7am holiday Monday morning. In the shower. In the dog's room. I am exhausted, half asleep, groggy. Cheese starts to bark and scratch at the washing machine (as far as his leash will allow). I hear a knock. At first I ignore it - "I'm in the shower," I think to myself "Go away." Cheese barks some more. The knock is louder. "Must be Steve coming to let the dog out" I think, wondering that he is up so much earlier than I expected. Another knock. I grab my towel, wrap it hastily around myself, and throw the door open with an impatient "Take this dog away!"
A mortified Korean face stares horror-struck at the apparition of an almost-naked foreign woman at his bathroom door. Good morning Smith!
Now, in my defence, it was a very large towel - nothing immodest about it by North American standards. It went from my neck clear down past my knees, and was thick purple terry cloth (not some shimmery, transparent silk or anything). If it had in fact been Steve at the door, I suspect he wouldn't have been all that taken aback. Smith however, well, that's something else entirely. This is a young man who takes offence at the exposure of a quarter inch of midriff, as my co-workers assure me is more-or-less culturally appropriate, so you can imagine his dismay at finding me so (un)attired. Lesson one, what not to do in Korea. Put a big ol' check mark next to my name on that one folks - lesson learned.
Lesson two - squatting etiquette (and I can not emphasize this one enough): although the vast majority of washrooms that I have encountered are western style, ladies, when you find one that isn't TAKE YOUR BACKPACK OFF BEFORE YOU SQUAT!!!!! Okay, so this has nothing to do with etiquette and everything to do with simple mechanics - imagine doing a full leg press with not only your entire body weight but also an extra 20 or 30 pounds in extra baggage entirely without assistance. No wall to lean on, no bar to hold for balance or to haul yourself up with, no cute hulking trainer to rescue you mid move, no nothing. Just your puny leg muscles straining against gravity and physics to return you to an upright posture. Suddenly I have this profound respect for our million-year ancestors and their magnificent effort in becoming upright. I thought I was going to have to cry out for "Help, I've squatted, and I can't get up!!" Not a pretty scene. Lesson two - check!
Lesson three - stuffing your face. There are many social rules around the consumption of food - most of which I remain (not so)blissfully unaware of. The two that I have learned so far, however, are these: 1. Do not stack the bowls from your 8000 side dishes as you empty them - which has something to do with offending your ancestors who might want to dip into them (?), and 2. It is entirely appropriate (even expected) when eating sam (rolls of food that you make by piling various sauces, meats, seasonings, rice and vegetables onto a lettuce leaf) to stuff the entire thing into your mouth at once, even if you look like an overfed oranguatang when you do so. That's half the fun. So it is helpful if you can remember not to put too much into each one, because while you should put it all in your mouth at once, for some reason it's still bad form to spray the table with the soggy bits as you try to keep it all in once chewing has commenced. Go figure. Lesson 3, check!
And last but not least, reading. Lesson 4. This is the longest lesson of all, because you have to keep practicing and practicing and practicing. And even once you're getting it, you still have to learn what it all means! Last night I had a breakthrough though - I have rarely been so excited in my entire life as I was when I successfully read the carton of ice-cream at the corner store. ¹ÝÀÌ·¯. Vanilla! It helped enormously that it was in-fact an english word written in Korean characters, and that the nature of the item I was reading gave a big clue about its contents. But still! An entire word, without assistance! (And for the record, the picture didn't make it look very vanilla, so it might have been chocolate or something else just as easily...) Lesson 4, tiny check (but check none the less).
And now it is nearing 12 and I should start getting serious about getting my lesson plans together for the day. Not to mention next week also, if I don't plan to spend the whole weekend here (which, in light of the company I am having up from the south is NOT going to happen). I hope this finds you all well - drop me a line to let me know what is up in your little corners of the world!!
Much love - Roberta
PS. For Denise and the kids - I miss you like crazy out here and will send non-generic news soon! For now I am just trying to keep up with the daily grind...the rest of you too, of course!