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Monday, November 24, 2003

Wedding, Typhoon,

[Once again, something from the archives. I edited out my previous spelling mistakes, but have otherwise left it alone. Enjoy!]

Hi everyone!

First of all, I've been delayed in sending this. Horyon wasn't very happy with it, as she thought it was a negative view of Koreans. This bothered me, until I realized that the couple involved was only half Korean. The other half was American, and God Bless Us, we sometimes manage to bring more than a little ridiculousness to situations. In a couple of weeks we will be attending their housewarming party. If any events at this party are worth passing on, I certainly will do so. Anyway, we have made reservations for our trip home. Well, I made reservations. And I've just discovered that they are, as usual, screwed up. We will still get to America, just...

Let me try to fix it first. I'll write to you more later. In the mean time, here is what I finished writing a couple of weeks ago:

Strangest thing. In Korea, I can't find the price of a plane ticket for next January until November. So on Monday I will go to my university travel agent and arrange our tickets home! I do have some bad news about this, though. Not terrible, just annoying. Horyon will be able to avoid teaching vacation classes (another in a vast series of Korean ironies) in her school this winter, but she still has to teach regular classes. Regular classes finish Dec. 31st, so we will likely leave January 2nd, just to avoid trying to fly on a holiday. She has to be back for regular classes on February 11th. That doesn't sound too bad, until you find out that they have one week of classes, then ten more days of vacation. So right now, our plan is for Horyon to return by the 11th, and for me to say another week or so. Once she's gone, I figure I can eat whatever the heck I want to. (She has threatened to return to Korea with my stomach, but I don't think she has the guts to go through with it. Blah ha ha.)

We are thinking of taking a road trip during the first week in February, visiting an Aunt and Uncle in Wichita, a long haul to Jon in Albuquerque, up north to see my friend Elon and his family in beautiful Limon, Colorado, then home again. Of course, this is all weather permitting, but Limon is in that little flat stretch of Colorado. They don't get as much snow as up in the mountains, so I think we've got a pretty good chance of getting there.

Back to the present. I have caught a cold. Or rather, it caught me. It's been running me down all week. Monday I was tired, slept 14 hours Monday night. I kept getting more tired, and waking up with my throat dried out. Thursday and Friday I taught my classes at the same volume I use talking with Horyon in bed. Rest assured that I was not as smooth and seductive while talking about asking follow up questions as I am when we talk about married people stuff. I was supposed to give the sermon tomorrow in church, but that has been nixed. We went to a coworker's wedding today, and I was still using that soft, husky voice, only even softer.

But let me tell you about that wedding. It was the strangest wedding I've ever been to, and I'm living in a country that specializes in bizarre weddings. Marshall had told us that he had put his foot down, and that there would be no smoke or bubble machines, two common devices in Korean weddings. They didn't want the hustle and bustle of a wedding hall (if your not married, photographed and gone in 45 minutes, it's FREE!), and they are not affiliated with any church (though I doubt many churches would be happy knowing that they had been living together for the past five years), so they decided to get married in a restaurant.

I arrived in time to sit with some of my coworkers and save a seat for Horyon, who had to come from work. After we sat down, the waitress came, poured us water, and asked what we wanted to eat. The choice was hamburger steak or fried rice. One of us ordered fried rice, but to no avail. The waitress came back and told us there was no more fried rice.

That's right. They ran out of fried rice. If you have never lived in an Asian country, that might not be shocking, but if you have, you are probably shaking your head to stave off insanity. Fried rice is nothing but rice, oil, some vegetables, a little meat, and kimchi. How does a restaurant planning a wedding luncheon run out of that stuff? People have been known to firebomb restaurants that run out of rice and/or kimchi! Craziness, friends, craziness. What is this country coming to?

Anyway, they brought us some bottles of beer, and we got started. Then the wedding got started. Ten minutes into it, we got our food. So we ate and drank through the whole service. The actual wedding ceremony was pretty typical: an M.C. talked for a long time, even a little in English, another guy talked for a while, they did the vow thing, they read a poem, they did one of those cute couple toasts where they intertwine their arms and try to drink cheap champagne without spilling it on themselves, then they cut the cake with a ridiculously large knife. Of course, they didn't kiss. And no one was there to give the bride away, as her parents think she is marrying El Diablo himself. His parents also weren't there because they've met her many times, and three weeks notice just isn't enough time to come to Korea for a wedding in a restaurant. After we finished our food, and they finished all the wedding stuff, the waiters kept bringing us food. We definitely had enough to eat, which is rare for a wedding service.

And the music was something else. Mostly they played organ music that sounded like the soundtrack to a 1960's soap opera, "Days of Our Lives," I think. That would be an accurate reflection of the spirit of the wedding (what with her parents protesting, and likely to show up any moment with baseball bats, or to say that her father was in a coma.). But then at one point it switched to the marching theme from "Bridge Over the River Kwai." You may not recognize the name, but you would know it if you heard it. Imagine 20 or 30 people whistling. When I was a kid, we used to sing to it:

"Comet, it makes your mouth turn green
Comet, it tastes like gasoline,
Comet, it makes you vomit,
so have some Comet, and vomit, today."

I'll see if I can attach it to this email. That will do the trick. It was also an accurate reflection of the spirit of the wedding (in that it was funny like only the soundtrack to a war movie can be).

And in the background, I could see four t.v.'s playing an action movie with Sly Stallone. It added immensely to the ambiance, as well as providing a bizarre sort of reflection of the spirit of the wedding (for reasons which I cannot at this time explain, but see as a sort of gestalt).

On a more serious note (I know, how is that possible?), going through the whole thing unable to speak above a whisper was an odd experience. I was a little frustrated at not being easily able to add content to the conversations around me, but I found that I was choosing my words more carefully. It was kind of the same teaching my classes. Usually I joke around, explain things many times, and talk over students who are being mildly disruptive, but not this week.

Then Sunday night I found that after a long hot shower, my vocal cords had loosened up. I could talk! Not perfectly, not loudly, but loudly enough that Horyon could hear me in the next room. Way cool! Monday morning I found myself better equipped to teach, though still tired as all get out. I managed to teach four hours without attempting to raise my voice, and found that most students in my classes were quiet and well behaved. So I have decided that I will no longer raise my voice to be heard above a class. It is inevitable that raising my voice is stressful to me, and speaking quietly calms me, so why not?

Let me back up to our minor disaster this summer. Perhaps you heard about typhoon Maimee that swept through Korea and Japan in July, perhaps not. The States got hit with a big one about the same time. Maimee was one tough dog of a storm. That morning I rode my bicycle for an hour, and that evening I rode our building. We live on the 19th floor of a 25 story apartment, and we could clearly feel the building swaying in the breeze. The water was sloshing in the toilet. The curtains were moving even with the windows closed. When we stood we swayed like a middle school slow dance without even trying. As a human being who has studied more about concrete buildings than most people, I felt confident that it would not fall down. However, this was the first summer for our building, and if I happened to be wrong it would totally suck to be buried in the rubble of a 25 story apartment building.

We managed to ignore it for a while, then the outside veranda window popped loose at the top. We have (sorry, had) a big, sliding glass picture window, about eight feet tall and wide. A four foot wide window complemented it. Of course, the small one survived just fine, but the big one came loose. It bounced back and forth between the outside wall and the hand railing. Bang-bang, bang-bang, bang-bang. That was too much, but we tolerated it. Until it shattered. The inside windows were still closed, so we got no broken glass inside the apartment. But then we were worried that something could be blown into the inside window, making a real mess.

So we went down to the second floor and hung out in the stairwell. Some neighbors who we hadn't previously met invited us into their apartment. They had good, solid windows. We hung around chatting, looking at their funny-looking baby, and I read a book. (Quick show of hands, who is surprised that Rob was carrying a book during a hurricane?) Around 2 a.m., the storm had slowed down some, so we nervously padded up to our apartment and went to bed.

I must say one positive thing for this apartment complex: the electricity went off early in the storm, but the emergency light system worked. One 90-watt bulb in each apartment. Stayed on all night. I was seriously impressed, as I half-way expected the light bulb to explode, spraying shards of concrete from the wall, wrapping the electric wires around my throat, and in all likelihood knocking over our wedding picture. I was pleased to find that instead I could sit and read my book, in between reassuring Horyon that we were not going to die in the immediate future, and that even if we were to die, I would die happily with her, though it would be a shame to miss the trip home this winter.

The epilogue to this little tale of terror is not yet finished. It took a month to get the window repaired, talking to three different window companies. Those guys made some serious money this summer, let me tell you. We got the cheapest fix we could, dividing the picture window top and bottom, with sliding partitions in both top and bottom. Since there was already a hand railing in the middle, it doesn't really change the view. Price, around US$750. We paid for it, but the building insurance should cover the cost. But they won't pay us directly, because we don't own the apartment. Neither does my university. You see, my university rents this apartment from a guy. He can collect the insurance money, whenever it comes. Then we get to bug him to give us the money. He has promised us to pay the additional costs not covered by the insurance. And then last night a representative of the insurance company called asking for our documents, because today is the deadline. We've already given the documents to the apartment owner, so what's going on?

As I wrap this up, it is Thursday morning. I have to be in my office at 12:00, so I have time to catch you up on this week. On Monday I went to a doctor for my cold. I had decided that if the cold had me for a week I would go, so I did. I went with the doctor's wife, who is studying with a coworker of mine. Ginger (her nickname) speaks English fairly well, and interpreted for her husband, who was very shy. They were very kind to me, and set me up with the "premium" prescription. Ginger explained to me that most Korean patients complain because the medicine is too expensive, so he will sometimes write a cheaper prescription. She explained this while paying for me, which I could not talk her out of. The price was only about $10 for the IV and two days worth of pills. And people complain that this is expensive? Good luck seeing a doctor in the States! Anyway, the prescription was six little packets of pills. Well, not so little, I guess. The packet has five capsules, two pills, four half-pills and a quarter-pill. I actually managed to get the whole packet in my mouth and down my throat at one shot, though it took a few gulps. I was supposed to take them with food, so on Monday I took one packet of pills. That night I didn't get to sleep until three in the morning. Didn't feel sick, in fact I felt healthier than I had for the past week. I woke up Tuesday around 9:00, and took my medicine that day with lunch and dinner. Tuesday night I didn't go to sleep at all. I went to bed, read for a while, lay there for a while, then got up and watched TV, wrote most of this document, read some more, and spent the morning with Horyon as she woke up and got ready for school. On Wednesday I had six classes of students doing presentations. It was a long day, and I was much more lively and aware than I would have expected. I made sure to take my medicine Wednesday morning, just to make sure I got through the day. By the time I got home, around 4:30, I was ready to crash. I had to deal with the insurance guy, but I got to sleep by 5:30. I slept until 7:00 this morning. Now I feel good, though I still have a bit of a lung cough. At least I'm sleeping.

Well, if this wasn't the most boring mass email I've ever sent, it won't be for lack of trying. Have a pleasant day, stay healthy, and avoid typhoons.



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A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.