In Korean culture, it is tradition to hold a housewarming party when one has moved (Jipdeuli /집들이). The expats adopted this tradition and have invited their team members once they’ve settled into their new homes. Team sizes vary from as small as 4 to more than 24, and Chris’s is one of the larger at 18. We held our party on July 4 since had we been in the States, we would have been doing something with friends. And we had a typical American cookout with bratwurst, hotdogs, homemade potato salad, homemade baked beans, a coleslaw salad, watermelon, brownies, and ice cream. And beer. And Soju. Lots of beer and Soju.




Some of the food
humidity korea
21.0 liters of water removed. Eek.

We held the party on a weeknight because there are a few team members who travel to Seoul every weekend. They have families there – including spouses and children. I don’t know how I would manage being around my spouse only 48 hours per week. The drive itself is fairly arduous because so many Koreans travel to Seoul on the weekend, and those who don’t travel there already live there. The traffic is very heavy. I traveled that way from here on a Tuesday morning, and the traffic was an issue at a couple points. This is a very populated country with not a lot of land mass. Other team members go elsewhere to be with family, so a weeknight seemed to be the best option.



Another tradition here is to bring a gift when invited to someone’s home – especially when attending a housewarming. We would have liked to say no gifts, but I think that would be insulting. Common presents are toilet paper and dish and laundry soap as those items were real luxuries for many years. However, Chris’s team is pretty young. They brought us a gorgeous plant that signifies fortune. They also brought us a mug and tumbler, some wine, and a gorgeous rice cake from a bakery.

We played some games as was suggested by others. In the States, they probably would not have gone over very well but were a huge success here.

We also had a “White Elephant” kind of gift exchange, which was very foreign to the guests. Opening gifts in front of others is unusual as well as stealing them, but they seemed to have fun with it. Chris was very proud of developing a beer pong game with a Roomba. He also substituted Soju shots. Soju is made in South Korea and is a very strong rice-based alcohol beverage that varies from 16-50% alcohol by volume.

The best part of the evening for me was just interacting. Koreans seem to be very curious and direct. They are kind and generous and funny. Unlike Americans, though, they seem much more interested in listening than talking. They ask questions – sometimes somewhat philosophical questions – and listen for your answer. They will also tell you that you need to get more exercise or lose weight without hesitation. And it isn’t at all offensive. It’s very matter-of-fact and kind of cracks me up. Someone told us you could feel insulted on a daily basis if you let yourself, but none of it is meant to offend. I like it. Nothing has ever seemed to be about being “better looking” but, instead, about being healthier. I did get a little defensive regarding my dogs though. A. Molly is not overweight. And B. Both of them are ancient. I want to see how active Mr. Lee is when he’s 98 years old!

Regarding the dogs, they are considered large here. And they aren’t used to being around 20 people in their home. They did great though, and none of the team seemed uncomfortable after the initial introductions. I hope someone in the group decides they’ll be willing to dog-sit in the future so we can go away for a weekend. They can stay at the house, and we’ll pay them. We’re just a short bike ride or bus ride from the office, and most of the team members live in a company dorm on the weekdays. It would probably be nice to get away.

Mother and Child Reunions

I lost my pyeonghwa this weekend. As far as I can tell, pyeonghwa means “peace” in Korean. It’s an addictive state that isn’t harmful but can be elusive. I’d lost mine for a couple years. Moving to Korea was a stressful and anticipatory experience, filled with a lot of excitement. We took possession of our rental house on June 1, and a dining table and chairs, a refrigerator, a television, and a couple sofas arrived on the same day. I received a lot of instruction that I’ve since forgotten. Our house is lovely but has many idiosyncrasies. The stove is run off propane tanks. The boiler that heats the house and water is run off the same gasoline used in your car and is filled the same way. The windows are beautiful but have never known energy efficiency. And, of course, all the electronics (frig, microwave, washer, dryer, etc.) have Korean instructions. So that was June 1.

June 2 was the arrival of my old pups. They made it around 9:30pm. I was jumping out of my skin in anticipation and am so grateful to have them here. The reunion, though, was nothing like any I’ve had with them. They were confused, frightened, exhausted, and maybe slightly pissed off. They spent 17 days away, mostly in a kennel. They spent 29 hours flying from Dallas-Fort Worth airport via Lufthansa to Frankfurt and then Seoul, including a 9 hour layover to exercise and eat in Frankfurt, a 4+ hour drive to Sacheon, and a couple hours clearing customs. I feel a great deal of guilt for putting them through this ordeal. My older girl is 14 and she looked horrible upon arrival.  I could have chosen not to come or found them another home stateside, but those weren’t viable options for me. I spent the night on one of our new sofas to be with them while Chris returned to the hotel. That was June 2.

June 3 brought more deliveries. We received two twin beds and mattresses as well as the “king-sized” bedframe we’d purchased. I ran errands while Chris discovered that a Korean king-sized bed is 11 inches narrower than an American king-sized bed (all the Korean beds are smaller, but the king-sized is the most pronounced). We have our mattress coming in our air shipment as well as all of our bedding. We could just purchase that stuff here, but it is very expensive. Like thousands of dollars expensive. (Side note: Everything here is more expensive. I will need to get over that at some point.) And we love our mattress. So, after phone calls and a trip to a hardware store, Chris managed to get some plywood sheets that he’s going to drill into the bedframe to support our version of a king-sized bed. We moved one of the twin mattresses from the upstairs to the master bedroom downstairs for me to sleep on as the dogs are having a hard time getting upstairs. Chris went back to the hotel. That was June 3.

June 4 was somewhat uneventful, which might have been when I really noticed losing my peace. We went shopping, watered the garden, and took it easy. We had a wonderful meal at a Chinese restaurant with new friends. The restaurant had table-side grills, and we ordered lamb and beef kabobs and some rice. The meal came with kimchi and a couple side dishes, and the owner brought big bowls of soup gratis. It was delicious. I dropped Chris at the hotel and returned to the house.

On June 5, I attempted to go to a Costco. We need a lot of stuff. We’re setting up a household here, and I’ve managed to buy a couple trash cans, a pillow, a couple towels, a very cheap fry pan, and a couple plates and bowls to get by until the arrival of our air shipment. I’ve been feeding the dogs some kind of Purina food for small dogs. I’d brought some of their treats in my luggage, so that helped. So I drove over 2 hours, paid lots in tolls (and gasoline), spent 90 minutes loading a cart, and was told I needed a Korean Costco charge card or cash. Another expat had used his US Costco charge card for a 3% service charge, but they weren’t taking mine. I thought I could use my Korean debit card, but that was a no go. So I went to an ATM in the store to get money, and my card got stuck. A technician was called, I waited patiently, and after all of that, drove home empty-handed. That was a 6-hour ordeal. (I couldn’t figure out the ATM as I’m somewhat – read significantly – technologically challenged.)  June 5 sucked.

June 6 was Korea’s (actually the Republic of Korea’s, not the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s) Memorial Day. I need to write about that – about North and South Korea’s centuries of invasion, occupation, war, and horror. I read some of their history and felt somber. The day meant a holiday, so Chris thought I should jump back on the horse and go back to Costco with him. We bought 3 shopping carts worth of stuff. Everything is cheaper at Costco, and we needed a lot. We also wanted a grill, which seems impossible to find anywhere. Oh, and Chris had to buy a drill so he can jerry-rig that bed I mentioned. It was a better day.

I think we get our air shipment tomorrow. That will be like Christmas. We’re still waiting on a furniture order that includes dressers, tables, a television stand and the like, so right now we don’t really have a way to put things away. All our clothes will be in that shipment other than the things we’ve been wearing for the last month. It was a little chilly yesterday, so I wore the one long-sleeved shirt I brought in my luggage. I’m also anxious to cook and await my pots and pans and all the rest of the kitchen stuff. It gets chilly at night, and I’m using one of Chris’s jackets as my blanket.

Today – June 7 – involved killing a gigantic centipede. They’re called “house centipedes,” and that is a blatant misnomer. The thing was a monster. I’m not a bug killer, but this was no bug. Look them up online. The stuff of nightmares. But I do feel better. Not because I killed the alien insect. I think I feel better because the stress of everything – relocating and all that entails, and then everything that comes with being in a new country – was keeping me from slowing down and feeling some of what’s to be expected: Homesickness, guilt, weariness, fear. I’m very happy and excited and incredibly grateful to be here, but it does come with costs.

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