September 30, 2006

A few stars with my beef tongue, please.

Well, we're here. We hit all the big name places: Murdo, SD; Lusk, WY; Jackson, WY (OK, I guess that one counts), and Pyramid Lake, NV.

Pyramid Lake is the largest desert lake in the US. It nestles in the brown hills of Nevada on an Indian reservation. We got there early and stopped by the local bar to get an overnight permit for $10. We found a campsite and then drove down to Reno for dinner.

One of the best things we did for the trip was order this book. The authors tracked down diners and restaurants around the country. We sampled Bob's in Sioux Falls (We loved it, especially the sweet corn), Yellowstone Drug in Wyoming (so-so) and Idle Isle in Brigham City, UT (nice pie, great 1920's style, ok food). Eating at local hangouts gave us a better sample of local people and local tastes. Sadly, in middle America, local tastes are frequently bland and fattening. We're enjoying the option of Asian noodles as 'fast food' here in California.

In contrast, the only restaurants listed in Nevada featured Basque food. We didn't understand until we went to Louie's Basque corner in Reno where we sat family style at a long table. It turned out the three women at the table were from Winnemuca, NV. Apparently large numbers of both Spanish and French Basque moved to Nevada in the 1800's as sheepherders. Every June at the Basque festival in Elko, NV they have a running of the bulls. We had a first course of beef tongue with an option of sweetbread for the entree. We opted for lamb and pork instead. We assumed the french fries were an Americanization of whatever Basques eat in Europe.

Back at the lake we had to revise our tent/dog experiment. As we drove into the campsite the noise of the car startled countless rabbits. Muttola pressed against the window whining and twisting her neck to watch them as they scurried away. We realized she would spend the whole night trying to chase them so we decided to spend the night in the car. Now, car sleeping is a great plan if you secretly want lots of opportunity to stare at the desert stars as you twist and turn in vain effort to get comfortable. I never knew that the Milky Way could get bright enough to dim the outlines of familiar constellations. As usual, as soon as one camps and has no easy access to a toilet, one develops an incessant need to go to the bathroom. In a tent, there's the sound of a quiet zipper. In a car... the light turns on, the door creaks, slams, and re-slams on re-entry. None of us slept much. But the stars were worth it.

September 26, 2006

"But really all of it is flat" along with comments from prejudiced East Coasters

Ohio: "See, I TOLD you Rochester wasn't flat!"

Minnesota: "At least a pancake has a curve."

South Dakota: "I think this counts as a hill."

Badlands: Turn one way, you see the plains, but...

...turn around to see this.

Eastern Wyoming: "More desolate, but less boring than Minnesota"

Wyoming: "What do you want from a state where there are more species of grass than people?"

Grand Tetons: "Out east we call a hill a mountain, but out here they call a stream a river."

Idaho: Road signs we saw, "Watch for rock", "Watch for stock".

Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah: "Flat as compelling as a Siren's call."

September 25, 2006

A time to speak and a time to refrain

Well, we've hiked Death Canyon into the Tetons. Let the mutt experience the Jackson Pet Garage. We've seen a bull elk chasing around a bunch of cows. We laughed as busloads of photographers with behemoth cameras spilled out to click the show.

Throughout this trip I've noticed again our different needs for silence. Jrex is happy to drive in total silence. He rarely wants music and every so often will listen to a book on tape. As a proactive measure, I bought myself an ipod before the trip. My theory was that with one ear I could have music and with the other, chat when Jrex feels like chatting. So far, so good.

Another time he prefers silence is while hiking. For me, this is mildly torturous. It means I spend hours trailing along forced to just THINK. Ugh. Usually I'm thinking about how tired I am, how far it is to the food break, nice view, cool rocks, are we done yet? I much prefer to go for a happy meandering wander with a good friend. I prefer to talk, laugh and have exercise that is incidental not monumental. But for us, this is my usual view while hiking.
Jrex has entirely valid reasons for loving silence. I understand them. I respect them. I just don't share them! Today I resorted to the ipod. I know its sacriligious to all 'real' hikers, but it made me very happy to hike along to Eden Burning and U2. The uphill was faster than its ever been.

As a total aside: we had our first and only snowball fight of the season near the top of the hike.

[I do have to acknowlege that after I re-injured my ankle on the way back down today, Jrex walked behind me chatting the whole way. He wanted to make sure I was ok as well as distract me from the pain.]

The irony for me is that as soon as we come into a hotel room, the TV goes on. I HATE it!! I grew up without a TV. In each home we've had as a couple, the TV is outside of the normal living area. To go from so much forced silence into a forced cacaphony feels somehow slimy? All the ads, the beer, the babes (hotels have ESPN--something else we've never had) and the annoying (how many times can we discuss the impact on the team of this injury? Oh wait, at least three more) commentators drive me nuts. I would be much happier if we both read books or magazines and were quiet together as we wind down for the night.

On the other hand, I am over here writing a blog entry as a way to end a beautiful day...

September 22, 2006

Murdo, SD

When Jrex and I lived in upstate NY, he often commented on how flat it was, especially along I-90. I contested the rolling hills didn’t fit my definition of flat. I’ve driven through northern Ohio. I know flat. The past three days have tutored him in the ways of the flatlands.

What’s amazing about South Dakota is how the awe inspiring landscape becomes airborne. As we pass field after field of green grass, golden corn lined with dark strands of trees what begins to catch the eye are the clouds. Towering columns of white, glowering hoods of gray and floating baby clouds stream overhead. Lightening shattered trees crumpled among stands of trees, fields are spotted with black steers; farmhouses hover behind windbreaks of trees. The constant red road carves ahead through flat, flat, flat fields. And above our heads are canyons, mountains, and rivers of clouds.
We passed a sign declaring the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I never knew the prairie in the Little House Books was South Dakota.
We brought along the book Roadfood. Through it we found Bob’s in Sioux Falls. I have to tell you, I now know that I’ve never truly had sweet corn before. We had no need for dessert after having an ear of fresh picked goodness.
Last night we stayed with my Mom’s sister. Mom was the oldest of ten kids. Aunt Gemstone is one of the middle five girls (I know I should know the exact birth order, but I’ve never been able to remember it without help). As we visited and she gave me travel tips we realized genetics make strange quirks even stranger.
  • She also hates to get cold in the winter and avoids showering when possible.
  • We both need to fidget in the car. She used to chew her nails, I still do. She suggested using a baby toothbrush instead of chewing my nails to stay awake.
  • We both drink chocolate milk on roadtrips because it sooths our stomachs.
  • Of all the aunts, her eyes are the most similar to mine. Mine shift from gray to green to blue depending what color shirt I wear, but around the rim is a dark, thick border.
Why would such things be genetic? I’ve never hung out with her enough to have learned any of those behaviors from her. It made me want to have more time with her to find out what else we have in common.
Tomorrow we get to play in the Badlands and the Black Hills. We’re going to skip Mt. Rushmore and go see Crazy Horse instead. I met a guy from West Virginia who was a blast consultant for Crazy Horse so I want to check it out.
We’ll get to the Grand Tetons Sunday night and have Monday for hiking. There’s a doggie day care (Riley’s Pet Garage) in Jackson so we can leave Muttola while we hike. Anyone have suggestions for hikes in the Grand Tetons?

September 20, 2006

So Long, Farewell

We're off to see the country, the wonderful country of US.

OK ok. It's worse than a mixed metaphor, mixed and abused soundtracks. Mea Culpa.

We've been wined and dined by friends and neighbors. Taken our five minute pause to sit in our backyard and get misty as we said goodbye to our house. We've run that nice check to the bank as soon as we walked out of closing. And now we're off for the eight day cross country drive. We're heading north to visit my best friend from high school, then my aunt in Milwaulkee. After that we have no set plan. We'll get as far as we can stand each day and call ahead for dog friendly hotels or campgrounds. The original plan was to visit Badlands/Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. However, we'll have to cut our trip short so Jrex can help receive at the other end. So we dropped Yellowstone from the itinerary since we'd rather fly out for a real vacation rather than wave as we drive by in a rush.

No time to edit sorry if this is a bit choppy!

But I do have time for a slight guilt trip. My wonderful, funny, amazing sister coulda been a guest writer while I was gone, but NO. She's too busy with a toddler, a mostly full-time job, marriage and helping with a homeless shelter. If someone is going to reject my benevolent (begging) invitation you'ld think they should have a better excuse than that, right?

In any case, I'll write if I can, but have no idea what connections are possible in South Dakota. (Jrex insists there are more people in Baltimore City than in that whole state. But I think that's a prejudiced New Yorker talking. Does anyone out there know for sure?)

September 15, 2006

Ms. Pitiful

Muttola and her cone were left alone all day as we drove to DC. In the National Museum of the American Indian we commented how Korean different tribes looked and how similar the Mayan calander numbers are to Korean. Then it took us two hours to drive home (normally a 45 minute affair). We forgot it was Friday... all three of us thought it was Saturday. Mom K talked the whole way including at least 20 minutes of baby nudging. I tore off all the plastic on the steering wheel liner in tiny, repetitive pieces.

After all that, I'm now hiding in our basement guest room pretending I'm checking to see if anyone responded to Craigs list and is requesting our clawfoot tub.

I can't talk to anyone anymore. I'm done. I need three or four days of total silence.

Did I mention that tomorrow is the ladies brunch in my honor? Tomorrow night is dinner with D & S, Sunday is church, Sunday night is dinner with A & J, Monday the closing on our house, as well as dinner with our other neighbor, Tuesday we go to our favorite neighborhood cafe, Wednesday we leave town.

I guess silence (and breathing) will wait.

In the meantime, my poor little conehead keeps me laughing.

September 14, 2006

Surviving the kindness of in-laws

I’m so tired I can barely hold my eyes open but I need to vent a little. I do love my in-laws. Really. Especially my Mom-in-Law. However. One might think that the three days in which one’s daughter-in-law’s house is being packed, then loaded, then cleaned might not be the best days to volunteer as a house guest. But that’s purely speculation on my part.

The point is, I feel totally guilty for not sitting around on the couch chatting with my MIL rather than supervising, sorting, organizing and cleaning. Granted, I’m using the busy-ness as a means to avoid her, but still, why should I have to feel guilty?

In the last 72 hours I’ve had a grand total of five hours of sleep, three the first night and two last night. Yet I feel guilty going up to bed instead of sitting around chatting. Granted, I’m heading upstairs to write this entry. Knowing that I won’t be able to post it tomorrow.

I do this push/pull thing with Mom K. Last weekend I called her with hourly updates on the great apartment hunt of 2006. This weekend, I’m totally avoiding her. I think I want the subtext to read, “Can’t you see how insanely busy I am? Why would you even THINK about coming to visit this weekend? Why would you bring a watermelon when the knives are being packed? Why bring food to cook when there are no utensils?” So I’m frustrated. And guilty. And mad that I feel guilty. And needing alone time to process the dramatic changes in my life. Yet still feeling guilty. They’re older than me. They won’t be around forever. They worked hard both in Korea and here. They would give anything, do anything for their family. And I can’t even give them enough time to sit on the couch and talk?

In the middle of all that, because life isn’t dramatic or expensive enough, Muttola has a growth on one of her paws. She had to get anesthetized on Monday so they could do a biopsy. Now she sports a clown collar and we have to wrap baggies over her bandage so she can go outside. What happened to my indestructible pound puppy?!

UPDATE: The packing and loading were finished today. It went quicker than expected so Mom, Dad, and I spent the whole afternoon cleaning the house. I repent of all my evil thoughts!! They are awesome in-laws. Now we can go play in DC all day tomorrow. My father-in-law wants to see the new American Indian museum (because they are really all Koreans—via the land bridge. Anyone see My Big Fat Greek Wedding? That’s my FIL. Everything really started in Korea and is secretly Korean.)

(Also, the growth on the dog’s paw was an inflammatory reaction and is NOT malignant. She doesn’t have to get her toe amputated and she should be fine by Monday. Phew!!)

That's all the news from Lake Woebegone. Where the women are strong. The men are good looking. And all the dogs have all their toes.

September 9, 2006

My cute old man rocks!

We got the apartment!! It's a two bedroom with one bath and a large kitchen (for an apartment). We have counters and cabinets on three sides, a window over the sink and a dishwasher. I couldn't take interior pics cause it was such a mess (single father with a young son). So here's a tour of the outside.

The sign I spotted in the dark on Wednesday night. The 'God thing' in all this is that I happened to wander up this street and happened to turn around in this driveway. I was the first and only person to ever see the apartment!

Our apartment is on the second floor in the back.

These stairs separate the two top apartments which means we don't have to share any walls with anyone else. Surrounded by trees, the whole apartment floats in green. (Bay Area, I officially forgive you the brown of San Jose.)

Our carport. The back wall is cabinets for locked storage (for camping/climbing/skiing and biking gear!! Sweet!!)

One dollar to wash and free to dry!

Our street. The theory is we won't mind the 5 am walk on such a pretty street. We'll see if it ends up being true.

As reported, the Caltrain station is at the end of the street. Keep walking and you'll find a pet store that carries Muttola's brand of dog food, a Crepe Cafe, and the main street of Menlo Park. We're going to try living with just one car. I have my Vespa fantasy in the back of my mind, but we'll see if it's necessary.

Bonus Number 1
Withing easy walking, biking, (or scooter) range of the house is a city park featuring two pools. For $5 a session or $40 a month I can access lap swims, adult swim team, deep water aerobic classes and women's water polo!

Bonus Number 2
Our friends are giving us this eight foot long sofa. O's father owns a minivan we can use to transport it to our new place.

Some of my old man's classic quotes today:

"Now, you should know that your neighbors downstairs are a mother and son. Her son is black, but he's very nice. We haven't had a bit of trouble from him. He's 11 years old and busy all the time with after school activities."

"I know you said your dog has a crate, but I'd really feel better if you just give her the free roam of the place. Maybe you could leave the sliding doors open so she can get some sun on the balcony."

"We recycle here. I'm in a deaf club and I turn in all the aluminum to pay for our snacks for club."

"Your neighbors across the hall weren't married when they moved in, but my plumber was there doing some work and saw a marriage certificate on the wall. We were so happy to hear that!"

How much do you want to bet that he eventually tells someone about the nice Chinese man who lives in apartment 4?

My quirky fetish

It's time I confessed. I have a thing for old men. It's true. Nothing oldophilic or anything, I just think they are SO cute!! The shaky handwriting, the genteel manners, the hesitations, the careful walking style, the loss of hearing they try to play off. My dad's dad, Grandpa T was the cutest of the cute old men. He came around to push my chair in when we dined together. He never criticised my teenaged driving style, he would just quietly brace his hands against the dash and the windowsill as we approached any corner.

What does that have to do with the house hunt? Why am I distracting you with anecdotes at such a crucial time? Because I have an appointment in an hour to meet 'my' cute old man here.

The first night I got here I looked at a place in Burlingame. I drove an hour from my friend's home in Santa Clara to get there. On the way back I drove down El Camino Real, an artery road chock full of strip malls, fast food, and random apartment buildings. As I drove I would take random turns to check out likely looking apartment buildings. I wrote down names, locations and phone numbers.

During one of those side tours, in Menlo Park (just north of Stanford), I used a driveway to turn around. As I turned in, the headlights illumined an "Apartment for Rent" sign. I jumped out of the car, to the consternation of a passing jogger, and got close enough to read the shaky, old-man handwriting. Slanted, trained in penmanship, but with the slight quiver of the old man. It said, "2 Bedroom, available October 2nd, please repeat number 2x when you call".

I called the next morning.

He had to ask his wife about the dog.

They've been recently burned by a yappy dog tenant.

I chattered on and on about how she's so friendly, she doesn't bark, she doesn't know she can push open doors so she doesn't claw at them, etc. He seemed hesitant but said he'd get back to me with a verdict.

That was Thursday morning. By Friday afternoon I was freaking out. We signed a lease on a 1 bedroom, cottage style apartment as a comfort blanket. Right after I did that, my old man called me back! He'd received permission to show the apartment. I was en route to Belmont to check out an in-law apartment (which was sorta workable, and sorta awful--but that's another story). He said he'd call me in the morning to set up a time to view the apartment.

I'm meeting him in an hour. I'm so excited! Will he be adorable? Will he let me and the cute pictures of my dog persuade him? Is the apartment any good? Will he let me sign a contract today?

It's a perfect location. Two blocks from the Menlo Caltrain station. I could be in San Fran in 45 minutes. I wouldn't need an extra car. It's near the library, a park with a pool, Stanford and my friends down in Santa Clara. We could meet for dinner in Mountain View and wander along Castro street.

OK. OK. I know I'm buzzing and I need to calm down. Deep cleansing breaths! I feel like I'm going on a first date. Am I clean enough? Do I look like a sweet young thing? The kind any old man would rent an apartment?

I'll let you know...

September 8, 2006

Friday morning 8 am

Sigh. No apartment yet.

What's really hard about all this is that I'm choosing a life, not just an apartment. Anything south of Stanford means it's unlikely I'll work in San Francisco, but all the people I know socially are down here. From what I know of driving in traffic so far, if we live north of Stanford, I'm unlikely to see them much. North of Stanford the communities get older with more quaint homes and more hills, which I like. I hate the idea of having to drive everywhere, which seems to be the lifestyle south of Stanford. (Shall we call that, "SOS"?)

I had an informational interview yesterday at the largest exhibit design firm on the west coast. In many ways, I would LOVE to work there. But it's in Oakland. Which means I'd need a place in Belmont/San Mateo so I can get across a bridge on the Bay relatively quickly. That would mean we both have a 30 minute commute. I could choose Menlo Park and Jrex could bike to Stanford, be able to get back to deal with the dog, leave relatively easy access to my southern friends, but there is little housing available. And Menlo would mean its too far to commute to Oakland.

I know something is going to work out (it has to!), but I'm fighting anxiety/worry. I keep trying to trust that God has worked out some great details in terms of selling our house and furniture, and he knows what we need here. (Did I tell you that the friends I'm staying with here have offered us a free sofa? One that is comfy and big enough to sleep on?) It's sad that despite all the ways that God has met me throughout my life, each time I come up against a new set of unknowns I thrash around and struggle to trust. You'd think I'd learn to just walk in peace!

Whine whine whine. The real dilemma is that all these possibilities are keeping me up at night and waking me early in the morning. I'm exhausted!

September 7, 2006

Long Term Relationship

Bay Area, we're going to have to come to terms. I met you briefly a number of years ago, but now that we're going to be in a longer term relationship I have to be honest about my concerns.

1. You're brown. I know it's not right to judge someone based on their color, but I've been a green girl for a long time. Ya' know, in a seasonal sort of way. Sure you have green trees, but they're more of a gray green. The only bright green you have is the sort that makes me feel guilty water is being wasted on your vain attempts to replicate England. What's wrong with golfing in honest sand?

2. You're crowded. I'm more into an exclusive relationship. I don't know if I appreciate having to share so much time and space with so many other people. Especially since the only real way to get to know you is to crawl up or down one of your 'freeways'. I mean, thanks for not charging tolls and all, but could you start moving your harem a little faster?

3. You're real. I think I liked us better as a long-distance theoretical couple. Until I flew in yesterday I was fine with moving (mostly). But it was all a theory. This is real. I am actually moving to California! Am I crazy? What am I thinking? I have to drive FOREVER to get to you. With a dog. Without driving my husband to drink as I twist and turn with restless energy and whine for hours.

Sigh. I'll keep trying, but I would appreciate some gestures on your part that you really want me here. Like a fantastic apartment with access to bike/hike trails, easy access to Stanford, my unknown future job, and very quiet neighbors. Today. Then, for the rest of the weekend, I can enjoy the friends I'm staying with and get to know your softer side.

September 5, 2006

Here today and gone tomorrow

I’m home for one day. Yesterday we drove home from Staten Island after a fun weekend with the in-laws, tomorrow I fly to California to search for an apartment. Here are three (long, sorry!) entries about the last few days in reverse chronological order.

I didn't find the outfit to slay all outfits, but I found some great stuff at H&M (two skirts, two shirts) and four pair of shoes at Macy's. Three were $15 shoes (marked down from $80-90). One pair are my interview shoes. Naturalizer--so as comfortable as three inch heels can be! I love shopping with Mom K. She has great taste and is very trendy. I only have one interview set up for the Cali trip anyway, so I should be fine with what I have.

Laughing Goodbyes

Thursday night was my farewell gala. The bosses treated all of us, including my replacement, to dinner at the Brewer’s Art. Please note that RyGuy doesn’t believe in vegetables, seafood, or an ‘inside voice’. You should also know that the Brewers art specializes in all three. For my vegetarian bosses, it’s a great choice. Poor RyGuy looked over the menu and declared he would have the crayfish stuffed chicken ‘without crayfish’. With disaster looming I glanced at the menu through RyGuy eyes and suggested he try the third item down. He saw it and exclaimed, “Really?! OK!” (it was the most expensive item on the menu). I nodded and he closed his menu, “Steak Fritz it is then.” Now, I don’t know French, but I suspect that wasn’t the right pronunciation for “Steak Frites”. The steak strips and rosemary garlic fries were the least foreign elements in the menu for our “Langsta, PA” boy. I looked across at BossTwo, an acknowledged cheapskate, “Sorry! I just told him to get the priciest item.” With a mocking, dour expression, he muttered in an Eeyore tone, “I noticed.”

Our table was the loud, obnoxious group in the corner. The one you see and pray, “please don’t put me near them!” At one point I tried to say to RyGuy, “White tablecloths mean low volume”; it didn’t register. As RyGuy put it, “Our table spoils the mood if you’re here hoping to get laid.” He didn’t say it discreetly, and I suspect he directed it at the table behind us where a slick looking guy leaned toward a leggy blond.

In the middle of all of it, BossOne said two revealing ‘jokes’. She’s hinted before that no one really knows her, she’s talked of her anorexia, I know from a close friend who struggled with bulimia the masking/lying/hiding that go with an eating disorder. BossOne seems transparent and honest, so I’ve always been curious about what ‘lies beneath’. This past week has shown me glimpses.

In the middle of a conversation about one of our notorious Attention Deficit Disorder clients, BossOne laughed and chimed in, “OTRgirl is the one who diagnosed me as ADD. She said it totally casually. I was so mad I didn’t talk to her for days.” Rosetta asked, “And are you?” BossOne, still laughing, “Of course I am! But I’d had NO idea!” And I had no idea she’d given me the silent treatment. For future reference to anyone who might want to fight with me: I’m really bad with passive aggressive battle technique. The problem with the passive option is that in order for it to be effective, the recipient has to be aware it’s happening!

The other revealing comment was, “I’m so upset about you leaving I haven’t even looked at a map to figure out where Palo Alto is, I just don’t care!” For the last year and a half I’ve wanted to quit and look for a new job and Jrex kept telling me that I couldn’t. He intuited that the relationship with BossOne was more important than a job change. I doubt he fully knew how true that statement was! As I’m watching her process three MONTHS worth of job notice I don’t think she could have handled it if she’d felt betrayed as well.

Last Day at work

In case you’re wondering, denial works! On Friday we all acted like it was an ordinary day at work, and therefore no one had to get emotional. Fantastic!

Of everyone in the office, the one person who got emotional was the last one I expected. When BossTwo came in to say goodbye he gave me a huge hug and told me how much they would miss me. Then he gave me another hug and had tears in his eyes! Wow. It’s weird cause BossOne complains so much about how BossTwo (her husband) won’t show his emotion, but it’s in there. Maybe she just doesn’t get his humor and has trouble letting him express emotion in his own way and time?

RyGuy’s parting comment was, “If you get in an earthquake you gotta call and tell me about it. You know I love hearing about that s__”

Korean til my ears bleed

The weekend with the in-laws was fine. The problem was having very little emotional reserve for polite small talk. Conversation with Mom and Dad is fine, but we went to church Sunday. All in Korean. They pray before and after every segment of the service. When one says, “they pray” one might picture (if you’re white) a nice polite, “Thank you for your blessings, please take care of all the poor in the world” type prayer. But that’s not Korean prayer. If you prayed Korean style and had to pray the whole thing without taking a breath, you’d be passed out on the floor and blue with lack of oxygen. Which is fine once or twice, but by the fifth time I wanted to run screaming around the room stabbing random objects with chopsticks. Perhaps the 45-minute sermon didn’t help either?

I don’t know if its true of all Korean churches, but each one I’ve visited provides lunch after the service. For seating arrangements, the church breaks down by age and gender. Every other visit I sat with Mom K at the ajumma table (middle aged Korean women). This time the pastor’s wife said, “You young, you sit with young people.” She grabbed my arm and directed me to the back of the room and sat me in front of a young Korean woman. Fortunately the teenager (I’m not that young!) spoke English. Remember how I said I had no energy for polite small talk?!! What were they doing to me? It turned out she was about to start School of Visual Arts in NY as a graphic design major and I was able to give her all sorts of advice. Phew. That was easier than I expected.

Sunday night we had dinner with Chogun Imo and Imo Abaji (Jrex’s mother’s younger sister, and younger sister’s husband). I love that Korean has precise names for each relative. I had a mild triumph during dinner. As I happily wolfed down the Bi Bim Nyang Myun (spicy cold noodles), Imo Abaji passed his dish of the same to his wife and muttered something in Korean. Jrex leaned over and said, “He just said it’s too spicy to eat.”

After dinner at the restaurant, we returned to Chogun Imo’s house for the exchange of gifts. Mom K bought a huge crystal vase for me to give her “in case you forgot”. A logical assumption since this was the first trip we remembered to buy something. Gift giving is not my culture. I’m doing well when I remember Mom and Dad K much less the extended family! I tried to give Mom money for the vase and she wouldn’t let me. She also insisted on paying for dinner. When I mentioned this to Jrex, he said, “It’s ok. They gave Dad $500 for his birthday this year. Everything must be repaid one way or another.”

Chogun Imo barely speaks any English. With what little she had she still managed to tell me to try for children, that I was getting ‘too old’, that she likes babies and I should make some. At least now Mom K is more aware of the situation and so doesn’t jump on the pressure wagon anymore. I nodded and just kept saying, ‘I know. Yes. You’re right.’ Ugh.

My general policy when everyone is talking in Korean is to at least watch whoever is speaking and to emote when others do. Smiling, laughing politely, looking concerned. I decided to do this after watching people in group settings who don’t understand English well. They stare into space and mostly just look stupid. I have no desire to seem like the dumb American in the corner. Plus, this way, they aren’t sure how much I understand. (the answer is nothing. But based on occasional English words and facial expressions I can usually follow the general direction) I like to keep Imo on her toes! Revenge for random baby comments.