For the first time in my life yesterday I hung out with my Korean mother- and father-in-law completely by myself. Usually we all have my wife to translate and keep the conversation moving, but this time we were stuck: I was in Gyeongju by myself to interview for a job at a local university (a position I think I can only attain now through divine intervention, after babbling my way through forty minutes of the sweatiest questions), and my wife was back home taking care of our son, who is still so young that all of us start to panic at the mere thought of traveling anywhere with him for an extended period of time.
Just two weeks ago a half-minute cab ride to a nearby hospital turned into a complete disaster when he began to shriek at the top of his lungs the moment we stepped inside the taxi; he was uncomfortable; the idiotic driver suggested we give him some milk; but I told my wife, at first with some strain, a second time with shouts and swears, that we had to get the fuck out of the cab and walk. She insisted on listening to the random idiotic driver, even though we had just finished feeding the baby a moment before (and I even tried to feed him again in the cab, which of course didn’t work at all!), and this caused some tension between us until we got to the hospital a few minutes later and comforted our son through the usual course of wailing, screaming injections.
Those tears are a little cuter as you expect them and can calm him down after just a few moments of holding him—he did, however, oblige us by vomiting up a mouthful of expensive medicine just a few minutes after he drank it down, and act which also bankrupted us for several days. That was indeed the last of our cash, soaked into my shoulder, already starting to dry in the summer heat. But don’t worry, we’re actually rolling in dough now, more or less, because we finally have enough students to tutor.
Anyway, I stepped into their very tiny apartment in the trash-strewn district across the river from the university at Gyeongju, my shirt still stained with sweat from all the nervous laughter of my ten-minute mini-lesson, and the conversation began with my in-laws: actually all I remember hearing is how much they want to see our son, though I know we probably spoke continuously for at least an hour, off-and-on over the course of the afternoon. After rushing through a blur of English, after struggling to satisfy the interrogative broadsides of the fine and (honestly) very friendly professionals at the university in question—whom God Himself will have to mind control like the greatest of Dark Archons if they are even going to think of hiring me—after all that, it was a pleasure to sputter and bulldoze through the usual simple Korean sentences, where I have been stuck for months.
This food delicious is [polite verb conjugation]. Our American family son see want to is [polite verb conjugation]. Hungry really am [almost forgot polite verb conjugation]. Interview-at shook hands forgot Koreans-with [impolite conjugation since two verbs together are quite the grammatical doozy]. Morning-in five o’clock our son angel not [polite verb conjugation, this one made them laugh a lot]. Our baby our time eats, so can’t exercise. Etc., etc.
It was a comfortable meeting. All of us enjoy each other’s company, I think. My mother-in-law (or changmoneem) usually repeats everything I say back to me while laughing heartily; my father-in-law (or changinawloon) often attempts to give me advice, shaking his hands and struggling to simplify his words and modify his impossible accent so I can understand him, though I usually cannot make sense of what he says to me if it even pretends to veer into the abstract.
After devouring a banquet of my mother-in-law’s incredible food we drove back to Busan. It’s something of a rare treat for me to go anywhere these days, or do anything, since between work, writing, and the baby, I’m confined to a pretty rigid track, so the sight of the enormous mountains covered in beautiful green windy forests had me longing for a new life in the country, among the ancient temples of Gyeongju, in the company of my wife’s Korean friends and family, employed at a job that actually has some dignity attached to it, one which will actually look good on my resume. But unfortunately that is not to be!
A life battling the hordes of Busan with my drawn fisticuffs—for the time-being—instead!