Friday, May 16, 2008

The Marriage Sequel

On May 10, the big day finally arrived... our wedding ceremony. Granted, we had already been married for 7 months in terms of legal paperwork, but this day was set up to be slightly more exciting than the courthouse in Seoul where we had to approach random strangers to find two witnesses to sign for us. We had hired a personal tailor in Seoul to make hanbok (Korean traditional clothes) for JooYeon, me, and her mom. Additionally, two of her aunts also had brought their own hanbok along. As I ran around like a headless chicken preparing things, JooYeon's mom prepared in her own way (to be fair, she actually got up at 6:00am to start cooking)...

JooYeon quickly rushed to get in her last date with a guy, knowing that after marriage that would be off-limits... I was jealous...

The Wedding
After our processional to the lovely non-traditional banjo music of Adam Carter, and an opening from the Reverend Joel Miller, the first thing on our program was Jeol (which I'm sure at least 50% of the congregation, including Joel himself, thought was a misspelling of our pastor Joel). Jeol (or keunjeol actually) is a respectful bow done in moments where extreme honor is due, such as the parents of the bride giving her away (in Korea, this means she is literally kicked out of the family tree, so the jeol is even more important). We followed this with a more American style blessing by hugging my parents (my mom is right there behind dad, even though you can't see her)

After showing respect for our parents, I displayed my respect for my new wife, by washing her feet. My sister played her own rendition of "Will you let me be your Servant?"/Canon in D on the piano (with a day's notice to prepare), and I did my best to work with the Korean stockings on her feet which were obvious proof that footwashing was NOT a part of traditional Korean culture...

We then sat in our chairs and listened to Joel deliver a sermon about how everything in life boils down to Love. At this time, Jusu was successful in connecting the webcam up online so that JooYeon's father and brother were able to watch the wedding live from Korea (we had been trying hard up until halfway through the opening music to no avail).

After Joel's meditation, we gave a rendition of "Naw Hana Bunimul" by Kim Gwang Seok (You're the only one for me) as a surprise to her Korean relatives. The benefit of the surprise was that they were surprised. The downfall was that our lack of practice time made my guitar playing rusty... although JooYeon covered me well with her beautiful voice.

We exchanged our rings and said our vows in both English and Korean. JooYeon had never gotten around to editing my Korean, so I'm not sure if her relatives actually understood my weak attempt to speak to her in the high respectful Korean form, but at least she knew what I was saying. And that of course, led us to the kiss!!!

My good friend Chris Longenecker finished things off with a boisterous display of four-part harmony in the congregational song 606, "Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow."

After a short video and song with our pictures, we exited for a non-traditional reception where the guests (or "customers" as I kept calling them since the Korean word for both is the same) filed through 5 stations in a Korean Challenge where they had to use chopsticks, learn to speak Korean, write Korean, and eat the spicy dish of kim-chi.

The final event took place back at the homestead, where I filled JooYeon's wedding shoe with water (traditionally it should be alchohol but we didn't have enough in stock since I hadn't yet opened Chris' wedding gift) and drank it in one gulp. I felt bad for all the ancient Korean men who had NOT made footwashing part of their wedding ceremony!

With all the ceremonies out of the way, we proceeded to open our gifts. I think I had lost my common sense through all the wedding preparations, because I misinterpreted what several gifts were, to the point of being sure that a flashlight was actually a shaver...

The day was so successful that Heather got ready with Mom and Dad to have her own Korean wedding!

Selling Ham! (or, "The Bachelor's Party")

Thousands of years ago, in a land far away, began a pre-wedding tradition known as Ham. In those days, a wedding had very little to do with love, and very much to do with family honor, respect, position, and wealth. Therefore, as part of a series of events for families of the bride and groom to size each other up, the Ham entailed the groom and his friends bringing a satchel of presents (a.k.a. the "Ham") to the household of the bride. The bride and her family did everything in their power to get the men into their house, at which point they would receive the gifts. But of course, the men must be resistant...
I carefully trained my fellow soldiers to be strong-willed, difficult to please, and demanding. They were not to heed the cold rain pouring down on us as we bartered with the family since our (well, my) reputation was at stake. I even taught them some Korean negotiating words of disgust in the chance that the bride's family would make us any weak offers. Ana Chincha! Iransh! ANIO!
We approached the house and stood a good 20 steps away to give ourselves some bargaining room. We then proceeded to unleash in a loud clamour of yells, yodels, and even harmonized song as Adam Carter played his banjo to Oh Susanna under his poncho. The women emerged gently at first and then viciously pulled us to try to drag us closer without giving us rewards. We stood firm. We demanded money at first, and took a step forward for 10,000 won ($10). We then denied their next several requests as being too insufficient. Someone cried out "Anna Chinchilla!!!" in an attempt at mild Korean swearing.

Deciding that we wanted more than money, we next made them dance and sing for us. They performed admirably, causing us to yield several more steps towards the house. We then took another bribe, although demanding twice as much this time and even cheating a bit by having the guys lift me off the ground and propel me towards the money and back so that we didn't have to take an actual step. As we were cold, hungry, and thirsty, we forced them to bring us out food and beverages. Knowing that Jusu is an artist in France, we demanded that she come out into the cold rain and form a picture on the sidewalk using only mulch. There was some debate as to whether she was sculpting a dog or my face, but whichever it was, she did a good job.

The ceremonies finally ended when JooYeon herself came out, pleading with me and giving me kisses to lure me into the house. I couldn't hold out long against such lovely temptation, although I did make her bring all my men hand towels and give them each a complement before we consented to enter. Once inside and warm, JooYeon and her family were given the spoils of their labors, ranging from gifts like used stickers to scented candles (my men had come from a wide range of economic social classes). In actual Korea, this was a key moment at which the bride's family some times disapproves and the marriage is cancelled if the gifts are insufficient. In fact, JooYeon's mom DID refuse at this point, but I'm assuming (hoping) she was joking since we ended up getting married the next day.

Bridal Shower/Shinbu Pati

On May 8, with two days left until the wedding, the females all attended a bridal shower thrown by the Gracious Marla Longenecker. Now, taking my gender into account, and hence the fact that I was not present, my writings in this entry shall be succinct and perhaps untrue. I do apologize for that.

Since JooYeon's family didn't speak English at all, and Marla's women were equally unschooled in Korean, Marla designed the entire party to be based on body communication. From what I hear, JooYeon did do quite a bit of translation and served as a bridge, but many of the activities like food (or more appropriately, "gourmet feast fit for Roman goddesses") and games were non-verbal. Jusu (JooYeon's sister) lives in France, so she would have been able to communicate with the local French teacher a lot, but she had severe jetlag and was quite quiet. I'm not sure which language the Korean Barbie spoke, but she probably didn't talk much either. And yet, I have a feeling that the party was all but quiet...

Highlights included searching for tiny pins in a bowlful of rice while blindfolded and throwing a bridal bouquet around, a sport which I hear got quite competitive and perhaps even borderline violent (again, hearsay) until the Korean women realized that any prizes they won went directly to JooYeon. Another central game utilized bingo boards Marla had made which included pictures of JooYeon and me. A touching center of the evening was Jooyeon reading my sister Heather's card to her (since they bonded well during our month in Arizona).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

An Unexpected Discovery

We arrived at my parents' home in West Liberty, OH late on May 6th, where we found them (to my surprise) up well past their bedtimes and waiting for us. Introductions were said bilingually as everyone from both sides forgot their greetings they had been practicing due to the overwelming moment. Particularly touching was the way JooYeon's mother burst into tears when she embraced my mom.

The next morning we headed out on a sloshy walk through the woods to Harry's cabin, where I would be hosting a bachelor's party of sorts with my male friends. At one point, after rounding a bend in the trail, it seemed like we had lost them behind us. Going back for them, I found her uncle digging rapidly in the dirt with a stick. Before long, all the ladies were squatting down around various trees and digging. As it turned out, there was an edible plant which is somewhat expensive in Korea growing wild all around the cabin (and our house). They harvested a fair amount of it and we ate it that evening!

As a token of their thankfulness, JooYeon's family had brought the gift of a traditional tea set to give to my parents. They took us through the careful rituals of how the tea was poured and shared with family. It reminded me of the grand monk JooYeon and I had drank tea with in our first travel together as friends. Dad made up for any yoga inadequacies with his amazing ability to sip tea politely from a sideways position.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Thought that Counts...

After a few of the mishaps in New York, granted not necessarily my fault (other than the van dying), I was feeling a bit of pressure to give my in-laws a positive experience. So, as I mentioned previously, I cancelled our reservations at the Super8 at Niagara Falls, and picked the best hotel I could find in my AAA New York Travel Guide, the Hilton. Now, if you have some free time, take a look at and see if you can find anything wrong with it. I specifically requested a large suite on an upper level floor with a clear view of the falls. Good stuff, right?

I waited until we got to the town of Niagara Falls to tell them the news of the hotel switch and there was loud cheering and revelry throughout the van. I felt like a hero. It didn't even seem to matter when I took a wrong turn and drove up to the Canadian border (which they cannot legally enter) and then had to drive back down a semi-busy one-way road in the wrong direction. It felt good all the way up until the moment when I asked a local businessman for directions and was promptly informed that the Hilton (along with all the other good hotels) is on the CANADIAN side. This is when I hit bottom.

I sent JooYeon with them to the falls as I dejectedly tried to figure out what to do. I called Hilton right away and of course they informed me I could get no refund since it was my mistake. Then I looked around the American side (which I realized I had never been to before, nor should anyone go to) and eventually found a hotel which was only semi-dirty. I humbly walked back to the in-laws who kept reassuring me that it was fine, but I wasn't convinced. The funniest part (now, not then) was when the youngest and most enthusiastic aunt stepped into our hotel room which was dusty, smelly, dark, and hadn't been properly cleaned in awhile, and exclaimed, "Wow! This room is WONDERFUL!" in an attempt to make me feel better.
They were all very kind though and by morning we were in good spirits again, enough to do some luggage cart surfing and take a ride on the maid of the mist.
That was all followed by another stop at an outlet mall on our way to Ohio, which of course put the women in an even better mood, which in turn put me and JooYeon in a better mood.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Amish Country and a Light Mistake

After recovering from the rainy day in New York, we packed up our things at Shawns' and headed on our way. At this point, I was feeling a bit of pressure to make the trip go more smoothly and so I tried to follow their desires. They seemed to prefer to always stay together, even when sleeping, and so I rearranged our hotel accomodations to sleep together in a big room. I also cancelled our Super8 reservations in Niagara Falls and tried to get the best possible hotel with a fallsview, eventually deciding on an upperlevel suite at the Hilton (I didn't tell them- figured I would surprise them later). Finally, I considered what could make four women happy after a rainy day in New York, and settled on shopping- nothing better than an outlet mall in Lancaster, where there's no tax on clothing or shoes!

We had some fun talks about the Amish and how they were connected to the Mennonites (except for JooYeon, they hadn't previously heard of either, but they were excited every time we saw one as they pointed and said, "Amishi! Amishi!") The stores were every bit as good as they had hoped and the aunt and uncle really enjoyed an antique mall we happened across. We continued our streak of daily kim-chi and rice with a makeshift picnic in a parking lot. After shopping, we drove into the Poconos to a town called Stroudsburg where I distracted the concierge as they snuck into our room (I'm sure 7 people in a room is a fire hazard or something so I didn't want to risk asking permission).

The next morning we got everything ready as my mother-in-law stared at me in shock throughout the breakfast buffet (she had only seen me eat Korean food, which I generally eat in moderation). With everyone packed and ready to sneak out, I went to pull the van around. The power locks didn't seem to work, which was a bit odd since they had been fine. Neither did the A/C, which wasn't as cool. But it wasn't until I turned the key, that the sinking feeling came over me that our battery was dead, drained from an overhead light left on through the night. Rephrase that... a light that I left on. After the tour fiasco in New York, I felt horrible as a dead van certainly wouldn't go far in improving my reputation with the in-laws. LUCKILY, the very next couple who passed by happened to be a kind couple with an extended set of jumper cables and so, with the uncle's help, it wasn't long before we were back in action. We had some more kim-chi and rice at a rest area and on the road again, we happened across a sign with an interesting name combo...

Next, we pulled off at an exit near the Appalachian trail and found a nice lake where we did some swinging, walking, and general tomfoolery. Just as did Central Park in New York, this seemed to get everyone in high spirits.