Saturday night in sequential order: 1- leatherface/squid face, 2- smashing the ham over the the wooden bowl, 3-brides mother opening the ham of gifts
Hello lovely Americans.. Germans (I think that is the extent of people in different countries reading this blog)! I hope you have all had a nice week.. mine has been just swell.
Work has been good… no crazy drama this week, just new schedules in the making. The way the classes work at my school are so confusing. The Kindergarten program is the only level that sticks with the same teacher/peers for one full year- their session begins in March (this is when the school year technically begins). The majority of books we use are all 6 month books. Because of this, we have a 6 month program. After a student is level tested, they are placed in their appropriate level (example: I've got a 3rd grade level class: Giza 1, with one 9 year old-typical age for 3rd grader and two middle school students-13 years old)- keep in mind that this is their second language so their English level is not always going to be the same as their Korean grade level. Also… do you remember me telling you that when Koreans are born they are already 1- that creates some confusion as well. Anyway… I was saying that we have a 6 month program. This means students will move up, if they are ready, come March (new school year). So we have these 6 month programs, but depending on the class load each teacher has, a class might get a different teacher at the beginning of a month. I know, I know… why am I telling you all of this- i've got a point… I've got a new class starting in December. Brian, one of our teachers… has got a very full load so I am taking a class off his hands. He teaches a Leopards 2 class (they are on a first/second grade level). Most of them are between the ages 7 and 9. Apparently this is a rather rambunctious group so I am anxious to get to know them and whip 'em into shape.
Are you wondering about my little Tiger 1 student Alice? Well I am very happy to report that this week has gone just swimmingly. I've got that class wrapped around my finger now- they don't even make a peep without raising their hands. Sounds like hell huh… don't worry, we still have a lot of fun. I mean after all… these kids never get a break from school, they never get a chance to be kids and play. I make sure to have a good time with them!
I know I told you before but i'll tell ya again.. i'm really enjoying the free time I have to myself… like after work and here and there on the weekends. Being that I am an American… teaching in Korea, my students are always asking me about America- where things are, what places look like, etc.Not only this but they want to know everything about me. The biggest topic we've discussed is geography- where I have traveled in the world. In class we are always looking at maps.. seeing what countries are where, what climates are like in certain areas, what nationality people are in different countries, etc. I have further researched this information at home… it's incredible… understanding geography has helped me to understand so much more that is going on in the world. I love having extra knowledge to share with my students.
Speaking of other countries, I am really hoping I will get the chance to travel outside of Korea while I am here. There has been talk about Japan for Christmas break and Thailand or Malaysia for the Korean New Year (end of January). Before coming here I thought I was going to be able to take time off to travel.. hence the reason I made my blog name: "Emilie's Asian Adventures". It's looking pretty iffy.. even if I was to take a day off for personal reasons, one/several of my colleagues would have to cover my classes (unpaid). We aren't very happy when one of us takes a personal day… that's why we just don't do it. SUCKS!!!
The most eventful experience I had this week was my bosses engagement party. All along I thought my boss was already married but I just found out he's been engaged for the past couple years and the kids he has are from his previous marriage. On Saturday a group of us went out to the country for this very traditional engagement celebration. I had no idea what was going to happen… I was just told that what we were doing was an old Korean tradition and it's rare that people still do it. Saturday, around 4 a group of girls (bride included) and I got in a van (the men were all in a different car)… after traveling up a mountain on a skinny, winding road, only hearing Korean and almost getting in a terrible accident (crazy Korean drivers) we finally made it to our destination- the bride's parent's house. We came in and immediately helped the bride get ready. She wore a traditional Korean Hanbok dress (the same dresses women wear for Chuseok). After getting her all ready we ate dinner and and had several shots of rice wine. Ohhhhh rice wine… you make me nauseous! I've told you about it before… when an elder fills up your bowl of this white, curling milky rice wine, it's bottoms up or else! I think "or else" is just you being rude.. i'm not sure because somehow, i've always managed to finish mine. After eating dinner everyone (except for the bride) went outside to the top of the long driveway and waited for the men to arrive. When we reached the top of the driveway.. or should I say, street.. we heard them shouting: "Hamsaseyo!"-"Buy this box!" With them they had red and blue lanterns, a giant box (this is called the ham (pronounced h-ah-m): a large, silk wrapped box containing a matrimonial epistle and some presents) and of course the groom who was also in a handbook- the male version (… he might as well have been wearing a dress like his fiance because his outfit was hot pink and lavender silk). Let me tell you a little more about the box-ham and the man carrying it…it was strange. The man who is carrying the ham is the Hamjinabi- the males good friend/ groomsmen. Not only is he carrying this huge, heavy box on his back but he also has a mask on. The mask is a dried squid that has holes punched through it to see. To all the Koreans the mask was extremely funny but to me, not so much! Being out in the dark street in this old country town with a full moon in the sky already made me feel like I was in a 1970's horror film.. this squid mask that resembled Leatherface (Texas Chainsaw Massacre) didn't really help this feeling. Now, for the next 40 minutes or so we watched (I watched because I don't speak much Korean) the brides father and friends try to persuade the Hamjinabi to come inside. After only a few steps forward the women came out with food, shots of rice wine and soju…. briberey- "come inside, taste this wonderful food and alcohol he have to offer".. a few more steps and a face full of kimchee, the Hamjinabi and the men holding lanterns were making their way down the street. They were still pretty far from the house and that's when money became part of the equation. The brides father had white envelopes that had about 20,000 won each in them. He placed them on the ground and the Hamjinabi had to step on them as he walked forward (so the whole point here is: the bride's family is offering a party and giving money to the groom for his efforts in bringing/providing the ham. The ham full of gifts represents a variety of traditions as well as an everlasting marriage). So, once the Hamjinabi reaches the door, he smashes a large wooden bowl with the ham and places the ham over a medal box that is filled with Bongch' i Doek (red bean rice cake- always served during a celebration). Everyone comes inside and eats again… but not together, the girls all at one table and the boys at another. It was interesting how easily this small living room became a dinning room fit for 30. Being that that we sit on the floor and we don't each have our own place setting made it easy. The only beverage that was offered was.. take a guess… yes, rice wine. Near the end of the meal they brought out beer, that was a nice change but my stomach couldn't take it. I just washed everything down with several, juicy clementines.
Allow me to digress for a minute… so, i'm sitting in my kitchen, it's about 1:30 am and all I've been hearing for the past 45 minutes is barking dogs. I'm a little confused because not many people have dogs… you do know that they eat dogs here. Maybe i'm being dramatic, but is it possible that there is a slaughtering going on right now? I heard this same intense barking about a month ago…. hmmm… something to think about.. or cry about! Oh Lord!
After dinner everyone gathered around the bride's mother as she opened up the ham. You wouldn't believe these gifts.. heres a few things that were inside: a mink jacket, a beautiful wooden jewelry box filled with assorted jewelry- diamonds, gold, peals, silk pajamas, a burberry wallet and purse, etc.
Okay so…. all the barking just completely stopped… odd! Hmmmmm……
Anyway, sorry… the brides mother was so overjoyed, she was crying. After stuffing our faces with red bean rice cake (not my favorite), we hit the road. The ride home was rather nauseating… I could feel the rice wine curdling in my stomach as we headed down the winding mountain. Ohhhh… i'm still burping it today- gross!
The wedding is next Sunday and somehow, I was talked into singing at it (why the hell am I doing this???)- should be another interesting story… i'll be in touch soon!
Korean Facts/ Randomness:
-Remember I told you that people live with their parents until they are 30 well…. if you are a male and you have moved out, don't worry… you will still get all the same mommy treatment… up until you have a wife that is. Like I have told you before, men are extremely babied. My Korean friend told us that her 35 year old brother still comes home to get his laundry done. She was blown away when she heard that the boys around here (at TNE) do their own laundry and cook for themselves.
-I was with my friends X and Y at the pharmacy the other day and they were trying to ask the pharmacist for lubricant… he nodded and said, "ahhh yes, love jelly"- we have that! Gotta love the names they have for things.
-When you go to the grocery store, the Koreans are always looking in your cart to see what you buy. It's ridiculous how nosy they are.
- I miss carpet! Even though the floors are heated…I still miss the way carpet feels on your feet. There is no carpet anywhere… I barely see rugs, just hardwood floors.