Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My New Crib

Sorry for the delay in posts. I have been really busy preparing to move. I said my goodbyes to the Kong family. I was surprised, I was actually much more sad than I expected to be. It just kind of hit me, at the end, how much they were my protectors until this point in time. And being without them while not really knowing my new family made me feel a little alone.

My co-teacher recruited two of my smallest male students to help with the move. Somehow these tiny freshman were stuck lugging 50-pound bags up 4 flights of stairs. My new family, the Ahn family, is much different. On paper, I have a mom, dad and two brothers (ages 11 and 14). But Father Ahn is a CEO of some company in Mongolia, so he's only home December through half of March. Mother Ahn is an after-school tutor for elementary students. The 11-year old, Jae Gyeong (or Tyler), is in 4th grade but so was Oh-chahn. But Jae Gyeong looks like he could snap Oh-chahn in two just by looking at him. The 14-year old, Jae Jin, attends middle school in Gwangju - an hour and a half away. He commutes by bus there and back every day.

The apartment is much bigger, my room is easily twice as big, but there is not a single piece of sitting furniture in the house. No chairs, no couches, no beds.

My new room, including my sleeping mat - called a Yo.

I think it's funny that the house has two desks but no chairs. Still working on that one. In a very strange way, I kind of like the yo. It's like swank camping. The floors are heated (pretty standard in the Korean house), so curling up on the floor after a long, cold day is actually quite nice. I'm even getting use to the bean pillow (pillow stuffed with beans, not cotton/feathers).

Mother Ahn understands a lot of English (still working on the speaking part), so that's helpful. My new bros are at pretty high levels for their ages. They're actually really good for me, in terms of learning Korean. And Father Ahn...well, gosh. Half the time I'm not sure if he's talking in Korea, Mongolian, English or a mix.

The Ahn family is very vegetarian friendly. I've already had a heart-shaped fried egg at each meal. That's another thing. Since Mother Ahn works nights, dinner is on my own. I can either eat at school, eat out or make something at home. But she cooks a wonderful breakfast. Today's breakfast was French toast, my heart-egg, milk and, of course, mini-pecan quiche-looking pastries. Breakfast of champions. :)

My first night with my family, Mother Ahn took the earlier part of the night off to cook a first meal. While waiting for dinner, I busted out the Obama cards (it worked with my last 4th grade host-brother) and played a game of War. It was pretty quiet, pretty relaxed. Then the door opened and in came the cutest 5-year old in the world, complete with an animal hat (see picture) and fingerless gloves. He stared at me out of the biggest, brownest eyes I'd ever seen and flashed a toothless grin at me (he recently, and very proudly, lost he two front teeth).
Kristin - my real sister - in the animal hat I sent her for Christmas

The toddler was flanked by his parents (maybe family relations, maybe family friends, maybe mom's clients...lost in the translation). He joined our next war game. Mid-way through came in Father Ahn flanked by two Mongolian men. I paused from our war game and just absorbed the scene. What are the odds that I would end up in a small mountain farm village in South Korea with a host family, complete strangers and two Mongolian men? Never write off the impossible, I suppose.

Despite the chaos, it was very fun. Especially handling dinner for 10 around a 3ft long, 3ft wide, 1ft high table. It felt really good to be eating within inches of my new host brother. (literally, sometimes his mouth was an inch from my face) It felt like I was just accepted; I was one with the family. Safe, close, one. Hm. Maybe I'm becoming more Korean than I thought possible.

My wardrobe is coming tomorrow (apparently the one I used at the Kong's was owned by the school), so right now I'm still living out of my suitcases. That's a bummer, but we gotta take some bad with the good, right? I'm just very thankful to be in with a completely different, fun family, closer to school and actually living on Gurye's main "fun" street (complete with the grocery store, bus terminal, billiards hall, PC Room (a room with a lot of computers you can pay to use) and a handful of restaurants).

Very busy next couple of days. Tomorrow is dress rehearsal for my school talent show. I was somehow recruited into a student rock band. Me, on my clarinet, playing a Christmas pop song with two electric guitars, a drum set, keyboard and vocalist. Lordy. I am also playing a solo on my clarinet. The show is on Christmas Eve. Wish me luck! Christmas Eve me, the Mongolians, Father Ahn and some family friends are doing something. Once again, lost in the translation. Christmas will hopefully be with my Gurye friends. We'll see. Anyways, that's what's new with me. Thanks for taking time from the busy holidays to read!


  1. Hi Amy, I am so relieved that you are settling down with a new family. They sound nice and interesting. I was hoping to see your new address in the blog, but I can ask your mom. The no chair in the apartment part is quite odd - only because there are desks. If there were no desks, then sure, pretty much everything (eating, working, watching TV...) can be done on the floor and that's how it is for non-westernized homes. I would like to see the boys using the desk without chairs.

    Yes, that's true... never write anything off as impossible.

    Good luck with the Christmas eve concert. It must feel good to play again. Have fun and Merry Christmas!


  2. And oh I forgot to mention - Great hat, Kristin!

  3. Thanks for the great post. "Mom" feels better about the whole move thing. :0)
    Love you,

  4. Hi Amy, glad you are getting settled again, and glad to hear that you host family is nice. I am sure you will miss the other family, but this "group" sounds like they will take care of you as well.

    We will miss you at Christmas, and I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and can get together with your friends.

    Love you lots,
    Aunt Sandy and Uncle Jeff

  5. Sounds like a pretty smooth transition and you sound very relieved. You are such a good sport, Amy! Please know you will be in our hearts every minute of the next two days especially. Enjoy your concert and Merry Christmas!
    Love, hugs and kisses,
    Aunt Betty and Uncle Jim