at this point.

He set out the little table with a bunch of things he'd already prepared, wine glasses, and a slice of cheesecake with three candles in it. "One for me, one for you, and one for our first Christmas." I've been told that boys from Seoul tend to be the hopeless romantic types, and it has been sooooo true in my experiences thus far. DY goes nuts for painfully sweet things like this.

"Oh! I forgot. Christmas present." He pulls out a small white bag, inside which is a red scarf. I pull it out and immediately the air is scented with...

"My... how do I say it..."

"Your cologne."

"Yes, so you won't forget me when you wear this."

We have dinner by Christmas tree light, and maybe it's not the same as ham dinner with family, maybe it's not even Christmas, but I felt pretty loved.

He walks me out to a taxi--no driving after drinking--being sure first to wrap his matching scarf around his neck and tells the cabbie my apartment. It's almost snowing, not even really flurrying, and before I leave he says, "When it first snow, we must meet. Korean tradition. Lovers must meet on first snow." Oh, the Konglish.

As I'm on my way home, the cabbie chuckles. "Your boyfriend?" He asks me.

"I hope," I respond.

About half an hour after I get home, as I'm lying in bed, he calls. "So... you're happy?"

"Yes, I'm happy."

"Good, I'm happy that you're happy. Do you know me better now?"

"Yes, I think so."



"Good... So... maybe... we are a couple now? Do you want me to be your boyfriend? Do we start counting now?" (Referring to the Korean dating custom of counting the days you're dating, because day 22, day 100, and day 200 are celebrated the way Americans celebrate 1 month, 6 month, etc)

So, yeah.

*16 december*

It snowed. Just a little bit. I didn't know because I was at Jane's holiday party, but on his way to her apartment, DY texted me to let me know it was snowing. Good thing we were meeting anyway. I checked and it was only really flurrying, not really snowing, so it didn't count to me. I left the party early because I had class the next day and the party was turning pretty wild. DY left with me to walk me home, despite SC and JP's complaints. As we were leaving, standing in the doorway, there comes a chorus of "Kiss! Kiss!"

We had accidentally stood underneath the as-yet-unused mistletoe. There's an awkward moment where our eyes meet, we both look away, and the crowd boo's us. We leave in a hurry.

Standing outside the apartment complex, there's another awkward moment. We make eye contact for a few seconds, then we both stutter good night and turn to walk away. I pause outside the door, thinking if I should go back and kiss him goodnight. I mean, he IS my boyfriend afterall. But I'm too shy.

He mentions later that he wishes we had kissed. I apologize for being too shy. He asks if I had wanted to kiss him. I say yes. He says to meet him outside his apartment complex. We awkwardly procrastinate for a while, but in the end, I got up the courage to do it. So, in uber-mushy-Korean-dating-tradition, our first kiss coincided with the first real snow of the season.

~because of you~

I don't know where things are going, but he's a really sweet guy and he's perfect for this moment. Being away from family for holidays and with so many friends going back to the States, it's perfect to have a guy who thinks the world of me. Despite that, he's realistic. He already talks about me returning to America, saying that he wants me to think back on Korea fondly and have wonderful memories of my time here. His new favorite English proverb that I've taught him is "Don't cross that bridge until you come to it" and that's kind of the philosophy we're dating under.

As for specifics--
His name is 도엽, "Doyup", pronounced like "do'yeob". Maybe you remember him being mentioned before. He's four years older than me, but he's self-confessed to being 19 mentally. He's really into Korea's "cute couple" culture and constantly complains that I limited him to only three pieces of couple wear. He's a gentleman, always making sure my every need is taken care of and he treats me very, very well.

I hope to get pictures, but our schedules are both really busy. I can promise you that the pictures will be painfully cute though.

don't know much about your life
don't know much about your world
but don't want to be alone tonight
on this planet they call earth

you don't know about my past
and I don't have a future figured out
and maybe this is going too fast
and maybe it's not meant to last

but what do you say to taking chances?


Day 161 -- The Boy

There is a boy. Specifically, a boyfriend.

It is official as of about 5 minutes ago. Maybe three weeks ago he confessed he liked me, and that began a lot of drama. Most of it ended last week and we have since been dating--not official boyfriend/girlfriend, but just going on dates--all of which lasted hours longer than originally planned and have been strictly

I am writing this now before changing into pajamas and getting ready for bed.

So yeah. I'll write a big long post tomorrow of the drama and "misunderstandings" and the cute things he did to make up for it. In the meantime, I will say that I have my first piece of couple wear. Matching scarves. He spritzed mine with his cologne so that I would think of him.

I think this deserves it's own tag, because "recreation" just doesn't really fit.


Day 149 -- Thanksgiving in Celsius, Pictorial Introductions


Thanksgiving. Korea doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving (duh) but I kind of really like the holiday, so when I found out my Thursday classes were all just watching movies upstairs (i.e. I had no class), I immediately rushed to the teachers' room to ask for the day off. I went grocery shopping less than an hour later, but later realized I had no idea how to cook Thanksgiving dinner.

Oh man, where to start...
Sae Yeob offers to help after dropping the bomb that some of his friends were coming over, so the dinner list was +3 unexpecteds. Oh, the straight perm.

I somehow managed to pull it off in the end: turkey (albeit deli turkey...), mashed potatoes, corn, and sweet potato casserole with marshmellows. Maybe a little unconventional, but those high school boys did so love the casserole. Mashed potatoes... not so much.
I also had a Thanksgiving in Seoul at the US Ambassador's residence (yeah, my program is pretty awesome). I actually sat right next to her--on the right hand side, no less--so that was cool.
Then we all kept it classy by hitting HongDae, the university club/bar scene in Seoul!

I talk about a lot of people on here but there's no pictures for most of them, so I will try to remedy that in the upcoming weeks.
THE Monday Class. I think I mentioned how they entered their own names into my cell phone, and now I receive texts from "husband", "soulmate", and "prince". If not, well, it happened. I think I've figured out who's who, but I'm not positive, so this is open to change.

Oh yessss, I definitely went creeper-cam here. I felt like everybody needed to meet Short Shorts, who ironically isn't wearing short shorts on this day. He's cute in a blurry, stalker-photo kind of way, right?