Thursday, February 16, 2017

Shabu Shabu

You know fundamental exhaustion has arrived when you realize that you just apologized to your light switch for turning it off.

One of the benefits of OCD (even well-managed, it's still a part of my personality) is being able to concentrate really well. The chief hazard of OCD is being able to concentrate really well. I was tired Wednesday night so I went to bed early, setting my alarm so I would have an hour or so to work on lesson planning before my adult class began at 10. I woke at midnight, and decided that since I was awake I might as well work on the lesson plan. I felt a lovely PowerPoint presentation of the most common prepositions of place (rather than those of time) would be useful. I'm still not good at composing PowerPoint presentations from scratch, but if I have the bones of something to work with, I can put a little muscle and sinew on them. I was up till 6 AM. I actually only fleshed out the PowerPoint presentation for four hours – it took me another two to get my brain sufficiently relaxed to slip into unconsciousness. And I had to get up for my class at nine.

If anything, teaching teaches me of my own inadequacies, and how reliant I am on the Almighty's strength for getting through the day. It's not just when I'm exhausted, but exhaustion certainly  makes this dependency ever more clear.

June and a girlfriend of ours went out to shabu shabu Tuesday night, which happened to be Valentine's Day. I had several of my younger classes color valentines for their family. Here, women give men handmade chocolates (another commercial romantic holiday, White Day, is for the men to reciprocate). However,  there is clearly male to female sweet-giving going on, too, as when we walked to the restaurant after work, there were several enterprising vendors selling prepackaged gift baskets on the street for last-minute male purchase.

Shabu shabu is Korean hot pot. You leave your shoes by the door, plunk yourself on a little mat next to the low table, and they bring a large cauldron of broth, put the heat on to boil, and then present you with a huge plate of vegetables and another of extremely thin sliced meat. Using the scissors on the table, you cut up the vegetables–which include both recognizably mushroomy mushrooms and much more leafy, purple-brown, seaweed-like mushrooms – and add to them broth, then add the meat. It cooks quickly. You tong and ladle it into your personal bowl, season it to taste, and chopstick and spoon it into you until you are stuffed. In the meantime, they bring another plateful of vegetables, which you also cook and eat. Then, to finish the meal, they bring a plate of fresh pasta in three flavors: plain, beet, and green tea, which you cook in the remainder of the broth, which has been topped off a couple of times with added water, and slowly slurp the noodles. Then you breathe a contented sigh, roll up to the cash register and pay less than $14 per person for this enormous repast. 

June and I walked almost 7 miles last Saturday, exploring the southernmost village in South Korea. My crows feet were crusted with a rime of dried tears from the ocean wind. The ripe oranges on the trees were swinging like bright Christmas ornaments. At a statue commemorating the local haenyeo (female divers for which Jeju is famous) I made the acquaintance of a very friendly dog, who led us along the olle trail for about half a mile before going down from the road to visit a cafĂ© it obviously knew, where one of the employees presented it with a biscuit after it sat down politely. We passed modest building with Hebrew and Korean lettering on the sign – is there a synagogue on Jeju?

My adult students have given me roses, tangerines, oranges, chocolate, and tea, and a hand fan. Unfortunately, the man who used to bring me coffee has not reappeared in my class since he found that I wasn't drinking it. I don't know if this is circumstantial, or if I have offended him. I hope not! I have a very sweet Chinese student in the class who always asks good questions. It is so useful when people ask questions! It helps me figure out what's not getting communicated. I can pontificate for hours, but what's being understood is the real issue.

I gave the invocation at the English service at the local church last week. I was a little blindsided by being asked to do so, since they hadn't made me go through any procedure to ensure I'm theologically sound or anything. I take notes during the sermon – perhaps that's a litmus test? This coming Sunday, June and I plan to go back across the island to the larger English language service. I plan to wear my seasickness bands and take Dramamine for that stomach-churning bus ride. Two weeks ago, she went over and met a fellow there from our hometown, who went to a school I attended. It's a small world.

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