My mom and aunt visited Jeju last week for 5 days. In addition to lugging two containers of Cheetos, a board game, trashy magazines, and baked goods to bring to me, they also deserve kudos for being so open while in Korea. They forgave me for my poor navigation skills and let me feed them everything from duck to blood sausage to eel to Korea's favorite dessert-- ice flakes, ice cream, fruit, syrup, and generous quantities of red beans. They visited my school, drank tea with my principal, managed to swallow my school's spicy soup and make their way through its fried fish with metal chopsticks. They watched me teach a lesson on greetings and put up with my sometimes too energetic students students running up to them and declaring, "Who are you?" "AHH SMALL FACE" (a big compliment in Korea) and "Why your little brother no here?" They were up for a trip to Korea's bare-all bathhouses and later a special dinner with my principal, vice-principal, my school's administrative staff, the English teachers, and my host mom, which was mainly in Korean and in classic fashion involved a lot of kneeling on the floor, being told to eat a lot, and trying to politely turn down too much alcohol.
It was nice to have a little empathy for the things that are hard for me here-- kneeling for long meals, getting cash in a country whose highest denomination is about $10, pedestrians never having the right-of-way, the lack of street maps, and the general struggles that come with never entirely being sure what people are saying. And it was great to show off what I love about living where I do-- my 630 students in matching uniforms and bolo ties, my friends in Seogwipo, the best favorite bakery and coffee shop and kalbi restaurant, the nearby waterfalls, the variety and affordability of citrus fruits, the heaps of amazing and different food, and the warmth and generosity of the people here.