So I have been in Jin-ju for 2 weeks now. The transition between cultures has been less shocking thanks to having my family here, but nonetheless I still stumble around in amazement at times. The sights transfix me; neon lights of the narrow alleys packed with people and cars and things for sale, rugged cliffs and flat rice fields, temples and architecture from fairy tales. The smells are a dazzle of newness; salty foods from the ocean, flowers that smell of banana and coconut, soil of strange compositions from a different geography. And the sounds inspire me; new bird calls that persist through a downpour, the quiet sharpness of Korean tongues, and the innocent giggles of children when they see my adorable niece, with her uniquely recessive characteristics.
Trying to speak Korean has been challenging. When in a foreign place I am usually most concerned with learning my 3 basics - Hello, Thank-You and I'm Sorry. In Korean, the word for hello is AHN-NYUNG HA-SEH-YO. Seriously. It took me 5 days to say this in public. The word for thank-you is GAM-SAH HAM-NEE-DA. I'm am not joking. I haven't even tackled I'm sorry yet. I just smile and sometimes bow my head slightly and swallow my pride. I have accepted my foreignness in a new way.
I have begun tutoring English lessons through the school where my sister, and now my mom, teach at. Mostly I work with individual students who have requested extra practice lessons in reading and writing. I work with 2 young women who will be attending a Canadian school next year on an exchange program.
Last week I experienced one of many firsts, and promised not be my last, Noraebang. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure in Asia or elsewhere, Noraebang is Korean for "Singing Room". A private, personal karaoke bar in a 5 x 5 meter below-ground living room. Imagine excessively loud 80's rock (mainly Jon Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen), 6 television screens, flashy tambourines and neon disco balls. Add beer, snacks, 3 foreigners who can't sing and 3 Koreans who can, and you have my night at the Noraebang. Am I the only person who didn't realize the origin of the word 'karaoke' is Japanese?
Another adventure ensued this past weekend when we made a day-trip to the ocean. We travelled just over an hour by bus to reach the ruggedly island-studded coast of the Korea Straight between Japan and South Korea. It was truly breathtaking.
Highlights, exciting things that have caught my attention, and funny experiences since arriving here include, but are not limited to the following: the reflexology zen foot park, assorted baked goods made from rice flour (tripple yummmm), ringing my bell while cruising around the neighbourhood on my new red bike, experimenting with different Korean candies and delicacies, listening to my niece's fist real baby-belly-laugh and watching my sister's adoring face while it happened, meeting and spending time with Jonathan's mother and sister who are here visiting from Australia, and giggling into the wee hours with my mom in our dorm room apartment above the pajama store, across from the GS Mart.