A series of brief encounters from the first half of the semester. This month’s mishmash of topics includes SpongeBob Squarepants, life as a foreigner, loneliness, North Korea, and Jell-O.
I have a feeling this will become a regular feature.
This weekend is a holiday called Chuseok, and one of the Chuseok traditions is to give gifts to your family. I knew we would be visiting Host Dad’s family for Chuseok dinner, so I wanted to buy a gift for my host family and for his parents who would be hosting us.
On Thursday I went to Homeplus, where a dizzying array of gift sets awaited me. Spam and cooking oil. Lotions and shampoos. Socks and underwear. Coffee, green tea, cocoa. What to get, what to get…?
I stumbled upon a set of jars with pictures of fruit on them. Yum…jam! My host family often eats toast, I thought. They loved my thumbprint jam cookies. This would be something practical because they would eat it, but also a nice gift because they wouldn’t usually buy it for themselves. I’ll take two!
Look at this lovely jam set. Just look at it.
It’s a good thing I always feel compelled to give a gift as soon as I buy it. Because it turns out, that’s not jam.
Remember when I wrote that I was feeling so much better about my Korean? Yeeeeah, maybe not so much!
After school today, Host Mom and I went to Homeplus to do some grocery shopping. Host Mom put kimbap in our shopping cart to have for dinner so we wouldn’t have to cook, but she wanted something else to go with it. After we paid for the groceries, we started walking toward the exit when Host Mom asked, “Ka-pu-shi mokollaeyo?”
Would you like to eat…Ka-pu-shi?
As difficult as it is when you and another person are speaking to each other in two different languages, it’s much more difficult when you are speaking the same language but cannot understand each other due to pronunciation and regional accents. While I run into the former problem in my everyday struggles with speaking Korean, the latter problem is most common when I am helping my students with their English writing.
Today my students were writing a few sentences about their future plans. As I was walking around the classroom to help them, one of the girls called me over.
“Spelling…’liber’?” she asked.
“Liber?” I repeated, glancing at her paper for a clue as to what she meant. “What is ‘liber’?”
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.
We now return to “Janine Does Something Silly Because of the Language Barrier.”
Host Mom, host aunt, and host nephews picked me up from school today so we could go to a Korean BBQ restaurant for dinner. On our way back to the apartment, we stopped by the mart next door. As we walked inside, Host Mom placed a basket in my hands and said something rapidly in Korean. The only word I understood was eumshig or “food” (which, based on context, should have been evident).
Okay, I thought. I guess she wants me to get some food I’d like to eat this week.
“For me to cook?” I asked, gesturing like I’m stirring a pot.
She responded in Korean, and I did not understand. But she didn’t shake her head no, so I assumed it was affirmative and I was cooking dinner tomorrow.
Given my limited cooking abilities, I walked toward the produce aisle and picked up some broccoli and carrots. Then I put some noodles in my basket and figured I could make something out of that. Hmm…why was Host Mom laughing so much?