Thursday, April 21, 2011

4.20.11 Eating Constantly

I expected to experience massive culture shock in Korea. Instead, I have been pleasantly surprised by how much I feel at home here. It took me a few days to figure out why, but it's the food. It's not that the food is familiar (it's definitely not) - it's the attitude about food that feels just like home.

By home, I don't mean Wyoming; I mean my childhood home, the South. Just like there, people here are always planning their next meal, discussing their last meal, and making sure that everyone around them has eaten. Our boss has bought lunch or dinner for the teachers at our hogwan almost every day since we arrived, and our liason and translator, Kate, asks almost daily if we are eating enough, if we need more groceries, and what we had for each meal. My students come in with treats frequently, and they share everything. Today I was walking down the stairs and one of the younger boys I teach (he's about 9 years old) stopped me to give me a bit of the sweet bread he was eating.

The way it's presented makes it hard to refuse - they don't say, "would you like some?" They say, "here, eat this." If you refuse, then they immediately try to find something else that you will eat, as if the reason you refused is because of an allergy or some religious restriction, not that you are simply full. It's charming and endearing - it creates friendships in record time.

The two ladies shown here are our Korean coworkers, Scarlet and Lucy. This picture was taken today at (yet another) lunch that our boss bought for us all. They are both very sweet; Lucy is very shy and quiet, while Scarlet is the "party girl" of the office - she told us that she was out drinking until 4am last night with her "oppa" (boyfriend). These two teach English phonics, vocabulary, and grammar, but their classes are taught mostly in Korean (even though both speak English pretty well). They give the kids the foundations in English that they need to then take classes taught by us. In our classrooms there is an "English only" policy, at least for the older, more advanced students. They have to ask for permission to speak Korean, or to use a Korean/English dictionary (which they all have on their cellphones).

This is Kate, our liason. She is the daughter of our boss, the director of the school. She is quite fluent in English, and she has been completely indispensable to us during our settling in process. Whenever there are forms to be filled out, arrangements to be made, or customs to be explained, Kate is our go-to girl. She is remarkably organized for a woman of 21, and she has handled our paperwork like a pro. Without Kate, this past week would have been very rough - impossible, actually.

She and Becky have really hit it off. They have a movie and shopping date planned for this weekend (I am invited, but I refuse to go see another damn version of "Jane Eyre"). I imagine that through girl bonding they will happily do significant damage to each others' bank accounts in the coming months.

Next post - pictures from our first weekend in Jeonju!


  1. Becky, you look super cute in that first picture! I wonder if they're all saying, "Teacher is so cute!"

  2. Becky, you do look awful cute above. :)

    I imagine there could be more overwhelming things than a country that loves food... In fact I've never visited Korea, but I feel like I know what that's like, haha. It's good to hear your transition is on track. Thanks for the update!

  3. Lol! I asked my husband to take me to see the new Jane Eyre. I loved it! He was neutral. :) Hope Becky and Kate enjoy it!

    Sounds like you are part of a wonderful culture. Food really does have a way of bringing people together.

  4. The students have commented that "Rebecca Teacher" is very cute; or as they say it "cute-ah" (adding an extra syllable to the end of words is a standard part of the Konglish accent - we'll be posting about that soon).

  5. Becky reading a menu....what a shock! Glad you have someone looking out for you in the paperwork arena. Looking forward to pictures of your new place

  6. Becky: You're looking adorable in that picture! Your hair is lighter than the last time I saw you; it looks nice. I still want to see pics of you with the purple hair, though!

    Linus: Glad to see you're settling in okay! Did you get my email? The food thing seems to be a common Asian thing. Our friend Mina who's from the Phillipines is the same way about food. Never go over to her house just after you've eaten. You'll still have to eat anyway! And I've been following the English translations of some of the Morning Musume girls' blogs and...yeah, lots of food there. Seriously, LinLin's blog is about 2% puns on her own name, 21% Ai Takahashi, and 77% food!

  7. Thanks everybody! :) Now that my stomach seems to have adjusted to Korean food, I'm really enjoying it all. And I'm very much looking forward to the new Jane Eyre movie - I'm glad to hear that you thought it was good, VictorianKitty!

  8. omg the Cute-ah Becky! This is awesome observation and I am soo thrilled you are sharing your bird's eye view of the immersion into this culture with us. I'm a sociology buff and am quite addicted to all these updates.

    Oh! When you remember and are up for it - I'd like to send you two a care pack of Soap & Stuffs.
    Just email me your new address

  9. Thanks, Mayren - we brought the last of your soaps with us to Korea, to remind us of home and our friends there. We appreciate the offer to ship us more, but the price of international shipping may be prohibitive. Let us look into the costs and we'll see about sending you money for a care package. :)

  10. Raksha - I got your email and I'll be responding more fully this weekend. :)

  11. Becky- You are adorable! Enjoy your Movie/Shopping time!
    Linus-I'm glad you are feeling at home. How is Miss Friday doing? I'm dog-sitting a homeless dog-Think good thoughts that I find her a good home and don't end up keeping her.
    Hugs to you both, I'm excited to hear more about your adventures.

  12. Friday is in great shape, and loving the city life. Although small dogs are common here, JRTs are pretty rare, so she gets petted and fussed over a lot; she is a celebrity wherever we go.

    Good luck with your homelessdog (although Dougal could use a playmate...). ;)