A big surprise

I was in for a big surprise this afternoon.  My replacement as chair of our association asked me to meet with him about something.  He told me about a past issue we were having and asked me to join him on a walk to discuss it.  He took me down to our coffee shop, and out popped half of our association board and the general manager gathered there to throw me a surprise party.  They gave me a really nice certificate laminated to an oversized oriental concrete roof tile (see photo below), the same kind of tile we used to repair the association building roof.  I was absolutely surprised, beside myself…and touched!  I couldn’t believe it.  It’s one of the nicest things anyone has done for me.  The tile is heavy and believe it or not, pretty expensive.  Their thoughtfulness is priceless.  I stepped down from the board last September, and I thought that would be the end of it after one year as chair and one-and-a-half years on the board.  Of all the special moments I’ve had during my time in Seoul, this one ranks near the top.  It’s been a trying two weeks for me at work, and this was such a welcomed respite from the onslaught on my desk waiting to be done.  My certificate and roof tile are now proudly displayed on my shelf behind me.  I’ll carry that 15 pound concrete tile around the world with me.
For the Shutterbugs:  I posted some photos tonight of Halloween activities from the past week.  My son is the one dressed up as Batman (see my previous blog entry).  I also posted some photos of our pet spider, a golden orb weaver we named "Charlotte."  Charlotte is still around and as big as ever.  She must be two-and-a-half inches long by now.  We’ll be sad when she finally crawls away in a few days or weeks.

Batman and Spidey

Last night my son donned his Batman costume and joined his best friend, Michael, who portrayed Spider-man, for a round of neighborhood trick or treating.  They did more treating than tricking, collecting handfuls of candy from our generous neighbors.  Where we live, Halloween festivities are held on the last Saturday evening in October, regardless of whether it falls on October 31st.  Koreans don’t celebrate Halloween, so the date does not matter to them.  Some Korean children enjoy putting on a variety of homemade costumes so they can fill their bags with candy, but it is not a widespread practice here.  Neither my wife nor I are fans of the holiday because of its dark connotations and fattening confectionary exchanges.  I trick-or-treated when I was young, but after my wife and I married, we made it a habit to go out to dinner to avoid the trick-or-treaters.  Now that we have a son, we acknowledge the holiday to the point that we allow our son to wear a costume and collect some candy with his chums.  We’re pragmatic about it–we would rather our son not feel different from his peers for the sake of not observing a holiday we don’t really like.  It would be awkward for him to go to class without a costume when his classmates and teachers are dressed up, and we would have to explain to him why he can’t trick or treat when his friends can do it.  We’d rather let him have some fun, even if  we now have a bag full of candy.  Mom and dad will probably covertly munch on a few to make sure they’re safe to eat. 
Tonight I carved a Jack-o-lantern with my son, just like we did last year.  Last year we carved Oliver, one of the Thomas-the-Tank-Engine trains.  This year, my son wanted me to carve it into Spider-man.  He wanted to dress up for Halloween as the Green Goblin, Spider-man’s nemesis from the first Spider-man film, but we talked him out of it.  After his friend Michael decided to be Spider-man, he decided to carve his pumpkin in Spider-man’s likeness.  Next year, in Paraguay, he wants to dress up as Superman.  Last year he was Thomas the Tank Engine.  What a difference a year makes.
Tonight’s topic got me wondering about a mystery of life–why do some comic book superheroes and archvillians become popular, and some don’t?  Batman and Spider-man, along with Superman, are the three most popular superheroes in comic book lore.  Between them, the three characters have spawned hundreds of comic books and almost a dozen movies.  What happened to other superheroes and villians from the animal world, including Snakeman, Mansquito (Mosquito Man), and Sharkman?  It seems that some of the most popular superheroes and villians, such as Wolverine, are based on creatures from the animal kingdom that create fear and wonderment among us humans.  Why aren’t other creatures (or pests) who create fear in humans popular comic book characters?  Why aren’t there heroes or villains such as Pigeon Man, the bird poo slinger, or Yellow Jacket Man, who ruins backyard barbeques, or Pit Bull Man, who grabs bad guys and won’t let go?  They would be really cool.  The characters could be females, but I would not wish it on any woman to be one of those superheroes or villains.  Viral Man to the rescue!

Days getting shorter, time running out

Our time here in Korea is getting shorter and shorter.  In just three months, we will depart the Land of the Morning Calm and Daytime Frenzy for the United States.  My wife and I put together a master calendar and started throwing activities on it like darts on a dart board.  Lately we’ve found ourselves saying, "Don’t forget to do that; oh yeah, we really have to have so and so over before we leave."  About three months out from a major move, you find yourself starting to figure out how to do absolutely everything you need or really want to do before you leave.  All else gets cut from the master plan.
I’ve been told that we really don’t need to do any move activities until one month before we move, although that is advice I’ve heard from people who subsequently claim to be in a tizzy and running out of time before the big move.  I think it would be better to get it all done earlier and then be absolutely bored for the last two weeks of our stay here in Korea.  That’s not going to happen!  I’ll settle for the middle ground and hope we can get most of it done weeks in advance.  At least this move won’t be as earth-shattering as our first move, when we dismantled our average middle-class suburban life and exchanged it for adventure and expat life that seems eerily similar to the life we had back in suburbia! 
Nevertheless, by this time next year we will be in Paraguay, experiencing an entirely new reality.  I love Korea, but I am ready for a change of scenery.  At some point I need to start blogging more about Paraguay and my quest to improve my Spanish.  It seems so far away, even if it is only a few months from now.