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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Inside a Korean Home

Climbing Gwangak Mountain with Min a while back, I met a Korean man. He offered his last orange and we enjoyed the view together. He exchanged phone numbers with Min, saying he'd like to have me over as a guest.

Min and I visited his home today. Min had to come because neither the man or his wife speak much English. The man and his youngest son escorted us to their apartment in a taxi.

As we walked up the hill, the boy said, "my Mom's very tired." I asked why and he explained that she spent all day preparing for my arrival, decorating and cooking. That was only the beginning of my guilt. As soon as I hung my coat, the boy handed me a gift: a beautiful pen, a glass jar with dried flowers, a photograph and a letter, as follows:

"Hello, I'm Steve. My Mom say you have a good character. I think so too. I don't know your name now so I wright your name 'my friend.' You ate rice dumpling soop before? My Mom made rice dumpling soup. How about taste, it's good or not. Circle the answer. I think it's taste good. Don't forget me and I invite you again. This present buy comma use my pocket money."

"You used your pocket money to buy me a gift?" I asked him. "You break my heart, Steve! Thank you very much."

The apartment was small. The cost of living in Seoul is high and the lack of land space can make for tight quarters. It was decorated with beautiful armours. The table was a foot off the floor and there was no bed in sight. All three: Mother, Father and son sleep on the heated floor.

The Mother, a homemaker, was dressed beautifully in bright hanbok-esque garb, and the son was an old soul. He spoke English, was inquisitive and was very composed:

We were fed so well. The first course was pumpkin porridge with chewy rice cakes. I'll have to check "good" on the boy's letter because it was sweet and delicious. Next came rice in a stone bowl, and dokgu: rice cake soup, traditionally served on Lunar New Years.

The kimchi was delicious- moist and flavorful. Kimchi recipes were traditionally past down through generations of women (from Mother to daughter or daughter in law). Now most women purchase a tub of it at the grocery store. Not this woman.

The food didn't stop there. We ate radish and leak side dishes, fresh apples, oranges, and pork purchased because they thought a Canadian would expect a meat dish. Pork is one food I'm not crazy about, but she cooked it especially for me, so I dug in. We were later served tea from 24 K gold plated cups- talk about the royal treatment.

I thought it was a casual visit, not a dinner invitation, otherwise I would have brought a bottle of wine. I couldn't get over their warmth and generosity. It's the Korean way to serve too much food. It's a wonder Koreans are so trim!

We ended our time together, cross legged on the floor, talking and flipping through photo albums. There were many pictures from the boy's 100th day celebration. Babies are celebrated because, in the past, the infant death rate was high. It was a blessing to see your son (or daughter) alive and healthy after 100 days.

6 comments:

MUD said...

Well written story. Perhaps a Thank you gift to the hostess or an invitation to your home is in order? I would love to go to Korea and visit. Dennis Petty aka ridingwithmud@blogspot.com

Eva Karrin McKinnon said...

Hey,

Absolutely, a gift is in order.

You should visit Korea. It's an amazing country.

Josh said...

That reminds me of when a completely random family welcomed me into their home in Jerusalem. It was a night I will never forget; prayers and food and babies crawling on the floor and tables. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall at your dinner.

Greg Santos said...

Seems like it was an amazing experience! There's nothing like being invited to dine with new friends. Maryn and I were recently invited to a, shall we say, "unique" dinner party by our awesome next door neighbors. Picture this: drinking wine, with a group of mostly gay individuals, telling stories, sitting at a table by a fire place with rifles hanging on the wall, and being served freshly hunted antelope. It sure was different but we had a blast!

Josh said...

hahahaha.

Are you serious? I remember you telling me that they asked you to bring "vegetables." I guess that was to act as a garnish for the fresh kill?

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