Friday, May 16, 2008

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.

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