Saturday, July 22, 2006

My Secret

I met Hye Sook almost a year ago, but we didn't start dating right away. Actually, there was some contention on that point. We spent a lot of time together even early on. We talked a lot (almost every night) even before I came home for Christmas last year. But, we weren't officially dating for long after we met. The reason was complicated.

The way that Hye Sook and I first met was that I was trying to improve my Korean. I put an ad up on the internet to get someone to help me with my Korean, and I'd help them with their English in exchange. She answered. We met. We practiced and we hit it off. The reason, however, that Hye Sook wanted to learn English was that she was planning on going to cooking school in Australia. That, of course, complicated things. In addition, her mother had told her that it was best for a woman to be independent on her own before getting involved with a man (not bad advice, but not realistic to expect her to wait) AND her father was a tad on the conservative side. All this played into us not dating. But eventually she gave in when we decided just to see where things would go (at the time, she wouldn't have been leaving to Australia for at least six months). The Australia plan was eventually scrapped for other plans.

Last night, I walked into Hye Sook's house nervous, well dressed, and bearing gifts. I met her brother about two months ago, but this was the first time I had met her parents. It was awkward, more than awkward, as I sat across the dinner table from her stoic father, quiet beyond quiet and talking to everyone but me. When he finally talked to me, I almost wished he hadn't. Serious and furrowed-browed, he asked me why I was with his daughter. I explained in poor Korean: She's easy to talk to and we think the same way, which is true.

He loosened up a little, but still was tense. He talked to me in Korea (not being able to speak English), but I rarely understood. I'm not sure why, as my Korean is pretty good now: perhaps the nervousness, perhaps it was because it was mostly unfamiliar topics, perhaps dialect or different grammar. This got a little hard to follow when we started talking about the wedding.

And that's the secret. I'll be getting married in January.

He wanted to work out dates, times, parties (including one in February in the US), and all the details right then. He wanted to talk about me being part of the family. He wanted to talk about our future: what country we'd live in, my goals, kids, and everything. Most of which I didn't even have answers to.

Now, this might seem odd that I only met her parents after we had already decided to get married, especially since I live only a 10 minute drive from her house, but it's not. In Korea, dating is definitely part of the outside world and parents don't meet boyfriends or girlfriends until it comes time to approve them for marriage.

Well, things finally loosend up a bit, and I started understanding what her father was saying as time went on. Her mother I never had a hard time understanding, but she didn't say much. Mostly she just sat and smiled. Things opened up little by little as time went on, though, and eventually everyone was joking. And eventually, I was approved for marriage.

I left the house still nervous from the whole deal and was taken back home. Hye Sook came with me. She seemed nervous too, and oddly out of sorts, but we at least were past the hardest part.

I've been keeping Hye Sook under wraps for a while now (pronounced Hay-sook, by the way. This is the name you'd call her. Her full name is Kim Hye Sook, Kim being her family name). Because of that, I have months of back-pictures to post. You got questions? I got answers. Just post them in the comments section, and I'll get to them ASAP. Enjoy!


She must like bears. These first 5 pictures are pictures she sent me a few months after we met, but that were taken long before we met. Posted by Picasa

Her (at home I think) with a bear for some reason. Posted by Picasa

Her with her friend in Japan (as you can see by the caption). Posted by Picasa

Doing the crazy Korean "V" thing that everyone does when they get their picture taken here. Posted by Picasa

In Japan. Posted by Picasa

The first picture I ever took of her. This was at the bottom of this big tower in Busan (there's an aquarium at the bottom). She didn't want me to take the picture, so she tried to hide her face, but only got it turned half way. This was only the second time we ever met. Posted by Picasa

The first CLEAR picture I got of her. When we first met, she never wanted me to take a picture, but I snuck this one. Posted by Picasa

The first picture of her and I together. Taken last November, just a month after we met but still before we were dating. Posted by Picasa

Smiley. Posted by Picasa

Hye Sook taking a picture of a really famous temple we visited last January. Actually, this is the EXACT temple that Hye Sook's parents want to take my parents if they visit here. Posted by Picasa

And another. Posted by Picasa

And another. Posted by Picasa

Hye Sook seeing me off at the airport last February before I went to China. Posted by Picasa

And another (looking gangsta). Posted by Picasa

And another. Posted by Picasa

Hye Sook eating Turkish food. Posted by Picasa

Hye Sook at the aquarium pretending to be mad at me for taking my picture. Posted by Picasa

Her with a big paper fish at Korean culture exhibit thingy. Posted by Picasa

Hye Sook opening my curtains one day. Posted by Picasa

There's this bike path under the subway here. Hye Sook and I go for walks on it all the time (and I ride my bikes on it). Posted by Picasa

On Buddha's birthday (taken by Damian, I believe). Posted by Picasa

And another one. Posted by Picasa

Dy took a bunch of pictures of the three of us together when Damian and Dy visited. Posted by Picasa

Damian me and Hye Sook chatting (taken by Dy). Posted by Picasa

Damian, me, and Hye Sook (taken by Dy). Posted by Picasa