Thursday, April 27, 2006

My Korean vacation. Or, the week my butt was constantly numb.

I got the job. I'd heard nothing from the company, and no voicemail or e-mail arrived while I was gone, but yesterday after Eric picked me up (after making me wait an extra half-hour at the airport so he could go home and change his clothes, mind) I got the mail and there was a letter, which I opened in dread; but it began "I am pleased to offer" so that was all right. I start Monday. I'm deeply, deeply thankful.

So, my Korean vacation. It was busy, it was fun, it was exhausting, I met oodles of relatives, I ate oodles of rice, I got food poisoning, I brought lots of stuff back. The first difference between our culture and theirs I noticed right away when my aunt brought us to her place the first night: they have no carpets, just heated laminate floors, and no couches. We ate breakfast (rice, vegetables, bean curd soup, and meat, just like every other meal I had while I was there) cross-legged on the floor around a fold-up wooden table. I brought back a smaller verson--a tray really--because I was so enamoured of these tables. However, sitting on the uncarpeted floor gave me some unusual aches and pains. I noticed my grandmother's ankles had thick calluses on them, presumably from a lifetime of doing this.

We went to a Korean folk village in the cold ("You'll need only a light coat or no coat," Mom had told me, but she had also told me to pack light, and she showed up with a gigantic suitcase and carryon) to see how Koreans used to live and to Gyongju, the ancient capital, to see how they died. Koreans bury their dead on hillsides--or at least they did. As we drove around the country we kept seeing little, perfect mounds, some marked with stones or lights and some plain, on the slopes by the freeways. They're dums--tombs, but there's no chamber inside unless you're a king. The king's dum, cut open for everyone to see, is in Gyongju.

The family reunion was last Saturday, and to prepare for it my uncle and my cousin and James and I went to the Pohang market for fish and meat and fruit. The fish portion of the market was unbelievable. If you could catch it in the Pacific, you could find it in that market. There were long silver fish and short dark fish and gigantic fish the size of men; there were tiny squid and huge wriggling octupi; there were flounder and rays and sharks; there were clams and oysters and sea urchins; there were sea cucumbers and strange pulpy things I couldn't identify. I saw a woman haggling about some fish while we were making our own purchases and noticed her bag was wriggling. In a moment she noticed it too and hit it until it stopped.

The last day, Tuesday, we went back to the market to see what else was there. The fish were still there, not as many as on Saturday but still plentiful; there were dozens of types of seaweed, flat and roasted or still salty from the ocean; there were doughnuts and roasted chestnuts and rice cakes to eat. The best way to convey the feel of the market would be through smell. There was also everything else at the market: clothing, blankets, children's toys, tables and trays, knockoff designer purses, knockoff clothing (James got a pair of Adipas pants), candy, spices, yarn, housewares, kitchen supplies, crockery, silk flowers, real flowers, fruit, socks, shoes, lingerie, T-shirts. I bought a couple of T-shirts with nonsense English on them. The salespeople there are more pushy than they are in the US. I also saw at least two legless men maneuvering the market on little wheeled platforms, shoes on their hands to help them get around.

At the reunion I met my English-speaking uncle and his two children and my dead uncle's wife and another lady whose connection to me I either don't remember or never learned. I had already met one aunt and her granddaughter/ward and another aunt and her three children, plus the children of the aunt I was staying with. I have yet another aunt, who has apparently disappeared as far as anyone can tell. I've never met her and, possibly, never will. But I had a good time talking (or at least eating with, as they only knew a few words of English and I a few words of Korean) with my family and watching my mom with them. At the end of the night it was decided that nineteen people in that place with one bathroom was probably inadvisable, so I and James and my uncle and three of our cousins went out to karaoke (we sang English, they mostly sang Korean) and to a hotel. The hotel was just like my aunt's house in that it had a heated smooth floor, a bed with thick puffy blankets and no sheets, and a bath with no shower curtain. The hotel provided shower slippers, shampoo, toothbrushes, and toothpaste, but no soap--though there was a place for it so it might have been an oversight.

The next day we all went to the beach, where there are two sculptures of hands, one sticking out from the surf and another standing a short way up the shore. The first sunrise of the new year appears cupped between these hands, apparently. Most of the family nibbled on seaweed--I'm not sure whether we bought it from a sidewalk vendor or just picked it up--which I passed on after the first piece. I'm afraid I'm really not as adventurous with food as I'd like to be, as the stuff I ate and liked there was mostly what I've eaten and liked before. After walking on the beach and taking pictures--I let two of my cousins use my camera and they had apparently never had such fun on a beach before--we went to a restaurant. Previously my aunt and uncle had taken us to this beach, but it had been raining torrentially so we just went off to eat at a sushi place where the fish were caught in the ocean right in front of the restaurant--low overhead, I figure. This time the family had cooked fish and I made myself eat part of an egg they ordered for me instead. My English-speaking uncle noticed I wasn't finishing it and bought ice cream for me. After lunch we toured my other uncle's steel-making company and eventually most of my relatives left.

Either the egg or the ice cream was most likely what gave me food poisoning the next day. It was unpleasant, especially as we were going out to do souvenir shopping and stopped at a place with a lot of interesting pottery and jewelry. Apparently Korean amethyst is the best in the world--at least that's what the sign said. When we got home my stomach was still hurting so my aunt gave me a homemade quince drink she said would help. The alcohol in it might have been what did it; but I felt better the next day, when we went to the market. Then we came home. I was ready to. I had a good time and I'm glad I went; but I'm thoroughly enjoying my carpet, my couch, my non-rice meals, my car, and my own determination of my schedule. And my new job.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Today I picked Shel up from school and we played a German game. It's a hexagonal board with room for six players. Each player gets five lettered dice of his or her chosen color. The players take turns throwing dice and the first person to get 'a' through 'e' ('e' is on two sides of the dice) collected on the board wins. It is a mind-numbingly boring game. But I was trying to entertain her (and forget about my annoyance about having to buy a ticket from Atlanta to Detroit for Monday because Eric's family is going down to visit his dying uncle and I'm going with because I sort of want to and Eric wants me to and his family will be unhappy with me if I don't) so I agreed to play. When she mentioned that she once played all six colors I leaped on that suggestion and we each took three colors, gave them names and personalities, and acted each character out on his or her turn. The game got a lot more fun after that; we played three or four rounds. Shel liked my hyperactive (Olive) and pathologically shy (Amethyst) personalities best. After I said I had to leave she wrote down a list of personalities she wanted to try next time.

Tonight I'm packing for the Atlanta trip, packing for the Korea trip, and quilting halmoni's quilt. I wish I had bought the high-loft batting instead of the extra-loft batting, as high-loft is actually loftier than extra-, and the quilting is actually pretty neat and I wish it showed up better. Alas. It looks nice on the back. I'm going to finish it up tonight and make binding and attach it, and in the van to Atlanta I'm going to attach the other side, finishing it, by hand. And then I'll lay it out somewhere where we're staying (I don't know where that is, whether with the family or at a hotel) and take pictures before I place it in my Korea luggage. I'm dreading the flying time, especially with the added trip from Atlanta, especially as I can't get it added to my itinerary so I have to disembark in Detroit, wait for my luggage to unload, and check in for Korea. I'm afraid they'll lose my luggage and won't be willing to send it to Korea. Maybe I'll rudely carry both pieces on and make the flight attendants gate-check it for me.

Tomorrow I'm also supposed to attend a meeting about a temp position with the city government. I don't want to go, but I did not get a job offer from the other place today, so I suppose I'd better. I hope they call tomorrow, or at the latest Friday. I would be so happy to know I had a job to come back to.

I also need to check with a company I ordered something from two weeks ago to see whether they actually sent it. It should have been here by now. Also M's present to me should have been here by now, based on when she sent it, so maybe the postman is just cutting me off, I don't know. I can't wait to move into a real place with a real mailbox--though apparently mailslots are more common around here than mailboxes.

On Sunday Eric and I decided to go to an open house for a nearby house Shel collected a flier from while out riding her bike. We went mostly for the walk and to indulge idle curiosity, but we love the house. We want the house. We can't get the house until I get a job or we get someone to cosign, and of course we can't do much about it, other than maybe schedule an inspector, until I get back from Korea. However, with the housing market where it is (awful, for sellers), that may not be a problem and might even help in bargaining down the price. If we do get the house, we may have to render Shel a realtor's fee. Certainly she did as much for us in bringing home that flier as my Toledo ex-realtor, now known as The Worst Realtor Ever, ever did.

And we have to do something about the wedding, like pick a day and a venue. We're probably going to end up at Wildwood Metropark. But I want to see what else is around, and we don't seem to be able to do that much--maybe now that the weather is warmer, we will. And then comes the trouble of menus and invitations and flowers and relatives who can't afford to come but won't accept my money for plane tickets (I imagine, anyway) and the impending fight about the rehearsal dinner. Eloping is sounding better and better. Or a boat wedding. Or something.

Anyhow, I have to eat something (I have to empty my fridge, I didn't think about that) and verify that I packed everything I need (like my passport and my itinerary, and at least three books) and quilt my heart out and read some more of Emma. I shall return in two weeks, laden with pictures and souvenirs and memories, and, I hope, a job and less anxiety.

Friday, April 07, 2006

A singular interview.

The interview went, I think, well. The interviewer brought me into his office, described the company, and asked me exactly two questions: "Do you have any questions?" and "Do you have any more questions?"

My understanding is that they're expanding enormously and my resume is pretty good as far as they're concerned. I'm to think over all that he told me (and he told me a lot--I asked good questions, but he evidently likes talking about his company) and if I'm interested, e-mail him Monday, fill out the official application packet he gave me, and if the background check goes smoothly I could be working the next Monday. I won't, of course, since I'll be on my way to Korea (already!), but he sounded very amenable to a later starting date.

I may have a job here. I'm not positively sure, but I may. I like the sound of the job and the company a lot more after the interview ("interview"), and he mentioned a couple of spots I could move into after a couple of months he thought I would be suited for--project management or internal research and analysis. I will write to him on Monday and we'll see.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Last ramblings of a twenty-five-year-old

"You have a sharp tongue," my future mother-in-law said to me last night, after she had gone off to sulk, apparently because I had criticized a TV show she was watching while she was asleep. I did not return the comment but God knows I could have. When we move to the West Coast Eric's going to complain just as much about my mother, I would guess; in the meantime I get to do it about his.

My last day to be twenty-five. I thought briefly of making something of it, but no, there's nothing to make. I disposed of twenty-five reasonably well--all except the not having a job part--and I'm not yet afraid of turning thirty. I'm hoping I won't. Today I job-hunt and maybe even (gasp) write a little, now that I've spent the last few days inexplicably reading all the fantasy books I have that I hadn't yet read. (Today I reverted to type and started Jane Eyre for the fifth or sixth time.) Stuffing my thoughts with good writing makes me want to create my own. Motivation would be a nice birthday present. I think I wanted that last year, or the year before, or maybe both. That's probably not a good sign, but maybe this year I'll improve.

Tomorrow will be about the same as today, with more quilt-making in it, and then in the evening I'll go over to the aforementioned future mother-in-law's and have, I'm told, dinner and dessert (I was asked whether I prefer cake and ice cream or an ice-cream cake) and then come back to my apartment to snuggle with my fiance and maybe watch some of our unwatched movie backlog. What is it with me and unperused media?

Yesterday I got a guilt-inducing card from Bev ("Look! I sent your card and gift on time!" she wrote, probably not actually intending to make me feel bad about not yet sending a present for her son, whose birthday is exactly a month before mine, but that was the effect) and a gift certificate to Toys R Us or Babies R Us. "I'm not trying to hint at Babies R Us," she wrote, "but I figured you probably need a new toy." It's a lovely thought, but she doesn't know of the vow I made never to step foot in a Toys R Us again after my experience at Christmas, so it will indeed be Babies R Us. Someday, someone I know will have a baby again (it ought to be soon; I have a bunch of fabric I need to use up, preferably as baby quilts) or if I don't find anything interesting for Gabe in Korea--the plan now is to get him something from there and pretend I meant to all along; it's not like he's going to notice my lateness, this year at least--I'll use it for him.

The quilt for halmoni is going quickly, but not well. I should have chosen a slightly less simple design; I would have complained more about the work, but I would have liked it better. However, I have less than two weeks to finish and it's not bad; just not what I had hoped. She'll still like it, if she'll like it at all--I'm uncertain whether she's the type of person who will, not knowing her. I also still have to get to a liquor store to buy Johnny Walker Red, as requested by Dad to give to my aunt who'll be hosting us...I think our entire stay. I wonder if she'd like the furry scarf I'm making (because garter stitch is sometimes soothing). I wonder what I'd do if I didn't make things.

(I also wonder what I'd do if Eric started picking up after himself. That's going to be a bone of contention forever. Sigh.)

All right: job hunting, and maybe writing, and in the evening perhaps going to the park to scout for a wedding site; and doing anything, if I think of anything, that I want to do one last time before I'm no longer twenty-five.