Banchan

The heat is on.  It’s been a week or more since I last posted and now I am getting Facebook and email comments about how long it’s been.  I’m so honored that you guys enjoy my humble little blog.  But  every once in awhile my perfectionism rears its ugly head, and I can’t seem to find a decent topic to write about.  The honest-to-goodness-truth is that I’ve been wracking my brain to come up with something supremely delightful to report back. 

Bad news. I’ve got nothing.

Well, not nothing, per se.  It’s a rare day when I, Chatty Cathy, have absolutely nothing to say.  It’s more that I don’t have anything that takes more than a few sentences to say.  I keep mulling things over and all I came up with are juicy little morsels of cultural trivia, or little random bits of day-to-day information about our family.  I can’t think of a single thing so captivating that I could squeeze a whole post out of it. 

At bedtime tonight, the light bulb went off.  Maybe I will write a “banchan” post.

In case you’re not well-acquainted with Korean food, banchan (or panchan) are the little side dishes than come alongside most Korean meals.  They come in small bowls or plates, just a few bites per person, but they are plentiful and delicious.  Soups, salads, kimchi, roasted nuts, vegetables.  I guess I could write about literal, actual banchan and that would take up quite a bit of time.  But tonight I am speaking metaphorically. 

What follows are a few side dishes, some bits of information about our life here and the culture we have experienced.  I hope you enjoy these juicy tidbits.

Korean Culture:

You may already know this fact.  Business men shakeeach other’s hands in greeting.  Most everyone else bows.  Sometimes it is just a dip of the head.  Other times it is a full body bow from the waist.  The depth of the bow is determined by some one’s age and status.  For example, when children and young adults are addressing an elderly person, they should bow deeply.  It is a nice custom, and one I appreciate.  But lately I’ve been feeling like I have developed a twitch in my neck, or perhaps just become a bobble head version of my former self.

Until fairly recently, Korean men had very little to do with child-rearing.  It was exclusively the woman’s domain.  Some of that culture and philosophy still holds true, especially for the older people of Korea.  You should see the looks on people’s faces when Kevin takes all 4 kids to the playground.  Mothers of young kids often stare in awe, perhaps sometimes with a touch of envy.  Grandmothers, however, tut tut and shake their heads.  They can’t believe he is capable of keeping any child, much less FOUR of them, safe.  Imagine the collective gasps as he swings them wildly around in circles or pushes them sky-high on the swing.

In the U.S., when we ask someone to “come here,” we do so with our palm upward.  Here, that is the way they call their dogs or other animals, and therefore a great insult to people.  Koreans use a similar motion, but with the palm facing downward, to call people.  As I am constantly calling my wayward children to me, this has been quite an adjustment.

Delivery mopeds run rampant here.  When I say, “rampant,” I mean they are everywhere, without exception.  They drive on roads, sidewalks, and through apartment complexes.  Sometimes at red lights, they will take a circuitous route across crosswalks or dart through oncoming traffic to get to their destination.  We’ve learned to be very cautious when we hear one coming.  Gabe, normally fearless, has developed a healthy awareness of them.  “Mama,” he shouts as he runs to me, “I hear moto-cycle!”

When a Korean baby is born, it is considered 1 year old.  This has led to lots of confusion when I talk to people at the playground.  They can’t believe Gianna is only 6, or especially that Gabriel is only 2.  I imagine that’s because 1) our kids are pretty tall for their age, and 2) I haven’t been telling their age correctly!  Now, when I am speaking to an English-speaking Korean, I can clarify about their Korean and American ages.  To non-English speakers, I just use the Korean age.  In case you’re still confused, according to Koreans, Gianna is 7, Aliya is 5, Gabriel is 3, and Ezekiel is 1!

Family News:

Ezekiel has begun scooting.  This is no small feat for him, as he’s the biggest of our kids at this age (upwards of 22 lbs), and somehow the youngest to be mobile.  None of the others could scoot or crawl until at least 8 months, whereas he just turned 6 months last Friday.  He reaches both hands in front of him and pulls himself smoothly across the marble floor.  He also cut his first tooth about a week ago, and seems to be getting its counterpart as we speak.  his eyes are still blue, but just today I noticed a hint of brown around the irises.  Seems like that Italian dark-eyed gene is a strong one.

Gabriel is talking up a storm.  He loves to pretend and play with his sisters.  Today he overheard his sisters pretending to be their cousins, Cece and Rachel, so he immediately chimed in with, “I’m Baby John!”  He has also developed a voracious appetite for books.  I asked him tonight what his favorite book was and he instantly replied, “Goodnight, Moon.”  His other favorite hobby is throwing things.  Anything.  He almost always brings an extra jacket outside to toss it up in the air and catch on his arm as we walk or play.  He has numerous toy balls, but will throw anything, really.  At the shoe store yesterday he began chucking shoes willy-nilly across the shop.  Last week at the library he threw books, crayons, toys, and two chairs in rapid succession.  He keeps me on my toes, that one.  I hope to be retelling this story in an ESPN interview in about 20 years.

Aliya is a shy girl, but has always been independent.  Her favorite pastime is riding her balance bike around our apartment complex.  She will disappear for a few minutes and reappear with windblown hair and rosy cheeks, exclaiming about something or other that she discovered on her adventure.  I’m so happy for her that we live in such a safe place and she can have her little mini-voyages.  She is also the Baby Whisperer of our family.  She loves to make Ezekiel and her cousin Gemma smile and giggle, and will spend a long time smiling and playing with them.

Gianna has become quite studious.  Her favorite subject is math, and she will voluntarily spend a couple hours a day working on it.  She also has grown into quite the artist.  Thanks to the art class she is taking at school, her drawings are becoming very detailed and accurate.  I’ve really enjoyed teaching her to read, as well, even though it’s not her favorite subject.  I am an avid reader, and I think she’s beginning to imagine how enjoyable it will be when she can pick up a book and read it to herself.  She is also quite the little social butterfly.  She makes friends wherever we go.  In the parking garage the other day, we were getting into the van when a little Korean girl called to her, “Gianna! Gianna!”  She smiled and waved, but later admitted she didn’t recognize her.  Her reputation precedes her, I suppose.

Kevin and I are our same boring, but happy selves.  Kevin works hard, as always, and I’ve got my hands full of blessings… otherwise known as children.  Hope you are all happy and healthy, and I’ll try to send some pictures soon.

Comments

  1. You’re on FB? Oh good, now you can friend me and I can badger you when you haven’t posted, too!
    I love the “Banchan” idea. You should try and make it a regular post topic. I love learning about new places, and since your blog’s sole purpose is catering to my wants, I know you’ll be more than happy to make it happen.

    You can find my blog on FB, or if you email me (leave a comment on my blog and I’ll be able to email you back), I can send you my personal FB page. Because that’s what you’re looking for- a crazy person to “friend” on FB.

  2. Oh Micaela! You don’t have to be clever. We all just want to know the boring regular stuff you’re up to! It’s our way of chit chatting when we don’t get to on a regular basis. Every time you post, I read it immediately.

  3. Cari, I sent you a friend request on FB. And as always, my blog is here to serve.

    Nicole, I miss you so much! Thanks for reading, and tell Daniel and Reid we say, “Anyong haseyo!”