Days of Chuseok


The Chuseok holiday is ending slowly here. All that is left is the rest of the weekend, but that’s not really Chuseok. Most businesses will open up tomorrow in the hope of catching those desperate to restock their fridge and fill their belly with something other than Chuseok food.

Of course we suffer in Korea this year because Chuseok, a three day holiday, has fallen on a Thursday, so the three days around it also meld into Saturday and Sunday making it a nice rounded five day break. There will be a very slow and more unenthusiastic than usual start to work all around the country this Monday.

Myself, Herself, and +1 have been on the east coast since Tuesday. The town, as you may already know, is called Jumunjn (주문진) and it’s where Herself was born and grew up. Her parent’s house is a short walk from the beach, and to a certain extent it is within very short distance of some fairly nice countryside. If you’re fortunate enough to have a car then there’s a wealth of scenery and country well worth exploring.

As it’s kind of late at night and +1 seems to be more restless in the evenings (she’s just under 10 months old now) I’m going to share with you some photographs I’ve take over the past few days, rather than writing a long essay. Some are s little blurry as I’m still struggling with having the right amount of paetience to make this DSLR of mine work for me. Still, I hope you enjoy them.

If you’d like to read a little more about my experience celebrating Chuseok in my own home in Suwon, please follow the link.

Also be sure to check out Ben Haynes guest post Get Ready, Get Set…Chuseok

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Copyright all photographs Conor O’Reilly, September 2013. All rights reserved.

Get Ready, Get Set…Chuseok


by Ben Haynes

What a wonderful time of year we’ve happened upon! The harvest season, celebrated in as many ways as there are people and religions on this blessed planet. Yes, it’s all about getting together and enjoying the company of family and and gorging on the fruits of a well worked field or cubicle. Maybe packing on a few kilos for the winter months for good measure.

To observe this time of bounty, Americans roast up the largest, antibiotic-filled, corn fed turkey we can find at the grocery and then stuff it with some….. stuffing.

Apples for Chuseok

Apples for Chuseok

Israelis celebrate Sukkot, the feast of the Tabernacles, bringing together neighbors. All are welcome! Other than those blocked off by a huge cement wall, of course. Gnoshing on the harvested grains in a most biblical fashion and observing the quintessential element associated with all Jewish holidays- “remembering” wandering through the desert. Symbolized by modern Jews by being lost in the car on a hot summer’s day.

Indonesians celebrate the rice harvest. Offerings are made to Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice in Bali. Mushroom shakes are offered to tourists. Lammas, historically celebrated by early Britons baking the first harvest’s grain into a bread offering is now keenly observed by the oh-so-unique hipster Pagan or Wiccan in a most dogmatic fashion.

Koreans have Chuseok, where sungpyeon, a sweet-tasting rice cake, is made and enjoyed by all. Families gather around, making ceremonial table settings to remember loved ones passed.

As well, they buy gift packs of 10 apples for 100$ or 5 fish for 400$, or maybe a packet of peanuts for some exorbitant price.

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Yeah that is 200,000 Won for a watermelon.

Oh yes. Let the bells of capitalism ring throughout, and watch, as local department stores dress up their employees in hanbok to sell fruits, mushrooms, nuts, and Spam. Priced as though these items are rare, illegal, magical or forbidden,or all of the above. A pumpkin being sold for 200$. But this was no ordinary pumpkin, sillly. It had a bow on it!

As a foreigner in this “land of morning calm,” we get enjoy our autumnal shopping trips to Lotte or E-mart with an additional spike of bustling insanity. No child is safe unless riding in a shopping cart. Even then, they are subject to the possibility of a 4-5 cart pile up. It’s best to leave the small ones at home with grandma during the weeks prior to this nationally beloved holiday.

This post is guest post. For more on guest posts and how to submit please follow this link

BenHaynes

Ben Haynes has resided in Seoul with his wife, Ren, since 2011, where he is regarded as a local hero. He has the foresight of a community channel televangelist. He leads with the fortitude of Aurelius. His sweat is sweet as freshly squeezed juice. Villagers whisper giddily when he walks by. He enjoys a good book and cold glass of beer.

Getting my Knees Dirty on Korean New Year


On Friday night we boarded a bus in Suwon expecting hours of traffic packed in between tumults of snow. We hoped the journey would take less than five hours and, if we were lucky, the bus driver would at least leave the reading lights on, unlike the last time we took the bus.

We knew what was ahead. Korean New Year is famous for the lines of impregnable traffic on the express-way, and for the previous two days, both the weather forecast and my father-in-law had been warning us about the snow that was going to stop the world that existed around us.

Two hours into our journey along the expressway I awoke with a shudder and snort. The bus was cruising steadily along the expressway at an unfamiliar speed, perhaps over 80 kilometres an hour, and we were passing Munmak, thaat perpetual traffic black spot on the Yeongdong Expressway.

It seemed that the worst traffic we would be encountering along the road would have been in Suwon as we made our way painstakingly through the Friday evening, after-work rush. It was unexplainable, so much so that we found ourselves complaining about the lack of traffic, and the lack of snow.

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Chuseok Diary


I’m sitting in the living room after finishing another massive feed. My mother and father in-law are visiting, as is my brother-in-law. It’s kind of a proud moment for me. Today, I’m the man-of-the-house that is hosting the family’s Chuseok get-together. Herself doesn’t really have a big family – only her parents and one younger brother – and the majority of her parent’s brothers and sisters have lived far away for a long time so the family tend to do their own thing at Chuseok. It’s small, but cosy enough in its own way. It’s also quiet, which is also nice especially when I compare it to the frantic Christmases we have back in Ireland.

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Letter from Korea, Christmas 2010


Somewhere in Gyeonggi-do,
South Korea
9/1/2011

Dear Ireland

Christmas! Yes, Christmas. It was an interesting one to say the least. It was a busy Christmas too, but not in the usual sense because of the news delivered to me on Christmas Eve that I would be spending a week literally in lock up. I had been nominated by the powers that be to be one of the writers for a kind of mid-way entry exam to the university I work at. That’s why my Chirstmas post is coming well into 2011, and not while the tinsel still holds some facet of festive cheer. More about this later. As I said, Christmas came and went, abruptly, but not without character.

Since 2005, when I first came here, Christmas in Korea has been gradually gaining in significance. I am not really sure why to be honest though. Maybe it’s because the kids have eventually turned around and said, well it’s all well and good being sent to an English school and being filled to the brim full of Santa and Rudolph stories, but enough is enough, it’s time Santa made a stopover in Korea; how he gets down the chimney in the Remian and Lotte Castle twenty-five storey apartment buildings is a mystery beyond my powers of comprehension.

Official NORAD (whatever the jaysus that means) Santa Tracker! Truly magical!

Incidentally whilst on the subject of Santa, and completely off the point of my Christmas in Korea, on Christmas Eve I came across a website that provided a Santa tracker, which I thought was incredible but not many shared the same enthusiasm for it. When I first checked it, Old Saint Nick had had his wicked way with South Korea and was in Pyongyang. I wonder how Santa got along there and whether or not it was a busy stopover. Did Santa have to clear his identity and purpose of visit with whichever department is responsible for foreign visits in North Korea. Where did he apply for initial visa? Perhaps there is a consulate of the DPRK in the North Pole. The South Korean government can’t have been too happy with him crossing the DMZ without permission, or did he come from Japan? This can’t have curried too much favour with overly nationalist elements in either North or South Korea. I also wonder what the kids asked for; probably eternal happiness, a bunch of strippers and a container full of Crystal Champagne for Kim Jung-un.

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