Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year's in Seoul (Days Two and Three--Skiing and Fish)

What is it about vacation that makes you sleep so much better, even though the bed is not what you're used to and therefore uncomfortable? I don't know, but both Se Jin and I slept for a ridiculously long time and felt much better for Sunday--the day for skiing!

It's been a year since I'd gone, but I'm in much better shape than I've ever been (thanks taekwondo!) so even with the crappy rental boots, I fell right back in feeling great on the slopes. When we got there, Se Jin and I took off for the bunny slopes because she's only been a few times before and was really nervous while her brother-in-law and Seong Jin headed for the easier full green trails. Soon Keum watched her daughter by the snack bar and watched our stuff because she's awesome like that. I was unwilling to take my camera out on the slopes because I didn't trust my own skills, but I did have a blast. Se Jin took her tiny one out later, so maybe I'll have some pics from that to share when she sends them to me.

Around 4 or 4:30 the slopes shut down for a couple hours while they tidied up the snow for night skiing. At this point, Se Jin's second oldest sister who lives in Daegu (the one whose house I dined at in October) and her family drove out to meet us at the ski resort.

Se Jin with youngest niece Hennie, who thinks my name is "Hello!"

Seong Jin was really excited because their son, Jin-oo, is the same age as he is.
Age in Korea is Very Important. I'm not sure how much I've blogged about this, but when you meet a Korean person, it's very likely the first question they will ask you is how old you are. This is because everything about the deferential levels in speech is based on your age in relationship to the person you are addressing. If they are older, you must give polite/formal endings; if they are younger you can "talk down" to them.

Because of the intense stratification based on age, you are technically only allowed to be 친구s (chingus, or friends) with someone born the same lunar year as you (since lunar year is how they determine age). I have to explain this to my students a lot when I refer to Se Jin as my friend since she is four years my senior. In Korean, I call her 세진언니, which means Se Jin, older sister. At work, I just call her Jiny Teacher. Oh cultural mixing how strange you are!

Anyhow, this means that Seong Jin and Jin-oo being the same age is even more exciting for them.

Jin-oo and Seong Jin raising heck and being boys.

After a snack of spicy ddokboki and ice cream (which is a winter food in Korea... you only think I'm kidding here...), we went back out for some night skiing. The slopes were almost completely empty, which was awesome. I ended up heading out for the blues with the brother-in-law (Soon Keum joked that we swapped husbands) while Se Jin took her two trouble-making nephews over to the greens. I had a fantastic time, though I fell twice when I hit icy patches.

Se Jin's brother-in-law asked me if my father taught me to ski. I said no. I learned to ski with my last boyfriend. Sometimes it's hard to think about the sport without realizing how my learning it is so intermixed with my good memories of our time together. Just like my love of red wine and good food. But unlike waiting six years to try martial arts for myself because I associated it with my first serious boyfriend, I'm keeping the the things I've gained from the two years I spent with him that I enjoyed and making them my own. Just because the growth happened in a relationship that didn't work out doesn't mean I can't own it and love it. Is this maturity or naivety?

The next day Se Jin and I met fellow blogger Amanda in person for the first time (she lives about two or three subway stops from Soon Keum's family). She's just as awesome as I thought she'd be. We had a fantastic conversation about studying Korean and relationships and whatnot. Her boyfriend, aptly monikered Good Man in her blog, joined us later that afternoon, still a bit drunk from his work party. He's very, very shy.

Se Jin was feeling a bit stomach buggy, so she went home and Amanda took me to the Doctor Fish place where fish eat your feet.

At first, I was really excited

But, boy did it feel weird.

If you have the opportunity to try it, do so. It felt kind of like your feet were asleep without actually being asleep. Not easy to describe in words.

Amanda and I with fish on our feet

We also went to a yummy pasta place for dinner and subjected poor Good Man to hours of girl talk. He was quite a good sport about the whole thing. I think he likes seeing Amanda happy, which makes me approve of him (not that my approval is necessary, but I do like to grant it when I see fit).

Afterwards, Se Jin and everyone else happened to be out at E-mart, so they picked me up and we went home to watch the New Year come in from the comfort of the warm living room. The children and I read books quietly while the Seoul Ballet performed The Nutcracker Suite on tv. And then they rang the bell and 14 hours earlier than everyone else I usually spend the holiday with did, I welcomed 2008. And then slept for 12 hours. Apparently, fish wear you out!


  1. You look kind of evil in the second fish photo.

    And remember, the word for "body partfalling asleep" is 쥐나다 (or 취가 나다). I think it's always said in the past tense much like "to be pregnant" (임신하다).

    And thanks for the approval. :)

  2. Hm... I thought the look of "WTF?" was clear, but you're right... I do look a little like I'm plotting my revenge on the unsuspecting little nibblers.



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