On an unrelated note, it's probably about time I found out whether Korea sells Midol.
This week I've experienced emotions the way Ohio experiences weather - every extreme you can possibly imagine within the span of about thirty minutes. Feeling things is positively exhausting, and I'm sort of resenting God for not making me a robot. R2D2 never had this problem.
Anyway, I'm going to spare you all the depressing details and skip right through to the joyful moments. Don't worry; I'm not bottling up everything negative. I completely fell apart at church last night, crying, shaking, the whole nine yards, and I'm feeling a million times better now (Quick shout out to Kristen, who held my hand and listened to the melodramatic exaggerations of trouble I completely brought upon myself. God was showing off when he gave me you as a friend.)
I spent most of last weekend with Hana, who is easily one of my favorite people in all of Asia. Her parents invited me over for dinner at their, ahem, second home in the country, and I was beyond honored. It's a really big deal here for people to invite you into their homes, so being asked over for dinner was huge. Don't worry, America, I represented you well.
The whole way there, Hana was musing about what English her parents would try on me. They both know tons more English than I know Korean, but Hana said they were both really shy about talking to foreigners. When we arrived, Hana's dad threw the door open and declared, "Welcome to our home!" with a huge grin on his face. Hana nearly died laughing, and he looked so ridiculously proud of himself that I couldn't help but smile too. He presented me with some slippers to wear in the house and promptly disappeared.
Hana took me around for a tour, and oh my gosh is their house gorgeous. They only live there on the weekends, so I suppose that helps keep it tidy, but it looked like a model home. There were no knick-knacks anywhere, and they hardly had any pictures hanging up. There wasn't a single item out of place on any of the three floors, and I kind of felt like I needed to be more dressed up just to be there. And they had two of the biggest tvs I've ever seen in my life.
Dinner was served shortly after I got there. Hana's mom had been worrying all week about what to cook for me, and I tried to assure her that I would gladly try absolutely anything put in front of me. She was still really eager to please me, so she made all the foods Hana had told her that I liked, which I'm betting didn't really go together at all. Everything I eat feels 100% random (they serve pickles with pizza here, like as a side dish), so I didn't know any better, but I kind of wonder if our meal was the equivalent of having tuna casserole, pancakes, and cole slaw at the same time. Since the meal had been prepared for me, I loved everything on the table - especially the potato soup (remember this fact). Every time I'd finish my soup, Hana's dad would pop up out of his chair and refill my bowl. I'm pretty sure I ate a gallon of the stuff by the time the night was over. Additionally, about halfway through the meal, Hana remembered that I drink an embarrassing amount of water and told her parents about our restaurant excursions. Hana's dad took Hana's glass and gave it to me instead, then he slid the pitcher over in front of me with a huge smile on his face.
Hana worked as a translator to somebody super-fancy before she came to work at Gate, so she had no trouble keeping up conversation. It was so much fun talking to her parents; her mom is precious and soft-spoken, and her dad is hilarious. Out of nowhere, he would tell me that I'm beautiful, but then he'd point to Hana's mom and say, "but not as much as my wife." Hana's mom apologized that her English is "too broken for using," and she mainly just listened to the rest of us talk. Every once in a while, she'd lean over to Hana and whisper something. Hana always translated for me (despite the fact that her mom clearly didn't want me to know what she was saying), and it was always the same: "Are you sure she is American? She is too skinny!" Le sigh.
After dinner, Hana and I went to the basement to watch an English movie (hooray!). As soon as we got the movie started, Hana's mom appeared in the doorway and told Hana that we needed to come upstairs. We whined and moaned, having just made ourselves comfortable, but obliged. When we got to the top of the stairs, Hana's dad looked right at me and said, "You are VIP guest! No basement for you!" before heading off into the basement himself.
Hanging out with Hana's parents might have been one of my favorite nights in Korea thus far. True, her parents and I had a hard time making conversation, but the evening as a whole felt so ridiculously normal. I was curled up on a couch (I don't think I've been on a couch in over six weeks) watching a movie and eating snacks with my friend, and I felt so relaxed. I've had a lot of really fun adventures, but there's just something about having a sleepover at a friend's parents' house that makes me feel safe and happy.
In the morning, Hana's mom made breakfast and her dad set the table. This is what I found at my seat:
Yeah, that's two plastic jugs of milk, a bottle of juice, a pitcher of water, and three glasses. I couldn't stop laughing, but he just walked away like serving a guest every liquid in the refrigerator is standard practice. His jokes made me a little sad... they reminded me very much of my own daddy's sense of humor, and my daddy's a million miles away. Nevertheless, it was hysterical and the sentiment behind it was very kind.
Also, please note that there's a clear bowl sitting behind the drinks. That's a bowl of potato soup, made especially for my enjoyment since I had consumed so much of it at dinner. Hana's dad set the bowl in front of me like it was a crown jewel, and every time I'd finish what I had in my little bowl, he'd hop right up and refill it. I had four bowls of potato soup for breakfast, along with a million other things on the table. I think Hana's mom made it her personal mission to get me to look more properly American.
Hana and I packed up all of our things to head to Everland. On our way out the door, Hana's dad threw his arms out in the air and said, "I hope you will come back every day! You make my house smile!"
Note: This post is really, really long. Maybe you should go make yourself a snack and come back. I'll wait for you.
So, Everland. Everland is basically the Korean version of Disney World, so obviously I was excited out of my mind. We got there pretty soon after they opened, and Hana practically had us running to the roller coaster in the back of the park. When we got there, the line was hours and hours long, so we waited for a Q Pass (think Disney Fast Pass) so we could come back later and skip the line. Once our Q Passes were safely stowed in Hana's purse, we headed out to explore the park.
This place was so stinkin' cute it's not even funny.
We spent a whole day there, and I'm already kind of going cross-eyed from staring at my computer for so long, so you're going to only get the highlights.
I'm a pretty obvious foreigner. I'm way too tall, my clothes are ridiculously bright, and my hair is blond and curly as all get out. I've gotten used to all the attention, but Hana isn't at all. About once every hour, a bold little boy would run up to me and shout "helllllll-oooooo!" I'd smile and ask his name or how he was doing, and he'd respond either "good marning!" or "good ap-ter-noon!" depending solely on which was his favorite phrase, not at all on the time of day. I'd repeat it back to him, and he'd giggle uncontrollably and run back to his friends. This happens to me all the time, but Hana's never seen it before; every time it occurred, she'd just watch the exchange and shake her head. Finally, she asked me why my powers don't draw in any boys over the age of ten. Sweetheart, if I knew that, I wouldn't be paying for my own dinners all the time.
The roller coaster (which I affectionally called T-Money because it had the orange and red T on the side of it), was the absolute greatest roller coaster I've been on in my life. It has an 80-degree drop, and I read somewhere that it's the tallest roller coaster in the world. Hana was shaking almost the whole way up to it, and I thought she was going to throw up before it even started moving. By the end, I was bouncing in my seat, yelling "again! again!" and she had tears running down her face. She looked me right in the eye and said, very seriously, "Do you see how deep our friendship is?" I tilted my head to the side. "Again?" I thought her head might explode.
At the end of the night, we were both exhausted. Hana's parents had offered to pick us up and drive us back into Seoul, but we had to wait for them to fight through traffic to get to the gate. We sat down and talked about (what else?) boys and relationships, and she taught me about Korean boyfriends. Apparently, they all carry their girlfriends' bags. If they don't, she claimed, they're not a very good guy and not worth dating. I told her that in America, you can walk down the street with a couch strapped to your back, and it'd be a miracle if a guy offered to help. (Obviously I'm kidding here. I'm already planning a post about how much I miss chivalry in a culture where men are valued way above their stiletto-wearing counterparts.) We watched all the couples who walked by and assessed the state of their relationship based on whether the girl had ahold of her own purse. Also, I counted ELEVEN couples outfits. I'm pretty sure making fun of that particular fad will never get old.
Overall, the weekend was incredible. I have a ton more pictures that I'll eventually post on facebook, but I'm lazy tonight. :)
Before I go, I have one more thing I've been dying to post. My kids have "Good Neighbors" lessons once a week. The school provides powerpoints on random things about being a good human, from generosity to non-profits to interacting with people with disabilities. Last week, we learned about Braille, and my kids memorized the alphabet so fast it was disgusting. I resorted to writing Spanish sentences in Braille on the board just to try to trip them up, but to no avail. My kids are intellectual monsters and sometimes I'm afraid they'll realize they're infinitely smarter than their college-educated teacher and fully execute a well-designed coup. Actually, that'd be the greatest story ever and I kind of hope it happens.
So this week we learned ASL (side note, I think it's funny that I was supposed to teach the kids about American Sign Language, but the powerpoint never once mentioned Korean Sign Language. I mean, they have one too, and it's completely different. I feel like it deserves at least some attention.) I know a fair bit of ASL; I'm not nearly as good as I was junior year of college, but I'm certainly better than the tiny ones. I taught them the alphabet, their names, and some basic phrases. They looked a little like their muscles were spasming out of control, but we were laughing and having a great time. It took less than two seconds for me to decide I wanted to show them this:
Seriously, you have to watch that video or the rest of the post won't make a bit of sense. Also, how can you not watch? Stephen Torrence is hands down (hehe, get it? because he signs!) the cutest boy on the planet. My life mission is to find and marry him asap. For reals.
The first time the kids saw the video, they stared in awe. My signing is nowhere near as fast as his (nor am I as charming to watch), so they were completely blown out of the water by the whole thing. When it ended, they demanded to see it again. Okay-twist-my-arm... let's watch it five more times. By time class was over, the kids had picked up some of the signs and were starting to sing along. You don't even have to ask - here's the video:
(Note: I know it starts out slow, but I promise you that around the eighteen second mark,
your life is going to get infinitely better. Seriously.)
your life is going to get infinitely better. Seriously.)
No matter how many ups and downs I've had in my week, it's nearly impossible to throw myself a pity party when that's what I get to come to work to every single day. Yesterday during lunch, Brian climbed up in my lap and snuggled into me. Evelyn yelled over to him to tell him to come play with everyone else, but he shouted back, "I can't play right now. I'm sitting with Miss Nikki because she's my favorite girl."
That's joy, friends.
That's joy, friends.