Just me and my laptop for the next 4 days….

I seem to be going longer and longer between posts . . . . mostly because things have been insane around these parts, since last week was the last week of classes for spring quarter, and Friday night was the ESO Masquerade Ball (for photos, go here).

My work is completed for two of my courses (the nitty-gritty Evans stuff), and now I’m faced with a long stretch of the rest of this week in order to face two items that will serve as a good lead-in for my summer:
1) My Korean final (Thurs. 6/8, 8:30 a.m.).
2) Literature review of the economics of international adoption, for my Economics of Race & Inequality course (Due Wed. 6/7, 5:00 p.m.)

I’m glad that these both are so intertwined with the more personal aspects of my life…..so one would think that I would be more motivated to work on them, right? Ah, but it’s that psychological thing of knowing that I “have to” do them. And in the case of the literature review—on the one hand, I know that I’ve been very lucky to correspond over the quarter with brilliant people doing cutting-edge research in the field of adoption (Tobias, KPN, E. Kim, etc.). They’ve all been so generous in directing me to sources…….and yet on the other hand, I’m filled with anxiety about writing this paper, because almost all of them have said, “send me the paper when you’re done!” Indeed, I will send it to them, but with a big caveat in the beginning—“was cobbled together at the end of a 10-week quarter by a lowly first-year graduate student juggling a million other things and is not intended to be an exhaustive review of the literature available……”

I’ve spent the last two days kind of decompressing from the mania of previous weeks. I didn’t get any writing done (academic writing, that is), although I told myself that watching a Korean film and a K-drama series would somehow count as sort of studying for my Korean final.

I finally got around to watching 친절한 금자씨 (Sympathy for Lady Vengeance), the final film in 박찬욱 (Park Chan Wook)’s “vengeance” trilogy (in which Oldboy was the second film). I have to say, 이영애 (Lee Young Ae) is such a bad-ass in this movie. I thought the denouement was a little silly, but overall I liked it. I especially enjoyed the dark humor of the early prison flashbacks. This style of film (extreme violence), however, is not generally my cup of tea (although I am fascinated by David Lynch–but it’s the weirdness that gets to me), but as I was telling Ji-in, the inherent Korean-ness makes it that much more fascinating. It’s the small touches, like seeing the characters eat 국이랑 밥 for breakfast, school uniforms, white 두부. And of course, like many Korean films, adoption comes up at one point in the film. I feel too tired to really dissect it right now, but the bizarre way the main character’s Australian KAD daughter comes into the picture somehow fits with the overall tone.

From one patissier to another…..I also watched a substantial amount of 내 이름은 김삼순 (My Name is Kim Sam Soon or My Lovely Sam Soon) today. 6 episodes–but who’s counting? I’d heard about this drama series last year while I was living in Korea. It was a huge hit, and Daniel Henney was the breakout star. I remember swooning over large billboards of Henney in 명동. Wow. Anyway, this is the first K-drama I’ve actually sat down and watched in its entirety (with the benefit of English subtitles). My listening is still pretty atrocious, although I can pick up words here and there. The series is completely charming, though. I can see why it was so popular–the heroine is a really a-typical Korean woman in that she’s a 30-year-old singleton, “overweight” (meaning, she weighs 125 pounds—give me a f*cking break), a pastry chef, and outspoken. One of the supporting characters embodies all the Korean ideals of femininity (stick-thin, pale, trembling lips), and I can’t help but hate her. I told myself I would only watch two episodes today, but somehow that turned into six. As E.B. in Boston once said, I’m a sucker for the tyranny of plot–I have to know what happens next. That’s why I can easily become engrossed in series marathons….and having an entire series at your fingertips in the form of DVDs can only mean one thing: major procrastination from starting one’s literature review.

In my sole venture outside of the house today, I did something I haven’t done in a long, long time–tried a new cuisine. I gathered up a somewhat motley crew (R.B., C.L. & her best friend, J., and W.) to go with me to Kusina Filipina, a restaurant in south Seattle. This was my first time having real Filipino food (previous experience had been limited to lumpia at various street fairs). It was interesting, because R.B. is pinoy and J. had just returned from visiting her family in the Philippines, so they were able to offer advice and personal anecdotes about the dishes. Pictured above is what I ate: pork sinigang and beef caldareta (j. gabriel, please feel free to correct what are probably misspellings) along with some 밥, er–i mean, kanin. I also split a turon with W. Although I was told that the sinigang wasn’t too vinegar-y, it was just ok. I think I would’ve enjoyed it more if the pork hadn’t been so chewy. I really loved the caldareta, though. Savory. Also sampled some of J.’s kare-kare, which was very rich. R.B. told us that he would cook some Filipino food for us sometime…..I think he mentioned pancit (sp?). Something with noodles. Anyway, it sounded yummy, and I always jump at a chance to eat anyone’s cooking other than my own.

Lunch today was a nice excursion and a diversion from my otherwise Korean-centric day. I’ve recently been discussing with a few people about the really contradictory feelings Korea stirs up inside of me (as well as many other adoptees). Simply being there, physically, it can be undeniably comforting to know that I blend in with everyone else around me. When you grow up with family members who look absolutely nothing like you, and then to suddenly find yourself among strangers who actually do….it’s an amazing experience. I can still get misty-eyed when I hear large groups of Korean people singing “아리랑.” But at the same time, living in Korea I always knew I was undeniably a foreigner. I can be harshly critical of Koreans and Korean society……Hee-ji, you really said it best with this post:

The way Korean people choose to close their eyes, or the fact that they think that what they are doing is justified (fed by the Confucian way of thinking that makes single motherhood or new, mixed families taboo) and even a sacrifice on their part whereas it’s just a shoving off of parental responsibility, is what is distressing me most, together with the harshness, shame and rejection returning adoptees are faced with upon returning to ‘the Mother Land’.

Instead of thinking for themselves and issues such as domestic adoption, Korean women seem to be too busy curling their eyelashes, having their hair permed or applying lip gloss. . . . Sometimes I sit in the metro and watch those fashionable Seoulites (or what they call fashion) striking back their hair while taking pictures of themselves with the latest model of mobile phone, carefully dabbing some gloss on those precious lips or whining to their boyfriends in a baby-like voice and I wonder whether there is anything at all in that well coiffed head besides vanity and a love for all things pink.

Sometimes I wonder whether it is ignorance or just an awful way of prioritising, preferring the shopping channel over the news. Of blindly imitating and idolising American popular culture but being utterly closed and xenophobic towards the rest of the world.
~Through an Open Eye
, February 25, 2006

I felt (and still do feel) this way, too…..and yet I am counting the days until I can ride the subway in 서울, try out my stilted Korean-speaking with my sisters–미선언니 and 미혜, eat some real 삼계탕, go to a 노래방 at 4:00 in the morning, watch World Cup games on a huge screen along with thousands of other people in 종로. 대한민국, my strange (anti-)home.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “Just me and my laptop for the next 4 days….

  1. I just submitted a monstrous comment, but Blogger ate it. Probably a sign from the Gods of brevity to stick to bulleted lists.

    -Because I am incapable of watching movies without eating, and because I now have a laptop, spending weekends like yours always means I wake up with dried grains of rice under my sheets. Is your lit review as lovely as Sam Soon yet?

    -Sorry the sinigang sucked. I promise you that when it’s made in my kitchen it’s so much better. (Kaldereta, kanin, pansit).

    -The love-hate relationship expressed by you and Hee-ji on returning to Korea is something I will never be able to experience or fully understand, but it always gives me a moment of pause. The Philippines valorizes and embraces balikbayan and FilAms more than their own people; how awful, and backward. Societal brainwashing of priorities extends so far beyond the date of colonial independence. Are we Korean and Filipino? We are…and we aren’t.

    …in Asia, that is. In the States we’re all Chinese (thanks, Paul Newman!)

  2. i’d like to check that restaurant out next time i’m in seattle. thanks for mentioning it.

  3. i hope the lit review went well and that the korean final goes well tomorrow morning. and i’ll have to check out lady vengeance soon…

  4. sarah. thanks for the mini phone chat. i know you may feel stressed, so thanks! good to hear what’s going on in your corner of the country…btw i have tried to post a comment on your blog for a day now and it kept taking forever to bring up your comment box. so i apologize. i meant to comment sooner. (switch to wordpress!)

  5. getting ready for korea? how long you going to be here for?

  6. Maybe I can get to Myeong-dong some time while I’m in Korea. I correspond with Bunny Boy as I call him, Dae-Won, here and there, so it’d be nice to meet him, you, and anyone else who happens to be in Korea from the blog world. My little sidekick would be with me, so you’ll have to suffer with her babbling non-stop and not having a clue as to what she is saying. LOL She cracks me up because when I speak Korean, she looks at me and says, “What?! What?!” Now she knows how I feel when she babbles non-stop around me. hehehe–>

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