As predicted, I’ve been extremely busy this month, and there’s little sign of it letting up. But that’s a good thing.
Ever since I have been in Korea, the first week of March has had snow and nasty weather. This year has been no exception. It’s as if winter was in a daze, noticed spring was coming and decided to wake up. I’ve also heard a Korean saying that says something like, “In March, Winter becomes jealous of Spring.”
I had been wanting to find more things for Eun Jeong and I to do together at home. We tend to have nice long talks sitting around in the kitchen. Yet there are times when I can see that she gets frustrated with her English. So I thought I’d buy some board and card games for us to play to take off some of her self-imposed pressure. I ordered them online, and my dad was generous to mail them here for me.
The first one arrived last week. Clue. Honestly, after I got the game, I realized that it’s not really a game for two players. I’ve been playing it in classes this week instead. I actually have been criticized for not playing enough games in class.
I tell you, out of all board games out there Clue has to be one of the hardest to explain to Korean students. The part that drives me up the wall is explaining the deductive logic aspect of the game. We would be well into a game when I’d check a student’s check off sheet.
“Why haven’t you checked anything off your sheet yet? You haven’t even checked your own cards off yet?”
“Look at your cards–NO–don’t let them see the cards too. These cards you have, check them off. Here, here, and here. When they show you their cards, check them off too.”
A few turns later…
“Why do you keep guessing it was the knife? They show you the knife card each time you do it. You know it’s not the knife. You checked it three times on your–why are you checking the same thing three times on your sheet? You don’t get points for doing that. The point is, if the card is here, it’s not in the envelope. If the card is here, it’s not in the envelope. Understand?”
“Before the game, you saw all the cards. There’s only one of each. Your job. How you win the game. You have to figure out–figure out–what those three secret cards are. You do that by finding out what cards everyone else has–NO–don’t show them your cards. Steven, stop trying to rip of Mrs. Peacock’s head with the wrench.”
Some kids, though, did get the gist of the game and became pretty good at it, especially when I told them that cheating was allowed.
The past two weekends I have been in meetings for the TV show. The first was a general meeting to, well, meet the director and the general cast members. The next Saturday was the first table read. On that day, we had the kids who would be in the show–seven child models/actors. Some had some extensive acting credentials. I must say, though, that they were very well behaved and acted more maturely than students I have taught at their age.
I walked in on Saturday and went into the back room with the head writer. She was talking to one of the girls while holding a stack of resumes and head shots. I shook hands with her, and the writer asked me if I had any questions for the girl.
“Yes, that dress is cool. Where did you get it?”
“Oh, it’s a Halloween costume. I thought I’d wear it.”
It was a cute dress that I think was supposed to be a Snow White dress but had a distinctive Korean look to it. It didn’t look like a costume.
Anyway, her English was great.
We all sat around a table, introduced ourselves, and proceeded with the table read while the kids’ mothers congregated in a circle in another part of the room.
I’m going to be in two separate shows. In this one, I play the head of a spy agency, and they tell me that I’ll be dressed up like a character from The Matrix.
As soon as the table read and subsequent meeting were over, I had to rush to meet Eun Jeong at the Express Bus Terminal. We had planned to go to her good friend Hei-sun’s wedding. I still felt bad about missing Brant’s wedding, but I knew I should go. Eun Jeong had been to too many weddings by herself.
I had asked her before if I needed to bring anything. She said, no, that she would bring my suit and all. We had bought a crisp new shirt, a new tie, and some sleek new shoes for the occasion.
After a little confusion, I found Eun Jeong at the bus station, and we ran to catch our bus as it was leaving. We sat down, and I put our stuff in the overhead bin. Then I realized something.
“Did you bring my shoes?”
Eun Jeong was furious. She wanted me to wear my shoes to the table read. I had told her in the apartment that I didn’t want to get them scuffed up and that she told me she was going to bring my clothes. Otherwise, I would have brought them myself. She told me that shoes were not clothes.
That’s the first time I’ve heard that one.
The argument lasted for three hours until we got to Gumi. We then made up before meeting Hei-sun and her fiance Chang-woo. They put us up in a very nice hotel room and paid for our dinner before leaving. Chang-woo saved the day by giving me a pair of his shoes. We were the same shoe size.
Eun Jeong and I loved our hotel room. We had a jacuzzi, a round heated bed, a water cooler that dispensed hot and cold water. It had everything–even though the complimentary can of bug spray raise my eyebrows.
Even though we spent a long, long time relaxing in the jacuzzi, we didn’t sleep well that night. The room was dry, and man, the bed was round. I woke up regularly for fear that I would fall off.
We skipped breakfast the next morning and checked out of the hotel. Eun Jeong was still in a bitchy mood. She later admitted to that and is still apologizing.
It’s worth dealing with it for the apologies.
We got into a taxi and headed to the wedding hall. I had been to two weddings previously, and none of them were this packed. It wasn’t just Hei-sun’s wedding. Wedding halls are basically wedding factories. There are multiple weddings happening at once. They rush everyone in and out in, I think, thirty minute increments.
Before the wedding, the bride is holed up in a booth, where people greet her and take pictures with her. It’s like visiting the Easter Bunny at the mall but fancier, and I don’t get to sit on her lap.
Hei-sun looked great, and she didn’t seem stressed at all. She was having a good time. It was starting to rub off on Eun Jeong. Eun Jeong pulled me aside and told me to relax and enjoy myself.
“You’re telling me to relax and enjoy myself? I’ve been telling you to do that all weekend.”
And she did. She was concerned for me because I offhandedly commented that in the small town of Gumi that I was getting more neck bending stares than usual. They weren’t the nice stares either. They were the “oh, I’ve never seen one of those before” kinds of stares. One kid actually just stood at our table and gawked at us while we were eating until his parents pulled him away.
The first part of the wedding, the closest we get to a Western ceremony, was like what I had seen before. It goes pretty quickly.
The guests chat with each other, barely paying attention to what’s going on.
If you can’t see what’s happening, you can look at it on the projection screen. At the end, the bride and groom bowed to family members and to the guests. Everyone clapped and cheered.
They exited and were barraged with confetti and those popping party favors.
Oh, and don’t forget the smoke and bubble machines.
Then there were the pictures. First there were the family. Then there were pics of the newlyweds’ friends. I was in the picture. Even though I was more connected to the bride, they put me with all the men on the groom’s side but as close to the middle as possible. Eun Jeong, again, was designated to catch the bouquet.
She’s making a career out of this.
After this little bit, most all the guests headed to get some food. Even though Eun Jeong and I were hungry, we wanted to see the other half of the wedding, the traditional part.
This is where all the indignity of the Vegas style wedding goes away, replaced by something a little more refined. Downstairs in the basement, Hei-sun and Chang-woo changed into traditional clothes (hanbok).
As you can see, they looked great. They looked like something out of a Marco Polo fantasia. Hei-sun looked like a delicate doll.
They went into another room, where the family members sat on different sides of the room. There was a procedure where a certain member came up there, and they shared a drink or blessing. An interesting tradition that I had heard about was when the parents threw chestnuts into the cloth the bride was carrying. This symbolized fertility.
There were more toasts and eating of dried fruits. Eun Jeong and I went outside to the wedding buffet.
Oh man, now that was even more crowded. They totally ran out of chopsticks when we arrived, and they still didn’t have them when we left. There were some forks and spoons, though. Eun Jeong said the food was much better than the other weddings she had attended. I agreed with her. I am generally afraid of buffets. Steam tables are petri dishes that bacteria make sweet love in. Yet it was fun picking out foods that looked more and more different and interesting.
And most all of it was good. There was only one thing I didn’t eat, a squid salad that had way too much Chinese mustard in it. Eun Jeong and I went crazy over the Yuk Hui and cold smoked pork dipped in dwinjang paste. Yuk Hui, something I’ve only had at weddings, is Korea’s version of Steak Tartare. And it’s far superior, in my opinion. It’s tender minuscule slivers of cold beef mixed with Korean pear, sesame oil, and other ingredients to create a sweet nutty delicate treat.
After the buffet, we reentered the wedding hall. I had to change back into my shoes and jeans. There really wasn’t any place to change. I took my stuff into the men’s bathroom, and there wasn’t any room there except inside one of the stalls.
And it was one of the stalls with a squatter toilet.
I had changed clothes like this once before on my trip to Fukuoka, Japan. It takes meticulous forward planning and the balance of a yoga master. I was able to change my shoes and pants without anything falling onto the floor or into the nasty squat toilet. Not even my feet made contact with the floor, and I made sure to wash the shoes after I exited the stall.
We returned the shoes and bid our farewells to the newlyweds. They were going to honeymoon in Bali. Despite all my snarkiness about Korean weddings (and Eun Jeong’s even more critical), we had a great time.
We shared a cab with two women to the bus stop and took the bus back to Seoul. Eun Jeong held my hand the entire way back.