Monday, January 30, 2017

Maybe I Will Then...

As you probably know, this past weekend was Lunar New Year (also known as Chinese New Year).  But while I've lived in places where at least a contingent of the local population celebrated the event, I don't think I've ever given it as much thought as I did -- well, kind of had to -- this past week.

It started last Monday, when I went to Costco with a friend.  Not only was the fairly impressive parking structure full, the overflow parking was full as well.  People were parked -- legally? Illegally? -- along the street.  Now, honestly, if it had been only me, I'd have high-tailed it out of there, declaring we really didn't "need" anything from Costco just then.  But my friend is gutsier than me and has lived here much longer, so when she said, "Just park like them along the street," I did.

"But is it legal?" I asked, shuffling through my already-dusty memory of the Korean driving laws I studied upon first arrival.

She shrugged.  "Meh. It's not like we're the only ones doing it!!  I'll split the ticket if you get one."  Well.  That wasn't exactly the vote of confidence I was hoping for, and I'd normally say something like, "Yes, but if everyone's jumping off a bridge, should we do it??!!"  But instead, I parked anyway, due to my friend's strange, hypnotic powers over me, and at her instruction, turned my emergency flashers.

And then, you guys... I went in and shopped in Costco!!  Just like that!!  I gave one last fearful, tearful glance at my beloved minivan -- the Mystery Machine, we call her -- as I turned the corner to go into the building.  But I'm happy to report that ol' MM was still there, flashers blinking away sans ticket, when I came back out.  Filing this story under "Things I Never Did Before".

Meanwhile, Costco was a madhouse.  I don't think I've ever seen one wth more people.  And that was the tone for the whole week, it seemed: more.  More people.  More cars on the road.  More garbage piled high in the garbage room.  

Fortunately, it was a short school and work week; even Matt had Friday off.  Due to the increased traffic, we were warned not to travel anywhere, though another trip to Seoul would have been fun!  On Saturday, we were invited to celebrate the New Year with some of the Republic of Korea's army personnel who were unable to go home for the holiday.  The event began at 8 am, which meant leaving our place at 7.  The invitation had said, "Formal... but casual okay," which led to a flurry of consultation texts with friends.  Did they honestly mean "formal?"  At 8 am?!  Should I go with the casual?? 

No one knew for sure, but Matt told me that when he'd gone to these kinds of events before (and I hadn't attended due to... sigh... sick kids), the spouses dressed in traditional hanboks.  I have no formal wear of my own, but I wore a jersey maxi dress I'd typically wear only in warmer seasons with a pretty sweater over it... and heels.  And over it all, my longest, thickest jacket.  

It ended up not really mattering because all you could see was the skirt of the maxi dress, the high heels I stumbled around in, and my jacket which I wore the whole time because FREEZING.  

Still, the event highlighted to me just how amazingly warm and kind the Koreans are.  We watched as they performed traditional ceremonies of respecting the ancestors.  All the soldiers participated.  The majority, of Buddhist or Confucian tradition, prostrated themselves on the ground before a table laid with ceremonial foods.  Those of Christian tradition bowed.  

Afterward we went into the mess hall to eat with the soldiers.  
Well, I didn't eat much because I figured I'd share my tray with Annalee who, after a few bites of rice and kimchi -- yes, spicy kimchi! -- spilled milk over it.  Following that, we went back to the original building and played traditional Korean games with the soldiers.  It was so interesting and fun.  One of the games involved something that looked like hacky-sack (do kids still play that in high school?  Am I dating myself??  Does anyone else remember this???) except it was a disk that looked kind of like a plastic votive candle with a metallic pompom attached.  

The other game involved a board with pieces that moved around, but instead of rolling a dice, there were these large stick-like objects with X's on one curved side and blank on the other flat side, and the combination of X sides to blank determined how many you were allowed to move. 
  My kids had a great time playing (and my friend Tamara got these wonderful pictures of Wyatt).  

At the end, they gave money to all the kids present, as is tradition.  I felt guilty, having brought my five and not knowing about this.  But I couldn't help but laugh when the interpreter explained that the mothers usually hold the money for the kids, saying they will "save it for them" but spend it themselves.  BRILLIANT!  

For the record, I let all my kids, even Annalee, keep their won.  

Anyway, it was an interesting and fun way to spend a Saturday morning.  The soldiers were so kind and forgiving of our gaffes, some of which we probably still don't realize we made. 

And driving there, we got to watch the sunrise...
And while I technically get up early enough to watch it every day, I don't usually have time to just sit and stare at it.  But also, driving through the quiet streets, seeing the city without all the lights or crowded sidewalks... made me think about being more of a morning person... which would mean being less of an evening person... and therefore not getting much alone time probably... so maybe I won't.  

But maybe I will?  

And somehow, while I was thinking about crazy ideas, I thought about the manuscript I wrote six years ago that I then mostly discarded (even after rewriting about 30,000 words I lost).  I started thinking about the books -- yes, plural -- I want to write, and how maybe I will do that this year...  I've sort of mentioned it here before   But admitting this is about as scary as I can get, especially since it feels like I could hardly be further from that becoming a reality.  And, a crazy idea is kind of nothing until you say it out loud and then people probably roll their eyes at least or at worst, laugh and make you the butt of their jokes.  

So maybe I will write it just for me now.  But... I think I'm going to do it.  If I can wake up early! ;-)


  1. Go for it!--- the book-writing. You are terrific!

    1. Thanks!! I can't even tell you how much I appreciate the encouragement!!

  2. We also had to let our grocery supplies get down "dangerously" low at home over the New Year, due to most grocery places being closed and the few remaining places swamped with people. When Angel finally did go shopping on the Friday after New Year, he reported that entire sections of shelves were completely empty--the rice, oil, and produce sections--that Tesco looked like Target after Black Friday. :P! Sounds like a very fun New Year Celebration! We give out money in ang pow ever since we got married, and teaching Angel all the traditions involved is intricate--make sure you have new bills, or if you procrastinate and the bank has run out of new bills, at least nice-looking bills, make sure if you give ang pow to one kid in a family, that you give it to all the rest of the siblings as well. Don't give ang pow to anyone older than you even if they aren't married. Don't use leftover ang pow packets from past years if they have obvious sheep or monkey patterns on them...hahaha!


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