Friday, February 25, 2011

Dual Citizenship

Dual citizenship paperwork... finally completed today (with lots and lots and lots of assistance from Dae-won and GOAL -- thankyouthankyouthankyou).

So, I went with Dae-won and another adoptee to the Seoul Refugee office (yeah, that's really what it's called) to submit all the paperwork. Went smoothly without a hitch. Actually, I kind of lucked out with my government official -- she seemed like she wanted to get through the paperwork as quickly as possible and get back to her nap. Ha.

Anyway, I'm told they will have some sort of an official ceremony to grant the first adoptee group (which includes me) their citizenship mid-May. W00T! Then the fun will begin with having a dual identity... the Korean government requires that my Korean passport have my Korean name, and obviously my American passport has my English name. So there should be fun times ahead at the airport trying to explain why I have two different country's passports with two different names. I foresee exciting times in the immigration office in my future. :)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Different strokes

Today we graduated from Sogang Level 3. Whew.

Mark and I have been having some discussions lately about what we should do next. We want to return to the States in May or June. So with 3(ish) months left in Korea, we've been trying to decide our final "learn as much Korean as we can" game plan.

And today, it finally came to be that our paths will diverge.

Two weeks ago, Mark decided that the best way for him to learn is through language exchanges, supplementary material, and self-studying Korean. Sogang was good for getting him started, but now he wants more "real life" conversational practice. And once he made that decision, he signed up for an awesome language exchange website, Conversation Exchange, met several great Korean people, and never looked back.

I, on the other hand, have been waffling back and forth. I originally thought I'd follow the same path as Mark. For one thing, it'd be cheaper than paying another semester of tuition (especially since I only could qualify for one free semester on scholarship from InKAS). So I met with one girl. And then I freaked out about exams and cancelled the rest of the scheduled meetings so I could study instead.

So for our language exchange scorecards so far, they read: Mark: 6+... Me: 1. Uh, not cutting it.

Today after graduation, Mark and I had a talk which resulted in me creating a pro-con list. Basically, based on my personality, I've concluded need the structure of a classroom setting with tests to keep me focused, and set curriculum that will push me.

So I will continue on to Sogang Level 4. And Mark will seek "real world" learning through Korean friends and self-study. I'm going to miss having him in the program, and talking about different lessons and tests, but based on our learning styles, I think this is the best way for us to reach our joint goal of learning to speak Korean. So, here we go..... ::deep breaths::

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How will you eat KIMCHI?

Remember way back before we ever came to Korea when we found the Korean restaurant? I remember being so proud of ourselves.

Well, last weekend we went to lunch with Birth Father, SangKwun, ChunPing, my aunt, uncle, and cousin. While I was off getting everyone coffee, Mark told me that Birth Father was asking how we would be able to eat Korean food when we go back to the States. (Because God forbid our diet should lack kimchi... haha, actually I have a feeling I will be totally craving it.)

He said that the Korean restaurant in St. Louis is 맛없어요... not delicious. But then he said he noticed there was a Korean market next to the restaurant that had everything we would need. So he told Mark that he needed to learn how to cook Korean food for me.

YESSSS... even with the language barrier Birth Father fully understands how our relationship works. Mark cooks... I eat. Truly the perfect marriage. :)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Little Valentine's day treats from home are the best!


Mark and I celebrated totally "Korean-style" today. I got him chocolate and took him to his favorite lunch -- sushi -- something he normally has to drag me to. In Korea, Valentine's Day is all about the boys and white day (March 14) is all about the girls.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Today is officially Korean New Year, or 설날. Birth Father couldn't come in town, but SangKwun and Emily are here. To celebrate, the 4 of us went to Ansan (안산), about an hour outside Seoul, to my 큰 아버지 (or oldest uncle's) house. Before I've kind of commented that my family doesn't seem overly traditional... but this was, by far, the most traditional Korean get-together I've experienced since being here. At Sogang we've learned about Korean 설날 traditions, and we got to experience every single one first-hand. Amazing.

The first difference between Korean holidays and American holidays is the amount of time spent with the family. In American, you get together, eat, hang out a bit and call it a night. (At least my family does.) But in Korea, the family time is looong. Like, we arrived yesterday around 2, and didn't leave until today at 2. Yep, the entire family of 14 spent the night in this 3 bedroom apartment. Talk about getting close quickly.

When we first arrived, it was apparent there was a guys side and a girls side. The guys side had an abundance of beer, fried chicken, and some sort of Korean wrestling on TV.


And the women's side had lots and lots of traditional snacks to prepare. (Our teachers have told us that women tend to hate the holidays because it's so much work. And it really is, the women prepared all the meals, washed the dishes, and basically waited on the men from start to finish. Meanwhile, the men, drank, watched TV, and played games. Something doesn't seem right with this picture...)


First, we made these snacks out of ham, veggies, and crab meat. I was in charge of flouring each piece before it was placed in egg, then fried.


TaDaaa... the finished product. They were delicious.


Next up was shaping these little tofu, meat, and veggie patties. These were also floured, dunked in eggs, and fried.


I didn't get a picture, but lastly we fried some sort of fish in the flour and egg batter.

After we finished, we had a dinner and then played games. The games included all sorts of feats of strength, like who could do the most pull-ups. (Obviously not me. And the bar was too short for Mark.) Then was some good-old fashioned arm wrestling.

The Koreans were all very excited when my cousin beat Markuh... the American.


I am proud to say that I beat my college-aged cousin, but then was soundly defeated by my 16 year old cousin. Ouch.


Then we played the traditional game of 윷노리. This game is kind of like sorry, but instead of dice, you have to throw sticks. It's actually a lot of fun. And even more fun when the uncles sweetened the pot with a 120,000 won (~$120) prize for the winners.

Here was the homemade board with the potential winnings by the side.


You basically just throw the sticks. And the number that land face up decide how many spaces you get to go.


We played two games... my team won one game and Mark's team one once!!! Olleh! :)

After that, it was more snacking and talking and then time for bed.

The next morning, we were woken up at 7 by a loud "일어나!" (or "GET UP") from 큰 아버지 (my oldest uncle). It was time for 새배, or honoring the ancestors.

Basically, a table is filled with food and two places are set for the Grandmother and Grandfather. My family also set a little table to the side with food for the "house spirits." (I hate ghosts and that thought kind of freaked me out to be honest.)


Then, the male cousins (including Mark) went and bowed in front of the table, poured alcohol for the grandparents, and touched three pieces of food for the grandparents to eat.


Then we all bowed twice in front of the table. My 큰 아버지, oldest uncle, even wore his hanbok.


Then we bowed to our aunts and uncles, wished them lots of luck in the New Year, and received money. Normally only children get money for bowing, but I think they made an exception for us.

Then we the food from the table, as well as 떡국, the traditional rice cake soup. It's believed that when you eat this soup on the New Year you turn a year older. So because I ate it, I turned Korean age 31. Ouch. At least it tasted good...


After lunch, we hung out more, played a Korean version of monopoly with my cousins, and finally headed out. But not before taking this family pic.


Happy New Year to everyone! Hope you were able to ring in the Lunar New Year in your own little way, even if it was just ordering Chinese food and eating fortune cookies. :)