Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Year of the Pig

My last weekend in Seoul was Sul-Nal, the lunar new year. It's a big holiday here and you spend it with family. I was surrounded with my dad's brothers, who I see very rarely, and their kids (and in some cases, their kids' kids).

On Sul-Nal, children bow to their parents and give them best wishes for the coming year while parents give kids money. Just imagine the excitement level of presents on Christmas morning. That's what it's like. The little girls wore hanbok and got overexcited with their windfall, especially Yujin who went so far as to smell her money until her dad told her to stop it. You put all the cash (newly designed bills this year made the kids even more excited) into little purses. Then, apparently, you run around like crazy and watch Japanese anime with Korean subtitles.

I met some cousins that I never see, which was interesting. One of my cousins went to university in China and just graduated. She's back for a bit of home time before she goes back to Beijing. Another of my cousins has two boys, one of whom was celebrating his 10th birthday. He was impressed that I was reading Harry Potter (if you must know, I'm halfway through number 4 even though I am STILL trying to ration them because I keep having to go back to the bookstore and I've almost finished the one I bought for the plane).

Being around my Korean cousins makes me think about how much my life has been shaped by my parents' decision to live in Canada. It's kind of nuts. Being in Seoul for the month has been really fun, and I totally think I could live here. Seoul is so exciting. But I'd still be an outsider. Is there anyplace that I'm not...?

One place where I really felt out of place (which is a relief, actually) was the club Hannah and I decided to go to on Friday night. We met up after she was done work, had a huge dinner and dropped off some shopping I'd done at her tiny and adorable apartment by GangNam station. Basically, we lolled around drinking for a while and didn't make the decision to go out until 1 am, so our options were kind of limited. We went to a club called the Harlem Club, chosen for its proximity (about 10 steps from Hannah's front door).

Basically it was like I was in a club full of 20-year-old Korean little brothers. They were all really cute and being hiphop. Hoodies, chains and long hair. Too bad the music was horrendous 90s stuff a la Crooklyn Clan. I could barely handle it. Plus the smoke is super disgusting. Still, Hannah and I had a good time just kind of laughing all night.

The next morning was drastically different in the streets. It was totally empty, whereas the night before the streets were filled with fancy-looking Friday night peeps, street food stalls, clothing stands with pumping techno music, et cetera. By the morning, it was holiday time. Everything was closed and the streets were empty. I bid Hannah adieu and took the subway home, buying some New Year's ddeok along the way.


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