Chuseok has been described as the Korean Thanksgiving, and it is a pretty accurate analogy. It is in the fall, everyone goes home to eat lots and lots of food, and every housewife goes, “Holiday? What holiday? I’ve been cooking and cleaning since 6 am”
Our school has a very long holiday, but I didn’t have many plans, only two big ones. Tuesday I was going to take a long bike ride with my co-teacher, and spend the night, and then on Wednesday go with her to see her family for an official Chuseok. She had even planned for a cool night-time outdoor concert. Well. Monday night it was raining and I thought, cool.. it will be nice for our bike ride. Ha. Tuesday it rained in torrents and deluges. I came down in sheets. Cats and dogs were drowned. So I went to my co-teacher’s house and we ate in, and watched some movies on TV.
Wednesday was quite nice, but cloudy. We woke up and went to her brother’s apartment. He lives quite close to her, and I thought that is so nice. Her family is very nice, and her father is very kind. He was very concerned that I would be able to eat all the food (it was no problem)
Early we first attended a ceremony to honor her family’s ancestors. First they set a special table, with offerings of all kinds of food. Rice, tea, and vegetables, soup, meat and fruit. The lit incense and my co-teacher’s brothers and father bowed to each of their ancestors. Then they “fed” the ancestors by giving them rice in a bowl of water.
After, her nephews decided I was the designated story reader. I had offered at first to do my part to help by keeping the boys busy instead of tearing around making lots of noise. Instead I created a story devouring monster. I don’t feel too terrible about that.
After the ceremony everyone gathered to eat, and it was awesome. Her family is not only extraordinarily kind, but awesome cooks as well. It was perhaps the best kimchi I’ve had.
When you go to your family’s house on Chuseok you should bring a gift. My co-teacher brought gift fish, but the one thing that I think is a bit weird, is the gift Spam. Yes, that Spam, the canned meat that only Hawaiians love more.
Afterwards I went home, and had planned on going to my friend’s house to pick up my sewing machine that is languishing in her living-room. But she was feeling a bit sick and I felt tired, plus I had a big day on Thursday.
Thursday I did something that I think I’ve obviously lost my mind to sign up for. I joined a rock climbing school for one of their beginner’s group trips. There were five of us, a German couple, who had some experience and an American who had done the indoor climbing and another American who had experience in the States. And me. Who was woefully out of shape for the ordeal. I felt kind of bad because just getting up to the climb site made me out of breath. I think I seriously worried one of the young climbers. But the leaders were very patient, and kept telling me to take it easy and go at my own pace.
Eventually we got to the climb site, and the leaders went up and got the ropes to the rivets and anchors in the rock. Then they gave us a fairly intense safety lecture and showed us how to get our belay set up and the harnesses and how to tie the ropes. They were very concerned with safety and checking and double checking everything. That made me feel pretty good about the whole thing.
Then we all got a chance to climb up. Most of the others got to the rivets and anchors, I only got half-way up, and I did learn how to be a good belay partner.
It was so awesome! (although quite exhausting)