They put her through it.

Things are a little on the quiet side 'round this way tonight. Eerily so.

Tonight, Head Teacher (bless her) decided to take me, Grams, four other English teachers and one other subject teacher out for dinner. To have some time to socialize. The dinner went alright -- 삼계탕, not too much for Grams to handle. But things went a little lopsided at coffee afterward.

What happened was, I was playing Yeonsu, one of my old co's little daughters. We've taken to each other because we both speak Korean on about the same level. She can teach me little things in Korean. I can teach her little things in English. We're a good match. She immediately climbed up into my arms when we got out of the car at the restaurant, refused to sit in her kiddie chair at dinner because it wasn't next to me, and clung to me all through the coffee shop. As we were sitting there, she reached up and pulled out my earring. Then, she put it back in. I reached up and felt it: "어 연수야 잘했어.... 근데 거꾸로야. 괜찮다. That's your opinion."

My co smiled at me and said, "Liz...." in a tone of voice that let me know what was coming.

"Don't even say it."

"Haha Liz.... it's really almost that time, I think."

"I just got a boyfriend. Don't even say that out loud. I like to borrow -- not own."

"But you are so gentle with her. Just now, you said to her like that... 'That's your opinion' -- I was very touched. Because even I don't speak to her that way. I just say, 'No, you are wrong.'".

"But that's because you're full-time -- I'm just part-time, so I have patience to spare."

She smiled. It was enough for the group to latch on.

The next thirty minutes or so were spent discussing the virtues and follies of 경상도남 (my boyfriend), other foreigners who were married to Koreans, and how I would be good at it, because I'm very understanding and accepting of Korean culture. How they want to meet Busan to check it out before it goes any further, and whether or not I think I can ultimately marry a Korean man. As well as a few little anecdotes about some grammar and spelling mistakes I had made in Korean when speaking or writing to him, which were particularly humorous. Grams went strangely quiet.

I knew what she was thinking: 1. I don't want this to happen. Why are they even talking about this like it's possible? and 2. If this does happen, this is how it will always be -- I will always slightly not understand part of what is going on.

At that point, I patted her on the knee and addressed the table: "Maybe it's best not to talk about this now. She wants me to come home soon, after all...."

The other teachers all made uncomfortable faces. One of my other co's tried to pipe up to help: "Well, someday maybe even if you marry here, you can go back...."

Grams said: "I don't care who she brings back with her, so long as she does come back."

Our walk home was uncomfortable. I think she was overwhelmed in general. This was our first time since she's been here to be in a primarily Korean and Korean-speaking social environment, other than at school. There were parts of the conversation that she entirely could not understand, even when it was in English. I remember how overwhelmed I was by that the first few times I experienced it. But also, I know there was something else on her mind.

I don't know what to tell her. I'll never lie. And I don't know what the future holds. But I think tonight she got a realistic dose of something she hasn't wanted to face for a long time now. I hope she'll be alright.


Anonymous said...

i just got off the phone with my mom and had an instance sort-of related to this. basically she just said "i will be alright if you live there for a couple of years! i miss you a lot, but i'll support you in whatever you decide to do." in her sort-of panicked, i'm-not-going-to-cry voice. i don't know what else to say besides "alright, thanks mom."

this is the only really hard part about living abroad.

Anonymous said...

I'm getting this from both sides of the generation gap in my family right now. From my mother, who is only 18 years older than me, so she's still pretty young, and from my daughter, who is 22 and tells me constantly that she misses me and wishes I was back in Canada with her so we could hang out. My fiance wants us to get married next year in September, and although he's got excellent English skills and could probably do well in Canada, as far as getting a job and communicating, his mother depends on him for financial support, so we'll be staying in Korea for the forseeable future. It's hard not to feel guilty no matter what I do.

It's true, this is the hardest part of living abroad.

Burndog said...

I don't want to comment on what you wrote IMP...just how you wrote it. Some great writing in this one...gently elegant, tonal and softly expressive. Fucking lovely.

I'm no Picasso said...

Thank you Burn. It just goes to show -- I'm not actually a crass, loud-mouthed hussy. I just choose to be one sometimes for effect. :p

Mr. Spock said...

I just don't get why it tears the family up so much honestly. Did they really think I was going to stay in my hometown my whole life? Obviously not. So as an adult I will see them once a year instead of twice or three times. Distance has a lot less to do with things than how much you actually see each other. My parents said my whole life that all they wanted was for me to be happy -- and now they have to put their money where their mouths are.

I'm no Picasso said...

Spock -- I dunno. I used to have that attitude when I was younger. The older I get, the more sorry I feel. And the more I start to worry that I might be missing important things. When I was 18, it was the same old thing as always. In the eight years since, my brother has gotten married to a woman I now hardly know, I have a nephew I've met twice, and I spent a total of a week and a half with my grandfather in the last year he was alive.

My grams can get naggy and it drives me up the wall. But last night was different. And I feel sorry for causing her that pain, whether it's justified or not.

3gyupsal said...

Before I had my kid, I had morons telling me that taking care of their kids was good practice for when I would have my own. Those people were morons. Having your own kid is fucking difficult.

I'm no Picasso said...

Seriously..... 3gyupsal, you are preaching to the choir with that one. I'm under no illusions about how difficult being a parent is. I'm not sure why other people who are parents are.