Banner design by Helena, portrait by Eva


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Korea, like home tonight.

Suwon, South Korea

It's a mild, rainy night. It sure doesn't feel like February as I know it in Canada! Recent weather reports in Ontario warned people against breathing in the cold air.

I'm eating take-out: kimbap and rabbogie. The rice cakes are swimming in red pepper sauce, with carrots, leaks, cabbage and onions.

At the restaurant on my way home from work, my end of the conversation went like this: Anyoasayo. (Bow.) Rabbogie pojung? Nay. Comsamnida. Anyo (to a bag). Pay-go-payo. Smile. Comasamnida. Anyungekasayo.

Onlookers are amused when I attempt to speak Hangul. Of course, had the waitress asked me anything, she would have revealed my ignorance. Basically I know enough to be fed!

The other day I was approached by a Mongolian woman. She's a newlywed, married to a Korean, with no friends or family in Korea. She and her husband converse in the International language: English.

You'd swear she was Korean by looking at her, so Koreans initiate conversation, and are confused when she doesn't understand. I'm grateful for my pale skin, and that trusty Canadian flag pinned to my coat.

But tonight, for the first time, chopsticks feel natural in my hand. The pressure is effortless.

When you arrive in a foreign country, you only have to wake up to feel alive. Hooking up a phone or mastering the transportation system is accomplishment enough. But it has been over 3 months now and routine has followed me, as it does most people. It's necessary to make an effort to keep life interesting, and push yourself to do better- to learn more, see more.

Tonight I'm reading, studying Korean and writing. I like the rain.

I've been invited to a Korean's home for Lunar New Years, Sunday. The guy's family must be liberal, because the celebration is steeped in tradition. It's the holiday that carries the most weight in Korea so it would be like me inviting a near-stranger to Christmas day at my family's home.


Beaman said...

Are you sure you're not an American pretending to be Canadian whilst abroad? :p We've had some of those in Europe.

Very nice blog by the way. I spent a year and a bit in Berlin, Germany teaching English. Great fun.

Eva Karrin McKinnon said...

hahaha no, luckily I don't have to pretend.

I scanned your (new) blog and it looks great! I look forward to reading your posts.

Beaman said...

I'm glad :)

Stephen said...

I'm enjoying reading your blog. It makes my heart ache. Though I know a lot of people think I'm crazy, I miss Korea. I like your photos. They're clean, informative and well-composed. I know what you mean about pushing yourself to keep learning and exploring. Change your routine as often as you can. Walk to work by a different road in the morning, for example. Personally, I found my $200 Dailim motorcycle to be the best (if not the most dangerous) ticket out of the thickets of routine.

Eva Karrin McKinnon said...

Eek, a motorcycle would be too dangerous for me! I'm a clutz.

Thanks for dropping by my blog! I'll add you to my links list.

That's flattering that a professional photographer likes my photos, hahaha. I never owned a camera before I arrived in Korea, and the one I bought isn't great.

Helena said...

"hangul" isn't the spoken language, it's just the writing. "Han" means Korea and "gul" means writing.

J said...

Yes. So "Hanguk-mal" means Korean speak, literally. Or Korean [spoken] language.

By the way, a short lesson in Northeast Asian physical anthropology: the reason you couldn't tell if the Mongolian woman was Mongolian or Korean is because Mongolians are distantly related to Koreans. From the Buryats of the Russian Federation to the Yakuts of Siberia to the Manchurians and Koreans - many share similar features, including but not limited to broad faces with prominent cheekbones, and smaller, sometimes single-lidded eyes. You'll also see many Koreans with double-eyelids, smaller, narrower faces, but the general commonalities between the Mongols and Koreans are unmistakable.