Friday, March 6, 2009

a family reunion

december 19 & 20~

the next weekend was a family reunion. my good buddy, 민명기 (min myungki, or 'min'), informed me of plans to unite the family of five who had shared a house together in hilo for half a year. although i did not live with them, i often visited them for barbecues, go stop parties, or planned weekend trips with them around the big island in hawai'i. i had just meet min for an hour during his lunch break at work since i came to korea, and the others, 여진, 현주, and 민우 ('yeojin', 'hyunjoo', and 'minwoo'), i hadn't met at all since hilo days. i mentioned five, but woojin wasn't able to make it due to a family wedding. as housemates in hilo, these five had really lived as a family sharing responsibilities and spending time together. they cooked for each other, ate together, drove each other places and picked each other up, always hanging around each other at school and looking out for each other kkk they were a real testament to korean solidarity (and by this i dont mean clustering with people who are like you, but the way koreans naturally support just anyone who happens to be around them and a part of their lives.

min told me that we would be meeting in a hotel. he explained that these days it was becoming popular for young people in korea to have parties in fancy hotels. although it's expensive, if you split the cost with a bunch of other people, it's not so bad. i guess it's like 'urban camping'. anyway, i got there as quickly as i could after work on friday night, but even so, it took well over an hour from suwon on the train, and i didn't get there until after 11. minwoo came to meet me at the elevator, and it was quite a warm welcome, seeing my old buddy again. as soon as i entered the room upstairs, it was like time travelling back to hilo days during that semester. the beef was already frying in the frying pan... yeojin had already made a huge pot of tasty kimchee-jiggyae... and before i had even sat down, there was already a glass of cold beer with my name on it right in front of me...

[hyunjoo admiring minwoo's 'baby']

[me and yeojin]

[starting to make 'somek' - tasty beer and soju fusions]

the girls went to bed in short order, and i couldnt help regretting that i couldnt get there earlier. the three of us men stayed up to tell stories and give each other, literally, a run for our money playing go stop (an inevitable activity when we get together). eventually, we too began to fade as the morning hours tallied up...

the next morning we all got some coffee in the starbucks in the lobby, getting ready to say our goodbyes. everyone is working these days, and it's hard to ignore that new reality that comes with the passing of time, especially with everyone working in different parts of korea.

[morning smoke, hazy memories seem a little less distant than they did yesterday]
[the ever-camera-shy yeojin - she works for a recruitment office now]

[yours truly]

[vogue hyunjoo - she works for a design company]
shortly after, one by one, everyone had to say goodbye until it was just min and me left. we decided to walk around insadong a bit before parting.

[giant calligraphy brush - friggin' sweet, man]

[this side street antique seller is off the beaten path and had a fascinating array of random aged trinkets and doodads]

insadong used to be a very traditional market street in seoul, until it was redeveloped and marketed as a very traditional market street in seoul. now it all seems a little contrived, although it is possible to find some more authentic wares if you stray from the main road. but there are always interesting things in insadong, even if they are more commercialized now.

[canon - you can actually buy this, even though it seems like it should belong in a museum]

[min wearing the hat he picked out for me]

as we were walking along the streets of insadong, we began to notice that there was more of a hubbub then usual. eventually we came to a large congestion of people and realized that today was 동지 ('dongji' - the winter solstice, which in korea is celebrated on Dec 21st). as a part of the festival, among making prayers on small strips of paper and taking a family holiday, people eat 동지팥죽 ('dongji patjook'), red bean soup with balls of rice flour, and there was an immense pot of it being cooked by a hoarde of elderly women who were also serving it out to everyone walking by in styrofoam bowls.

[this man gave me a free donji calendar for 2009]

[acrobats vaulting off of a wooden 'trampoline']

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