Party in Jeonju

30 Nov 2008
Posted by Marisa
Marisa's picture

Yesterday, Jordan and I had the pleasure of being invited by my co-teacher Ms Park to her home in Jeonju. We met her and her carpool at my school around 12:30 (since all the Korean have school on Saturday for some reason, apparently they just have clubs on Saturday). Jeonju is about an hour drive from Gunsan and there are three teachers, including Ms Park, who share the commute everyday. We got dropped off at Ms Park's new apartment (very large) and then left with her daughter for lunch. Her daughter is currently in the midst of applying to Seoul National University (the Harvard of Korea) and if she gets in, Ms Park is going to have a big party. I have it on good authority that the daughter (her name was never disclosed) is very smart, always at the top of her class, so I guess she has a good shot.

We went to lunch in the downtown at a Vietnamese restaurant. At first we thought she was taking us to a "vitamin house," but eventually figured out that she meant Vietnamese. I guess foreigners like Vietnamese food (we like it quite a lot) so she took us there. Jeonju is about twice the size of Gunsan, and so has luxuries like Vietnamese food. We had some very tasty noodles and dim sum (although dim sum is Chinese....) and then took a little walk around the downtown. We have become very curious since visiting Matthew and now Jeonju to find our downtown because everywhere we have visited has had very nice pedestrian only shopping districts with lots of exciting things. So one of these days we must venture out and see if we can find the Gunsan downtown.

Eating Out

The day was completely freezing despite having started out as a warm day, so we hustled through our next tour of the traditional village in Jeonju. It was a very cute place with lots of traditional houses filled with shops, restaurants and museums, as well as some really old buildings that were once the spiritual capital of the Joseon dynasty. The first king of this dynasty came from Jeonju, so it has a bit of fame. It was really cold though, so we hurried back after a little tour to Ms Park's house.

Jeonju 20

She had just moved apartments about a week ago, but her home looked remarkably organized, and she gave us a pleased tour of her very large apartment. It makes our apartment look like tiny place. I also saw the kimchi fridge, where the family keeps their year's supply of kimchi. Apparently all Koreans have a kimchi fridge, I don't know where ours is, and since it's kimchi making time, they are all full to bursting. At dinner we were able to taste both fresh kimchi and fermented kimchi made by Ms Park's mother, which was much better than the stuff we're served at school. Apparently over 20 seasonings go into the kimchi when it's being prepared, so there's a big range in taste. Since Jordan liked the kimchi so much, we were sent home with a large quantity of our own to put in our normal fridge, since we don't have a kimchi fridge. The phenomena of kimchi is quite amazing. Who would think that there would be a whole race of people completely addicted to eating at every single meal spicy, fermented cabbage. If you told me I had to eat spicy, fermented cabbage at every meal for the rest of my life I would think it was a severe punishment. But to the Koreans, a day without kimchi is like a day without air, unthinkable.

Ms Park had determined that she would teach me how to cook like a Korean, so I helped her with dinner. Although many of the things seemed to have been premade by her mother and we just dumped them into a pot. So, I guess I have to convince my mom to come over and start making things so that I can cook like a Korean. We made a tasty chicken stew, and some beef bulgogi (which I think is a mushroom sauce). I also made a salad and we roasted some hot dogs (which I think were just there for me and Jordan, but there was so much food we could hardly eat it). The highlights of the dinner were probably either when I started flinging food around with my chopsticks (despite my normal ability to eat like a normal person with them) or when Jordan thought the teapot full of Soju (watered down vodka) was water. Jordan also proved his manliness to everyone at the table by eating the hot peppers that Mr Park was eating (we call him Mr Park because he was never introduced to us beyond being Ms Park's husband, and I don't actually think women change their name upon marriage here, but for want of something to call him we call him Mr Park). After eating the first spicy pepper, Ms Park had to find the even hotter peppers in the freezer, to give Jordan the ultimate test. Luckily for me, I think being a girl keeps me from having to partake in such manly contests, as no one but Jordan thought I should taste the pepper. And since Jordan puts on such a good show with his pepper eating, I didn't want to ruin it by having a panic when I ate one.

Ms Park had invited over her English teacher friend as well, so we passed a very pleasant evening discussing many different things, from Michael Jackson and Obama, to the phrase "who cut the cheese" (which apparently Jordan has never heard, please tell him this is weird). All the English teachers here like talking to us because we are very easy to understand (thanks to our Midwest upbringing I always tell them) unlike the newscasters on CNN whom they can't understand. It was a very nice, relaxing evening, aside from my flying food, and Ms Park has determined that next time we come we will spend the night in her extra bedroom and we will teach her to make pizza.

This is a secret video that Jordan took of the cooking excitement while loafing on the couch.

To see more picture from the trip, visit the album at flickr.

Korean Hospitality

Ooh, that sounds like an excellent experience! I've never once regretted taking anyone in Korea up on an offer to do something non-work-related; Korean hospitality is sincere, thorough, and usually delicious. Now I want to go to Jeonju...

I hope that Gunsan does have a pedestrianized downtown area, but I must tell you that it is not a universal feature in Korean cities---for example, Cheongju (which has the same sort of feel as Gunsan) only has a cluster of back alleys surrounding the Dream Plus mall.

I'm not very surprised that you didn't actually learn anyone's name. For some reason, most Koreans tend not to introduce themselves or to say their names once, very quickly, and never use them again. I think that I actually know the names of maybe 25% of the people I interact with on a daily basis, which I feel kind of bad about. (One tactic is to swap e-mail addresses and check the "from" field...)

And yes, it is very strange that Jordan does not know the construction, "to cut the cheese."

performance feminine fashion?

So, was the "Performance Feminine Fashion" in the pictures, a clothing store or something else? If a clothing store, did Marisa purchase some of that performance feminine fashion?

Marisa, you really should write a series of children's books. It could be the "Marisa & Jordan" series. The first one can be "Marisa & Jordan meet at Bethel, fall in love, and get married." The next one could be "Marisa & Jordan's North Carolina Adventure." Now you could work on "Marisa & Jordan teach English in Korea." You could even have one on your honeymoon, etc. Seriously (except for the titles). You have a great writing voice, and would be an excellent children's lit writer. You & Jordan could illustrate your stories. You ought to do it, really. I'm convinced you'll be a big hit.

We're thrilled you're getting such great cultural/relational adventures. I agree that kimchee is a very interesting phenomenon. Do you know it's history?

titles not names...

We recently had a Korean visitor overnight in Amman (late 40s male), who informed us that you don't generally use peoples' names, but rather titles; and that the title / form of address will be based on age and position. Something you guys need to do some research into (and then write about for our benefit). I think it would be complicated, coming from a very "flat" / egalitarian society as we do.

And by the way, Patti had never heard "to cut the cheese," either. Maybe it's a Minnesotan (or, I suspect, Iowan, which crept north) expression?


It is quite true that Korean places much more emphasis on titles than English does, and that in a one-on-one situation you can get by without knowing the addressee's actual name. For instance, in class students always call their teacher "seonsaengnim" ("teacher"), which is why they tend to shout "teacher! teacher!" when they want my attention. Technically I should never refer to my principal or vice-principal by any but those titles. You also use only titles when talking to family members (mother, sister, etc... Korean actually has two different words each for "older brother" and "older sister" depending on whether the speaker is male or female, and there are no fewer than five words for "uncle" depending on whether it's your mother or father's brother, and whether it's your mother or father's older brother, younger brother, or brother by marriage!) and these same titles can be applied to random people on the street if you don't know their names. Every male a little bit older than you is your brother and can be "oppa" (if you're a woman) or "hyeong" (if you're a man), and every old woman is "halmeoni" ("grandmother").

However, in Korea it's actually more important that you know someone's name when you're referring to them in the third person. You still use the titles as suffixes, but if I'm talking to one teacher about another teacher at the school, there's no way to make myself understood unless I can say (for example) "Kim Eunki-seonsaengnim told me x" or "I was talking to Yu Hyosuk-seonsaengnim and..." If I don't know the person's name and I try to describe them, I get a string of attempts to confirm who it is and if I don't say "yes" to one of the Korean names that flies by no description will convince them that I mean who they think I might mean. This is particularly problematic because so many people share the same last name; I can't simply say "Mr. Bak" (which is technically how "Park" should be Romanized and pronounced) or "Mrs. I" (which is technically how "Lee" should be Romanized and pronounced) or "Ms. Kim," because more than half of the people at any given institution in Korea are named one of those three things.

I have been told that attempting to call someone by only their last name is something only superiors can do, and that many bosses in Korea have adopted the habit of calling their subordinates by the English titles "Mr. Kim" or "Mrs. Kim." So technically whenever I refer to my teachers this way, I'm actually showing disrespect! Fortunately, I was told in my first week that the Koreans were totally cool with it, and now my calling people "Mr." and "Mrs." seems to have become a part of my Korean personality.

I should stress that all of this is "as I understand it," that is, as I have read about it or based on what Koreans have told me. I'll stop for tonight and give Jordan and Marisa a chance to give their own responses, but I did want to mention that kimchi is an equally interesting and complicated topic: just consider that until recently the hot pepper that is now so integral to the Kimchi-making process was unknown in Asia...!

what's in a name...

Thanks, Matthew, that's interesting. Our Korean visitor said he had tried to introduce the American casual pattern of referring to people by only their first name (he lived for 15 years in the States), but other Koreans thought he was mad at the people he was addressing in that way, as he said that as a general pattern, the only time a Korean calls another Korean by only their first name is when a superior is mad at someone under them.

It all sounds complicated and a bit precarious. Fortunately, I'm sure they tend to cut foreigners some slack (which, Jordan, is decidedly different than cutting the cheese! :-).

mom in the kitchen

Isn't it amazing how much of our lives revolve around food? Yes, I could chop food for you to put in your pot, Marisa, but no animal stuff. But then we wouldn't have time to bead so, maybe we can get Jordan and Dad to do the chopping and cooking. (And Erica too, since she doesn't like to bead either but does like to cook.) Maybe Doug would like to join in, too, and you all could have a discussion about "cut the cheese" which I think is an idiom. Idioms are great fun to talk about and many languages have them. And of course, the meaning often changes since it is not a literal meaning. Doug is probably right that "cut the cheese" is a midwest idiom. I keep a list of idioms on the wall in my classroom and the 6th graders really get into finding new ones and then guessing what they mean. Literature from easy picture books to novels are full of idioms. You might have some fun with these in class.
I agree with Doug that Marisa and Jordan should author and illustrate a children's book together. Multiculturalism is really big right now and you will have a first hand experience of Korea.
You have really neat Korean hosts, too. What an experience!

Loafing on the Couch.

That video is awesome Jordan, I liked it when the guy sat down next to you and you continued to film. I am impressed with your sneaky abilities.

Marisa, you should write books. We were always going to write a book remember? Now that all you do is teach a language you are proficient in, you could probably find some spare time to work on writing some good books.

Also, why can't you eat with chopsticks anymore?

And lastly, "cut the cheese" was supposedly originated somewhere between the 1950's and 1970's...the dates are unclear. I looked it up and found that it comes from cutting the wax casing open on limberg cheese and an awful smell escapes. The place of origin is unclear as well, so it may be a Minnesota thing. Although in this commercial (which is pretty funny)

they don't seem to be from the Midwest - which means that people across the nation, and not just Minnesota, must know what it means.

My favorite is when the kids

My favorite is when the kids call me "Marisa Teacher." I'm not sure why, but I enjoy it.

As for the chopsticks, in Korea they use weird ones that are flat and skinny and short, so sometimes it can be tricky. Although, I've never thrown food around though, I guess I really didn't want to eat that carrot.

I guess I will have to write a book since everyone seems to think this is a good idea. Perhaps I will call myself, "Marisa Teacher."


Remember that "Marisa-teacher" is an example of the Korean kids simply inserting English words into a Korean construction. It's probably better to discourage them from using it...

And yes, the chopsticks here are way too short.

I like culture blending

I like it when people mix their language & culture with one they are learning. Tunisian Arabic was full of French expressions that they Tunisified...