Sunday, September 22, 2013

Hospitality, or: My Taekgyeon Teacher is a Real Nice Guy

I think my taekgyeon teacher (or 관장님, which is like "master" or "director") has become my new homestay dad, in a way. Well, at the very least, he's been a very kind and generous person in my life, and I'm deeply grateful to him and his wife.

Before I left for home last week, when he found out why I was visiting home, he personally went and got a gift set of his favorite brand of 막걸리 (makkeolli) for me to give to my parents. My first thought was, "Boy, that is going to take up all of the room in my suitcase." But then, I realized how kind a gesture it was. My parents thought so, too, even though they hardly drink at all.

He's also become my gymnastics trainer. I merely casually mentioned after class one night that I wanted to learn how to do a back handspring, and before I knew it, he was telling me to do a bridge and spotting me for a back walkover. I regularly treat his dojang like my personal tricking gym, but instead of being annoyed at this, he's always been encouraging and wants to help me reach my goals, however trivial.

Then, yesterday, he invited me and some of the other members of the dojang over to his new apartment for a small apartment-warming party. We brought some gifts (it's customary to bring household goods like toilet paper or tissues to a 집들이; I also brought donuts!) and ate and chatted with him and his wife and cooed at his chubby seven-month-old son. Over fifty percent of the time, I tuned out what everyone was talking about in rapid Gyeongnam dialect Korean, but when I did listen and comprehend, the conversation strayed from the odd sports tchoukball and "padminton" to the UFO crash in Roswell to a debate over whether the greenhouse effect was a political scam or a real phenomenon. Eventually, though, I just couldn't keep my eyes open -- an unwieldy combination of jetlag, dry eyes, sitting on the floor for hours, and taxing mental strain to follow along -- and I fell asleep on the sofa.

When I woke up, it was almost 2am, my ride had left, and 관장님 was like, "Dude, you can just sleep here overnight, if you want. You should." So I did. And this morning, he, his wife, and I ate breakfast like a family, and then they sent me off with some fruits and an invitation to come back again whenever I wanted to. How can I pay back that kind of hospitality?

All in all, I'm just very thankful that my teacher treats me not like some random waygookin (foreigner) but like his friend. I'm entertaining this wild idea that in twenty years, his son will want to study English in the States, and so I'll be like, "Dude, he can just stay at my place, if he wants. He should."

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