Thursday, December 24, 2009

merry christmas to all ... !

apologies for the minor hiatus, things have been in a holiday whirlwind around here.

mark's mom, klara, safely arrived in korea last night, and had a suitcase (or two) full of christmas presents in tow. we can lovingly refer to her as korean santa, as well. we are very excited that she's here to help us celebrate the holidays.

tonight, in celebration of christmas eve, we had reservations after work at one of our favourite duck barbecue restaurant. after a delicious dinner, we headed home for gift exchange and cake eating - as per korean christmas tradition. a huge thank you to EVERYONE who sent gifts to us, we are lucky to have such generous and thoughtful friends and family members! mark and i were royally spoiled this season. not that i mind, of course. i am very happy that santa was able to find us all the way in korea, and i now i am equipped with new clothes, pajamas, and socks, canadian olympic gear, much-needed toiletries, a plethora of december-issue magazines, and groceries! oh poptarts and instant oatmeal how i've missed thee. a special thank you not only to mom/santa (love!), but to jenn g, paige, nicole, cindy, natalie, and bouche for the surprise package - i love and miss you girls!

we spent the rest of the evening packing and preparing for the second half of our destination christmas: tomorrow morning we are off to tokyo - merry japanese christmas to us! and merry regular christmas to you!

love, alex & mark xoxo

Monday, December 14, 2009

돌잔치: baby's first birthday

turning 1 in korea is a really big deal. such a big deal, in fact, that your parents will throw a giant wedding-like celebration in your honour, complete with unlimited buffet and booze and 100+ of your closest friends and colleagues (or, er, their closest friends and colleagues, rather).

this past saturday, mark and i + madeline and our favourite korean teachers, were invited to celebrate the 1-year anniversary (doljanchi, or
돌잔치) of the youngest son of our vice-principal ... whose other son also happens to be my student, ray - just to complicate your understanding of our relationship to the party-throwers.

we were initially a little awkward about going: we'd be the only english-speaking foreigners, we didn't want to impose on a traditional family event, we potentially had other more "fun" things to do with our saturday night. yet, the VP insisted we were welcome, and there was a free buffet. also, when it comes down to it, it's important to us to experience unique things about korean culture and this sure beat an all-night foreigner party in seoul, culture-wise.

while 1st birthday celebrations were originally extra-significant due to low infant-mortality rates, the purpose is now more an elaborate tradition. one the most important rituals performed at this party is called doljabi, or the opportunity for the baby to "choose" his future. this little bit of predestination is done by presenting the baby with a tray of six objects representing his life path, and whichever one he selects is symbolic of his fate. in this case:
  • a piece of string/long life
  • money/wealth
  • a microphone/a performer: musician, host, entertainer, etc.
  • a stethoscope/a doctor
  • a computer mouse/a computer technician, programmer, pro-gamer (?)
  • a pencil/a scholar or academic
after hearing stories of this event, i wondered how accurate the selection process could be. what happened if the baby chose nothing? what if he simultaneously chose two objects? i was disappointed that none of the koreans who'd accompanied us to the party could remember what had happened at their own 1st birthdays.

nevertheless, as we arrived at the banquet hall we were asked to drop our ticket stub - or vote - into one of the six suitable destinies' assigned jars for a chance to win a prize if our choice matched the baby's. i somewhat arbitrarily chose a computer mouse, and mark voted for the stethoscope.

while we indulged in the buffet, the performance began at the head table. literally, the baby's party had a wedding-like head table! mom and dad and baby (and ray), all dressed in matching hanbok and accompanied by an emcee, presented the birthday boy with his tray of items. despite his tears and evident unhappiness of being in the spotlight/blaze of camera flashes, he ended up picking the stethoscope - thus, a future doctor - and also, making mark a winner!

make that, the only winner.

yes, somehow, with a guest list of nearly 100 attendees, mark was the only person to predict the stethoscope choice. as the parents had pre-planned for 3 prize winners, the emcee then had mom choose a vote from her #1 choice for baby, and then dad do the same. this resulted in maddie being randomly selected for a prize as well! luck of the foreigner, i suppose.

all in all, it was a fun night and a really interesting experience. i also enjoyed the plethora of cute korean babies and children at the party, including a coworker's 3-year-old son who won me over completely with his talent of winking and saying "i love you" in english. and in the end, mark's prize turned out to be rose-scented body lotion and shower gel, so guess who's the winner after all?

wink ! ^.-

Saturday, December 12, 2009

cute overload

i really want a korean child. with dance moves.

(via buncha banchan)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

o christmas tree

so, i gave in and dragged mark to the minimal christmas section of lotte mart tonight. i'd be trying hard to let my frugal conscience (wait, my what?) do the decision-making and recognize that decorating our apartment for the holidays isn't necessary since we're leaving for vacation on december 25th ...

but, that ideology didn't really work.

our apartment felt sad without a christmas tree. i'm a sucker for the holidays, and a tree is the most important part! i know that christmas this year is going to be significantly different than years prior, what with being on the other side of the globe and all, but that's no reason to dismiss its excessiveness entirely. despite its only one-time use (for us, i promise i'll try to recycle it to new friends), a 20,000 artificial tree felt like a good deal.

i haven't yet determined whether south korea's lack of hype about christmas is going to be a blessing or a curse. sure, there are a few lights and decorations here and there around our neighbourhood; mostly in storefronts and restaurants, and of course, the life-size creepy and bald/hat-less santa that went up in our school's lobby this afternoon ... but you definitely aren't inundated with christmas in this country. i'm sure it could pass somewhat unnoticed if you wanted it to.

but really, who would ever want to do that??

our tiny tannenbaum is no griswold family christmas tree, but it suits us just fine.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

elf yourself has reached new levels

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

ah, it's that time of year again! this, of course, had me in hysterics. i would've posted the "disco" themed one, but there were far too many choreographed elf pelvic thrusts involved ...

happy december from your favourite christmas elves, like woah!