Friday, 26 April 2013

Our Dorm is Mini Korea

Joie graduates this weekend, so her mom has come over from South Korea to watch. She's staying in our quad, in Joie's room. While she doesn't speak much English, she can understand a little bit and knows a few words, though she can't string sentences together. Apparently, her goal for the week is to make sure that as many people on the hall as humanly possible are completely stuffed full of Korean food. She went on three grocery trips in two days.

The first morning of her visit, I wandered out of my room bleary-eyed to get some breakfast. "Food! Food," said Joie's mom, jumping up. So I sat down to a breakfast of spicy chicken soup, kimchi, rice, and seaweed. While I was eating, Joie's fiance showed up because Joie's mom is feeding him, too.

"Is Joie in the shower?" he asked, hearing the water going.

"No, that's her mom," I said. "Joie is blow-drying her hair in her room."

"Oh... uh..." said Jeremy, thinking that it would be awkward for him to be standing there in case his soon-to-be-mother-in-law came out of the shower in a towel. I read his mind. "You can hide in my room for a while," I suggested.

"I'll do that," he replied.

The entire morning was like one of those brain teaser sliding puzzle things. Every move had to be calculated. If I go into this room, who will be displaced and where will they go? Is it appropriate for this person to be in the same room as this person under these conditions? Who is likely going to move where next? Mostly, though, it was everyone else darting back and forth. I figured it was easier to just wait out the gridlock and sat there eating seaweed.

Her mother's mission to feed us seems to have embarrassed Joie slightly. The other day for supper, they went upstairs with a large dinner to feed the guys in Jeremy's dorm while I was packing up and cleaning my room for the summer. Not wanting to come back to find me wasted away from hunger, they left me a large pot of soup, two bowls of rice and multiple side dishes. I ate my fill.

A little later, Joie and her mom appeared in my bedroom doorway, back from upstairs. "Just so you know," said Joie, "I'm translating for my mom right now, so what I ask you is from her."

"Ok?" I said.

Joie took a breath. "Are you going to eat supper?!" she said with a frantic tone.

"I did!" I replied. "I ate a whole bowl of rice and a whole bowl of soup and some other stuff."

"Oh, that's right," said Joie, "I made two bowls of rice. She just noticed the untouched one." She smiled a bit apologetically. "Korean parents!" she exclaimed, "Now I'm seeing how paranoid they are about people eating!"

The fact that I had, truth be told, eaten quite a bit was explained and her mother seemed satisfied, but the next day at lunch, she didn't even wait for me to wander out for food. She just picked her way carefully over the mess that was my room, found me in the closet, and handed me a bowl of noodles.

"칼라, 맛있어?" she asked.

"맛있어," I replied. "감자합니다."* (That is the extent of my Korean speaking ability)

I feel a bit like a spoiled child. I used chopsticks to feed myself and got complimented on it. Then I finished my dinner and Joie exclaimed that she was proud of me. Nobody patted me on the head and gave me a lollipop, but I think I could have made a case that I deserved it.

Joie's mom and I have bonded over things other than food, too. I was on a cleaning frenzy for the past few days, because that's what we have to do to our dorm if we want to go home. You aren't allowed to leave an explosion behind. My activity seems to have made Joie's mom think that I am naturally exceedingly neat and a hard worker. She praised me for this several times.

I managed to wave her away when she communicated that she would help me scrub down the fridge, but when she walked in and found me with my head deep inside the oven, she just picked up some steel wool and started scrubbing the stovetop pieces I had left in the sink. In my defense, I did try to pull them away from her but she held on tight. Perhaps she would not have thought me such a hard worker if she had realized that I had already proclaimed them clean. After scrubbing them to a mirror-like shine, she handed them to me for inspection, which of course, I praised her for, seeing as I didn't want her to realize my low standards. She did pronounce the inside of the oven "cleany" when I finished, so I count that a success.

Whatever she thought, she kept saying "Car-ra, thank you." I'm not sure if she was thanking me because she likes scrubbing burners with steel wool or if she was trying to say, "Carla, you are an incredible roommate to my daughter and thank you for being so awesome." In either case, she was very polite. So we worked together - me, trying not to die from the oven cleaner fumes, and her apparently enjoying herself with the burner rims very much.

Even without the ability to converse, we still had some verbal communication between us.

"Fun!" I exclaimed to her. "Whoohoo!"

"Whoohoo!" she replied. "Car-ra, thank you."

Can I just say that I don't know how anyone without ballet training would possibly be able to clean an oven? I had to basically balance on one foot and hang upside down to get at the roof of the thing. It takes a lot of skill.

When Joie got back from studying, her mom pointed out the oven grime under my fingernails like it was a badge of honour. My own mother will probably ask me for a personal demonstration of my skills when I get home.


Unrelated to Koreans, here's mixing my latest obsession, BBC's Sherlock Holmes with my grammar class:

Convict, as Sherlock walks out on him: Mr. Holmes. Everyone says you're the best. Without you, I'll get hung for this!
Sherlock Holmes: No, No, No, Mr. Bewick. Not at all.... "Hanged," yes.

*"Car-ra, mashiseo?" "Mashiseo, kamsahapnida." = "Carla, delicious?" "Delicious, thank you."


Art said...

Sounds like it will be said when you say your goodbyes. I hope you take that cleaning attitude with you when you go back to Calgary. Also, I don't think you need to be concerned that we will be making sure you are continually eating.

Art said...

argh. Said -> sad