Mother Nature pulled a mean trick on us here on Daegu. It was hot and humid but we were used to it and surviving. Then it got nice and cool and we were ecstatic. We pulled out our jeans and sweaters and were living it up for two days. And then it got horribly humid again but this time it felt worse because we had enjoyed the fresh cool air. We basically felt like we were going to die yesterday and ended up with some pretty cranky kids as a result. I threw some shikhye (rice lemonade? It is sweet and refreshing) their way, along with their favorite Popsicles. Speaking of horrible humidity, we don't have an air conditioner here. Ok, we kind of do. I see one in Halmoni's apartment but it has never been on and isn't plugged in. We've been ok as we keep the windows open and normally have a nice breeze going on. Honestly, the worse part about the humidity is the laundry. It takes forever and a day for your clothes to dry when the air is dripping with water. It took two days for a load to dry once.
We wandered to Gyeongsan Sijang yesterday to kill some time before the girls had mutual. There was plenty of veggies, fruit and street food. (Oh-dang for dinner, hotteok for dessert.) Our best find was a resale shop as it was much less expensive than in downtown Daegu. We got a cute skirt, some shirts (one with a cute peter pan collar) and a dress for 10,000 won. The sister missionaries say there are tons of resale shops in the area but I only found the one so I'm looking forward to finding more! The girls are enjoying exploring the different styles in Korea. Forever 21 is Korean owned so it is a little bit like shopping there. The seem to have an abundance of midi skirts (don't worry, the mini skirt is everywhere, too!) and cute jumpers. The fanny pack is alive and kicking here but it is worn more as a cross body. Our family now has 3 fanny pack owners. Oh, dear. The couple tee is real and the girls love spotting it in the wild. Couple shoes, couple outfits, couple phone cases. Sadie Hawkins on a date. It's kind of sweet. I like Autumn's summary of couple tees. "It gives you something else to burn when you break up!"
Ooh. Halmoni comes today. (As in Chris' mom.) I am not quite sure how it will change the dynamics of our trip but we're excited for her to come. We will still go to school while she's here but we'll take days off here and there for things like going to Jeju Island! (Korea's Hawaii)
The local branch here has family home evening every Monday evening but we've been traveling so much that we've only got to go once. Tonight was a must because a very sweet Halapoji in the branch was teaching "well being exercises". Think Korean yoga/stretching. He has done these stretches everyday for 7 years and is pretty die hard about it. It was just us, the missionaries and another sister in the ward and boy did he give us a run for our money. There was one stretch in particular where this 75 year old man was almost in the splits and the put his nose to the ground. We all had our legs at about a 90 degree angle and couldn't get close to the ground. It was pretty impressive. Our new Korean word from the night? 보라 (bo-la) means something along the lines of "ok, you've tortured yourself enough in that position...let's move on. It seems like an important word. Tonight it was our favorite. This particular Halapoji is one of my favorites in the ward already. He is great at annunciation and reading with lots of feeling. This makes it so much easier for me to follow along as he reads and raises the odds of my picking up a few words. He also speaks with a lot of passion, which is probably why the annunciation happens. I appreciate it nonetheless.
My Korean class is only twice a week for an hour and a half so up to now I've been riding the bus with the kids and twiddling my thumbs for the time that I'm not in class. I study. I walk around the local market. I do a little bit of sightseeing. I just have to do it in 2 hour increments so I can come back and have lunch with them. Today we got brave and I left them after lunch. My theory was that their bus would be heading towards our home, making it less likely that they would get lost in the middle of Daegu. The scariest part? Chloe's unpredictable sense of direction. It's either really good or...really bad. I headed home pretty nervous but ultimately felt like they would get home safely. Halmoni and her friend were home so I got to practice a lot of Korean for a couple of hours. I think it went ok but I said "I don't understand" and "please say it again" a lot! I then got a text from Chris. He couldn't sleep. Apparently someone was more worried than I was about the girls! We talked for a while and when the girls finally walked through the door, Chris was relieved and went back to bed. I know this doesn't seem noteworthy, but with me winning the award for worry wart at our house, it was nice to have someone else be more concerned than me. Of course, it was only nice because the girls all got home safely. The local buses are used mainly by students, Halmonis and Halapojis. Because they are so commonly used for transportation, they feel so much safer than in the US. Everyone is also pretty mindful of the littles, especially Lilly. They give her their seat, pat her cheeks and call her cute. The seat is definitely the best part of the deal.
Calm you shall keep and yes hmm...the perfect shirt
While Chris was here, I slacked a lot on my Korean. It is so hard to settle for a meh translation when you can have someone tell you the exact meaning! There is also something intimidating in speaking Korean in front of Chris! Maybe it is his perfectionist side or that I know he will correct me? Anywho, with him back in the states, I've been speaking more as I kind of have to! Chris' uncle made plans with us to have dinner last night and even called me to make sure I knew which subway exit to get off on. I got off the phone, hopped on the subway and got to the station that we were supposed to meet at. It wasn't until we had waited for a little bit that I had this thought. Did he say to go to Jeongpyeong station or that they were at Jeongpyeong and would come to Sinmae station to meet us? The Korean sentence structure is kind of the opposits of English so I was suddenly doubting myself! I did what any potentially lost American would do. I found the nearest bakery and bought us treats so we could think clearly. Kidding. Before that, I messaged him. And he didn't respond. I finally got ahold of family and discovered that we were at the right place! Phew! Next time I am on the phone, I am going to be less quick to assume meaning and repeat back plans. And dinner was at Chris' aunt's 삼겹살 (pork belly BBQ) restaurant, which means tons of delicious carmelized meat served with different sauces and side dishes. Basically, I regretted using any stomach space on that darn pastry. 삼겹살 is always better. We got to bring home Yeju for a sleep over afterwards as a bonus! The girls have loved having a friend over here and always look forward to seeing her on the weekend. I wish they knew some of the neighbor kids. They are so darn shy that they will go to the playground and play next to other kids without saying a word. (And I think the Korean kids are equally shy) We actually had some middle school girls say hello to us as walking past and then crack up as soon as they passed.
Side note: there were two guys at the restaurant from England and Illinois so I got to speak to them a little. They have both lived in Korea for more than 10 years as they teach at local universities. I'm a little jealous.
Side note 2: we have been enjoying a historical kdrama that is airing right now, Love in the Moonlight. It's about a crown prince and his Eunuch that is a girl but disguised as a boy. Monday and Tuesday evenings are looked forward to and this drama made touring Gyeongbukgung palace much more exciting for a certain 12 year old. Historically accurate? Maybe a little. Fun to watch? You betcha. If you're watching it with subtitles, I would maybe selectively edit episode 7 at the very end. We don't have subtitles here.
I know that I've filled Facebook with a gazillion photos of yummy food but I thought I should tell a little bit about what we are eating over here. We are eating out way more than we do at home for two reasons. 1. The girls get to eat out for lunch everyday that they have school. 2. Healthy Korean food is dirt cheap at restaurants (I think meat is cheaper at restaurants as it is very pricey at the grocery store) 3. We love Korean food and want to try all the food that is harder to get back home.
Ok. For breakfast and dinner, we eat the same thing. This is super Asian. Breakfast food is no different than what they eat the rest of the day unless you look at more westernized options. We could buy cereal, eggs, doughnuts, etc... here but we are sticking to the do as the Romans plan. Every meal includes rice. If we don't eat rice (or even enough rice), we get in trouble with Halmoni. We also pull out all of the banchans (or side dishes) that are already prepared and in the fridge. This includes things like kimchi, Korean bean sprouts, a cucumber salad of sorts, fried anchovies, kimchi jeon, and so forth. Sometimes, I fry up eggs to go with it. We always have kim (seaweed) as the girls like to crumble over their rice or put rice in it and roll it up. For dinner, we also might have soup or a meat but normally we don't. Halmoni is the queen of turning nothing into a delicious soup and I'm determined to learn her art. When she makes the bean sprouts, instead of dumping the water, she leaves some bean sprouts in at turns it into soup. I guess you learn skills like that when you live in leaner times.
Treats here include a lot of the little yogurt drinks (they sell them at Costco in America), banana milk and Popsicles. There is a little mom and pop shop a quick walk away that sells a huge variety of Popsicles for 400 won a piece. (Not super cheap but reasonable-about 40 cents) Its cheap enough that the girls like grabbing a Popsicle when they go buy me bean sprouts or cucumbers. Fruit is expensive at the grocery store but cheap if bought on the street. The vendors have a bunch of fruit stacked in a bowl and the price is for the bowl, not per pound. It is very reasonably priced. We always keep some fruit on hand for snacks but it requires me to cut it and set it out on a tray, complete with mini fruit utensils. ...unlike at home where I say "grab an apple." I get scoffed at for not peeling the girls' fruit but I remind myself that they haven't got the memo that the skin has a lot of nutrients!
We love street food. The food carts here are less flashy but cheap and delicious. Hotteok is a sugar filled pancake. They are generally about 1000 won. ($1) Kimbap, ddeokbogi (spicy rice cakes) and fish cakes on a stick can be found on just about any corner and several places in between. The fish cake is called "o-dang" so we enjoy commenting on it everytime we see it. Hannah is especially fond of the broth they cook the o-dang with. Some of the stalls have cups so you can drink it more easily, which helps Hannah maintain some of her dignity. (Don't get odang to go. Hannah will find a way, no matter how ridiculous it may look, to slurp up all of the broth!)
The biggest struggle here with food has just been limiting ourselves while people are trying to show their hospitality by stuffing us full of food! Don't tell Halmoni, but when she isn't here for breakfast, we eat half as much rice as when she's here. If we serve up less rice with her here, she adds more to everyones' bowl. The girls were all lecturing Elise about serving up too many anchovies for herself at the beginning of a meal. What they didn't see was that Halmoni was adding anchovies to her bowl throughout the whole meal! Our goal? Not to have to buy extra seats on the way home.
Our family had a blessing in disguise as we didn't get to do baptisms at the Seoul temple because of a slight lack of planning on our part. This allowed us, on a pretty limited schedule, to spend almost two hours in the family history library. We weren't able to miraculously fill out Chris' family tree or anything but we did learn some very important things. (This list is for future reference. Please bear with me.)
1. I learned how to simultaneously enter Hangul, romanization AND Hanja for names. Why would I want to? Hangul helps you pronounce it correctly and is what is used in Korea. Important stuff. Romanization allows Americans to pronounce it. Hanja is the ancient Chinese character that the Hangul is based on. It allows you to pinpoint the origin of a name and differentiate between what looks like 5 of the same names. (They can all be based on different characters)
2. I learned that I need to go back and do this for everyone currently in our tree. It helps avoid duplication. I'm pretty sure Chris is feeling inspired and ready to go through all of those names before I get back. Right, honey??
3. I learned that we can order a government document that basically include 4 generations. Chris had one for his dad but I didn't realize we could order them on a whim! I need to plot with Uncle to get ones ordered for the different lines. Mwahaha...
4. The Park Miryang clan is crazy huge which makes it hard to research. Think Smith and Jones. Obscure last names are a blessing in Korean genealogy, too. The Kang line is a blessing as we're from a small Kang clan.
5. Korean indexing is on the horizon. I didn't get a timeline but it sounds like it's soon. I've been hoping for this for at least 5 years!
6. I saved the best for last. Sometimes, the birth and death dates in jokbo listings include a King's name. This is huge. Jokbos are great. I love them. BUT they randomly switch back and forth between two different date systems. One is based on Chinese numbers, which I know and are easy to read. 1-9-9-5 is 1995. The other one is based on the lunar calendar and is on a 60 year rotation. If the year is _____, it could mean 1802,1862, 1922, etc. You have to reference different generations to guesstimate which year they're actually referring to. It's not too big of deal unless you're thinking....ok, this guy either had a kid at 14 or 74. OR, as in the case of our Kang jokbo, if the whole darn stinking book only uses the lunar calendar with no Chinese numbers in the whole darn book to reference. This is where the Kings that are referenced help. We got a chart today that includes the different kings of China, Korea and Japan to help you narrow down the birthdate. I'm excited to look at our jokbos and A. Use it in the Kang jokbo to find out what years I'm even dealing with and B. Go through our Lee jokbo and use the listed kings to verify dates.
Not family history related, we took a lovely ride along the Han River today after borrowing some bikes from a lovely rental joint that doesn't charge you. I don't understand how they manage but, nonetheless, We had a wonderful ride. I think it may have been my favorite activity so far on our trip. It was a little idyllic. The wind blowing in my hair (no helmets were provided!), Lilly humming a song in front of me (before she fell), the Seoul cityscape off in the distance, bells dinging, no throngs of people everywhere...it was the best!
I've decided that I'm going to feel discouraged and frustrated about my language skills every Sunday. It is such a long 3 hours when you are trying to pick out words here and there. Even if you get the jist of the message, you still don't understand any depth. (And normally it is more of a "Ok, so they're saying SOMETHING about the sacrament.") I have come to really appreciate this sweet ajhussi (old dude) in the ward because he reads scriptures with a lot of animation AND he enunciates in a way that makes it easy to follow along. Everyone else reads so quickly that I can pick out the first word of the verse and maybe a couple after that. Korean is a pretty easy language to read but I still read like a preschooler. The upside? My prayers are getting better. I don't think I could pray in a public setting but I can pray. I find my prayers are much more heartfelt in Korean as I am putting so much thought into which word I should use. It's kind of a cool experience.
Onto the next very real struggle in Korea. Ugh! They are all so dang nice here. Hospitable to a fault? Chris is normally a good buffer as he is so good at saying "no" but he can't even go up against their kindness. A great example? Us staying at Halmoni's house. Our original plan was to get an Airbnb that was right around the corner. Yeah, that worked out well. It basically is super rude and sends messages that we don't think their offering is good enough when really, our message that we're trying to send is "our family is huge and we don't want to be a pain in your rear!" This morning we leave for a quick trip to Seoul to visit the temple and take Chris and Autumn to the airport. We planned to stay in a guesthouse right by the temple but that got switched real quick. We are now staying with Chris' very kind cousin's family. End of the story. Our big ole family overtaking their apartment. I feel bad just thinking about it! Another example? Chris' aunt has this amazing samgyeopsal (pork belly) BBQ restaurant. I would eat there as often as I could BUT I know there is no way she would let us pay. So we go when invited and stuff ourselves like its Christmas. I got in trouble because I took the girls to an all you can eat samgyeopsal joint around the corner instead of her place...but I really just wanted to pay for our dinner! (No more facebooking about our BBQ adventures!) They have such a strong sense of obligation to family. Really. They are just kind as can be and will do anything in the name of family. If I needed anything and was actually able to express it in Korean, they would go ridiculously out of their way to help me.
Yesterday we did a bunch of shopping for Autumn before she heads home with Chris in a couple of days. In Korea, there are underground malls built around subway stations. Lilly, upon being introduced to this, said "it's like a subway station that turned into a mall! Who wouldn't love this???" Daegu also has a large amount of specialty streets. Jewelry alley. Cosmetic alley. Second hand shops alley. Fusion food alley. Dukbeoggi alley. It's pretty amazing. Our plan was to start at the second hand alley and then head to the underground shopping area but the insane amount of rain shortened our thrifting experience. Their thrift stores are cheap and full of adorable clothes as Koreans generally have a really cute style. Autumn found plenty tshirts with badly translated English on them, which are hilarious but not really something I want to spend money on. Sorry, Autumn. There are now more Kangs that have fanny packs (agh!!) although they wear them a little differently here. They wear them as cross body bags with the bag right up front. It's a little cuter and makes everything easy to access. We loaded Autumn up with the best writing utensil on the face of this earth. Mitsubishi gel pen, we honor you. Adorable socks? We're on it. I have a theory that school uniforms drive their cute sock industry. There are cute socks everywhere, folks. Everywhere.
While we were out shopping, Lilly and Elise were finishing up their sleepover with Yeju, which involved a trip to a Jimjilbang. (Korean bath house and sauna, which I'm absolutely terrified of) I think I'll have Lilly blog about the bath house as she had a great time and is young enough to not be phased by it. Yeju's mom then started messaging me (her English skills are pretty minimal so we're all in Korean now) to arrange a meet up. Here is how I roll: I read their message and decide what I think it means. I then copy and paste into naver (a much more accurate version of google translate) to see how close I was. Then I type up my reply, copy it back into naver to check it and then send it off if it makes sense. Where it gets tricky is if Chris' uncle also starts messaging me in the middle of it OR if they call me. Calling is so much harder. A. It's loud everywhere so it's just hard to hear. B. I can't copy and paste our phone call in naver! After lots of messaging and a rough phone call with Halmoni that ended much better than it started (she used some words I've NEVER heard before!), we were able to plan a meeting to go to the local science museum. And I was able to arrange to have them pick up Chris and Hannah. Success. I've found that I'm much more brave with my Korean without Chris there. I have a hard time even mustering up the courage to try with him there. So my Korean skillz should improve more after Chris flies home. Theoretically. We shall see. But let me say this. Korean is a hard language. Learning to read it is the easy part. Between all of the many different levels of politeness and a sentence structure that is opposite ours, it can be hard to twist your brain around.
Being blessed with 6 girls brings lots of joy and lots of chaos into our house. We get to do girly to the sixth degree and I enjoy every moment of it. Almost. My poor husband is outnumbered in a major way, but he did ask for it when he said that he wanted all girls, a mere 14 years ago.