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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Maxine's been pretty busy.

Happy Independence Day, for all of my American friends out there. We celebrated today by going shopping. I got peanut butter with an American flag on the label. Whoopeeeeee.

If you were concerned about my stomach because of the abrupt ending of my previous post, there is no need to worry. Everything came out just fine.

And yeah, there are no pictures with this post.

Maxine is sleeping better. I don't put her to sleep every night, as Horyon doesn't really like my method much, but I do get to take care of her in the middle of the night sometimes, as it is now an advantage to not have milk-producing glands.

Yesterday was a long day for Maxine, and Saturday and Sunday were a bit challenging, too. Saturday we met some of Horyon's ggae friends.

And away we go, off on another long aside about Korean ggaes. First of all, to me the word "ggae" sounds exactly like the English word "gay". The double g at the beginning indicates (I believe) a glottal stop. That's a fancy way of saying that you make the g sound with the back of your tongs, almost in your throat. The origins of the ggae is a sort of pyramid scheme kind of thing. Once a month a group of friends would get together and pool together $10 each. They give the entire pot to one person, who then has a big chunk of cash to play with. In the following months, the recipient rotates, until everyone has had a piece of the action. Of course, that kind of system is wide open for abuse. Suppose you get your big money in the first month, then decide you don't want to play any more? Buh-bye.

Nowadays, they do things a bit differently. The group meets once a month, and each member puts their money in, then they spend it. They go out for a nice dinner, or take a short trip. Whatever.

Horyon's Ggae is made up of a group of women who were all teachers at the same school around the time I met her. Since then, they have all moved on to different schools, and in some cases different kinds of jobs, but they stay in touch. They all contribute $10 a month, even during the months when they can't meet, and one of them keeps track of the money, and who owes. On their birthdays they get a Lotte Department Store gift certificate for 50,000 won ($50), and once every month or two they all get together to eat and talk. When they first got started, I believe that only one of them was married, now only two out of the eight are single. At one time I knew all of their names. I may be able to list them all now:

1. Li-ay
2. Mi-ay
3. Jung-ah
4. Su-jin
5. Gil-young
6. Young-ah
7. Hwa-young
8. Horyon

Ha! Horyon has given me full passing marks on this one. Not bad considering how infrequently I see them. Usually when they get together it's just the women, though there are always one or two who bring their child/children along, but Saturday there were all but one of the husbands and both boyfriends along for the ride. Perhaps they were lured by the kamja-tang.

Kamja-tang is literally "potato soup", which is a bit of an ironic name for pork backbone stewed with some kimchi and usually one potato in a bowl of food that feeds four people. Perhaps they consider the potato to be a sort of spice? I love kamja-tang, but it was stricken from our list of regular foods to eat during Horyon's pregnancy. As you may recall, serious vomiting after eating kamja-tang was one of the first indications that Maxine existed, back when she was just a little Bumble-weezle.

But I digress. Again.

It was a fun evening, and Maxine garnered quite a bit of attention. I believe I've seen three or four of the ggae friends bring new babies to these meetings, and none of them were as pleasant as our Maxine. She likes to be passed around the table, she impresses people by standing, walking (as I hold her hands), and eating rice that I feed her. She is a real champ, but the whole thing does tire her out.

Sunday we went to church, as usual. Maxine was passed around, admired, touched and talked to, as usual. And it was tiring for her, as usual. Unusual was that she and Horyon went to Horyon's old church, Sung-sang Church, for a special event in the afternoon. I didn't go because I had a splitting alibi. I stayed home and rested up, right after I ate lunch, did the huge stack of dishes, vacuumed the floor and made rice for Horyon. I got to rest for about ten minutes. I was pretty tired, but Maxine was more tired.

Yesterday, Monday, was a long day for all of us. I went to work in the morning, not sure if I was going to be working. It's fairly cung story of life in Korea; an English Job Interview class was "planned" for July and August. "Planned" in the sense that the class was listed on posters, and teachers were chosen for July and August. One teacher for each month. Earl was listed as the July teacher, and he attended a few "planning" meetings for the class. "Planning" in the sense that Earl, who has taught this class for a number of years, told the director, Mr. Choi (sounds like "chay") the maximum number of students that would be acceptable for the class (30), and Mr. Choi only let students sign up until his paper was full (120). Upon discovering this cung maneuver, Earl told Mr. Choi that it was unacceptable, unless another teacher could be found, and Mr. Choi agreed that another teacher should be found. Earl then asked me if I would be teaching in July, whereupon I replied that as far as I knew, yes, I would be. He told me that perhaps I should check on that.

Seemed a bit strange to me. I had been asked a month ago if I were willing to teach during the summer, and I said that yes, I was, but only adults please. I love kids, especially my own, but put me in a room full of them and I find myself contemplating using the stapler to keep them in their seats. I was told that I would be teaching the adult institute class in July, and just sort of planned around that. But Earl's suggestion that I check on it got me thinking: Maybe I should check on it. So I did.

Which leads right into the second cung moment of this story. The foreign teacher liaison told me that I wasn't teaching in July, and apologized for not telling me two weeks ago when she found out.

Well. Turns out I'm free after all.

So I told Earl that I was available, and he called Mr. Choi to say that he had found another teacher.

OK, just kidding. Earl tried to call Mr. Choi to pass on the good news, but found himself facing the third little bit of cung in this story: Mr. Choi was out of town on vacation. It was Thursday, and the class started on Monday, and he was out of town.

That should not have been a big deal, and ordinarily wouldn't be cung at all. After all, in Korea cell phones outnumbered landline phones seven or eight years ago. Koreans love their cell phones. You can find stores that sell nothing but dangly bits of cute crap to attach to your cell phone and cases for your cell phone and protective skins to put on your cell phone. I've seen couples out on a date with both of them talking on their cell phones as they walk along, hand in hand. Elementary school kids have cell phones. I wouldn't be surprised if people bought cell phones for their pets. And so being out of town means nothing.

Except that Mr. Choi wasn't answering his cell phone. Or his email. He wasn't even checking on his passenger pigeons. He was totally in-cung-municado. And so it continued until Monday morning, when the class started.

Monday morning my father-in-law came at 7 a.m. to pick up Maxine. (I'll bet you had forgotten that this post was about how tired Maxine is, hadn't you?) She was happy to see him, though it was a good three hours early. Still, changes in routine are hard on people, even babies.

I went to work. Turns out I didn't have to. Not for the Job Interview class, anyway. I had to be there for any students of mine who wanted to whine about their grades, though. I made a very embarrassing three changes by Tuesday evening. Big changes, from D's to B's. There were some gaps in my grading spreadsheet that could not be explained by the rules of physics as we understand them.

But, once again, I digress. Back to the job interview class:

Only 80 students showed up. Mr. Choi was thrilled, because Earl had already suggested that the class could be split, with half of the students attending at 10, and half at 11. But Earl wouldn't stand for it. "isn't' this for the kids, Mr. Choi? They want a two hour class. They're hungry for all that English. You gotta think of the kids!"

Good ol' Earl. He really went to bat for me. If it weren't for him, I'd be sitting around all month not tacking an extra $1200 onto my July paycheck. I seriously owe him one, and plan to buy him a beer as soon as Maxine is old enough to join us.

So on Tuesday (it was today when I started writing this, though it's Wednesday now) I started teaching a class of 40 kids, most of whom actually seem to want to improve their English, especially as it relates to job interviews. So far it's a fun class, in spite of the size. I will undoubtedly write more about it later this month.

But for now, back to Maxine and why she's so tired.

Monday afternoon, Horyon called me and asked if I wanted to go to her parents church that evening for the last presentation in this special event for families. I told her that of course I would be thrilled to go sit through a lecture I couldn't understand, but I really had to get home and trim my toe nails.

Her response was a heavy sigh. And a reminder that lots of people had asked about me on Sunday. And that her parents were helping out with the hosting. And the suggestion that I could play with Maxine the whole time if I wanted. And the promise that the food would be good. And the program would only last an hour or so.

So I decided to put my toenails off until they get a bit longer.

The food was good. Lots of people said they were happy to see me, especially the in-laws. And I did get to play with Maxine quite a bit.

But the estimated duration of the event proved to be inaccurate. Very inaccurate. The speaker was very spirited, and she had a nice little power point presentation. I couldn't understand more than a few words of it, but Horyon translated some for me. An hour into this lecture, Horyon leaned over to me and whispered, "She said that small children have a short attention span, and you shouldn't lecture to them for more than two minutes!" I could only groan, "Oh, the irony!" as the children around us grew fussier and fussier.

By the time the event finished it was 9:30 p.m.! Cung! Horyon's parents felt bad about it, and explained that it was the first time for their church to do something like this. Horyon and I talked about it quite a bit on the way home. This post is already long enough without going into detail. Suffice it to say that Korean and American churches work differently, as I have pointed out in a previous post.

And so it is possible that Maxine has been sleeping better because she is exhausted. I know that I have been sleeping soundly because of exhaustion.

Oh, and just so you know, we couldn't see those North Korean missiles from our house, so I'm not very worried. The experts say that North Korea is just trying to get attention from America. Perhaps we could take them to the park and then have lunch at McDonald's. It certainly won't heal the rift, but it's a start.




Aubrey said...

I am still smiling at your multiple uses of "cung." Perfect!

Jon said...

Yes, agreed. "Cung" works wonderfully. Still haven't managed to field-test it here in New Mexico, though....

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.