This post is coming to you from the motherland where my family and I are settling in for the next two years. It's been a bumpy beginning, but I think we're finally getting settled in and we're finding a home here.
Today we woke up to our first major Korean holiday. There was no Easter Bunny or Santa Claus, and unlike back home, commercialism doesn't win out here. Family does. Everything is locked up tight as families gather together to gobble up good food and catch up with each other. Traditionally the holiday seems to be about visiting graves of ancestors and remembering the past. But, pragmatically it's a time when far flung family members drop whatever they are doing, wherever they are in an amazingly busy culture to come together for a few days. Seoul is a ghost town as people travel back to villages and home towns. I wondered if it would be a good time to travel against traffic and visit Seoul, and was told by some other Westerners that it would be a waste of time because NOTHING was open and I'd be walking around empty streets. It's a country that doesn't shut down for a major Typhoon (they postponed start times for PRESCHOOLS by a mere two hours during the last typhoon and none at all for office workers) but for a family holiday....
The day before the Chusok holidays started (everyone gets three days off the day before and after the actual holiday, as well as the holiday itself so they can travel) there was an incredible festive mood in the air as people walked to and fro with gift bags in hand. Workers in uniforms milled around taking long lunch breaks without doing much work. Students got out of school early. Housewives attacked department stores and grocery stores much like we do in the States during our Holiday season. Here, it's customary to exchange "gift packs." Gift packs are made up of practical (so korean) items arranged prettily in boxes. Items could include bottles of oil, lotions, shampoo, or even S PAM!
Nothing says Happy Chusok! like a gift pack of S Pam!
We decided to not deal with ALL of Korea on the move, and opted to stay at home this year. Instead we are getting together will a couple of other Korean American families to celebrate with a potluck dinner. I don't think there will be any S pam though. Kinda pricey (that's almost $30!)
Wishing you and your family a Happy Chusok from this side of the world!!! Jooliyah
I dislike nosey Korean ajummas (even though I may be one of them.) I do my best to smile, nod, and ignore them... let it go in one ear, and come out the other. You see, I don't care what you know, until I know that you care. (Sorry folks, I did not come up with that awesome quote myself.) I discovered that I dislike nosey White ajummas too.
I got a great dose of it this past weekend. It was a rather strange experience. I walked to a local cafe with the baby and boy. While we were there, this White ajumma started talking to my son. She completely ignored me. Didn't even say hi or ask me any questions. But she went on and on and on and on... and on... talking to my son. Even to my 1 year old. Her topics ranged from why pirates weren't the "bad guys" to how infants can sign before they can talk to what the meaning of "sick" is when teenagers say it. I was too amused and stunned to say anything while in her presence. It wasn't like she was trying to have a conversation with my 3 (almost 4) year old. She was talking "at" him. He was struggling to just say some stuff he wanted to say. I laughed.
I've always had an inkling that our Korean parents' generation suffered from post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. (I'm in my mid thirties.) I think that would explain some of the dysfunction that I see in that generation. (I'm thinking, those who were born before, during, and after the Korean War.)
A traumatic event (albeit a very long event) in childhood coupled with having no father (many many Korean men died) coupled with societal taboo against mental illness coupled with general non-communication about one's feelings coupled with rampant addiction to alcohol did not make for good mental/emotional health.
Of course, there is the typical generation gap things and the cultural (Korean vs American) differences but I feel like there is something more... some things that just cannot be "explained" by generational or cultural differences.
I have an amazing opportunity to meet the gorgeous, glorious, golfericious Michelle Wie on Saturday, September 18, and since I'll be representing the Kimchi Mama community, I was wondering if any of y'all had some burning questions for her. Also, any interviewing tips would be very much appreciated! I only have 5 minutes with her, and I already budgeted 3 of them to staring like a creepy ajumma.
As some of the commenters already pointed out, this story breaks the #1 rule of journalism, that the journalist be objective and have no bias. I guess journalism gets meshed with a bunch of other kinds of writing nowadays and this isn't the biggest problem I have with this article but... ANYWAY.
That quote up there. That pressed a button. My first thought, who the hells is HE to tell ME that it's not best to invest too much of my identity in ethnicity. DUDE. Being Korean is one of the most important things for my identity. When asked to draw a picture of "me" in a high school art class, I drew a big picture of the Korean flag as a part of the collage. Being Korean isn't THE most important part of my identity but it's certainly more important than a bunch of other things and I certainly do invest a lot of my identity, time, energy, and money into being Korean.