At six weeks in, I think I'm starting to get a bit of culture shock. For one thing, a group of Koreans standing around after church today informed me that I looked like Ellen DeGeneres.
And there is no iodized salt here. Apparently because seafood forms such a high component of the native diet, it's not necessary. So I've been scrounging to find things that have iodine--thyroid problems run in my family. I've settled for the time being on baked seaweed, which I've been eating in stacks of rectangular green sheets as a pre-bedtime snack.
My bathroom is like a meat locker, even when I leave the double cased windows tightly closed. There is only floor heat in the main room and the bedroom, and unless it's ratcheted up to a considerable level, the warmth is undetectable. When I paid last month's gas bill at the bank the other day, the sweet little teller who has helped me numerous times before gasped that the amount was equal to the sum that most Koreans pay per annum. Amy can testify that my apartment temperature is hardly at sauna level – there is simply no insulation in the walls, and the one space heater I have is only effective within a 3 foot radius.
I got a haircut the other day. Very nice salon. Good cut. $15! There was a woman getting a perm at the same time I was there, and her hair was hooked up to one of those electrical machines that looks like an automatic milker – dozens of tubes and wires dangling from a circular frame. I'd only seen pictures of such contraptions dating from the 1920s, which I thought was the last time that they had been used regularly.
One of the older ladies at Amy's church is mortally offended by Google's rendering of phrases in the familiar rather than in the formal version of Korean. She doesn't seem to realize that Amy has no control over the rendering, that English does not have a formal version, and so it's not like she's trying to be cheeky!
Praise God that my adult classes went well last week. However, the fellow who's been bringing me coffee found out on Thursday morning that I can't drink it. I dearly hope that his feelings aren't permanently injured--Two weeks ago, I had asked a Korean if I should go ahead and tell him "no thanks," but I was advised that it was unnecessary, and now he looks hurt. I hope I haven't stepped into intercultural quagmire. I did assure him that I was very grateful for the coffee, I just couldn't consume it lest I get a headache.
Speaking of headaches, I've had those and upset stomach several times lately. Thursday was so bad I had to run out in the middle of one of my elementary school classes. I was able to return in time to catch two of my little boy students sneaking down the stairs. Mischievous giggly creatures. I told my colleagues I was going to swill an entire bottle of wine in an effort to cure what ailed me, but as usual this was all talk--and because alcohol makes me twitchy, even the two mulled mugfuls I'd sipped kept me awake until they percolated out of my system around 1 AM. I did consume a very good wedge of Dutch cheese in the meantime: described as "nutty and slightly sweet," I thought it fit me perfectly.