When I thought about going to Korea, it never truly hit me that I would be spending my birthday far from home. I guess that for some people this might not seem like too big of a deal, but my birthday always falls really close to or on Thanksgiving day. This means that "birthday" has always been synonymous with "turkey" for me. This year has not really been like that. The day dawned like any other day, except for the fact that it was snowing a little bit (I wake up every morning around 6am). I talked to one of my dearest friends from high school for a bit and then my parents, and then I set off for work. I arrived around the same time as always, trying to be inconspicuous (something that is extremely hard to do since everyone greets you out loud as soon as you walk in the door- guess I'm still not used to that). Then the big boss walked in, the guy who almost never comes into the office where I work. Someone said my name. I froze. I knew I was in trouble; had someone noticed the videos of people finding good places to eat I watched last week? Could they fire me? My heart rose in my throat as I rounded the corner of a row of cubicles... There were cupcakes. I am lactose intolerant, and in Korea lactase tablets are extremely hard to get a hold of, so the cupcakes were rice cake and what I thought was frosting turned out to be colored sweet bean paste. There were two cupcakes filled with each flavor of filling, and I managed to snag the one that had chocolate in the middle, since I was the closest to the arrangement. In Korean age I am officially twenty, and the candles reflected that, something that was pretty weird to me, it actually felt like I was blowing out the candles for someone else. Essentially this whole seeing the cake thing was like having the boss at your job walk into the room and pull you over to a table where everyone else is already standing. There is some kind of treat- food on the table and your co- workers begin to sing and clap in a dignified manner before lighting two meaningless numbers sticking out of the treat on fire and having you blow them out. After that, there were presents, most of which I did not understand as well as two cards, all of which was written in Korean (that I have to translate), and the small card read "thank you" in curly letters. All in all, the whole thing was quite an experience.
As a child I was afraid of change and would cry whenever something different or new happened, and I guess that part of myself was the tiniest bit freaked out about changing tradition, since I have spent Thanksgiving with all of my family in the same place with a lot of the same people since before I can remember. I guess nothing really changed, though, since I got to talk to my family this morning on the phone (Of course, this morning I went in to work late so I could talk to people and there was no wifi for me to Skype with in the apartment). I have to say that this has been a pretty amazing birthday, and I cannot wait for the rest of the holiday season. The excitement will build in me regardless of the attitudes of those around me, especially since my parents arrive in Korea on Christmas Day!
I also get the opportunity to go to a Thanksgiving dinner put up by a Christian fellowship in Incheon on Saturday, so I will keep y'all in the loop about that.
Elena who is now in her last year of being a teen
PS: Did anyone else notice that my coworkers sang/ chanted first, then lit the candles? Now that I think about it, that is vaguely strange to me, since in the US it is not the norm... Oh well, here's to the unknown and things you don't understand but do anyway!
Everyday Acts of Activism