I think it's safe to say that while living in Korea there are very few things that I have to live without. You would expect that there would be certain items from my life in the U.S. that would not be available here. And though that might be true in a few cases (like Clearisil and Herr's pretzel nuggets), overall I am as pampered and well-fed in Gwangju as in Harrisburg or Lancaster. However there is one thing that I do not get in Korea that I got a good dose of in the States, and that is the opportunity to hold babies.
As many of you are aware, I really like to hold babies. I like to bounce them. I like to make faces at them. I like to enchant them with my unparalleled peek-a-boo skills. But I don't know any babies here. One time, on a flight from Guatemala to the U.S., I was brazen enough to ask a woman seated a few rows ahead of me if I could hold her son. She was happy to oblige and I was happy to entertain. But my baby encounters have been less hands-on here. Usually I keep my distance, making faces from behind while on escalators or across restaurants. The thing is, Korean babies are especially mesmerized by me, and it probably has less to do with my sweet-infantile-skills and more to do with the fact that I'm comparatively tall, of a strange hue, and having an uncommonly large nose. They love to stare, but they don't want me to get close. Today I got too close, and the baby was not pleased. I think I have to give up my dream of holding a Korean baby. It just doesn't seem plausible at this point.
Aside from this life-altering realization, life here continues with the monotony of a full-time job combined with the unpredictability of a culture that has befriended me in many ways. This week marks my 6-month anniversary in Gwangju, and every week I realize there are so many other parts of the city that I have yet to see. For this reason it has become a hobby to explore via the bus system. I even got to ride for free one day when I didn't have exact change and the bus driver wanted to have nothing to do with me.
There are big changes at the school as classes shift and new teachers are coming. I have two new students in my morning class which has been a harrowing experience. (I exaggerate only slightly) One of these students is actually a Korean girl who spent a year in the U.S. so she speaks fluently and has an American accent. The other students can't really understand her, but they are absolutely intrigued. The other day she said, "yo!" to someone. Rocky asked me, "Joy Teacher, what is 'yo'?" and I said, "it means, 'hey everyone, please pay attention'." She also told the whole class that she is smart because she speaks two languages and she's cute. So she can go anywhere in the world and everyone will think she's cute and smart. I wanted to ask her to please go somewhere else in the world- where everyone thinks she's cute and smart. But I didn't think it would go over well, so it looks like she's here to stay.
I want you all to know that if my thoughts of you were actually beads of sweat I'd have to carry a sweat rag and wipe my brow regularly. It turns out I actually do have to do that because it is dang hot in Korea. But it is also a charming little metaphor. So I leave you with that.
All my love!
P.S. I'm sending along an additional email that invites you all to look at my new and improved photo album online. It's basically the same photos as before, but in a better format.