Chuseok, Taeyang Concert Pictures

The Great Baekjae Festival, near my town of Nonsan.

Making sungpyeon with my coteacher.

Chuseok morning jae-sa (offering of food to the ancestors)

My little Chuseok buddies

Yeaaaah Taeyang solo concert!!


Day 446 - Chuseok

Last year, after anticipating a full Chuseok experience, I ended up spending it alone, eating some macaroni and cheese from my American-food-stash and watching Indiana Jones on TV. Not exactly what I expected when I signed up for a homestay experience.

This year, I had the full experience and then some. I don't have my camera cord here but when I do there will be lots of pictures. The summary:

--Day Before Chuseok--
I headed up to Daejeon to meet Mrs Soh, my coteacher. She invited me to spend Chuseok with her family when she heard that I had no plans for the holiday. I met her mother in law and sisters in law and we had a girls-having-to-cook-for-chuseok-while-dudes-do-nothing lunch before heading off to the hanbok (Korean traditional dress) store. We looked around there, they tried a few on, and placed orders. At night, Mrs Soh and I went to her side of the family, with whom we made sunpyeon, traditional Chuseok rice cake shaped like half-moons.

We woke up insanely early to go back to Mrs Soh's mother-in-law's, where the entire family gathered to perform the ancestor rites. I ended up in my usual role of Entertainment, answering a lot of questions about America, my impressions of Korea, etc. We ate the food initially offered to the ancestors, then I was off with one of the uncle's family to the countryside. We stopped in with his wife's mother (so Mrs Soh's brother's wife's mother) and the family clan gathered there. We roasted some black pig and ate it outside in the little courtyard of the old-time house. After, I met up with Mrs Soh again, said goodbye to her side of the family (with whom I made the sunpyeon) and went back home.

It was a long, exhausting day, but I got to experience so many things I've only studied in books. Pictures to come.


Day 439 - Happy Proposal Day!


Today is Proposal Day in Korea because 100 days from now is Christmas. So if you start dating today or get engaged or get married, your 100 day (baek-il), will fall on Christmas, which is just a December Valentine's Day in Korea.

So, happy Proposal Day!


Day 435 - TOPIK and DY in America


it kicked my ass but it is done. that is all I'm going to say about that.


I thought he was joking or, at the very least, being optimistic when DY told me a few months ago that he'd be visiting America. He has a tendency to take "maybe" ideas or suggestions and repeat them as solid facts (not just him, a lot of Koreans do that). So when he reported to me that the Korean Army would be sending him to America for a week-long English camp in Florida, I laughed and just said, "That's nice, dear."

But he's on the train now, packed and headed for the air port. So I guess he showed me, huh?

He'll be in Florida for the week taking English classes and doing Q&A about the Korean Army with some Florida State students. I'm so excited that he'll get to see my country, but I'm kind of disappointed that I won't be there to show him around and see him experience all the things I call "familiar". There will be so many instances where my constant "In America, we don't..." or "In America, we have..." comments will suddenly become very true for him so I wish I could've been there for it.

The past week or so, I've been helping him prep for his week in the US. Reminding him that,

"IN AMERICA, WE" tip waiters and waitresses.
"IN AMERICA, WE" don't have delivery food like Korea, only pizza or Chinese.
"IN AMERICA, WE" don't wear all our clothes at the beach. Pack a swimsuit so you don't look like a massive FOB.
"IN AMERICA, WE" don't have good public transportation, so you may not be able to go to Orlando and the theme parks there even though it *looks* close on a map.

As he left this morning, I kind of felt like a mom sending her kid off to camp for the first time. "Did you remember to pack a swimsuit?! Do you need some money? You're only there for a week so if the other guys bring kimchi and ramen, DON'T EAT IT!!"


Day 428 - Mistaken Identity

As a white-skinned English-speaker, it's pretty easy to peg me as a "foreigner". I've written before about children screaming "외국이다!" (It's a foreigner!) to their friends as I walk past and hanging out of bus windows to say "hellooooo!" from across the street. Just yesterday, I ordered some delivery food and completed the money-for-food swap at the door. As it shut, the delivery boy (probably a high school student or a recent graduate) called out in a timid voice, "Bye bye!"

However, for the first time ever, I fooled a Korean.

Being tight on money, DY offered to buy a few groceries for me when he went food shopping. Determined not to be too much of a burden, I ran around the place comparing prices and products with him. We carried the conversation in Korean and were still talking when we went up to the counter to check out. He was buying about 10 two-liter drinks, and after they were swiped, he asked me if I could help him carry them. I laughed and said, in Korean, "No thanks, besides, you're a soldier. It'll be good exercise for you. Have strength, soldier, you can do it!"

A little girl standing near me was listening to our verbal exchange. After a few thoughtful seconds, she looked at me with a curious expression and a shy smile. "한국 사람이에요?" (Are you Korean?)

The next day, DY and I went camping at this big park. The camping area was tent-to-tent packed with families taking their young children to the Great Outdoors. DY and I were speaking our Konglish mix of Korean and English -- about fifty-fifty of each. Jolie was with us, and she only knows Korean, so as I brushed my teeth at the big, stone public water fountain, I was telling Jolie to stop barking and sit. Again, a little girl was watching me, looking ALL too adorable with her giant toothbrush in one hand and a mouth full of toothpaste foam. "Can you turn the faucet on, please?" she asked me in Korean, without the usual pausing or hesitating that happens after most Koreans realize I'm white and therefore Not Korean.

Little things like that (mistaken identity, not little girls) make me feel like maybe my Korean is not so bad, that children assume I can understand them, despite what the Test of Proficiency in Korean tells me about my language ability.


Day 423 - Doors to Diplomacy Project and Jolie

This grant year, my big goal is "Legacy". Namely, I want to leave some kind of impression on Korea. To do so, I'm undertaking some projects in my town and my school.

In town, I'm trying to force my way into volunteer opportunities and open up a Korean-English language exchange group at the local university. I say "force" because a lot of the orphanages and disabled homes around here are really wary of a foreigner offering to help. Many foreigners here offering help are actually missionaries, whose help comes with evangelizing strings.

I've also just this week started a big project at the school with my TOEFL class, the US Department of State's "Doors to Diplomacy" project. It involves teams of 2-4 students making a website in English. I figured since this is an Internet high school where the students take classes in web design, construction, and English, it would be a good combo.


However, I found out today that a few students consulted the webpage construction teacher at school about some tips. So I guess it might all work out!

Then there's Jolie. When I went home to America, DY was lonely and decided to get a toy poodle. He named it Jolie, since he had just seen the movie "Salt" starring Angelina Jolie. He's thinking now that having a yappy dog that poops everywhere is not so fun and he's put her up for sale on his Army base's intranet. womp womp