Thursday, October 22, 2009

Host Dad Has Relieved Himself of Subtlety

In the car this morning:
Me: Mr. Kim, I am thinking about taking piano lessons. How can I find an academy that teaches piano lessons?
Mr. K: Instead, you should go to a mountain climbing academy
Me: (laughs)
Mr. K: You must exercise more, it is good for health.
Me: OK, but I am also interested in piano lessons. How can I find out where I should go?
Mr. K: I will not tell you. Instead, go to gym.
Me: (now growing tired of the inside joke about how I hate to climb mountains) OK, Mr. Kim.

Then, after lunch (bulgogi for most, rice, kimchi & miso soup for me)
Mr. Kim: (in Korean) your boyfriend hates me.
Me: What? My boyfriend hates you?
Mr. Kim: Yes. You know why?
Me: He's never met you, I can't imagine wh--
Mr. Kim: Because you are getting fat. Every day. More fatter.
Me: (stunned silence)
Co-teacher: (smiling) Korean food is delicious, yes?
Me: (fumbling) yes...
Mr. Kim: (something in Korean)
Coteacher: Mr. Kim says your boyfriend will not like you anymore when you come home if you do not exercise. (to Mr. Kim, but in English, to reassure me) I think her boyfriend is nice boy. He is in love with her. He will not be too sad.
Me: Oh, it's not Nick I'm worried about...(pointed glare at Mr. Kim)
Mr. Kim: you left america beautiful girl, but in my house, you gotten fat, so your boyfriend hates me.
Me: Mr. Kim, quit while you're ahead.

Then coteacher and Mr. Kim discuss relative merit of various exercise plans and tell me which foods to eat and that I should swim or run or whatever. I sort of want to scream at this point, so I just announce that they can clearly have this conversation without me, and leave.

Ugh. Sometimes culture shock is, well, a little shocking. Last weekend, one of my host mom's emaciated friends told me she didn't know a fat girl could be this beautiful, and it didn't really bother me. Oh, she also grabbed my eyebrows and eyelashes to see if they were real. She was clearly whacked. Plus, on the off chance that someone who doesn't know me or hasn't seen me in a while is reading this, I should probably put out there that I arrived in Korea at a size 6 and am now a size 10. So yes, I definitely gained some weight. But no, I'm not massively obese. After orientation, and then after having no adverse reactions when HSM's hungry hungry friend slung backhanded compliments at me for a couple of hours, I thought I was prepared for junk like this, and was surprised that I wanted to smack my host dad across the face. After all, I can't really explain the finer points of my medical history nor American cultural norms to someone for whom English is not their first language and who pretty much judges people's weight as a measurement of their ambition, self-discipline, and maybe even a reflection of their moral judgment...


< teach class >


Probably Absolutely Not Ur Mom said...

ughh, smacks of patronizing pater patter, misogyny more than cultural divide..I am proud (though my lower self is disappointed) that you did not shift the discussion to tips on how a man with a small penis could improve his situation so as to become less of a subject of pity among his colleagues and improve his standing with his wife.

Mr. Kim (USA) said...

I'm left speechless. Again. (Of course me speechless in Korean sounds a lot like me speaking Korean.) Hmmm. Perhaps my Korean namesake/counterpart could emulate that a bit regarding certain subjects. . .

not a J. said...

and here I thought getting a Fulbright was a measure of discipline, ambition and maybe ethics...

Anonymous said...

And yet, he lives!

Anonymous said...

You broke a rule and got away with it - If you eat what you want, and are not living your life around being thought attractive, you have somehow cheated. And what if all the women in Korea did the same, and discovered that their own desires are a better way to steer their lives than what the men want? You could start a revolution, and the men want to nip it in the bud.
to Not Ur Mom 'patronizing Pater patter' is brilliant!