Thursday, September 10, 2009

Another Unsure Weekend

Thank God it's Friday! This week has been crazy with all of the sick students. The last period of the day has been canceled so the students can scrub every square inch of the school. Honestly, I feel like one of Miss Hannigan's goons with all of these small kids scrubbing stairs, windows, desks and everything else with a surface.

This weekend shall be interesting. I am going to a wedding on Saturday and might be heading to Suncheon (20 minute bus ride south) for shopping on Sunday with another English teacher here in Gurye. But I also plan on making Hershey Kiss cookies on Sunday. Wish me luck! I think the oven's only been used to broil fish. Breakfast fish, might I add.

This is where it gets a little hazy. My mom and I spent a good half-hour trying to talk in our broken languages. What I think is happening: My mom and her brother are going to move their moms' remains to a better grave. From what I gather, it is Korean culture. Oh-nee's mom died 20 years ago, "When we were poor." Oh-nee said. "But now that we prosper and are successful, we move the remains to another place...Greater respect for ancestors." I think that's pretty cool, digging up your mom after so many years in a shabby grave and upgrading to a tomb.

Anyways, Oh-nee will be gone next Tuesday and Wednesday. At the same time, Dad and brothers are going on a trip (???)...maybe? Not sure, this was a very broken part of our conversation. But from the sound of it, I will have the apartment to myself next Tuesday night. Which means American breakfast, lunch and dinner! Yay!

Okay, host family bonding story time!

Last night my host dad came in - a little sauced up - and invited me for a beer. I obliged and he proceeded to pull out his English conversation book. He turned to the slang section. Yeah, it was a pretty fun night. One of my favorite questions was, "Are you interested in Oh-Chahn?" Giggling and stealing a glance at the scrawny 10-year old in question (who, by the way, was standing on his head on the couch wearing only boxers), I said no. He looked at me blankly, a little hurt and said, "Why?" I then had to explain that "interested in" usually means interested in a boyfriend-girlfriend kind of way. He also asked how my divorce was coming along. (I thought about playing along and saying, "Just fine, thanks!") He ended the conversation by saying, "You are tired." And when the head of the house tells you how you feel, that's how you feel, no matter what. It was only 10:30 pm, so I listened to music for a while, pretending to sleep.


  1. Interesting summary. So what was he referring to when he asked you about your divorce? Also, do you think the 'head of household' custom will stand when you get home?

  2. Yes, traditionally one's ancestors' burial site is an indication/reflection of one's social and economic status. I think the best site is supposed to be on a sunny hill/mountain overlooking water (river, stream etc.) but not too close to the water, obviously for the fear of erosion or flood. Where one's house (as well as other things such as ancestors' tombs) is located in terms of the directions and the natural surroundings was an important issue. Of course, with the high rises and apartments, I don't know if that's talked about much, but if one had the choice in burial sites, one would consider those things.

    Actually my parents had their burial sites all prepared on a hill and my parents moved my grandmother's (my father's mother) remains to the "better" site. I am not sure if that was the only time they moved the remains, as my grandmother passed away when I was little.

    Then my father was buried one level lower from my grandmother on the hill. Then after my mom moved to live with my oldest brother in the states two years ago, my brother went back and had my grandmother's and father's remains cremated and moved them next to the lot prepared for my mom in the Washington state close to my brother's house and that's where my mom was buried in May.

    Getting one's own burial site prepared was one of those things that I, as a kid, heard adults talking about and expressing relief over. I also know that it was a source of distress for my mom for a time because all of us were in the states and she was not sure who would take care of the site once she was gone. We visited the site at least a couple times a year with relatives (on arbor day and full moon harvest) and had a short Christian service and a picnic (lots of food preparation happened for a few days for that). Families would have traditional ceremonies including bowing and incense burning and such at their ancestor's tombs. My mom considered it in conflict with her Christian faith. So we had a service instead (a few hymns, read the Bible, a short message, although it didn't feel short when all that food was waiting to be eaten!) It was sort of a combination of the traditional "pay respect to the ancestors" and the Christian faith my mom came into when she was baptized as a teenager by a missionary. I remember riding in the open back part of a what you'd call a pick-up truck as a kid on some of those occasions.

    Sorry I rambled down my memory lane too long here. Thanks for sharing the story.

  3. Interesting. So do you bury your family on family land or it is like in the US where you purchase a site from a cemetary?
    I think it is a nice tradition to visit and enjoy a picnic type meal. A family gathering to remember and enjoy!
    Thanks for sharing; enjoyed the rambling.. :0)

  4. Oh, Youngmee, that was so helpful! I actually thought about calling you during the conversation because I just wasn't getting it. And don't apologize for your posts; I love reading about Then Korea.

  5. A quick note here... If you can afford it, you own the lot. In my parents' case, just like Amy's host mom, they decided to move my grandmother's remains to a "better place". They bought the lot less than an hour drive from the city - this is not a small lot - with the hill and my mom with some ladies from the church built a house there (I think they had it built and the house didn't come with the lot. I am the youngest in the family and was not necessarily in the loop for these things, but I recall vaguely something about my mom trying to supervise the progress of the construction there.) and provided a place for troubled youths to get back on their feet - all boys I believe. Anyway, it was a pretty good size lot with a hill and a house and a small building for the youths.

  6. Amy,

    Are you interested in seeing real traditonal wedding ceremony? An old friend living in New York and working at the Metropolitan Museum currently will get married in Octobor in Seoul. She used to work at the Korean Traditon Folk Museum before. Could you send me an email if you want to attend it? My friend is totall fine to have you at her wedding. If you want to see real deal, I will bridge you and my friend to get your wedding invitation. Let me know!