Saturday, June 26, 2010

Spice discrimination

Today Mark and I were out and decided to stop at a noodle restaurant for some 비빔국수 (bibim guksu). It's basically a cold spicy red noodle soup. As we were eating it, I felt my lips and tongue tingling and broke out into a serious sweat. Meanwhile, Mark was happily chowing down on his bowl.

I asked him several times if he thought it was pretty spicy, and he kept saying, "No, it's good."

"Sheesh, I thought I'd gotten pretty good at eating spicy food, but Mark's STILL kicking my butt." I thought to myself. About 5 bites in, my entire face felt like it was lit on fire and I had to stop.

Once he finished his bowl, Mark leaned over and helped himself to my bowl. He immediately said, "Woah, this is a lot more spicy than mine was..."

So apparently the restaurant had taken it easy on the spiciness for the white guy and amped it up for the Korean...

Meanwhile, I'm just happy to know that Mark isn't better than I am at eating spicy Korean food. :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

순천 (Suncheon City) Trip with Kerry and Ryun

Last weekend, we took a trip to Suncheon in the southwest part of Korea. It's about a 5 hour ride from Seoul. Our friend Kerry's hometown is located there, so she invited us to stay in her family's apartment for the weekend.

Kerry kept referring to Suncheon as the "country" so we were expecting farms and pigs. But really, it's a pretty big, urban area. It seemed to me like it was bigger than St. Louis city. Her family has a home in a high rise apartment building.

Here's a shot of us the first night hanging out there... me, Kerry, and Ryun. Ryun is Kerry's boyfriend and a Korean American. He is basically fluent in Korean so you can imagine how jealous I am. :)


We've seen many things locked up (and surprisingly not locked up) around Korea. But Mark thought this little kid's scooter locked to the railing was so hilarious. It actually was... because the scooter looked like it'd been around since 1962. I think the bike lock would probably cost more than the scooter.


The next day, we met some of Kerry's friends. Here Kerry is with her best friend and her boyfriend. Her best friend was so sweet... before we came to Korea, we would hear about how hospitable Koreans can be, and we definitely saw this this weekend. Kerry's friends wouldn't let us pay for any meals.


After lunch, they took us sightseeing to an eco-park. It was basically a marsh with a walking path through it. We could see all sorts of critters... little crabs, slugs, and bugs in the mud.


Here's the group walking on the path. As you can see, the scenery was absolutely gorgeous. It really was nice to get out of Seoul and breathe the fresh air for the weekend.


This is one of my favorite pics Mark took from the trip. So pretty!


Next, they took us to a beach. Unfortunately, it was a rocky beach, so there wasn't any sand... but Mark and Ryun had a lot of fun competing in the game "who can pick up big rocks and throw them further."


Then that night, we met up with the rest of Kerry's friends. Kerry is super-animated and outgoing and it was so funny that all of her friends are the exact same as her! Here's the group shot at the Nolaebang.


The next day we met the whole group at one of the coolest restaurants I've ever been in. There was a little lake with fountains in the middle, and the restaurant wrapped around it. The walls were entirely glass, so we spent the entire meal looking at this:


After lunch, we all went to "the valley" to hang out. It is basically a little creek with rocks. We spent time hanging out on the rocks and chatting (as much as we could with my limited Korean and their limited English). These girls got vicious throwing each other in the creek though! At one point two girls were fighting and one had the other's head and was dunking it face first in the stream. Not sure if I'd have any friends back home left if I tried that on a float trip... :)


Here's a last shot of Mark and me...


All in all, it was a really fun weekend and a nice change of pace from the hectic Seoul lifestyle. Hopefully we can squeeze in a few more weekend trips like this. Anyone else have any little weekend getaways planned?

This is what it's all about...

Tonight ranks up there as one of my favorite nights here. I had my first actual conversation with Birth Father! You should've seen his face when I was asking him questions and answering his questions appropriately... ear to ear smiles. (I am pretty sure I was looking the same way.) Granted our conversation was nothing deep or earth shattering, but being able to ask tell him how our classes are going, what we did last weekend, and find out how he's been lately was a.m.a.z.i.n.g.

It's actually perfect timing because this morning I was complaining to Mark that I don't feel like I've made much progress. But then dinner tonight happened and I'm feeling so much more confident that all the studying and practicing is paying off. Three weeks into class, and seeing these kind of results... WOW!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Flash Cards and Football

Now that we've completed a full week of class, we've pretty much fallen into a normal daily routine. Not that being off work for a full 3 months wasn't nice, but both of us really prefer to have a purpose to our days. Our schedule is still pretty relaxed since I have haven't started working in the evenings yet. I have a feeling once all of that starts up, it'll be a lot more hectic and I may find myself missing my 3 months of laziness.

But right now, our schedule of going to class from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., stopping for a quick lunch, and heading back home to these lovelies is working out pretty well.


Yeah, our lives right now are pretty much consumed by flash cards. We're memorizing about 25 to 50 new words a day, so we're flying through these guys. Good thing there's a school supply shop right around the corner.

Actually, the classes haven't been too bad so far... but a lot of what we're doing has been review. We actually just started the actual Chapter 1 on Friday -- before that we spent 5 days on the "getting ready" chapters and a review day. And can I say that review days (at least the one we had so far) are a blast? At our last review day, we played charades, telephone, and more. Sounds cheesy, but it was a great way to make sure we really knew all the vocabulary and concepts. We're going to have one after every 2 chapters -- so every 5th day -- so those'll definitely be days to look forward to.

Since our schedule is still not that tough, last Wednesday we went back to visit the kids at Poly. It's crazy how much we've both found ourselves missing them! I was a little bit nervous that they wouldn't remember me, but I think my friend Kerry did a good job getting them excited for our arrival because they were absolutely adorable.


They were so funny when they found our we're learning Korean... they started shouting out Korean words and asking us if we knew what they meant. And more than anything, they LOVED that at our Korean school, one of our rules is... "Don't speak English."

Mark's students seemed pretty pumped that their human jungle gym had returned. There was literally a mob of kiddos climbing on him in the library.

Finally, World Cup mania has struck Korea. I never really watched it before, but last night we went to a bar with some friends to watch Korea versus Greece and the excitement was infectious.

Here I am in my Korean jersey...


Here are Mark and me... Mark got a jersey also, but claimed it was too small at the last minute. Booo... I'll have to get a picture of him wearing it at the next game...


Finally, here's the group with our tequila shots to celebrate the second goal...


I know I'm a bandwagon soccer fan, but I'm definitely looking forward to the next month of World Cup games and celebrations! Shouting Korea!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Post Reunion Awkwardness

I've been debating with myself about this post because I don't want to seem whiny or like I'm complaining. I know a lot of adoptees are searching for their birth parents and are unable to find them... and I've been very lucky in how easy it's been for me to find and reunite with my birth family. However, I know I relied on blogs to learn more about Korea and birth family reunions, and there are some adoptees who read this blog. So, I think it's important to show both positives and negatives of life post-reunion. In addition, I'm also kind of hoping that someone reading this will be able to offer a different perspective or some advice...

I saw Birth Mother again last weekend with SangKwun and Emily. I'm not going to go into specific details of what happened, but let's just say this visit consisted of a nice dinner followed by an extremely awkward sleepover with massive communication barriers.

Here we are at dinner.



My relationship with my birth mother is more difficult than the one with my birth father. While we had a few cultural mishaps, my birth father mostly understood that I grew up in another culture and let our relationship build slowly. He mostly just tried to make sure we were fed and tried to show us different things around Korea. As I spent more time around him (albeit without much communication), I began feeling more comfortable just sitting and hanging out with him.

My birth mother, on the other hand, has bulldozed her way into this relationship and it's kind of repelling me. The first time I saw her, I was a tiny bit uncomfortable, but thought it was sweet that she was constantly trying to hold my hand and touch me. But every subsequent meeting has been more of the same. Her favorite position to take when I'm sitting in a chair is on the floor at my feet, while she continues to hold my hand or rub me while speaking to me repeatedly in Korean. It's just too much. I'm not an overly affectionate person, especially with people I don't know well.

I know Koreans are really into physical affection and when I see mothers and daughters out, they're always holding hands or rubbing each other's arms. But that's not my culture anymore and I don't really know her very well, much less see her as my mom.

I've been trying to look at it from her point of view... she carried me for 9 months and cared for me for about a year... so she probably feels those same maternal instincts toward me. Additionally, she can't communicate with me, so probably sees this as the only way to show affection. It's really pretty sad for her... she remembers me and wants to show love for me, whereas she's a virtual stranger to me. I can completely sympathize with her. But at the same time, I'm feeling really uncomfortable around her and (I hate to say this), but dreading our next visit...

Does anyone have any advice about how to deal with this situation? I don't want to push her or her hand away... because that could be taken the entirely wrong way. But I don't want to feel awkward every time I'm around her, either... I'm hoping once I can communicate with her in Korean, she will express herself though words instead of actions... but until then???

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sogang KLEC: First Impressions

We've successfully survived two days of school at Sogang's Korean Language Education Center!

Here's the entrance to the University:

Sogang Entrance

And here's the sign in Korean (of course!):

Sogang Sign

The classes? So far, so good. A lot of what we've been going over these last couple days is review... but we're doing tons of speaking and practicing, which is really helping with my pronunciation. Yeah, saying things into a computer on Rosetta Stone doesn't compare to having a real live teacher critiquing my words.

Speaking of our teachers, we've got 3 really fun, dynamic teachers. They do a great job getting us all involved and interested in what they're saying... even though it's all in Korean. Our class is really international. There are: 2 people from Japan, 1 from Chile, 1 from France, 2 from Taiwan, and 4 Americans. (Eventually I'll try to take some pics of our teachers/classmates, I just haven't really worked up the nerve to be that weirdo with a camera yet. Haha.)

Our days start at 9am with a writing class. Then after a 10 minute break, at 10am, we begin the speaking class. The speaking class goes for a whopping hour and 40 minutes with a 20 minute break in the middle. Finally, we wrap up the day with a 50 minute reading and listening class. It sounds like a really long time, but the teachers are great about throwing in a mixture of hands-on activities, desk-work, and group work. We actually do a lot of circulating around the room and practicing skills with our classmates.

You can actually even tell how much the class centers around conversation by how the room is set up!

Sogang Classroom

Anyway, if we put in the work, this program really does seem like one that'll work in getting us speaking the language, which is my main goal. It looks like we're going to have to do some major studying though... we got the syllabus and it looks like we're going to be flying! As in, we start a new chapter with new vocabulary, grammar, and themes every two days!

It's not going to be easy, but one of our classmates was telling us he has a friend in the program who is now a level 3... which is basically means she's on her 3rd 10-week session. And he said at this point she can speak to anyone, anywhere... oohhhhh I can't wait!!!!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


This time in Korea, we're staying at my Birth Father's apartment. It's working out great -- there's a lot more room and he and SangKwun are hardly ever even in Korea so we basically have this 3 bedroom/2 bathroom place to ourselves. The only downside is that it's on the opposite of Seoul from where we used to live. And at least 45 minutes away from all the places we used to go... but we're spending our time here exploring our new neighborhood and discovering new, fun places to go.

Here's a little visual aid...


If anyone wants to send us mail... our address is:


You can put our name on the top and probably just print the address off. I would definitely include the Korean, because I'm not really sure what all the "singu paskabil" stuff is and if I even spelled it correctly. Can't wait to get some mail (hint hint...). Haha.