Thursday, September 6, 2012

Studying and Korean Ceremony

Here's what happened last night.

After much highly-unnecessary internal conflict, I decided to pay my phone friend a visit.

---Oh, crap. I just found out I have to be the TaLK Day teacher. I'll write about it later. ---

Back to the story. I went to the phone shop with a list of all the Korean lessons I had learned in TTMIK's level two. I was ready to move on to level three, but wanted some sort of test from a Korean friend. I figured this would be the best way to get a quick review and test at the same time. When I walked in, there was a new person working with the usual group of guys. A female. At first I thought she was just one of their friends visiting the shop, but she bowed to me when I came in. My phone friend (one of the guys working at the shop) finished helping a customer and then came to sit with me at the table. I handed him the list and he immediately began quizzing me. At first I was really nervous. I have more practice reading and writing than speaking, and when I speak I tend to think slowly or forget whole phrases (thinking I don't know them when actually, I do). However, the way he asked questions was really helpful, and I was able to answer calmly. I think it helps that he had patience.

Soon another customer came in and the other brothers (he calls them his brothers, whether related or not. In Korea, it'd be natural to call them his brothers, or "hyeong") had disappeared. Only the lady was there, and he called her over and told her to introduce herself and speak to me in Korean. More tests, haha. It started off awkwardly because she wasn't sure what to say to me beyond "Hi, what's your name," etc. Still, after a few minutes we began coming up with things to say to each other, and that's when I found out she was a new worker at the store.

That night, I learned a lot more Korean, too. Nothing I can remember off the top of my head right now, but through the course of chatting with each other in Korean and English (both broken at times), we started talking about all kinds of things. One of her friends came to the shop for a short while and we started talking about IU (a Korean singer),  and what to call the boss and subordinates at work. Things like that. After awhile, the phone shop boss came in we started talking about him (among other things). It was really funny because my phone friend and the boss just watched us talking and switching between Korean and English (in between sentences). Neither of us knew enough Korean or English to stick to one language, so I tried asking questions in English, and she'd reply in Korean. Of course, we often mixed our sentences with words from both languages. They thought it was funny and laughed at us a lot. It was all good fun. Finally, the boss came over and joined the conversation. I showed him what I was studying. I had written the lesson topics in Korean and English, so I think he started studying them rather than just reading the list.

Then, he was asking me if I could teach him English. A deal was made. I'd come to the shop and review/learn Korean, and he would learn English. We'd be sharing/exchanging information and learning from each other. Well, I agreed. I've never taught an adult before (er, someone so much older than me), but thanks to my current job, I know what it's like to teach someone who knows very few words in the target language to begin with. My first graders were the "guinea pigs," the first big test for me. ..And I have to teach so many of them, so at this point nothing should be a big shock. :)  Now, I just need to remember to show up. It'll be a week before we start, and for me it's the equivalent of the first day of school. Remember to go to the right class. Remember to show up on time. Things like that. Actually, I'm really excited. I didn't expect to make so many new friends at a place I've visited so often. Rather, I didn't expect my relationship with the others to become more than just "Hi." and "Bye." conversations. I'm really glad.

After our little study party, we went to a traditional Korean ceremony.

At some point the bilingual conversation had died down, and the boss and my friend were talking to each other in Korean. I didn't know what they were saying, but sometimes I don't listen anyway. I'm still at the point where I have to force my ears to listen to Korean speech and prepare my brain to pick up any known words. So, I was sitting there not listening when the boss turned to me and said something in Korean. I tried to recall what he'd just said, but all I had picked up was 같이. Together.  "같이?" I asked him, for clarification? What was happening "together"?  Then my phone friend explained. One of their other "brothers" was having a ceremony that night. He was opening a new shop, and there was a traditional ceremony (my phone friend called it a superstition) involving a pig's head, money, and bowing, and food offerings. Did I want to go with them to see it?  Honestly, it was a rare opportunity. I'd probably never get to come across it on my own. I let them know I'd only seen it once in a KDrama, and I can't even remember which drama that was. I asked them if it was ok for me to go. They said yes. The closed the shop for the night and we all headed out.

The location was a 15 minute drive out of the city. It was dark outside so I couldn't see much besides shadows of trees and the lights of other cars driving by. It reminded me of driving around the Texas countryside, or North Carolina. We pulled up to to the venue where people were eating and laughing together. The host waved us in as we parked. After a lot of greetings, we walked over to the building's porch . There it was. A pig's head. Money had been stuffed into its ears, and money envelopes were packed between the pig's lips, as if the pig was eating the envelopes. Sorry, I didn't take a picture, but I'll look for one and post it here. Surrounding the pigs head was a watermelon and an Asian pear, their ends sliced off so that the fruits' insides could be seen. There were also many cups sitting on the front end of the table. The boss did the ceremony and the rest of us watched. He received a cup of 막걸리 (rice wine) from the host, which he knelt down with. He circled the cup in the air between himself and the pig's head before putting it on the table (I didn't see if he drank from it).  Then he stood up and knelt back down several times (three times, I think), bowing at each interval. He also put a money envelope into the pig's mouth.  That was pretty much the entire ceremony. Afterwards, we walked over to the food tables for a nice warm meal.

I should mention that it was super cold outside. Once the sun went down, the cool breeze stayed behind and chilled everything. There was moisture in the air that left a thin layer of water over everything outside. Luckily, we had a nice stew to eat (honestly, it tasted kind of like something my mom would make), with rice, samgyeopsal, and many side dishes. There was celebratory dduk as well. I figured out that dduk shows up at almost every ceremony. The last time I saw it, a teacher's newborn baby had just reached 100 days  of life. They celebrate that here in Korea. She gave all the other teachers dduk as a celebratory gift.

After eating and chatting, and playing with these cute puppies that lived on the lot, we all got into the cars and headed back home.

'Til next time

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