06.12.2011 - 06.24.2011 85 °F
This past Friday my Korean coworker, Grace got married. She told me about the wedding two months ago and I had been looking forward to because, A) I'm a girl and love weddings and B) I have never been to a foreign wedding and was super curious. Over the past couple months I found out some interesting tidbits about the wedding/marriage deal here in Korea such as the fact that there is no "engagement" period specifically and they do not have a term for fiance, nor do they call there significant other anything different once the decision has been made to get married. Grace told me that the wedding simply happens once the planning is done and not with a particular date in mind way in advance. Like our tradition, the bride's family pays for the wedding. Whereas here, it's not a negotiation where the groom's family may step up and offer to help. I think that's mainly because the groom is in charge of buying the house/apartment for the new couple as well as two years worth of rent up front, including a hefty deposit. The bride is then responsible for buying the furnishings that go in the new home down to the bathroom towels and the groom pays for the honeymoon. I think after all that the couple starts working with their finances collectively.
Grace's wedding took place in the downstairs chapel/banquet hall area of a really nice (office?) building near where we work. When we first came in, Grace and her betrothed were sitting in a room with a nice couch and flowers taking pictures. As the guests came in they could stop and pose for pictures with the couple which I thought was a unique way to make sure everyone got to say "hey." We then went downstairs and gave our white envelopes of money which is the only gift people give for weddings here. Our names were recorded vertically in a guest book type registry and our envelope was numbered so the amount we gave could later be recorded. This custom seemed really tacky to me but it's totally standard here and the idea behind it, apparently is that when you get married, they give the same value gift to you. The plants with banners behind the gift table were "well wishes" that people can buy for the couple to have displayed at the wedding.
Next up we migrated into the banquet hall for the most incredible and impressive buffet I have ever seen! There were all types of meat, seafood, fruit, salad, fried food, fresh food, Korean specialties, desserts and a bomb collection of sushi rolls! I was beyond pleased. After my second serving we noticed on the screen in the banquet hall that projected what was happening in the chapel that all the seats were full and the ceremony was about to start. We asked our Korean coworkers if it was time to go in and they causally responded that we could if we wanted to. However our Korean coworkers, along with many others stayed to eat in the banquet hall and just watched the screen that didn't even have sound! Odd, huh? The ceremony started by Grace walking down the stairs to meet her father who walked her down the red carpet lined with her own personal paparazzi and into the chapel. At the door she was met by her future husband and they walked up the aisle together. The couple is Christian and the ceremony started with the pastor speaking for awhile (remember, everything was conducted in Korean so my play-by-play is purely speculation.)
Next, both Grace and her man read something while facing each other which I assume was their vows. Rings are only recently trendy here and only some people wear them so there was no exchange of rings. Next the couple faced the the musicians that had set up near the front and various friends performed. First, a duet by sung by friends I assume because this is the point when Grace started to tear up. Next, a male friend of the groom sang "Lean on Me" in English and rocked it! (I later learned that he is a famous singer here). Towards the end of the song when it's usually sung acapella, the performer said, "Everybody clap your hands!" and the pastor started the over the head clap! It was fantastic!
I knew Grace's now husband was an aspiring K-Pop (Korean pop music) artist and she said she was hoping he would sing to her at the wedding and he did!! It was pretty darn sweet so I took a video of it.
After the total of four performances Grace stood facing her new in-laws and spoke for a while, then her husband did the same for her parents. I think they were thanking them but whatever they were saying it was very emotional for everyone. After that, the groom's father got up to speak then the bride, groom and both sets of parents go up and bowed together.
Next, they cut the cake! That's right, during the ceremony and right up at the front! After the cake cutting they slowly walked down the aisle together and everyone stood up and clapped. A group of school girls the groom teaches chanted "kiss her" (we were told) but they never kissed. Then everything was over! So in summary we ate first, and the ceremony included lots of customs we would reserve for the reception. All in all a REALLY neat experience that I was so lucky to be a part of. The picture of the Korean women with the bride is of all of my Korean coworkers. The group one of the American teachers is ridiculous, I know but it's the only one I have!
Now an update on all other things. First, work related...
Our school takes some neat field trips with the kids; one per month to be exact! In May we went to a bubble show. Believe it or not it was exactly what I expected it to be, a cheerful person doing tricks with bubbles! Here are some pics:
Our June field trip was to an animal show that took place at the zoo. We paraded the kids right past an awesome set of outdoor exhibits with zebras, ostriches and other big, smelly creatures and into the show (what a tease!). The show was pretty cool, it was Aladdin themed unbeknownst to Disney I'm sure and they had some impressively obedient little critters! My fave was a monkey dressed as Aboo (Aladdin's trusty sidekick) who soared down to the stage from the back of the theater via cart and pulley! He was too speedy to get a picture but I got some other fun ones from the show. My student, Aiden even got chosen to help the seals do their basketball contest.
Honestly, the bus rides to the field trips and attempts at keeping all the little munchkins together in one line are often the most entertaining parts!
My "Kid's Say the Darndest Things" shout out for this post goes to Mint. Mint is a really sweet girl in the middle age group so she's four turning five and I only have her once a week for arts and crafts. As the kids are working they are constantly shouting, "Teacher, look at this!" or "Teacher, is mine beautiful?" and if I say any one thing to one kid, the others have to ask for immediate validation as well. So I looked at Ajin's and said something about her being very creative. She responded by saying "My mom is making me a coat. Because she is a designer." I said "Oh wow, how impressive!" and Mint, with a panicked look on her face was searching for a way to one up her dear friend, Ajin so she said, "Yeah, well my dad can make pancakes!" pause.... "and blueberry muffins!" Love it!
We got a few new kids in the past month and I really like two of them. I know I am not supposed to have favorites but I do. Neither of them are in my class but I do my best to bond with them during arts and crafts or playtime. I have won the affection of Hugo, and am still working on William. Hugo is on the right in this pic. He is half Japanese and half Swedish. He doesn't speak a lick of English but is a sweet kid and seems happy in spite of the language barrier. We have notebooks that the kids take to and from school each day as a way to communicate with the teachers and apparently Hugo had asked his dad, "What's a Swedish?" because everyone kept calling him that at school. Such a cutie! Oh yeah, I guess I can't ignore Hery on the left with his impressive Popei impression!
This is William on the left. He is American with some Filipino roots. I knew we would be great friends because he said, "Hey Teach, you like my socks?" the first day we met. And he also thinks Batman's first name is "Bat." Awesome.
And non work things...
Unfortunately, it has rained for the past six days straight and is forecasted to keep raining for the foreseeable future. It sucks. BUT before the typhoon moving through Taiwan decided to mess with our nice weather it had been wonderfully sunny and we have gotten to enjoy some fun outdoor activities around the city. One included going to a professional baseball game! The fans are super energetic and instead of having walk out songs for each batter playing from a sound system, the fans have a special chant/song they sing in impressive unison as each player steps up to the plate. Even though they are singing in Korean, some of the beats and melodies were definitely familiar such as "Surfin' USA"! You can't beat a day at the ball park! Especially when there are 7-11 type stores on the concourse for snacks and cheap beer without that darn game day inflation!
Another fun outdoor activity was climbing up the many steps to Seoul Tower. It looks kind of like Seattle's Space Needle and is a big attraction here for tourists and locals alike. At the base of the tower and the top of the stairs there is a deck with it's fence type enclosure completely covered with pad locks! The idea is that couples come to Seoul Tower to "lock" their love. People will come and put a locket with a love note on the fence and then sit in these funny benches that force you to be close to your hunny. I had no idea any part of the tower was loved themed but it looks pretty darn cool. I only found a few written in English but they were sweet.
We took the elevator to the top of the tower to enjoy a 360 view of the city and it really helped me get my barrings straight. The windows had other world cities' names and how far they were written in the correct direction the window faced. Does that make sense? I took some pics of the important ones.
We also have a great park within walking distance that we sometimes go hang out at on a the weekends. We sat near this family with a young son and the dad did an admirable job entertaining him all afternoon while the mom lounged in the tent. They played catch, roller bladed, played soccer and did a bit of tae-kwon-do sparring.... at least until the son kicked his dad in the jewels and he had to call it a day!!
Here are some other fun pics from our day at the park.
An interesting cultural note... My coworker whose Mom visited last month went to dinner at a restaurant near our work and they sat on the patio section with their beers and food. One of our Korean coworkers past them on her way home and the next day made a comment about what a "beautiful" scene it was to see mother and daughter drinking together. She is 27 years old and said she could never drink with her parents and they don't approve of her drinking at all. In fact, she said if she ever takes a sip in front of her dad she has to look away and not face him because that would be extra disrespectful. She said Americans are so lucky (and many other Western cultures) that our culture is accepting of parents and children socializing so casually. I am also really grateful for this. I mean, I love playing beer pong with the 'rents! But on a more serious note, I think it's healthy to have a somewhat relaxed relationship with parents, especially as an adult. The balance between parent/friend-child and parent-child is a tough one but it sounds like the former isn't even an option here. Bummer.
In regards to the job I feel about the same as I have. I count down the minutes until six o'clock Monday through Friday and when I am really frustrated, count the weeks or days I left in my contract. However, the kids haven't lost their cuteness and my friendships with my coworkers are continuing to blossom! Haha. I also think that Korea does a good job of randomly cheering me up. For example, when I was walking down the street by my building complaining to myself about this or that, a guy with head phones on rode by on a moped belting out some ballad with no modesty whatsoever! There were no other cars on the street at the time so he made his presence known to the few of us walking on that block and we all seemed amused. Another time I was really dragging my feet moving through the subway station one Monday and past a grown man with a picture of Tigger from Winnie the Pooh on his shirt that said, "Tigger: bounce master." I smiled most of the rest of the way to work. And also, I think the flies in Korea may be slower... is that possible? When a few sneak into my room I usually get them on my first try with one swift swat of a rolled up magazine. I feel like that kid from Jungle-2-Jungle minus his nifty blow tool!
As my coworker's mom brilliantly put it, regardless of whether or not you enjoy your job or certain aspects of life in Korea, at least we'll be constantly stimulated here. I think that statement is completely true. No matter what, I will have daily "huh?" moments and questions about this culture and my curiosity is constantly peaked. I think I'm going to make it!