Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Embracing the Darkness

Over the last couple weeks, the sun has been a little lower every day after work. On Friday the sun had all but set, leaving thin bright pink clouds layered low on the dusky horizon. By the time I go running, it's completely dark, and very cold. We had about 3 weeks of decent fall temperatures before the current arctic chill came, and I'm still adjusting to it.

But I really love this time of year- the darkening, the crisp, smoky, decaying smells, the winter squash, apples, pears, little mandarins, and persimmons at roadside stalls, the sweaters and blankets pulled from their stacks in the closet. I want to drink tea and bake all the time. I also want to sleep more, but I'm fighting that hibernation urge and trying to keep on my regular gym schedule.

On Saturday, our school hosted an educational English Festival. We had info booths for the major English-speaking countries (USA, England, Canada, South Africa, and Australia/New Zealand) with maps, posters, activities, sports, crafts, and food from that particular country. I was doing the Australia/New Zealand booth, and we made about 450 mini ANZAC biscuits in addition to a "sausage sizzle". Our school also did a large trivia quiz for middle and elementary schoolers. Hundreds of people came, parents and teachers and students, and it ended up being really fun. It was sunny and warmer than usual as kids played cricket and threw boomerangs and made beaded bracelets and got their faces painted and learned about trick-or-treating...

...Because of course, it was Halloween! Koreans have a vague idea of Halloween, and you can see some costumes in the big box stores, but otherwise the holiday is not celebrated here. But us foreigners would not let that stop us- friends threw a Halloween party, complete with jack-o-lanterns, American candy, a costume competition, and spooky decorations. See, I LOVE costumes, and I was especially excited for Halloween this year since I didn't get to celebrate last year. Exactly one year ago I was doing 10 days of silent meditation in a Vipassana course. I wouldn't trade that experience for anything, but it was nice to not miss the holiday a second year.

I went as a panda, channeling my inner toddler in a full-bodied animal outfit with hood. One of the best costumes from the party: one guy was his Facebook profile, complete with a huge printout of the profile page and a box cut-out for his face where his picture would be. And my favorite was this guy who went as ddukbokki. It doesn't look like much if you haven't been to Korea, but for those of you who know this Korean dish of rice cake fingers and compressed fish cakes in chili sauce, you know that his costume is spot-on.

While I'm celebrating non-Korean holidays, I thought I might as well throw in another. I have been fascinated by the Day of the Dead in Mexico ever since my first Spanish class in 7th grade. I remember learning about Dead Bread (pan de los muertos) and the colorful flowers, pictures, food, and candles that are amassed on an altar in order to commemorate dead loved ones. It may seem a little dark, but it's actually the opposite. Instead of ignoring or eschewing death, this holiday recognizes and remembers loved ones who have passed on, and celebrates their life and the things they enjoyed. I have lost 2 very important people in the last year- a dear friend about a year ago, and my great-grandmother in August. I will never, ever forget them, and in fact, will keep their memory alive in many small ways. On Monday I tried my first attempt at the traditional bread, complete with an orange glaze and set it up with oranges, pears, and paper flowers.

And finally, one last celebration: two awesome friends of mine in the U.S. got married this weekend. Congrats Kimi and Justin! I really really wanted to be there for their wedding, but was not able to get the time off. I am so sorry to have missed what I'm sure was an amazing celebration of love, commitment, friendship, and joy. I wish them many happy years together.


Katherine Jenkins said...

Hi Amber-Looks like you are having fun in Korea. I also had Halloween parties all the years I was there. It's my favorite season. Love the Facebook page idea!!! When do you come back to the States??? Interesting that you were doing a 10-day course over Halloween last year. I think I also did a course over Halloween at one point. Glad to see you are doing well and enjoying Korea...Anyoung!

AmberAnda said...

Hi Katherine- Thanks for your comment! I also really love this season. Even in the course it was a beautiful Halloween last year- it happened to be a clear night with a full moon, and it had just risen over Mt. St. Helens. The foreigners here are already planning Thanksgiving and Christmas parties, so it's nice to know the holidays are taken care of, and that we can share them with Korean friends as well. Yes, definitely enjoying myself as long as I can stay warm for the next few months! :) Thank goodness for cute Korean hats and jimjilbangs. My contract ends in March, and I will be back in Seattle in April. Take care and I will continue to enjoy your blog!