Intrepid Girl Reporter

Saturday, 3/22: WE ARE NOT HUNGRY
March 22, 2008, 3:19 pm
Filed under: Catholicism, English Book Club, host fam, students

In case you were wondering exactly why this country sometimes makes me want to stick my finger directly into my eye sockets and twist it around, I give you the following conversation from today.

(Host Brother jumps out and scares me, twice, which is, as Host Brother knows, a particular dislike of mine.)

(Host Mom wants Host Brother to be in the English Book Club. There is no room in the English Book Club, and the book is probably too hard. Also, I need a Host Brother-free space.)

(Host Mom and Host Dad want Host Brother to go to America. Host Brother is not mature enough for this. I remind him that if he goes, he has to be nice, to which he agrees and then, thirty seconds later, says, “You think I am bad boy. Yes? Okay. Ommaaaa!” Then he holds his arm in front of my face for no reason.)

(Host Mom offers to drive me to English Book Club. While I appreciate this, I am not in a particularly friendly mood after these incidences.)

HM [something in Korean]

HB Do you have a mind to stay in Korea?

IGR No, I don’t think so. I will be leaving in July.

HB [something in Korean]

HM [something in Korean]

HB So you don’t like Korea.

IGR That’s not what I said.

HB So you don’t like Korea.

IGR Of course I love Korea. You know that. It’s just that, you know, I have to have other jobs too before I can get into grad school.

HB I see. [something in Korean]

HM [something in Korean]

HB So when will you get married?

One thing I’ve noticed about living here is that if you say no to something, people will just keep asking you until you cave under the pressure. Soccer and I were discussing this yesterday, attempting to discern when it is acceptable to say no and when it is not, and I was reminded again today as I sat in the car and found myself thinking: They might take it as a personal affront if I don’t want to stay in Korea for another year. Should I stay longer? I could stick it out, right? before I realized that that is a terrible rationalization for doing anything, especially things you don’t want to do.

The Catholic Church teaches that there are certain kinds of mysteries in the life of Jesus – joyful, sorrowful, glorious, and (apparently) luminous (that one is new, I guess, and I just learned about it thanks to Google – obviously I follow this sort of thing pretty closely). While I would like to point out that I am not trying to be heretical here, and I am not trying to say that I have ever, for example, been visited by an angel, the concept of mysteries and their presence and importance in our own lives seems like a useful thing to contemplate, especially when living abroad, regardless of your belief system.

It is a mystery to me, for example, how I can go from wanting to hitch a ride on the nearest plane home to being present at the first meeting of the EBC, where I can be surrounded by excited (if rain-dampened) faces who wanted to spend their Saturday afternoon talking about books in English. We’re reading Holes, which is by one of my favorite YA authors, Louis Sachar; it’s funny and poignant and, rather conveniently for us, was made into a movie. I love Sachar because his books are funny, he allows his characters to take themselves seriously, and he isn’t afraid to give them serious things to think about. And he’s got a lovely absurdist streak. (Although I do get him mixed up sometimes with Jerry Spinelli. Maniac Magee is a lot heavier, though.) The kids seem like they’ll love him too. I swear, my heart grew three sizes that day.

Today I also learned that Kind Mother, who is a member of the book club and who has always struck me as something of an odd duck anyway, owns twelve (!!!) hamsters. This is a mystery to me as well.

Anyway, these are not exactly the Sacred Mysteries. But when you leave your sphere (or your country, for that matter), you discover that there are certain matters that it’s helpful to accept while acknowledging your own basic inability to understand fully, and that the very nature of the mystery itself might be rewarding, even if the matter at hand is aggravating enough that you want to get out of your host mom’s car and run straight into traffic. I’m still leaving in July, but I imagine that it will take me at least until then to contemplate these matters, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.


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