Friday, August 25, 2006

Birthday Bonanza

Today, we celebrated four birthdays at our school. Three from today, and one from Sunday. Quite a convergence for a school with only 25 students. The best part was seeing Korean culture in action.

First, Korean age must be explained. As in China (I believe), a child is born and assumes the age of one. At the Lunar New Year, they again age another year. So a child born at the end of the lunar year would end up being 2 years old pretty quickly. So like horses, all people age a year at the same time - on the Lunar New Year. So while we celebrated their western birthday, they actually don't age according to their Korean age. But on to the celebrations.

The first birthday celebration was for two of our pre-schoolers. Actually one pre-schooler and one kindergartner. But Koreans don't start public school until the first grade. The crucial point came when presents were passed out. It's considered rude (at least by some Koreans) to open presents in front of the giver. So while presents were passed out, none were opened. Just passed out and saved for later. After lunch, we went back to class, where I gave my (unwrapped) presents to my kids. I bought a bunch of stickers when I was in Taiwan, and I figured this was as good as time as any to pass them out. So I let the birthday boy and girl pick out a sheet of stickers. As I somewhat expected, the boy, who is 6 in Korean years (turning 5 in western age), picked a sheet of dinosaur stickers. Originally he thought he just got one sticker, so he was quite happy to get the whole sheet of them. And the first thing he did with them was to let the three other 6 years olds pick out a sticker for themselves. He's such a sweet little boy, and it was nice to see him sharing so well. I struggle with him daily to pay attention to the lesson, and with two new students coming next week, I'm pretty much resigned to letting him plug away at his coloring. At least he can keep himself occupied and doesn't cause problems for the other students.

The second celebration was for a couple of soon-to-be fourth graders. I've eaten with Koreans numerous times, but it's usually Korean food. When you delve into eating Western food with Koreans, it's like entering a whole new world.

First, they don't use knives. They use scissors. It's strange enough when they cut the meat at a Korean restaurant with scissors. It's down right freaky when they cut chicken or pizza with a pair of scissors.

Second, is the pickles. Next to the cabbage kimchi, the pickle is the most frequently appearing side dish. I detest both. I like cabbage. I like pickles. I like spicy food. But the Koreans somehow decided to make spicy cabbage and pickles which leave something to be desired. So while the pizza places always include pickles with my pizzas, I've never felt the need to add them to my pizza. Koreans feel otherwise. They love the side pickle, and make good use of it. Maybe I should bring all of my left over side pickle packets into school for the kids.

And finally, the all important chopsticks. Most Korean utensil sets include a pair of chopsticks and a spoon (for the omnipresent soup side dish). Again, it's not unexpected to see people eating Korean food with chopsticks. I use chopsicks whenever I eat Korean food. But to see kids using chopsticks to eat fried chicken is, well, just unsettling. At least they ate the pizza with their hands.

As the sites and sounds become mundane to me, I'm hoping to post more about Korean culture. Next up - Korean names, and why Americans get them all wrong.

1 comment:

guapa said...

"First, they don't use knives."
------ Not always do we use knives but using scissors to cut meat is not quite right 'cause it makes most people disgusted so in public, we use for convenience, but not in private, at that time, your director was in a hurry or she or he hasn't got enough education of Korean culture yet, haha.
"Second, is the pickles."
-------- Actually, we don't know where current pickles come from guessing they are from somewhere in the western world. Anyway, it doesn't taste good for Korean, either. Should remember that not all of Korean food tastes great for Koreans. Do not generalize!!