I’ve had some strange, confusing experiences since I’ve been in Korea. But yesterday was the strangest one yet.
It started with a nice, leisurely Saturday morning. I woke up mid-morning, after everyone had left for work or hagwon. After some breakfast and a Skype call with my American parents, I set to work decorating the small Christmas tree I had ordered from Gmarket. Around 11:30, I received this message from Ye Bin:
“Do you want to go with my wedding halls?”
Wedding halls? That was too specific to be a mistranslation.
“You are going to a wedding?” I texted back.
“Nono. With my mother.”
“Your mother is going to a wedding?”
“yes you want??”
“When is it?”
“At two o’ clock. Please go to the gym (Host Mom’s work) at 1:30.”
Now, a wedding usually takes quite a bit of time to plan, so I wasn’t sure why I learned about it two hours before. But that’s Korea – always be ready for changes and unexpected events.
I met Host Mom at work and her friend picked us up. We went to the little mall across the street from Homeplus, which unbeknownst to me had a wedding venue on the top floor. There were so many people! Most of them were wearing professional suits or dresses, while some of the older women wore hanbok, or traditional Korean dress. Host Mom’s friend took me by the arm to show me the pictures of the bride and groom, and then she took me to shake the hand of an older man (maybe the priest?). We met up again with Host Mom and another one of her friends. Then Host Mom asked, “Pija mokollaeyo?”
Do you want to eat pizza?!
“Pizza?” I repeated, confused.
“Pija!” She pantomimed eating a slice of pizza. I hadn’t misunderstood.
We were at the wedding for only 5 minutes.
So Host Mom, her two friends and I went to a pizza restaurant, which another family friend owns. I am friendly with the teenage daughter, Na Min, so I had a nice lunch with her.
“You are dressed nice today,” Na Min said.
“Thanks. We were going to a wedding, but we left after 5 minutes. I don’t really know why.”
“Oh – my mom is at the wedding hall! She is coming here at 5:00.”
So the wedding was supposed to finish around 5:00 and I was eating pizza? I was so confused.
We stayed at the restaurant until about 4:45. As I prepared to leave, one of Host Mom’s friends asked me in English, “Would you like to see National Korean ballet?”
Ballet? Sounds great! I used to take dance lessons and I love watching performances.
“Yes, please!” I said enthusiastically as we took the elevator down to the first floor.
We arrived at the concert hall around 5:15 and saw a small group of men break-dancing in the lobby area. I quickly realized we were not going to see a ballet. Host Mom handed me a program, and I read the only English words: “National Korean Contemporary Dance company.” Okay, that’s fine, too. It’s a dance performance, not a Korean drama- how hard could it be to understand?
If someone had stood on stage and spoken Korean for 90 minutes, I would have been less confused.
The contemporary, interpretive dance had about 15 dancers. It started with a man dancing with what looked like a cut-out of a ghost. Later, there was a lot of writhing on the floor. I think there was a fight scene at one point, because the dancers were punching or violently jumping on top of each other and dragging each other’s prostrate bodies across the stage. Toward the end, there were 12 Korean men dancing in Speedos. The program had a story line, but it was in Korean so I had no clue what was happening.
Halfway through the show, I was really tired so I nodded off for about 5 minutes. Realizing how rude that was, I jerked myself awake and watched the rest with a constant look of bewilderment on my face.
As the curtain fell, one of Host Mom’s friends asked in English, “Did you understand?”
“No! Did you?”
She laughed and shook her head. “No!”
Host Mom and I went home after the show finished. As we walked up the stairs to the apartment, Host Mom asked, “Jaime opso?” Was it boring?
I lied, “Jaime issoyo! It was fun!”
She smirked and made a fluttering motion with her eyelids. She caught me sleeping!
It was a very strange day. But if nothing else, I’ve learned how to go with the flow and laugh at the silly situations that I never would have expected.