This weekend is Korean Thanksgiving. The country comes to a stand still, everyone gets even more hammered than usual and people frivilously hand out strange gifts to one another.
I can understand why the country shuts down. It's like christmas day for them, all families get together and pretend to enjoy one anothers company, have a large meal and drink theselves into a state of comfortable communication. Like western christmas, it sounds like a bit of shitshow, where we all pretend to enjoy ourselves for the sake of others, an unnecessary amount of money is spent and we miss the point of the celebration entirely. The next day we wake up delighted that that situation will not happen again for another 364 days.
Getting hammered...thats just what they do here. All the time. Everyday. I recall (hazily) walking home at 6 o'clock on a Sunday morning and seeing groups of poeple sitting outside a corner shop, guzzling Soju ("Korean Whisky") with no end visibly in sight. I find it hard to tell whether their day is close to an end or just at the start. Either way you can safely assume that these people are serious alcohol abusers. They obliterate the Scots for binge drinking. They would make light work of the undisputed binge drinking champions of the west, and they have done, every time I go out for a drink I am left in the gutter with the rest of the crackers.
And finally.....Strange gifts. Well, one of my fellow teachers, very kindly I must add, thought it a lovely gesture to buy me a gift to celebrate Chuseok. I felt guilty accepting this gift as I had not even thought to buy anything for anyone (One: because I am too skint to feed myself let alone shower others with treats and Two: because I am a cheap, self-centered Scottish bastard) but I accepted anyway, as that is the way here. People offer gifts and tokens of appreciation at any possible occassion and you are advised to decline the gift twice and accept on the third offering. Anyway, I was offered a large golden box, with very attractive hand wound rope handles and a beautiful pattern design on the front. It was heavy and bulky and to be honest I had no idea of what bizzare offering would lurk within. I thanked my co-worker very much and forced a smile that suggested, i'm absolutely taken a back by you actions of generosity but I am shiteing my bags about what you've given me (this is the case as previous gifts have included the most vulgur foods made from rice, seaweed and other unnamed mystery ingrediants, half of Colombia's supply of coffee and several boxes of tissues) and was I going to have to pretend that what dwelled within this gorgeous box was exactly what my life needed. After she left, I took a deep breath and begun to slowly open the box, taking my time not to tear or deface the golden packaging, and then I suddenly relaised what she had given to me....24 Kiwi Fruit. Cheers.
Okay, now I appreciate the gift awrite, nice gesture and that, but 24?!? Twenty-fucking-four! 3 kiwi fruit, a pineapple and a punnet of Strawberries would have been fine. Why 24 of the same obscure fruit? This woman knows that I live on my own. Was she expecting this to be my entire diet for the next 5 days? Because if she wasn't then she wanted fruit to go mouldy in my fridge, attracting all manner of terrifying bugs and filthy diseases this country has to offer. What sort of woman am I working with here? Was this an ungratefulness test? If I was to turn this gift down and tell her that she was a fucking psycho with mince taste in presents would I then be showered with better gifts or, would she and the rest of school all stand around and look at me like I'd been caught with my hand down one of my pupil's pants? It's a fucking whitey troops, it really is.
As the whole country shuts down over this weekend I cannot get to the shop to buy food so right now I am working my way through what is easily the most demented gift anyone has ever given me. I have 17 left and must get through them before they go mouldy (Sunday).
Fuck me, what a weird place man.
Ross Sung-Kim x