Thursday, February 25, 2010

Familial Crescendos - Part I

The road between Columbus airport and Athens grew slightly more worn in recent months as we said hellos and good-byes to several beloved family members. Mother-in-law (yes, that's her "name") had left in early January, stranding Jusu with us. Kiwi and Gyu arrived two days before Sang Ok, the newest member of our family. Having wed Jusu a mere 3 weeks previous, none of us (except Jusu) had met him yet, and so the nerves were a bit edgy. It can be a bit zingy on the stomach just to meet a complete stranger, but how much more when that stranger will suddenly be a permanent member of your family for the rest of your lives?

Thankfully (for Sang Ok and the Kims) it was a very positive weekend of first impressions and he transitioned into their family as I had done 2 and a half years previously. Joo had to relinquish her "marriage baby" status (just like Kiwi had received the leading attention for 20+ years for being the baby of the family, Joo had received similar focus for the past 2 years in her new marriage/homeland/honeymoon/house), and we celebrated it all with a meal at a nearby North African/Mediterranean restaurant. The darkness of this picture doesn't do it justice, but the most hilarious part for me was watching Kiwi's highly embarrassed reaction every time the local belly dancer came within a foot of our table.

Hopefully you have read some of our travels in South America with Kiwi and Gyu, lest this Mephistopholistic picture cast a devilish light on Gyu. Although Kiwi and Jusu had been to the US before (and Sang Ok lives in California), this was Gyu's first time to the US and he was full of enthusiasm to jump into English classes with Kiwi. Amazingly, we were able to locate THREE free English courses for Kiwi and Gyu to enroll in (to the relief of their Korean mothers who are traditionally pinned into positions of paying $20-$30 an hour for English tutors in Korea).

For their part, they earned their keep by taking up where Kiwi, John and I had left off in the summer by adding in some more home improvements. Joo and I have progressed significantly in a materialistic sense since our first week in the house where we had to alternate usage of our only spoon for meals. Therefore, shelving was the main goal as we seek to expand storage capacity.

Kiwi was pleased to return to some of his favorite nature spots to reflect on life (as he just graduated from university two months ago and is now in that "what-do-I-want-to-do-with-my-life" stage). His best thinking comes on his "daily" midnight bike rides where he apparently accomplishes a lot on the nights when he doesn't run into a ghost.
I tried to reflect there too, but Joo brought back memories of the dreaded "ddongjip" which was a frequent ritual of the elementary kids I taught in Seoul who would sneak up behind me and, well, you can see the picture...

As he ponders a plethora of opportunities, Kiwi passes the time by helping Joo cook and studying English.

The Korean influence brought by the boys was so dominating that it even permeated our quarterly "math night" which shifted from watching math movies and having math discussions to munching on kim-chi and playing Go Stop.

As for the actual natives of our home, Joo has been sizing up Hocking College as a possibility to enroll in some courses and potentially seek some certifications/degree. She did very well on her assessment exams, and tested into a second-level English-writing course and out of all the Reading/Math courses. For my part, this second quarter has been going MUCH more smoothly than the rather rocky adaptation quarter in the fall. Two of my courses were continuations of the fall subjects and I was able to study over the winter break and catch up to the mathematical pace. Although I still relish all the mathematical abstractions, my other course, International Poverty and Education has been refreshingly different (well, I use the word "refreshing" lightly, as our opening discussion was on "how to make slaves" and our readings routinely cover famine, human trafficking, genocide, and the illegal organ trade). So this family has managed to weather the winter blues with an abundance of relational warmth and unity :) (Incidentally, the Showalter side of the family factors into this relational warmth and the title of crescendo (no, that doesn't mean Joo is pregnant although Jusu is), but that will come in Part II).

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