Week 16, Thursday

One air filter, thirty six facemasks, one red sweater, one white sweater vest, one hand sewn money pouch, a traditional fan, a loaf of olive bread, one note from a student, one note from a teacher, some good news, a photo for the yearbook, two dinners, a hug from a special student who slung his arm around me and blinked very close to my face then went on his merry way.

A sweet note from third grader Jaekyung that essentially says “thank you for carefully watching over us”.

Today is G’s last week so gifts were exchanged and dinner was had.

G: I talked with the principal and vice principal today. I told them about you: you are really nice and we work well together. There is a teacher who may take a six month break. If so, I’ll be back next year as the English teacher.

Nothing is permanent, especially in Korea, but it would be nice to start off the new year with her.

We celebrated her second to last day at an overpriced café with a stunning view outside of the city. Even though I see a mountain every day, it’s nothing compared to seeing all the mountains at once. I felt like I was in North Carolina again and nearly spun around in joy a la The Sound of Music. Another point in my tally for possibly moving outside of the city next year.

As usual I was duped: the café was not in fact dinner and we traveled to a tiny mom-run restaurant in the basement of an office building.

Male music teacher asked me, much to my confusion, if I eat oysters— the same way people ask me if I can eat ddeokbokki. I stared at him for several seconds until I said “…yes. We also have oysters in the US lolz”

I had an oyster soup with a type of seaweed that gave me flashbacks to swimming in the local lake. In fact, I’m quite sure if you open your mouth while swimming underwater in Lake Brantley the taste will be the same. The look certainly was. (The soup was good but impossible to finish after a slew of bakery goods).

A la “Swamp Thing”.

In the car ride home S and I talked about how she met her husband. A very intriguing tale that involved a coworker, Boy Scouts, and a set up.

She said “you know, I think marriage is hard for the woman. She should work and take care of the baby and also the house.” That started a thoughtful discussion about marriage and gendered duties. I told her the pressure to marry young is present in the US, especially the south, and that people think something is wrong if you’re single after 25. S said “I thought that perspective was only in the east but I guess it’s everywhere.”

She asked “do you want to get married?” I told her “it would be nice but if it doesn’t happen that’s okay. I’m not going to get married just to do it.”

She nodded enthusiastically and added “you should marry a good man. Not a selfish or traditional one.”

“Yes. One who is more modern. I’d rather be alone than marry someone like that.”

S was nodding before I finished.

We support modern Korean women in this house. Cheers to G and S, the kind and thoughtful Korean women in my life.

Language Corner

S told me I have a better accent than the American English instructors she watches on YouTube. “They keep English intonation when they speak Korean. You don’t.” (Think of the stereotypical Italian accent and you’ll get the idea how much intonation affects your accent. It’s also the reason why songs translated to or from English may be incomprehensible despite good pronunciation since the stress is on the wrong syllables.)

I watched one of the men she mentioned and asked if he had an accent: he pronounces all S the same. Korean has two S sounds:

ㅆ sharp S like stop

ㅅ soft S like sop

Double consonants are considered harsh sounding so none of my students have a name with ㅆ (or ㅃ ㄲ ㅉ ㄸ). If you can’t tell the difference then you probably also have this accent in Korean.

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