Last weekend, I stayed at my mentor teacher's house. I think it's best to tell you about it now before all the details start to slip away. :D Let's begin!
After school on Friday, I got into the car with my mentor teacher and we drove about 10 mins down the road to pick up her husband. Her husband works at the same school that my friend Lein (another TaLK scholar) works at, so though I've heard about him from her, this was my first time meeting him. He was waiting (I'm not sure how long) outside a building in the cold when we pulled up. I'd like to note that my mentor teacher sped down the rolling, bumping road.... It was fun.
Upon arrival to this unknown building, she got out of the car and let him sit in the driver's seat. (I secretly wondered if this had anything to do with Korean culture, or if she just wanted to let him to drive). After a quick hello we all drove off into the mountains, weaving up, down, and around them for about 40 minutes. By this time, we were in the next province, and quickly approaching Wonju, the destination city. During the car trip there was a lot of talk and excitement about eating fried chicken (no not because of me, because of them. Korea has a big thing for fried chicken). As we entered the outskirts of the city (I assume), my mentor teacher's husband pointed out their church. He said the church's name and his name were the same and wasn't it funny? I thought so, especially after hearing that they went in search of a church they felt most comfortable with. They assured me that the name was purely coincidence.
My mentor teacher informed me that we'd go eat dinner before going to their home. Then she made lots of phone calls to her children (and maybe other people) and the next thing I know we have arrived outside the walls of a huge block of apartment complexes. Her children (a boy and girl) appeared out of nowhere (I wasn't paying attention. The husband was trying to take my bag and put it in the trunk). They got in and we sped off again. I wanted to be friendly and open in case they decided to talk to me. I think they were worrying over what to say (or how to say it). With much urging from their mom, the conversation came to life. We talked a bit in the car, and at dinner things went silent again.
At dinner we ate.. well it was kind of like samgyeopsal, but with beef and some very spicy fish. It's not important. What's important is that it was delicious! The lady who served us was very friendly but did stare at me (in a smiling way... which is way better than some of the other stares I've gotten) for awhile. She said something to my mentor teacher and her husband, which they relayed to me: She'd like to speak to me but doesn't know much English. Oh, that made me smile. That is sometimes the last thing I imagine random Korean people thinking when they're staring at me. But she finally said "hello" and I replied and she seemed satisfied and happy. My mentor teacher told me that the people she's met at these restaurants have always been kind and pleasant. During the entire meal, my mentor teacher seemed to be putting things on my plate and doing all the cooking. I think this was because she may've thought I'd never experienced this kind of meal before. ...Or, she was just acting normal and doing what she was supposed to do.
We left the restaurant. Haha, crossing the street was funny. My mentor teacher actually felt guilty not wanting to use the crosswalk in front of me. After cutting through a line of cars and rushing across the street to safetly, her son laughed and said to me, she's making us do something illegal. I promptly shushed him and told him not to speak about it so loudly, because we didn't do it, which made him and my mentor teacher laugh. We got back into the car and drove off... made a stop somewhere. I'm not sure, it was dark outside, but both parents left and I was alone with the kids. These kids are 16 and 14, by the way. Well, the radio was on so there wasn't complete silence, but the boy did finally start a conversation and we all talked until the parents came back. He said it was funny that he, the youngest, could speak more English than his older sister. He got glared at for saying this, but it did make her try to talk more. He then told me that she was just shy, and stated that his English was actually really bad.
At their home ... ok let me first say that I see... pass by... these huge, enormous, gigantically tall apartment buildings every day (or where ever I travel in Korea) and I have ALWAYS wondered what it looked like inside one of the rooms. These buildings are always at least 15 stories. Now I know that they have parking garages below them and mysterious rooms at the very top where the roof is located. So my mentor teacher and her family live in one of these buildings. OMG their home was soooooooooooo nice! You enter through the apartment's main door, walk a few steps down a hallway, walk through a second door, and are finally inside the actual home. There is a rise in the ground several steps away so you know you have to take off your shoes here. Their home had 4 bedrooms, a kitchen, living room, at least 1 bathroom (not sure if the parent's room had a separate bathroom), and "balconies" on three sides of the apartment. I wasn't expecting all this space to be behind one apartment door.
Everyone got settled in, tidied up, comfortable, and I was introduced to the grandmother living with them. She didn't say anything to me the entire time I was there, but smiled in a friendly way, and occasionally asked questions about me through the other family members.
We all gathered in the living room and talked more. I learned more about the kid's lifestyles and we all struggled to ask each other questions. If my mentor teacher was not around, they always pulled out their cellphones and looked up translations. It was actually a bit difficult for me to talk to them because I'm usually one who listens to people talk. This time I had to think of things to say so that they could in turn think of things to say to me. Later on that night, around 10 or 11, my mentor teacher's husband came in the room, excited and chanting, "Chicken! Chicken!" He was serious about us eating fried chicken today. He called his favorite chicken shop and soon all of us were chowing down on delicious Korean fried chicken.
We watched a bit of TV (oh, I hadn't seen any TV in ages), and then prepared for bed. The next day was only a few hours away.
To be continued.....