Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Birthday, Jae Gyeong!

A few weeks ago, my younger host brother (6th grade), told me at breakfast that his birthday was March 14. He was really excited because March 14 is, besides Pi day, a Korean 'holiday' called 'White Day.' White Day is a response to Valentines Day.

Valentine's Day (Feb 14): Girls give chocolates to boys
White Day (Mar. 14): Boy's give chocolate/cookies/cake to girls
Black Day (April 14): Single people eat Jajangmyeon (a fatty (but delish) noodle dish) together to 'celebrate' being single.

So, Saturday morning I rolled out of my floor blankets and made my way to the floor table for breakfast. My mom intercepted me mid-way and said, "Shower first." I just assumed that breakfast wasn't ready yet.

Fast forward to breakfast (as much as the details of my shower are super interesting), I kept hearing "ice cream." Now, as you know from the last entry, we eat some weird stuff at breakfast, so I just kept thinking, "Please. For the love of everything American, no ice cream for breakfast." The chatter died down and the translation began. Jae Gyeong's birthday party was today at an ice rink (not ice cream, which sound very similar in rapid Korean) in Suncheon. They were leaving in an hour. There would be 20 friends there.

Okay, sounds fun.

The phone rang constantly all morning.

At 9am, Jae Gyeong, Jae Gyeong's friend, my mom and I pile into the 5-passenger SUV. We start driving away from the highway, I assume, to pick up more people.

At 9:35am, nine 6th-grade boys, my mom and I, crammed in that same 5-passenger SUV, begin our trip to Suncheon. There were 19 other 6th-graders jammed into another van-like-thing. Everyone was screaming. Everyone was looking at me. But I feel that I really blended. I mean, never mind the blond hair, or the fact that I towered over everyone.

At 10am, we arrive at the ice rink. This particular ice rink was about 2/3 the size of a normal ice rink, with low ceilings and 3 pillars in the middle of the room. There were also 100 unsupervised kids skating in all directions. But don't worry, everyone had to wear helmets.

The rink (about 50 more kids poured in about 3 minutes after this picture was taken)

There were 6 girls at the birthday party, and they never left my side. At any point of the day, I had at least a girl in both hands (and probably a third of forth holding onto one of the girls and/or my waist). Here's one of them (forgot her name)...

There were also two boys with very serious crushes on me. They expressed their feelings of me, naturally, by throwing snowballs, shoving snow/ice down the back of my neck, or simply by trying to get me to fall. As sweet as their advances were, I had to turn down both of their marriage proposals.

By 12pm, everyone had had lunch of cup ramen (no pizza and cake at Korean birthday parties). My host mom and the other supervising adult left the rink to go nap at a friends apartment.

So, there I was. The only person over the age of 20 at an ice rink of 100 kids. There I was, dragging three to six girls while being pelted with snowballs and love advances by two very ambitious 10-year olds.

1-o'clock came. No host mom.

2-o'clock came. No host mom.

At 2:30, my girls were a ball of whiny, empty stomachs. Of course I had no money. But, my host mom said that the party was from 9-3pm, so it couldn't be that much longer.

At 2:50, my host mom returned! I threw some ice cream cones at the girls, returned my ice skates, walked outside and promised God that I would join the nunnery if he would only make a tall, stiff drink appear at my feet.

But God must work in mysterious ways, because he didn't give me a drink. We piled back into the vehicles. Luckily, I had made plans to meet Rob, a new friend from Gurye, in Suncheon that night to meet some of his friends. So, I was dropped off at the bus station, waving goodbye to the 9 hellions in the car (and ignoring the two urgent marriage proposals).

I met up with Rob at the bus terminal, where we went to meet his friends in a city near Suncheon called Gwangyang (nice little place). We had a relaxing, quiet dinner and night on the town. Gwangyang is a major steel-production city and is also set to become a Free Economic Zone in 2011. That's all I could figure out about it. The next day we saw the city, spent some time at the batting cages (batting cages line the streets in Korea. You just go, put in $0.50 and start hitting. They're pretty fun and a nice way to spend a good-weather day).

Quite the weekend, huh? I'm home now. We're having cake for Jae Gyeong's actual birthday when Jae Jaen get's home from studying (about 10pm. On a Sunday.). Not gonna lie, this birthday makes me a little apprehensive about mine. I think I'll keep it a super secret. Okay, thanks for reading!


  1. Wow. What an adventure. Sounds like a blast.

  2. Hi Amy, sounds like the party started off fun, and next time you will have to find out where the adults go to take a nap. Sorry your Korean mom did not include you in this part. But glad you are young enough to handle. I think you will be happy to be going back to school soon.

    Take Care, and love you.
    AS & UJ

  3. I remember the salads with mayo. I am surprised that that particular high cuisine survived the test of time and all the other changes. I didn't know of any kid who had an activity centered birthday party growing up. There was no Valentine's day or Black/White Day (or any other color for that matter). So much change, but yet, the mayo survived. I guess now it's permanent part of the Korean cuisine. I know of a good place to eat jajang-myun in Wheaton, Fu-Yuan, owned by Korean Chinese family. I guess you will have to ask them to leave the meat out, but theirs is the best around here. Their Chinese Chinese food (not the Korean Chinese menu) is also decent.

  4. Hi Amy-
    BirthdAy party? Another experience you won't forget.
    Are the 2 10year olds still heartbroken? I think the experiences you are having are fantastic! Love G & G