Date : Sep 13, 2007 12:51 AM
On 7th September 2007 I happened to go for a birthday celebration of a one year old child. She is the child of the elder most Ph.D. student @ MWNL. We took the subway to Hotel Incheon where the party was held. The birthday girl looked really pretty and she was with her parents all the time. A Really cute baby child she is. Wearing a traditional Korean dress, she looked like an angel. Really vey fair and so sweet. She was the star of the show of course and she went with her dad to greet everyone who came to the topmost floor thru the lift.
The Korean version of the birthday celebrations has similarities and differences when compared to Indian Celebration back home. The similarities are obvious, very well decorated with lots of balloons, a huge cake etc. etc.. In this post I would share some of the interesting differences I had experienced.
First and foremost I would like to quote a ceremony which is the main attraction of the party. The Korean child is kept in front of a row of things like Pencils, Money, Thread and a Stethoscope. What the child picks up from these objects defines his/her future. If he/she picked up the thread, then that means he/she is gonna have a long life span. If he/she picks up the money, this implies that he/she is gonna be very rich. If pencils are chosen then he/she will become a writer and the stethoscope means that he/she would become a doctor. “Thanks” to the advent of Information technology, these days another thing is added to the object list in front of the child. Any guesses?? 🙂 ???…………???…………..??? It’s a computer mouse which stands for engineering. I am not sure if a similar custom is followed in any parts of India as such, but I have not seen such an occasion so far. Please do comment on this post if I am wrong.
In this celebration, there was an anchor who was cracking occasional jokes and anecdotes. Everyone around me was laughing and so I joined in, though little did I understand what the conversation was all about. Then came the ceremony of selecting an object representing her future. The birthday girl was made to sit in front of these objects and everyone became silent in anticipation. May be she sensed this sudden change in atmosphere with millions of gazes on her, in retaliation, she started crying. Her mom tried to appease her and after some time she was again placed in front of these objects. Alas! Again she cried. Once this went on for 2-3 times and the child was not picking any of the things in front of her, her parents tried to give the objects one by one to her hand. They gave the stethoscope, Nope.. She din want it. They gave her the mouse, same result. Then they gave her the thread.. Nope.. She din want that too. Next came money and she gripped onto it with such a cute face 🙂 . The colors in the money might have attracted her. Everyone clapped and were happy that she was gonna be really rich.
Then came the dinner. The food was quite “Korean” to say the least. For the first time in my life, I ate raw fish. Raw beef and small but whole octopuses were available (that too raw I guess), but I did not dare to taste them. But my friends and other guests seemed to enjoy these “delicacies”. Then another dish I saw here was Beef Ribs with very little meat clinging onto it cooked in two difference styles. There was whole shrimp (big and small), seafood soup with most of the living creatures in the sea chopped and boiled (like crab, fish, shrimp and other I-don’t-knows), Bulgogi (A dish made of beef, but really good and cooked 🙂 ), Kimpap (Rice Rolls stuffed with fruits) and other things of whose the names I am not familiar with. By the time we went back to our table, there was beer kept on it. We all rose our glasses to the long life of the girl whose b’day it was and then said some Korean words, which I guess are prayers and good wishes for her.
Talking about beer and other alcohols, beer like alcohols are pretty popular and are a must for ALL Korean occasions, including this birthday. I believe that social drinking is a critical ingredient in the Korean Society and its unity. I even heard that in many parties, people drink till they are wasted. Then go to another bar, drink till they are more wasted. Go to yet another bar, drink till they are much more wasted. Repeat this nomadic behavior as much as they can afford to. Then sleep for couple of hours and go to the office for work. But this behavior is said to strengthen the bond between friends and is accepted by young and the old sections of Korean society.
There is this another drink called Soju, which is really cheap and popular in Korea. Soju is a kind of wine made from rice I guess, and has about 20% alcohol v/v. In the 10 days long life of mine in Korea, I tried Soju and gosh!! Is it strong!!! I drank 3/4ths of one bottle and was almost out of my senses (probably because of this first time drinking experience). But the next day I met a Korean girl at an International Student’s luncheon and came to know that many Korean males can have 3-4 bottles of Soju at a time and that particular girl said that she could drink 2 bottles at a time. That was shocking. With just on bottle I was in the so called “Helicopter Stage” where I did not feel so stable myself. Just can’t imagine what would happen to me if I took her so called 2-bottle “regular” dosage. This was my first ever drinking experience and to tell the truth, I did not find much excitement after drinking. It just felt different and I guess I can live without that. So, no more “Helicopters” for the time being.
Lab meetings started and we have to give WEEKLY reports to the professor. This would ensure the all of us work and has something substantial to show him every week. I need to give my progress report next Tuesday. Korean classes in progress. Learning new words and sentences everyday. Will get my alien registration card on 17th after which I am eligible to apply for a cell phone connection. Once I get an Alien Registration Card, I am legally allowed to stay in Korea. It s past 12 30 here now. Got to sleep..
Anyonghi Kheseyo (Stay Safe) – A traditional greeting given by a Korean when he tells bbye