The first three days back this month were spent writing resumes, cover letters, and reports. The reports deal with Onol and the Dundgobi methodology workshop (I still have to write the much longer MFOS year-end report for Laurie in New York), while the resumes and cover letters, both in French and in English, were dispatched to a potential employer in Canada. The position is for a translator; but my written French is so rusty, and my last regular translation job ended so long ago, that I doubt any employer worth his salt will risk his hard-earned money on me. Not that it would take that long to work out the kinds in my compositional skills; it's just that people will be extremely reluctant to hire someone who's been on such an extended layoff. Translation, like surgery, is a use-it-or-lose-it proposition, and the slightest mistake is, in the eyes of the client, unacceptable.
On a cheerier note, I went to a French restaurant with John, Kelli, Paul, and Audrey for a little farewell party. Conversation the whole time centred on Soros, since we found out this morning that Paul had been accepted as a SPELT Fellow for the 2001-2002 academic year. It was all rather depressing, as John and Kelli have had a much more negative experience than I, for whatever reasons. I also lugged around the bottle of wine I've been saving for months to celebrate the birth of Jean-Noël, but no one wanted any! I don't think I can drink a whole litre of red wine by myself. Maybe John and Togsoh can help me before I leave.
Buman, on behalf of MFOS, called everyone to attention at the office at eleven o'clock and presented me with a farewell gift: baby cashmere clothes! Very soft, and surprisingly expensive, considering cashmere ought to be cheapest in this country. I'm sure Sun-duk and Jean-Noël will appreciate them very much!
Later, at four, I had a meeting with Chris, the head of MFOS. We discussed my year here, yes, but mostly we talked about our respective sons (his was born in the USA in February), and discussed the state of Mongolian medicine. He said that they almost lost their boy Benjamin on account of a misdiagnosis by a doctor in what is purportedly the country's best hospital. After a call to a trusted pediatrician in the States, Chris and his wife took their son to Beijing and had him treated properly. Frightening... And a validation of my ultimate decision to send Sun-duk to Korea in March. Some have no doubt thought that I was a cold, heartless husband; but I will reiterate the fact that we know of not one single instance in which a mother from an industrialised country gave birth here in Mongolia... for reasons that must now be quite obvious to even the most PC reader.
Khandsuren and her mother finally came calling this evening, to give me a present and some money, and take back some things of theirs I had borrowed, as well, such as the cell phone and a few books. Very kind people... hey, did I mention Khanda's pregnant? The baby's due in October... but they ought to buck the trend and start implementing some academic standards before the worth of their programme degrees fall below that of a Canadian middle-school diploma. Right now, their attention has been almost wholly monopolised by their latest project, a tourist camp based near Karakorum, the ancient Mongolian capital founded by Chinggis Khaan eight hundred years ago. It's crowded with wealthy Japanese tourists at present...
CALLING ULAANBAATAR: Sun-duk has called almost every night this week, as we coordinate our efforts towards Sunday's big reunion. The travel agency still hasn't faxed over a copy of my reserved plane ticket for Canada, which has me worried. Customs officials in Korea are, to put it mildly, intransigent. What if they suspect me of wanting to work illegally as an EFL teacher and ship me back to Ulaanbaatar, without even allowing me a phone call to Mokpo or the travel agency in question?
AND... Jean-Noël went to the hospital today for some more booster shots. Sun-duk has the list in Korean; we'll have to translate it into English and French when we get to Canada.
Jean-Noël's skin is almost as pink and pale as mine! That surprises me. He's also got my cleft chin. The new pictures I got this week shed a bit more light on his appearance, and made me all the sadder for not having been there the past month ?especially as today was the one-month anniversary of his birth. The longest three days of my life are just ahead of me, and then we'll still have to wait, what? One? Two? Three months before we can live alone as a true nuclear family.
I read a long, very long thread in Dave's ESL Cafe on why there are so many Canadians teaching English abroad. Again, the replies were almost unanimous: no jobs, at least for those without a degree in computers or the sciences. Some others also cited the deteriorating social fabric of the nation, and a few couples have said to be living the happiest days of their lives in Japan. The cities are much safer and friendlier, a not unimportant consideration for those raising young children. And, they say, the general quality of life is much higher than in Canada. Food for thought...
JOYEUX ANNIVERSAIRE, JOSÉE !!! Today's my baby sister's birthday, so everyone wish her a very good year - I do!
Here, briefly - because I'm very busy - was my day.
I went to the bank and closed my account. I left with over a thousand American dollars and four one-tugrik banknotes. I didn't even know they existed! They're worth less than a tenth of a cent, and even Mongolians never use them: they just round out their totals to the nearest five or ten tugriks.
Heavier than usual traffic downtown this week was due to so many graduations at the country's largest universities, all located in the heart of Ulaanbaatar. I've seen dozens of people carrying flowers to the lucky graduates as these pose for group photos at their institution's entrance steps. There are no gowns or hats; the kids just wear their Sunday best.
The city pruned all of its trees in and around the downtown area. Actually, their tops and largest branches were ingloriously lopped off to such a degree that these poor guardians of the avenues appeared to have been drawn, quartered, and beheaded.
John and his girlfriend Togsoh came over to my apartment with buuz, and we spent three hours in pleasant conversation. John will return to Azerbaijan at the end of summer as a seasoned teacher trainer, while Togsoh will most likely study at Hangook University in Seoul. I told her what the living conditions would be like, but she didn't want to hear any of it! The twelve thousand strong Mongolian community generally love the city - its lights shine very brightly -, but cannot stomach the food or bear the small living space. I also finally had the chance to drink Jean-Noël's bottle of Bordeaux.
My last day in Mongolia! Buman and her mother took me to a textile shop and selected some orange silk of excellent quality, five metres' worth, which will become the sash, or belt, for my deel. When we got back in the car, Buman took out a present: a baby deel, handmade by her mother with the leftover material for my own deel's lining! It's incredibly cute, and I can't wait to make him wear it in Canada. Buman's mother is a very sweet woman; she was a stewardess with MIAT for a long time, working on flights across Asia. It seems hers is the last generation to have been trained in the art of sewing; everyone else under fifty buys factory-made deels and clothes.
Our next destination was the Naran Tuul Market. I need new shoes badly (the soles on my old Chinese pair are just about ready to fall off), and they're much cheaper here than in Korea. Three problems to overcome, however: one, I can't spend more than T20,000 if I hope to have enough cash for tomorrow's airport exit tax; two, shoes my size do not grow on Mongolian trees; and three, a whole hour wandering through countless aisles failed to turn up a single pair of shoes to my taste. Mongolians prefer wide-soled shoes with laces; I was just looking for a run-of-the-mill pair of loafers of the kind worn by Western businessmen and teachers.
There was no escaping the fact that I would have to compromise if I hoped to leave Mongolia with more than a pair of black cotton socks on my feet. And so I ended up buying some dark-brown loafers for T24,000 - a half-size too small, soles a bit wider than tasteful, and with ugly (but thankfully small) metal buckles on top. They won't look too bad with my deel or beige suit, though! I'll probably buy a nice black pair in Korea, since one of Sun-duk's relatives gave us a department store gift certificate for W100,000 (about C$110) at our wedding last July. I'd rather Sun-duk spent it on herself or the baby, since my father might have something old but decent that'll fit me in his retired teacher's wardrobe.
Back home, I finished sorting and packing all our stuff. Most of it will go to Sun-duk's old NGO, Food for the Hungry International in Mongolia; Buman will bring it to Soros and call them this week so that they can pick it up. After that, it was just a matter of waiting out the last remaining hours as free of anxiety as possible.
I was lying on the sofa watching TV when Sun-duk telephoned at around nine or nine-thirty. She was simply double-checking on my packing, reminding me not to forget anything, especially my passport and plane ticket. Then she told me to go to bed right away! After all, I have to get to the airport by seven a.m.
Right after I hung up, Buman called, and because of a bad connection, it took us half an hour to get our schedules straight. I'm to wake her up at five-thirty; at six-thirty, she'll be at the house with the van.
I tried falling asleep after that, but it was useless. With fewer than six hours left 'til five o'clock, ants took over my pants, and I tossed and turned for over an hour. Then, the wind picked up and started howling like a banshee. I thought, "This is it - the mother of all snowstorms!" I got up, parted the curtains, and looked outside to see swirling... dust. It was just a stiff reminder from the parched north-west, dirt with which I will not doubt be reacquainted in Korea.
More awake than ever, now, I turned to TV5 and wrapped up my eight-and-a-half months in Mongolia with gusto: Le Grand Gourmand, my all-time favourite cooking show (our epicurean host travels across French-speaking Europe in a never-ending quest for culinary works of art), and a particularly good instalment of Christine Bravo's talk show, Union libre. By two o'clock, I was sleeping soundly in my bed. Well, three hours of rest is better than none...
Beautiful weather, Buman on time - early even -, among the first to check my luggage, and was not asked to pay a surcharge of US$150 even though I was fifteen kilos overweight! Buman and I said our goodbyes, then I crossed into that never-never land of duty-free tax shops (all six of them!).
To avoid certainly having to pay for a third piece of luggage, I had three carry-ons with me, including my huge suit bag. It was extremely awkward, a real pain in the butt finding a way to stow everything away neatly and safely once on the plane.
The flight took three hours, and I ate nearly the whole time. We had peanuts and juice for snacks, and a huge meal of chicken, rice, cold cuts, salad, fruit, bread, and wine. I wasn't hungry again until twelve hours later, in Mokpo.
Oops! Did I blow the ending?
Aw, who cares? Let me go on. There were mostly Mongolians on the plane, many of whom were first-time flyers. Fun to watch... We were over Mongolia for around an hour, I guess, and I got to see the changing landscape almost the whole way through, as the skies were clear all the way up into the stratosphere. The steppe, the desert, the dry river beds... Quite a contrast to the lush, cultivated fields of South Korea that greeted me two hours later, at around noon.
And then there was Inchon. Before disembarking, I experienced my last Mongolian crush, then enjoyed the new-car smell of East Asia's latest addition to state-of-the-art airports. It's much bigger than Kimpo, which has been converted to domestic flights only, and so through sharing, both are much less crowded than they otherwise would be on their own.
It wasn't long before I found the shuttle bus to Kimpo. I bought a ticket for W6000, waited about ten minutes, then sailed for forty more before getting off. Small problem: no carriage! I had to lug my five heavy pieces of luggage a good hundred metres before I found one deep inside Kimpo... and it was a rusty old thing with a bad wheel.
I went to pick up the ticket Sun-duk had bought for me last week, only to be told that the flight to Mokpo might be cancelled on account of wind !!! That bit of news threw me for a loop; after worrying for weeks about clement Mongolian weather, I was about to be done in by a breeze from the Yellow Sea! The man at the ticket counter informed me that a decision would be made in seventy minutes, i.e. by 3:10. If cancelled, there would not be another flight for Mokpo before tomorrow.
I quickly bought a W5000 phone card and called Sun-duk, who had been anxiously waiting for the telephone to ring. She advised me to take a plane to Kwangju, 100 kilometres north, if the weather didn't improve; but how much better would the weather be in a city so close to Mokpo? Taking the bus or train was out of the question: I simply had too many heavy bags to lug around alone. If all flights south were cancelled, I'd just have to rent a hotel room and try again tomorrow. At this point, I couldn't even fathom the possibility of having to delay our family reunion another day.
And so I found myself a seat, laid my weary bones down, and waited. My hopes were not raised one iota when the young couple next to me - with a cute year-old girl sitting on the father's lap - decided to call it a day when they were told that the 4:20 flight to Mokpo would probably be cancelled. I almost decided to buy myself a ticket for the 3:30 flight to Kwangju, as an electronic board was announcing that seats were still available - that plane was apparently ready for take-off, regardless of wind conditions.
Then the PA system bleeped on, and a muffled voice mumbled Mokpo and a few other incomprehensible syllables. I ran to the check-in counter, and the lady whom I had talked to twice before nodded, to my utter relief. In went the bags, down the conveyor belt and into my plane's cargo hold; and in went I, through the sliding doors and into the waiting lounge.
After reinvigorating myself with a splash of water to the face and neck in the men's room, I put into action a plan that had been forming in my head for some days. I took out my new deel from the suit bag, put it on, tied my beautiful orange silk sash 'round my waist, and sat back down. You might have guessed that I wanted to add a dash of colour to the family reunion, to make it extra-memorable! Oddly enough, hardly anyone stared at me. Maybe it was because there was a Buddhist monk not far away in puffy white meringue-like attire, while a bit further down, a Christian Orthodox monk sporting a foot-long beard was dressed in a black robe. Ordinary folk probably thought I was just another strange holy man!
Boarding began at 4:05, and I was first in line, first to get in the shuttle bus, and first to walk into the plane. No one wanted to get to Mokpo as fast as me!
We took off and landed five minutes late, but I was so close to my goal that it didn't matter. What were a few minutes more after missing the two most important months of my life?
Passengers had to walk down to the tarmac and walk to the building proper, through the gate where our luggage would be waiting for us. In almost no time at all, I had everything on the tiny carriage, turned around, and walked through the door...
... And there was Sun-duk, holding a swaddled and invisible Jean-Noël in her arms! I immediately noticed her new hairstyle (short and Carole-Bouquet-like), maternity clothes (red t-shirt and blue jogging pants), and ever-twinkling eyes, always brimming with joy and optimism. Hye-young stood next to her with our video camera, filming every second of our retrouvailles. Seeing that no "grown-ups" were there, I wrapped my arm around Sun-duk's shoulder, looked at her, then Jean-Noël, then kissed her on the cheek - already a breach of Korean etiquette, but one which Sun-duk and society can bear.
Jean-Noël was sound asleep, and people milling about, jostling and pushing, so we quickly made our way to the parking lot, where Hye-young's minivan was parked just a few metres away. He had pulled down the second-row seats so that the three of us could ride in the back with our legs stretched out, as though we were sitting up in a large hospital bed.
Then Sun-duk handed me our son and I was finally able to look at him in person. Sun-duk and I held hands as we gazed at Jean-Noël's adorable little face and body. She filled me in on all his little behavioural details, and what was left to do this evening before putting him to bed for the night. It was a quiet moment shared between two proud, loving, and grateful parents.
This is not the place for me to wax eloquent, maudlin or sentimental, so I'll simply describe what we did when we arrived at Sun-duk's home. I watched Jean-Noël wake up. I watched Sun-duk nurse him. I watched Sun-duk and her mother undress Jean-Noël, give him his bath, and slip him into a fresh change of baby clothes. I gave Jean-Noël his bottle. I took instructions from my wife. I watched Jean-Noël fall asleep in my arms. I let his mother take him from my arms and lay him down on his section of the yo, resting his tiny head on a tiny bunny-shaped pillow. I looked at him for a long, long time, admiring the beautiful life our love had created. I asked Sun-duk for more details, more advice - I wanted to catch up as quickly as possible in order to ensure that before we left Korea, I knew everything Sun-duk did about Jean-Noël. I wanted to make sure that by the time May 23 rolled around, I was firmly entrenched in his cute brown eyes as the second most important peson in his life. I wanted to hone my fathering skills, lose all inhibitions and hesitation that plague new parents. I will succeed...
I cannot adequately put into words the gamut of emotions I've gone through in the last five days. I have neither the time nor the inclination at present to search for these words; even when Jean-Noël is sleeping, I'd rather watch him than do anything else. My powers of concentration are focused on the trio we've become, and nothing else matters much anymore. The following notes, then, are for me only; I doubt anyone but immediate family will find them worthy of their interest.
The learning curve has been steep indeed. I now handle Jean-Noël with confidence, holding him, dressing him, bathing him, changing him with as much aplomb as Sun-duk. I know how hot his formula or bath water has to be. I have my own large repertoire of lullabies and play songs. I know how long he can wait before no amount of distraction will take his mind off food. I know how to soothe him, stop his tears, pat and rock him just right. Which positions he enjoys being held in most. His particular feeding rhythms, at the breast and at the bottle. The meaning of each little coo, sigh, burp, hiccough, and grimace. I have witnessed almost every single feeding, even at night, and spent almost every second, sleeping and waking, with Sun-duk and Jean-Noël, lending moral support and a helping hand. Most of all, I look into his eyes as he looks into mine, and I never miss the opportunity to smile at or talk to him. I have the feeling that I have already become an important part of his life, that he actually knows me and enjoys my company.
NOTES: Jean-Noël only has one bowel movement every two days. He's been going through a growth spurt, which has made him hungrier and crankier than usual. I think he's trying to smile, now. He feeds every two or three hours. His milk intake is roughly half mother's and half formula - Sun-duk's breasts are so engorged that her milk is not flowing as much as it should (we haven't found a machine that will express her milk to our satisfaction), and with Jean-Noël's growth spurt demanding extra nourishment, the bottle is the only way to satisfy his hunger. We're using the smallest Huggies available, going through five a day (he produces so little urine at this age, relatively speaking, that the diapers can easily handle two discharges). He moves and kicks about like the devil, and hates being swaddled. He sighs and coos in the softest, sweetest, most adorable little voice when he feeds or falls asleep. He loves taking a warm bath, and will just lie in the tub with the utmost satisfaction while we slosh water over him for fifteen or twenty minutes. He loves having his father play with his legs, and a trip around the room, held tightly against his daddy's chest, immediately puts an end to all crying. He prefers being rocked left to right rather than to and fro. He loves sitting up, can't stand lying down. Likes tummy rubs and being burped. Will probably be an "innie". Only cries when he's hungry or can't fall asleep.
Some notes on what we've done this past week:
We spent Monday at Hye-young's house, just talking babies with him and Soon-joo. We had the opportunity to look at their son Joon-ho. He was born two days after Jean-Noël, but is two weeks older than he, developmentally speaking (Jean-Noël is a premie, Joon-ho was late). He's a bit bigger than Jean-Noël, and in fact we call him Jean-Noël's "big brother".
We've been out a few times with the baby - to the restaurant, the beauty salon, the train station, the dong office. We don't have a stroller or carriage, so I carry Jean-Noël in my arms in a sort of baby basket/blanket. As expected, people, especially the elderly, strain their necks trying to get a glimpse of Jean-Noël when we walk by!
Sun-duk's mother and sisters obviously don't want us to leave Korea, but it was mostly Sun-duk's decision for us to move to Canada. She explained precisely in what ways life there is better than here, but I still fear they blame me! Anyways, they've having a ball poking fun at my Korean. They speak quickly, and in a dialect that's hard for me to cope with, so I have a terrible time understanding them.
We're leaving for Seoul Monday morning to take care of all the necessary red tape involved with international marriages and emigration. We'll be there two or three days and maybe get to see some old friends, as well. A Korean couple whose wife is a high-school chum of Sun-duk's is letting us stay at their place. I've been looking forward to this trip all week, as I'm going stir crazy in this tiny apartment with seven other people. It'll cramped, very noisy (like Italians, they simply cannot speak without screaming most of the time), and everyone goes to bed past midnight. I'm yearning for some peace and quiet, even if the three of us can't be alone just yet... But believe me, I'm counting the days until the 23rd!
Sun-duk's eldest sister, Sun-ok - the one who found her husband through a professional matchmaker -, is trying to have a baby.
I had KFC Saturday night - my first taste of North American food in ten months. I've yet to sink my teeth into some steak, but there's a Burger King not too far from the Canadian embassy, so Tuesday, the fast will end!
MORE JEAN-NOËL NOTES: Like his mother, he just can't stand staying still. Lying down is torture, even when he's really tired. He'll cry until we pick him up and rock him to sleep. Normally, Sun-duk and I would be inclined to let him cry a bit before resorting to the Shoulder Sling, but with so many other grumpy people trying to get some sleep, patience in Mokpo is not a virtue of which we can avail ourselves. Rashes routinely break out and just as quickly disappear on Jean-Noël's face. Our book says many babies have immature skin that do that. We always know when Jean-Noël is having a poo: his face gets all red and he strains for a few minutes; because he only has a bowel movement every two days, it takes him a while to push everything out. Jean-Noël has started making his first non-crying, non-sighing, non-sneezing vowel sounds; he's also begun forming his first tentative smiles. We needed some passport pictures of Jean-Noël for our trip to Seoul, but we had to go to the photo shop twice before he would wake up. We asked the photographer to hurry up, because after three hours of snoozing, he would also be demanding nourishment. When Jean-Noël is exhausted, he simply refuses to nurse; only the quick-fix bottle will do. Jean-Noël sometimes likes to sleep on our stomachs while we lie on our backs; that's cute!
MOTHER'S NOTES: Sun-duk's breasts are three times their normal size, growing from B's to D's; and her stomach still looks like she's five months pregnant (her words, not mine!). She's a very patient mother, and never gets frustrated or angry when Jean-Noël fusses and cries or won't go to sleep. She went to the sauna and washed for the first time in five weeks; it felt good! Sun-duk manually expresses milk several times a day, but without much success; Jean-Noël's bottle feedings have lowered her milk production, and the extra work he has to put into getting enough to satiate his appetite may be driving him to the bottle (that sounded funny!). We absolutely need a proper electric pump to get her milk flowing big-time, full-time, but we can't get one here in Mokpo, and they are not inexpensive.
We appear to be cleared for take-off...
The train ride to Seoul was smooth as could be; Jean-Noël seems to be lulled into a virtual coma by vehicular motion. At first, we were pleased at his good behaviour, but over the next three nights, we realised that this was a grave disruption of his sleeping schedule. He remained wide awake from midnight to four or five a.m., unwilling to lie down quietly and demanding to be fed and entertained. He was full of energy and needed to get rid of it in a stimulating manner. Normally, we wouldn't have been much bothered by this, but we were much too busy to take recuperative naps in Seoul; we were always on the move, dotting the eyes and crossing the tees in the run-up to our departure for Canada.
We stayed at Myung-ok's apartment near Kimpo for two days, a comfortable, spacious home... and blissfully quiet! It was rather far from the places we had to go, though, and commuting was a drag.
Tuesday, Sun-duk and I set off at twelve and left Jean-Noël in the care of Myung-ok - his first babysitter. We went first to the Dongdaemun District Office to get Jean-Noël included in his mother's passport; this was essential if we were to be able to bring him to Canada with us. Everybody was very cooperative and did their best to reduce the waiting time from three days to one, but a miscommunication led to a serious contretemps, to wit: Jean-Noël needed a Korean citizenship number. Sun-duk had been told before that he didn't need one, but this official was adamant, so she had to go the Hoegi Neighbourhood Office, where we registered our marriage, to have one made. It didn't take long, fortunately.
Meanwhile, to save time, I went to the Canadian embassy to ask some serious questions about getting Jean-Noël's Canadian passport and citizenship, and Sun-duk's visa requirements. After much hemming and hawing, I was told that we could take care of everything in Canada; customs in Vancouver would only ask to see Jean-Noël's birth certificate (translated in English), as well as his parents' marriage certificate. Regarding Sun-duk's future application for permanent resident status, she would have to present, in Korean and English, her new Korean citizenship papers.
When I told Sun-duk about this last part, she appeared perplexed, because she now has two such papers. The first lists her mother and siblings; the second, made on Tuesday, only lists her and Jean-Noël, because she had now become the head of a Korean family. (Yes, you read right: because her husband is a foreigner, Sun-duk is the boss! Good for her, eh!) A return trip the next day clarified the matter: the newer, second papers would be preferred in Canada, as they stressed the nuclear family and its Canadian connections.
Wednesday, we were both exhausted after a sleepless night, but I volunteered to go back downtown to take care of all the loose ends while Sun-duk recovered at Myung-ok's. I returned to Dongdaemun to pick up her passport, and encountered a little resistance: the owner of the passport must be the one to sign it out. Luckily, they recognised me and bent the rules after I told them Sun-duk was sick and we were leaving Seoul the next day.
Later in the afternoon, I picked up our airplane tickets. Sun-duk had given me the wrong directions, and I spent an hour trying to find the travel agency, located in a huge skyscraper. A further ninety-minute wait ensued while the tickets were issued and paid for, and I only just made it to the Canadian embassy (see above) before it closed at four (it's only open from two to four p.m. Wednesdays).
NOTES: I gorged on Burger King Bacon Double Cheeseburgers Tuesday, then on KFC the following day!
Myung-ok's husband would like a baby now, but she wants to wait awhile - especially after a six-hour babysitting stint!
I've come down with a terrible cold, exacerbated by Seoul's infamous pollution, a grade-A sore throat irritant.
Jean-Noël is smiling more and more, especially when nodding off. He's so cute!
Hye-young's office superiors have offered to buy our digital camera from us for the same price we paid for it. Sun-duk and I said yes, since we only really bought it so I could see Jean-Noël from Mongolia. Oh yes, and Hye-young had the camera at his office the whole time I've been here, so that's the reason there haven't been any new photographs. In fact, we probably won't have any more baby pics on the homepage until early June. We're going to do it the old-fashioned way, by developing conventional film and then scanning our favourites. My parents have a scanner, and we could probably buy a good one for under C$200.
We went to Kwangju today, where Kerry, a friend and former instructor of Sun-duk's lives and works. An extremely warm, outgoing man in his forties, with experience and wisdom beyond his years. We got along famously and found we have much in common. He teaches at Kwangju University; his apartment is luxurious, by Korean university standards; and he has his very own office, almost as big as the one into which Taejon U. squeezes ten EFL instructors! He's very happy there, and will stay on a second year. Definitely a place to look into next spring if things don't work out in Canada.
I was at the end of my rope, today - sick with a cold and eyes burning from lack of sleep. I managed to take a little nap in the afternoon. Later, Hye-young came to pick us up and drive us back to Mokpo. He and Kerry talked up a storm, and we were all surprised at how well Hye-young was expressing himself. He says his Japanese is as good as his English, too! He also mentioned possible plans to emigrate to Canada, which would be great, since our respective families enjoy each other's company so much, and our babies are practically brothers.
NOTES: My mother is anxiously counting the days to May 23! We're leaving Korea next Wednesday at 13:21. We have a two-hour stopover in Osaka before flying to Vancouver, where, after a three-hour wait, we end our trip at Dorval in Montreal, at exactly 21:51. Yes, a long day to be sure...
Even after spending all of C$5000 here in Korea (for the caesarian, the plane tickets, and miscellany), we will still have close to C$15,000 in my bank account by mid-June. Good news, to be sure! Nice cushion, in any case.
We spent the weekend packing for Canada: a half-dozen suitcases, several carry-ons, and one big box to be shipped overseas. Sun-duk has developed a case of moving-itis, and unless I get a plum job in Europe, will insist on staying put for the next few years! She wants to live the Canadian dream, with the big two-storey house, the spacious yard, the fresh air, etc.
We had a courrier service pick up our luggage and bring it to the Inchon International Airport. What a great idea, because we would have had to rent a Bongo or Porter truck to carry all our stuff 500 km up north. It cost W10,000 a bag.
Sun-hwa and Yong-gyu arrived from Pusan, Sunday, with Jin-hee and Dong-hyuk in tow. Jin-hee is still as cute, adorable, and shy as ever. Her little brother looks just like her, except for one thing: his hair. He has the strangest hair I've ever seen on a baby, and it was so funny to watch everyone else's reaction to it as they came in after us - Tae-jin, Hye-young, Soon-joo could not suppress a laugh and a smile! The closest I can come to describing it accurately, until our pictures come out and I put them up here, is to remind readers of Bozo the Clown! And I'm not kidding!
After a big, big meal at a very nice restaurant (sort of Japanese-looking, now that I think about it), we all went bowling. I hadn't bowled in two years, but I managed a pretty decent 136, the evening's second-highest score. It was a lot of fun; I think I'll take up both five- and ten-pin bowling in Canada. I'd like to belong to a club or two...
P.S. Our video camera inexplicably broke down, this week, and ate two of our tapes. Fortunately, they were blank, or almost so, so memory loss was kept at a minimum. However, Sun-duk is absolutely crestfallen at having to make do with a plain, shutter-based camera for the next fortnight!
ABOUT JEAN-NOËL: He reached a nadir two nights ago by not falling asleep until 6 a.m. He was full of vinegar from 12 to 3 - that's when I played with him in the hope of wearing him down -, but the wee bairn just couldn't fall asleep, and cried for the next three hours. Last night, though, with all the visitors about, he behaved like an angel, sleeping when supposed to, and in high spirits when awake. What a darling! We can't wait to get our pictures developed in Canada and post them on these pages.
Jean-Noël's favourite song - the one that makes him smile the most - is Alouette!. He just loves it when I "pluck" his head, his nose, his cheeks...
While in Canada, we'll record some wave files or something of Jean-Noël cooing or nursing. He makes the cutest sounds of satisfaction!
He loves to stand up; sometimes sitting up just doesn't cut it. We have a feeling he'll be walking by the time he's eight or nine months old, maybe sooner.
His big toothless grin will melt your heart... I was feeding him last night, singing to him quietly, when all of a sudden, his whole face - eyebrows, eyes, cheeks, lips, gums - opened wide and he gave me the happiest, most appreciative smile I've ever seen him make, with the nipple still stuck in his mouth!
Jean-Noël is quietly mastering the art of thumb-sucking. Contrary to old wives' tales, sucking one's thumb will NOT harm a child's mouth or dentition until his permanent teeth start growing in at the age of 5 or 6... By which time school and peer pressure will have rid him of the habit, if he still had it. I, for one, am glad that his hand-eye coordination is improving so quickly... and it also keeps him from crying at night when he wakes up!
In making up lyrics and songs, I've stumbled across Jean-Noël's nickname: Jeannot (or Jean-No). It'll do until he's a teenager...
He's also starting to turn over on his own - a milestone normally reserved for babies several weeks older. 'Way to go, Jeannot!
When he's in a good mood, he'll coo and burble for half-an-hour. He loves to hear himself "talk", and often smiles as he does so.
Having all newborns in the same room, yesterday, it struck us just Western-looking Jean-Noël really is. His head is much smaller and narrower, his skin whiter, his features softer and more flexible. In fact, while Sun-duk and I were sitting on the curb outside with Jean-Noël (the house was getting a touch stuffy), a group of ten-year-old girls came over to talk to us and immediately let out, "A Western baby!!!" the moment they saw him. Yup, apart from the eyes, which are only slightly Oriental, Jean-Noël is everything his mother wanted him to be, at least physically!
My mother-in-law was in seventh heaven, this morning, as she got up before everyone else and just sat in the main room looking at her brood: three grandchildren, two daughters, and two sons-in-law, all lined up in a row like sardines, sound asleep and lovely as can be! It's a shame that we'll all be gone by Tuesday. She probably won't be able to see us again until 2002 or 2003. I hope she'll want to come to Canada instead of having us return to Korea. It's simpler (and cheaper) that way, and much more comfortable for everybody - no matter what kind of job I get, our place will undoubtedly be bigger and nicer than her home here in Mokpo.
Well, this will likely be our last entry for a few days. We're leaving for Seoul tomorrow with Hye-young, Soon-joo, and Joon-ho. (Poor Hye-young! Soon-joo has to return to her job at Yonsei Hospital this week - only two months' maternity leave, can you believe it? - so her mother will take care of Joon-ho in the capital. This means that Hye-young will only see his family on weekends for the foreseeable future.) We'll stay at Soon-joo's mother's house, near Yonsei, and hopefully meet Keenan, Matthew, and maybe a couple other former colleagues from Kyung Hee U. before the big leap over the pond.
Y'all come back next weekend, y'hear? We'll have lots of pictures for everyone!
We were supposed to leave at 12:30, but Hye-young and Soon-joo were almost two hours late in picking us up. We didn't mind being a little late, but if there were an accident or a particularly nasty traffic snarl around Seoul, we might be late for this evening's meeting with some old Korean and American friends from Ewha and Kyung Hee.
Our fears were realised after we passed Suwon. We moved along at a snail's pace for an hour, and I had to call Matthew on his cell phone and tell him to meet us at nine instead of half past eight.
Hye-young dropped the three of us off at Shinchon Station, the rendez-vous point Keenan and I had agreed upon. It was 8:50. Sun-duk went ahead to the McDonald's to meet Young-ji and Eun-jung, while I stayed behind at the bottom of the stairs to await Keenan and Matthew. By 9:30, all of us but Young-ji (who never did show up, and whom we were not able to reach by phone) had arrived, and we found a quiet little cafe called Hobak ("Pumpkin") to catch up on the last year's events.
It was great seeing my two buddies from Kyung Hee again. They had a lot of juicy gossip - if you'll pardon the expression and the curiosity -, but my lips are sealed, as I've always said from the beginning that this diary would stay away from that sort of thing. All I can say is that Keenan is inclined to stay at Kyung Hee another year (he has vowed his Korean EFL career would end there), while Matthew is looking to work elsewhere for the fall after the entire staff - even those with less seniority - received raises except for him and Kirstie.
We went through the usual motions of criticising Korea, although I made it clear to them how much more I now appreciate this country after my year in Mongolia, and that maybe they should, too. I also expounded on my feelings about fatherhood when pressed, saying that having a baby and becoming a nuclear family was akin to entering the third dimension after 33 years of flat-canvas life. (That's a terrible metaphor, but I can't think of anything at the moment that would sound even remotely original!) Then we turned our attention to Jean-Noël, who, after a lengthy nap, entertained all of us with his pleasant behaviour. Eun-jung, like all her predecessors, remarked on how much he looked like a Western baby.
Finally, at around midnight, we said our farewells. The subway was closed by now, so we tried finding a cab for thirty minutes before giving up and hopping onto one of the last buses going through Hye-young's mother's neighbourhood.
Hye-young's mother and Sun-duk talked for well over two hours while I tried to put an increasingly cranky Jean-Noël to sleep. In fact, he didn't settle down until five o'clock, so we were only able to squeeze in about three hours' sleep before leaving for Incheon Airport. Aigo… What a long, l-o-o-o-o-o-ng day ahead...
We didn't leave Hye-young's house until 10:30, a mere three hours before our plane was due to take off. I wanted to leave at nine, but everyone else was running on Korean time and, as always, expecting things to go as smooth as silk. I had a feeling we would hit a few snags, though, and I should have pressed my demands a bit harder in hindsight.
It took us an hour to get settled at Incheon, and half-an-hour before we arrived at the check-in counter. Then the clerk told us our carry-ons - which consisted of two backpacks, two small suitcases, our video camera and our laptop - were too numerous and heavy, and that we would have to pay an additional W100,000 for a fifth suitcase. Sun-duk wanted none of this, and ordered Hye-young and me to go buy an extra-large canvas bag and try to rearrange all of our suitcases' contents so that we had the perfect balance of number and weight without having to part with US$75.
It cost of W30,000 for the bag, and an hour of our time before we managed to sort everything to Sun-duk's satisfaction. The plane was now only forty minutes from leaving, though, and Hye-young and I were going absolutely bananas with worry (he mentioned how much she "had changed" since having the baby, and told her so!). We barely had enough time to check the luggage in, pay departure tax, and clear customs. In fact, just five minutes after we sat down in the plane, we were taxiing towards the runway! The only other time I ever cut a flight so close was in Greece, when I bought a standby ticket for Vienna (that was the summer of 1990, when I backpacked alone across Europe after my semester in the Soviet Union).
We arrived in Osaka an hour later, and I had a devil of a time with the carry-ons: one suitcase, the camera, the laptop, and the two backpacks, all loaded with bricks in the form of books. I found the Air Canada desk all sweaty and hands blistered, already dreaming of a hot cleansing shower. There, the clerk showed us a plastic stand wherein we were to deposit our carry-ons; the suitcase, of course, was much too big and heavy (maximum weight allowed: ten kilos). Thank our lucky stars, this fifth piece of luggage would be taken on free of charge, relieving me of both financial worry and physical exhaustion.
When the clerk found out about Sun-duk, she wondered whether we knew what to do at Canadian customs. I answered that we did, but she had a colleague call a man at the Canadian embassy in Tokyo just in case. When I laid out our plan of attack, as advised by the Seoul embassy people (they said she would be able to just go through and apply for immigrant status from Cornwall), the official told me bluntly, and to my great shock, that customs would not let her through! ... Unless I followed the proper modus operandi, which he promptly relayed to me as the worst possible scenarios played themselves out in my head.
We would have to first tell the customs officials that Sun-duk planned to apply to Immigration from outside the country - probably from Buffalo, where the closest Canadian consulate is located. We would then be waved to the airport Immigration Office, where more paperwork would be processed, and we would once again stress that Sun-duk would leave the country and go through the proper channels. I asked whether she would have to stay in the U.S. for the three months it took the immigration papers to come in, and heaved a sigh of relief when told that was not necessary. Only the application had to be made outside Canada; she could then return to Cornwall and wait out the red tape.
My mind somewhat at peace, we boarded our plane and settled in for the next ten hours. After an uneventful flight - Jean-Noël was very well-behaved, and didn't cry at all during either takeoffs or landings (and the airplane bassinet, might I add, proved useless) - we found ourselves in Vancouver, and I again began to imagine the worst. What if customs refused Sun-duk entry? Where would they make her go? Back to Korea? To the U.S.? We would have to leave as a family, of course, but the financial ramifications!..
But the customs and immigration people were nice, and we had no trouble getting into the country (Jean-Noël is automatically a Canadian citizen for having a Canadian parent). It was so quick and efficient that we had three hours to kill before our last leg to Montreal.
I changed US$100 and handled Canadian money for the first time in two-and-a-half years. The Royal Canadian Mint has redesigned the bills, although only the ten-dollar bill with John A. on it has come out so far. It's beautiful! Looks just like European money, specifically Dutch. Very colourful, with poetry, pretty drawings, and post-modern squigglies gracing the obverse.
Then we went into the food court and had ourselves a real, honest-to-goodness, homemade blueberry shake. Nothing else, mind you, since we'd had a big breakfast just a couple of hours earlier in the plane. I bought my first issue of Harper's in five years (main article by Arthur Miller) at a magazine store and some toiletries for Sun-duk at a pharmacy, then we patiently waited for one-thirty to roll around - boarding time.
We were so tired, we slept for most of the flight. I stayed up longer to gaze down upon the Rockies (a first for me), then watched Miss Congeniality, a comedy starring Sandra Bullock, Michael Caine, William Shatner, and Candice Bergen. A cute movie satirizing beauty pageants, but it ended up giving the dubious institution a thumbs up. Well, certainly Michael Caine deserved a thumbs up - no matter how bad a comedy may be, he'll always be there to act as its saving grace.
... Dorval at last! We could barely hold our heads up, but at least we knew to be just a couple of hours away from a warm bed. Strangely enough - I had completely forgotten about it -, we had to go out into the reception hall before making our way to the baggage carousels, so we met Josee and my parents almost as soon as we stepped off the plane.
Everybody was happy for a variety of reasons, not least of which was being able to see Jean-Noël for the first time. We picked up our luggage (three carriages' worth), went down to the parking lot, stowed everything away, put the baby in his special car seat (which Sun-duck found especially cute!), and drove back home in two separate cars. Sun-duk, Jean-Noël, and I rode with my father, while my mother and Josee led. The weather was rainy, the time eleven p.m.
Once in Cornwall, we all indulged in baby cooing, staring, holding, and rocking, as well as in some pie and cheesecake - a special request Sun-duk and I had put in, and graciously fulfilled by my mother, chef extraordinaire in her own right. We caught up in a number of general areas before turning in. A great, big bed awaited us, and we put Jean-Noël right in the middle of it. It turned out to be a little too soft for him, though, so we lay him on the floor next to Sun-duk, swaddled in his Korean wraparound and covered by his grandmother's yellow handmade Winnie the Pooh blanket, with his names (Korean and French) and date of birth (in French) embroidered upon it. We were all cute!
TAKIN' IT EASY... We've been spending the last week sleeping and trying to catch up on our sleep! What with the jet lag and the baby's attempt to adjust to a steadier schedule, we've had to content ourselves with taking naps throughout the day. We've done some work regarding visas and health cards, but mostly, we've just relaxed.
Thursday, May 24. My father, Sun-duk, and I went to Zellers and bought an electric breast pump, two pacifiers, two large milk bottles, and a large can of Similac (baby formula). The breast pump works very well (the ones in Korea did not, and expressing milk by hand is a very long and painful process). Now Jean-Noël will have mother's milk almost 'round the clock, either from Sun-duk's breast or a bottle.
Friday, May 25. Josee loaned us her green plastic baby tub and Fisher-Price baby monitor (the walkie-talkie things that let parents listen to a baby while in another part of the house). Sun-duk was so enamoured of the monitor that she wants to buy some for Hye-young and Sun-hwa; but they're pretty expensive (to buy and to send), and Korean apartments are so small that they're not of any real use over there, anyway.
My mom and dad fixed up a half-broken stroller (of the slight, $15 variety - not a big expensive one), and we took our first Canadian nuclear family walk around Rosedale! Sun-duk admired the houses and lawns. She had lived in an older part of Chicago that wasn't quite as open and "countrified" as Eastern Ontario, so it was more or less a revelation to her. She had seen everything once before, in 1999, but that was in winter. The neighbourhood looked much different then, cloaked in snow and ice. With the present lush greenery, Sun-duk had the impression of walking through suburban paradise, and can't wait until we get our own house. She's already making her architectural and landscaping preferences known!
Later in the afternoon, we hopped over to a British woman's home just a few blocks away and bought her playpen. It's a little small, but it's sturdy (metal, not plastic) and will not tip over, even when Jean-Noël is older.
Saturday, May 26. My mother, Sun-duk, and I went to several garage sales in Cornwall and Long Sault. Sun-duk knew of this North-American tradition, and loves it - it makes so much more sense to pay cheaply for slightly used items than to play keeping-up-with-the-Jones, nouveau-riche Korean style.
The first place we visited didn't have much. Sun-duk wanted to buy a boxful of wine and alcohol glasses; I thought that kind of purchase could wait until we actually had our own apartment of house! I bought some Canadian history books (very scholarly!) and a cheesy, kitschy pseudo-novel from 1960 starring Annette Funicello!!
Sun-duk found a corduroy jacket and white angora sweater at the next house - $1,50 for both of them! What a bargain! The house, moreover, was the Swiss-style one she had admired yesterday during our walk across Rosedale.
The third place turned out to be our El Dorado. A young woman with a three-year-old son was selling all of her boy's toys and clothes, and we really cleaned up. We bought a play gym, a passel of toys (plush and plastic), lots of summer and fall clothes, and two child carriers - one for normal outings, another for hiking. We paid fifty dollars for the lot, which probably cost upwards of $300 originally.
We went to a few other sales in Long Sault, but found nothing interesting. When we got back home, we unloaded our booty and patted ourselves on the back for a job well done. What a haul! And a colourful one, at that. We filled up the playpen with toys, and then placed Jena-Noël under his gym. He liked it right away, and before long started batting Big Bird and Cookie Monster about.
My maternal grandmother came over for dinner. She's suffering from Alzheimer's, but otherwise healthy. She's eighty, I think.
Sunday, May 27. Josee, Mike, Carl, and Annie dropped by this evening. Carl's in Grade 1 now, and apparently the spitting image of his uncle, intellectually and personality wise. In fact, my sister told me that if I were dead, she'd swear I had reincarnated in the form of her son! Well, that's got its good and bad points, believe me! In any case, he's much less shy than he used to be around strangers; age and school have seen to that.
Our niece Annie is her brother's exact mirror image: she'll play with anyone. She's incredibly outgoing and imaginative, inventing all sorts of games to amuse herself and enlisting others with a self-assurance I still lack! One wonders what these two exceptional children will become in twenty years' time...
Mike has a new job (nine to five, Monday to Friday) as a sort of transport dispatcher, finding freelancing truck drivers (of the eighteen-wheeler type) to carry things from one end of North America to another. Josee is still at War Amps, and thinking of finishing her career there, although perhaps not in her present position as children amputees seminar director. Another bit of news: they want to move out of their house and into something bigger.
Monday, May 28. We went to our federal MP's office to pick up Sun-duk's immigration application form. Bad news, though. (See below.) We also went to the Hotel-Dieu Hospital so I could get my OHIP card renewed (this is Ontario's universal health card, which offers all of the province's citizens free medical care). The officials told me I would have to make an appointment with them through the Ministry for Health and Long-Term Care, and gave me their toll-free number. All roads lead to Toronto, it seems.
My father, Sun-duk, and I spent an hour at Wal-Mart shopping for the baby - and Joon-ho, as well. I also took out a hundred dollars at the ATM and discovered that Soros had paid me my last installment. My chequing account now has quite a nice round sum in it, and I've yet to deposit the US$600 left over from the local salary I received in Mongolia.
Tuesday, May 29. For the first time in almost a year-and-a-half, Sun-duk and I went out to the movies! We had a choice between Shrek and The Mummy 2, and chose to view the latter. Sun-duk fell asleep halfway through! I have to admit it wasn't as good as the first one, but that's true of almost all sequels.
Wednesday, May 30. Another rainy day. We went to the grocery store with my dad, then to Radio Shack to pick up a plug adaptor for our Korean computer, which we've set up in our bedroom. We had a devil of a time getting on-line. My parents are subscribed to AOL Canada, and after an hour of futile attempts, we figured out that the only to access their internet account was by installing the AOL browser.
Thursday, May 31. A break in the stormy weather permitted a brief respite from grey skies and claustrophobia, and our little family took advantage of it all by breaking out the stroller for only the second time. Later, we went to the post office to send Hye-young's package (its small size and weight meant only a ten-dollar layout - by airmail, yet), then to Tim's Electronics (via Ben-Dav) to see if we could get our busted videocam repaired. Tim's got a backlog, though, so he won't even be able to look at it until next week. We also don't have a receipt (Koreans don't use them); that's a problem, because we bought the thing less than a year ago, and it would otherwise still be under warranty, i.e. cheaper to fix.
P.S. I'm getting to watch the Stanley Cup finals live. (Colorado vs. New Jersey, in case you care.)
Not surprisingly, Sun-duk likes it better in Canada than Korea. Wide open spaces, nature, fresh air, friendly neighbours, better health care, law-abiding citizens, etc. living the Canuck cliche!
Weather: It's rained every day but one since we got here, and the meteorologists are predicting more of the same for all of next week. My parents' house may be thirty times bigger than my family-in-law's apartment, but it's hard not to get cabin fever anyway, especially when you can't take the car and go out for lack of driving practice.
Health: I weighed myself on my parents' scale, and I can now confirm having lost close to 30 pounds in Mongolia (that's about 13 kilogrammes). I want to eat more, but my stomach is still shrunken from all that enforced fasting. I thought I might gain some weight in Mokpo, but a steady diet of fish and vegetables probably did me more harm than good.
Sun-duk is still trying to lose the fifteen or so pounds left over from the pregnancy. As soon as the weather comes back to normal, we'll be able to go out walking much more often and indulge in some sporting activities. We both need to get back into shape!
Little changes here and there: Ontario license plates now bear four letters and three numbers. Some have pictures, such as ducks, trilliums, and hockey teams. Stamps now come as stickers; the lick-'em ones have seemingly become obsolete. OHIP cards come with photographs of their owners. The ten-pin bowling alley, which had just opened the last time I visited Cornwall two-and-a-half years ago, has hit hard times and is near insolvency. The neighbourhood boasts a number of new streets and houses, mostly rich. Internet cable is $50 a month, as opposed to an unlimited modem connection for $20. Not surprisingly, most Canadian computers still use modems, since speed is not much of an issue. (Cable is a bigger bargain in Korea, because people have to pay for local calls.)
CANADIAN CITIZENSHIP PROCEDURE FOR NON-CANADIAN SPOUSES:
Well, there are many, many requirements, but there are two which may be termed sine qua non; if you can't fulfil them, your spouse will have to leave the country - which means that you and your children will leave, too.
1. If you haven't been paying Canadian taxes in Korea, then it doesn't matter how much money you've saved up - the government will consider your bank account empty.
Why is this important? Because...
2. If you, the Canadian spouse and sponsor, do not meet the requirements set by the Low Income Cut-Off Table, then your spouse will need to leave Canada after six months. Not only must you prove that you have a steady job, but you must earn a minimum yearly salary of C$XX,XXX depending on where you live and on the size of your family.
In our case, for example, I've got two dependents. If we were to live in a city of 500,000 or more, I would have to earn at least C$27,063 a year; 100,000-499,999 - C$23,213; 30,000-99,999 - C$23,050; less than 30,000 - C$21,448; and in a rural area - C$18,703.
We have, in effect, less than three months to find a good-paying job, because it takes three months for a landed immigrant to obtain a temporary "green card" from the government. It takes year to eighteen months to get permanent resident status, but South Koreans are only allowed to visit Canada for six months at a time; so without this temporary green card, they will be refused an extension.
CITIZENSHIP PROCEDURE FOR CANADIAN CHILDREN BORN OUTSIDE CANADA:
1. Jean-Noël automatically became a Canadian citizen at birth by virtue of having a parent with Canadian citizenship.
However, to get a citizenship certificate made - and it is essential to have one in order to apply for all sorts of goodies back home in Canada -, you must fill out a form that includes two official passport pictures. This means that the photographs must:
a) have been taken within the last twelve months;
b) measure between 25mm and 35mm from chin to crown (maximum 35mm x 53mm finished size);
c) have a plain white background;
d) have a plain white signature strip (no more than 10mm and no less than 6mm deep) at the bottom;
e) be produced on single weight matte paper;
f) have, on the back, the name of the photographer or the studio, the studio address, and the date the photos were taken.
Most importantly for children born in non-English- or non-French-speaking countries, sponsors must supply a translation and an affidavit from the person who completed the translation. Affidavits from family members are not acceptable.
So if you're reading this in Korea, you should bring your child's birth certificate to a fluently bilingual or trilingual Korean and have him/her sign an official affidavit. I think this is actually easier to do in Korea than finding a studio that can take the kind of passport pictures the Canadian government is asking for!! The only place we've ever found is located on the ground floor of the Kolon Building in Chongno, Seoul - home, of course, of the Canadian embassy. That's where I had my passport photos taken to renew my passport back in '99.
JEAN-NOËL: Lessee now, how's he changed the last week? Well, he's gotten a lot better at sucking his thumb. He was still poking himself in the eye a few days ago, but he's got it pretty down pat, now. He sticks his thumb into his mouth and holds the other four fingers over his face, then makes loud sucking noises. He only does this when he's somewhat cranky and we're not fast enough with the pacifier. (By the way, thumb- and pacifier-sucking is NOT bad for a child's mouth or dentition until his permanent teeth start coming in at the age of five or six - by which time, peer pressure at school will have cured him of this potentially bad habit.)
His coordination and motor skills are coming along fine. He will purposely hit (though he's more likely to miss) the toys he's aiming for in the play gym. It's really cute to see him develop; every day seems to bring something new - something that is slowly becoming "personality".
His appetite has increased significantly since last week. He'll often drink 100mL of milk instead of 60mL. Another growth spurt? In any case, he's upped his "poo quotient" to one dump a day, and his Huggies just can't handle the extra "tonnage". We'll have to move him up to the 6-to-8 kilo group!
He burbles and smiles more and more. He's really taking a shine to "conversing" with us, letting out dulcet-toned Agueu's and giving us that big silly toothless grin of his all at once!