Kumbayah and Human Sacrifice

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I love Host Mom dearly, but spending time with her always leaves me hopelessly confused.

I have seen little of my host family for the past few months, so I’ve been spending a lot of time by myself or traveling with friends. After spending the previous weekend out of town, I decided to stay around Gimhae for this weekend and catch up on some reading. Apparently, Host Mom had other plans.

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A Businesswoman

“My mother…new business.”

I looked at the white sweatshirt hanging on the drying rack. It said “M*Actors Academy,” with a large blue star in the center of the shirt. Su Bin was wearing a matching sweatshirt and holding a leather book that contained a libretto. Host Mom had opened an acting hagwon!

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Birthday in Korea

With a December birthday, the holidays and final exams overshadow everything else. I always had lovely celebrations with my family, but I didn’t do much with my friends. During college, we were studying for exams or finishing final papers. Then it was Christmas break. So when it came to my birthday in Korea, I expected that it would come and pass like it usually did. But I was pleasantly surprised!

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Chuseok – A Korean Thanksgiving

This weekend was Chuseok, a Korean harvest festival based on the lunar calendar. Often called “Korea’s Thanksgiving,” Chuseok is a time for feasting, gift-giving, and spending time with family. It was the first time my busy host family shared a meal together, and it was my first time meeting my host dad’s family.

On Sunday, my host family and I traveled to Miryang, a country town about an hour outside of Gimhae. I thought Goesan was rural, but it is like New York City compared to Miryang!  Miryang is nestled in the mountains and surrounded by rice fields, farms, and small village homes. One of these homes belonged to my host dad’s parents, who invited us for the evening.
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Lessons from a Taxi Driver

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Ye Bin and I climbed into the taxi parked outside of Homeplus, our arms laden with groceries and shampoo. Ye Bin said our address to the driver, who did a double take when he glanced at the two of us in the back seat.

“Gimhae Jeil?” the taxi driver asked, glancing at me. He said something in Korean to Ye Bin, who laughed and shook her head.

Aniyo,” said Ye Bin. She answered something else in Korean. The only two words I picked out were yeodongsaeng (“younger sister”) and daehakkyo (“university”).

“Did he ask if we went to Gimhae Jeil High School?” I asked Ye Bin as the driver pulled away from the curb.

“Yes – he remember you!”

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Baking in Korea: Or, My Adventures With the Metric System

Ever since I told Ye Bin about the day-long baking marathon my family does before Christmas, she has begged me to make cookies with her. Finally, this weekend we picked out the recipes we wanted to make and went to the store to buy ingredients–chocolate chip cookie mix, an oatmeal mix and the fixings for homemade thumbprint cookies. Sunday was our designated Cookie Day, and I spent Saturday night dreaming of the intoxicating aroma of chocolate chips, vanilla extract, and freshly baked goodness.

Turns out I forgot that Korea uses the metric system.

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Conversations about Beauty

I have always been uncomfortable if someone compliments my appearance. Usually because I don’t think about it too much and tend to focus on aspects of my character instead. Fortunately, the student choruses of “Teacher, pretty!” are finally dying down, but the issues of Western and Korean beauty standards are still at the forefront of my mind. Especially after today.

This afternoon, I met one of Ye Bin’s friends at the mall. We ate pizza, practiced English and Korean, and then went to a photo booth. Even though  I usually dislike taking pictures of myself, it was surprisingly a lot of fun to make silly faces and poses.

But when we went to print the pictures, a Photoshop application popped up on the screen. That’s where it went downhill.

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