Volleyball today was a total banner day. Somehow I may have magically learned the proper way to play volleyball. The best part was how well the principal and teachers all responded to my new skillz--cheering for me, slapping my hands, and telling me to "cheer up" (random archery dude told them "cheer up" is the translation of a Korean rallying cry--the Korean 加油). It seems that doing well at volleyball can do more for my relationship with the school than anything I accomplish in the classroom...it's a little depressing, but whatev. I hope I keep improving.
My host mom, in what I believe was an attempt to give me more space, moved Kiyeong and his desk out of my room and the piano in (the piano is not a real piano and is only about four inches wide, so it takes up much less space). While it is nice not to have the side of my rock mat curled up against the desk, the piano is a good deal more disruptive to my evenings than studying Kiyeong (and even not-studying Kiyeong). In addition to her rigorous origami and coloring studies, my host mom practices the piano every night, usually around 11. The best part is that so far she's only ever practiced 2 songs. Sometimes she tries to be considerate and plays with headphones...but even though I can't hear the piano music, the pounding of the keys is really distracting. Worst of all, she always sings or hums along with her playing...I don't know if it's deliberate or not, but I do know that it's awful.
We are currently in the middle of the rice harvest. The rice paddies and fields are now a patchwork of golden ripe plants, stubby brown emptiness, and dark green new growth. On the sidewalks, the sides of the roads, and next to the library the drying rice lies on looong black cloth rectangles, raked out in even ridges like Zen gardens. It's really pretty...I wish my camera lens would come so I could take pictures.
It's nearly 8:30 and we haven't had dinner yet. The boys are complaining of hunger and squirming in their chairs as they "study" but my host mom hasn't acknowledged them yet. She has been on the phone for nearly two hours, animatedly talking about an origami book she is shuffling through. This sort of thing happens sometimes...instead of the usual 3 full dinner-like meals at 5:30, 8, and 10, we just get one meal at nine. I don't understand why there's no middle ground between these two situations, but I guess I should just be grateful that overfeeding is more common than deprivation.
I've started running! It actually feels really, really good. The weather is starting to get cold and everything smells like fall, two things that I love. Mostly it's just nice to be by myself for a little while, doing something simple, familiar, and languageless. It kind of freaks my host family out, since I actually run to and from the track in addition to around it--apparently an exercise innovation in Gongju, I go by myself, I'm gone for a while, and I get (gasp!) sweaty and red-faced. In a few weeks there is going to be a marathon, 10k, 5k extravaganza in Gongju and Lauren and I are going to try to participate (in the 5k obv. At 10 minute pace. I would still rather die than race an actual 5k).
Last night my host dad, Kiyeong, and I successfully put together our family's new vacuum cleaner. This might not read as very exciting, but believe me, the three of us had a great time. Kiyeong's role was mainly pouring water on everything (it's some sort of steam combo vacuum cleaner) and playing in the box it came in, while my host dad and I worked to reconcile the Korean instructions with the English buttons on the actual machine (many appliances here have English buttons, even ones made by Korean companies...I don't know). I don't know why it was funny, but for some reason all three of us were laughing uncontrollably the whole time. This made my host mom really happy (she is a nice lady, I have to keep that more firmly in mind when she's making fun of me) and to celebrate she brought out this berry-flavored jewel-like liquor that tasted like jam and probably had very little alcohol in it, and we drank shots of it and watched baseball together until bed (the boys drank shots of tomato juice. The tomato juice here is very sweet, a phenomenon I find kind of unnerving).
I'm thinking of trying to find a language exchange partner at the nearby college. I really want to learn Korean and I REALLY want to meet some Koreans my own age. Problems with this plan include my lack of a printer, free time, and the nerve to try and force someone to be friends with me.