When Sung Hyun's mom patted my bum the first time I met her in the doorway of her house, I knew everything would be all right.
I mean this lady was like 70 years old and ran from the living room to the door to make sure she patted my bum. It was as though she had practiced.
I was wearing makeup and nice clothes, trying to be someone I wasn't. I sat down on the floor on one side of the room, the rest of his family on the other. There were about 15 family members in total.
I had practiced a self-introducation with a Korean co-worker. I had it memorized.
"Hello, my name is Jennifer. I'm an English teacher at LCI Kids Club. I teach children. I like Korea. I am from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. I have lived in Korea for 1 year. Nice to meet you."
And then the questions came, one after another. Sung Hyun was the translator. Except he didn't speak English very well so the conversation with his family was slow and awkward. And I was sweating. Why is this house so damn hot? I thought.
I couldn't concentrate. My legs took turns falling asleep. I didn't anticipate sitting on the floor. I wanted to leave because it was hard to make a good first impression when beads of sweat were rolling down my forehead.
But Sung Hyun's mom prepared food so it would be rude to leave without eating.
"CHICKEN FEET! We're having chicken feet for supper? And raw clams? Is the chicken even cooked? You can still see the rubbery bumpy skin. And the toenails! Sung Hyun never told me what we we were having this for supper. Is this a joke? How do you even eat chicken feet? Are they testing me?" the questions raced through my mind.
When Sung Hyun's mom cut through the cartilage of the chicken foot to get to the meat, my heart beat a little faster knowing in just a moment I'd be eating chicken feet for the first time in my life. I had known enough about Korean culture at this time to know it was rude to turn down food that was offered to you.
With a morsel of meat sandwiched between two chopsticks, she reached across the table and motioned for me to open my mouth. I was being spoon-fed chicken feet by a lady I had just met. I smiled and chewed -- crunch, crunch! Then swallowed. And before I had time to do anything else she was feeding me raw clams. They were slimy, not crunchy. With a single set of chopsticks Sung Hyun's mom would eat one and then feed one to me. One for her. One for me. I wanted Sung Hyun to say something but he acted like this was normal. I could barely stomach the food but I knew it would be rude to say I didn't like it. So after I swallowed the next crunchy chicken foot, I patted my stomach and said the only Korean thing that I thought would help me get out of the situation.