Cultural exchange.

9:26 PM Jmo 0 Comments

This past Friday my coteachers and I became engaged in a discussion about music. By the end of it, Celtic music was playing in the office. They weren't familiar with that genre and I decided that wasn't acceptable. So they listened to some bagpipes while I listened to traditional Korean string instruments. It was quite the moment. We were eating apples and persimmons talking about the highlands of Scotland and the green tea fields of Korea. So lovely.

Then Friday night I met up with one of my partners in crime and headed out to do some underground shopping. We wandered about the labyrinth that is Jungangro for about 4 hours! My mission was Christmas shopping but, of course, I walked away with some ridiculous purchases of my own. (Reindeer pants anyone?) I'm expected to do such things; just ask Kate haha. But it was a success in the gift department as well. Korea is far too cute to keep my wallet full.
After shopping it was bubble tea time and time to find a restaurant. Finding one is not hard -it's deciding where to go that is the problem. So many choices. We decided on this little diner that was called Fooding. Their motto? Good feeling + food = fooding. Naturally. I chose kimchi udon for a whopping 3,000won and Kate opted for the "crazy sauce". The crazy sauce won.
After that I headed back home to meet up with some friends who were bowling. The bowling alley is literally across the street from my apartment. Awesome. First time bowling in Korea. And like every other "sport" here, it's taken very seriously. Wrist braces were out in full force.
Saturday I had rehearsals as usual. (We're kicking butt. So excited.) And after rehearsals I decided to wander about the Daejeon Station open market. This market was similar to the markets of Gyeongju -in the sense that anything and everything was there. I want to go back and photograph it actually. I would've stayed long but it was absolutely freezing and I was meeting friends for dinner in Yongmun. Dinner was awesome and of course...if you read my blog regularly you'll know what I'm about to say next: the conversation was better. I associate with quite the mix of people; and ohh I love it so.

Sunday was my first Korean wedding experience. Talk about being ingrained in the culture! I'm pleased to say that I was included in the "friends" group photo. Ahhh! So excited. Anyhoo, I've heard waygook "horror stories" about how pointless Korean weddings are, how they are just for show and how it seems more like a factory assembly line than a wedding. After being to one, I understand the culture shock due to the somewhat detached guests -but honestly, I thought it was sweet. That was my experience anyway. (Yes, I may have been in a weakened state... But honestly, wouldn't I of felt more bitter rather than moved? I'd say yes.)
The bride was unbelievably beautiful. I'm not one for full, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, princess style gowns but it worked for her and she was adorable. Entering the wedding hall was interesting though. Yes,"wedding hall". They don't get married in churches here. Even though religion is a large part of Korean culture, they don't. I'm assuming it has to do with the fact that many families are composed of mixed religions. For example, it's not uncommon for a family to have a Buddhist alter in their house and also attend mass on Sunday. But entering the hall, and waiting for the wedding previous to finish before we were allowed in was a bit of a culture shock. You walk in, huddled in with a mass of other guests, funnel your way into a viewing room where you get to see the bride (Sitting up on a throne where you can have your photo taken with her. Which I did!), hand your nominal gift to a man working at a desk, he then gives you a ticket for the buffet. Once the other wedding exits (Well, actually kinda at the same time really. I felt like I was pushing my way through the subway doors at Daejeon Station. Only in Korea.) you enter the hall and find a seat. The setting was pretty. Purple lighting, white flowers, and...wait, what's this? Wedding hall workers that look like go-go dancing flight attendants? Yep. That too. Instead of bridesmaids that help the bride with her dress, bouquet, etc there are wedding hall workers. Clad in short yellow mini-skirts and matching berets. Ha. Surprise!
The ceremony was extremely short. But the bride and groom were adorable together. When Suchin said her vows she began to cry. Her groom was beaming as he wiped away her tears. (Ok, maybe I was feeling a little bitter at that point...)
The ceremony let out and it was Bali! Bali! to the elevator to go upstairs to the buffet. The food was uh-maz-ing! Maybe the best spread I've had yet in Korea. I'm sure it's because some of it reminded me of home. Chinese food. Sesame balls. All the things I would eat back home when dreaming of coming to Asia. Now I'm here, eating it, and it reminds me of home? Geezz, my head is all backwards. I wonder what having Thai food in Thailand will do to me?! Maybe I'll have flashbacks of holding a baby while my boss mans a deep-fryer. True story. Ask me about it sometime...
The family of the bride and groom were happy and curious about me. As I sat down at my table I heard "Mi-gook? Yong-gook?" and then a murmured "Hello...?" I turned around to see an entire table staring at me. The hello wasn't really to me, it was more or less them trying to say something in English I assume. But! When I turned around and smiled they let out an "oOOOoOOoh!" Proud of their communication efforts no doubt. hehe So I said: 저는미국사람임니다 (Hello, I am an American.) More smiles and "OooOOOhs!" We all laughed together.

Tuesday was badminton again. I think I've missed my calling. As practice was wrapping up I heard my coach speaking to my coteacher and some others. They were most definitely talking about me because I kept hearing: "Jessica-siem" -which is short for Jessica Teacher. I asked my coteacher about it after practice and she laughed and said: "Coach think you are really good! We all think you are. You are a natural athlete! Coach thinks, with practice, you are good enough to play on the Daejeon team. Yes?" 
Aaawwwyeaah! Could you imagine? Nothings certain right now. But the way things are going it might be so. I've already been signed up to start teaching a children's sports camp (badminton) over winter vacation and practice continues for another 4-5 months. Who would've ever guessed? Badminton is seen as a...dopey sport in the US, but here it's taken seriously! And I can see why. This ain't your backyard BBQ badminton. After a practice I'm actually sweating, sore, and tired. Niceuh! Might not have to join a gym after all...
Tuesday night was also Korean class. I feel like I may have plateaued in Korean. I need to push myself more. I can read fairly well and writing the characters isn't a problem. But when it comes to memorizing and fluid pronunciation...I'm stuck. Hopefully once the play is over I can get back to it. But for now I'm more concerned with memorizing 'Jill' rather than Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday in Korean.

I mentioned eating Thai food in Thailand earlier and...that dream is soon to become a reality! I'm close to crossing off my number 2 destination on my bucket list. Number one, I'm spoiled enough to say, was crossed off when I was 16 and in Australia. Number two will be crossed off January 19th! Me and Kate are flying down to Bangkok for a couple of days, then taking a puddle jumper to Siem Reap, Cambodia for a couple more days. I couldn't be any more excited. I know safety is always on the mind of my friends and loved ones (Me too! I swear!) So I've done my research and trust that everything will be fine as long as we stick to what we know and keep a level headed travel mind. We will be fine. We just want to play Indiana Jones for a couple days in the temple of Angkor Wat! Can you blame us? If you're not familiar with Angkor Wat or Angkor Thom! Unbelievable. I can't wait. I can't wait. I CAN'T WAIT. We have quite the itinerary planned. All the major tourist jaunts with a few more exotic and local places mixed in. Anthony Bourdain got nuthin' on us.

It's beginning to look a lot like Korea! I wasn't expecting this many Christmas decorations. At first they were making me a little...miserable. But! I've begun to embrace the tinsel and the hipster, pseudo-Christmas,tunes chiming out of every coffee shop I pass by. So much so that I've decided to decorate my apartment and host a "Christmas Potluck/Ugly Sweater Spectacular/4 Month Par-tay" in two weeks. Yes, that's what we're calling it. Excited for that. I think I might go buy some decorations today actually... Deck the halls with boughs of kimchi!
Yesterday was our first big snowfall as well. It snowed and stuck. Boom! White landscape! The wind is freezing and I have to wear gloves in my classroom. But! It's the first snowfall so everyone around here is a wee bit giddy. The kids are happy, my fellow waygooks are happy (even those from California), and I'm happy. We shall see one month from now if that sentiment still exists...
The kids have definitely been adorable lately. Even some of my more problem students are beginning to warm up to me. Honestly, I think speaking a hint of Korean really helps. I think it lets them know that you are a student too; working through the same language barriers. And that you are really trying to understand them and their culture. One language is not better than the other. They're just different. We are just different. But, we are able to coexist and communicate.
I have a couple students in particular who make my heart melt. There's this boy that comes in to clean the English office everyday and his name is 유덩열(Yu Dong-Yeul) Sweetest thing ever. Everyday when he goes to sweep underneath my desk he says: "Jessica teacher. Stand up, please!" hehe Gets me every time.. I've also enlisted him as one of my Korean tutor buddies. I say: "You teach me Korean. I give you candy." Haha, mostly for fun of course. But it's pretty cool to have this little 4th grader light up when you say the Korean word for "eraser" correctly. Lately he's been making me little origami figures. He gave me an eagle in class the other day (Which I'm told stands for "eternal love") Essentially, so my coteacher says, giving me an eagle means he loves me and will always be fond of me. Cuteness. And yesterday he made me a pink unicorn. Not sure what that stands for. I can only hope it means he think I'm...fabulous? ;)

It's already Thursday and my weekend plans are jam-packed. Bring. It. On.
Who has time to be sick? Me I guess. But I wont let that stop me. Neeeevvaaaah!


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