at the start of 2014 i had to prepare to leave korea. . . and not just packing. i wanted to find time to spend with my friends in a meaningful way- even with the rush of the end of the school year closing in on all of us.
my first teaching partner had left brighton, though she was still in touch with us. her last year was difficult. she became difficult to work with and i hadn't spoken to her in a while. we both wanted to put it behind us and i wanted to leave as friends. basically, we did just that. talked it over a little and decided we'd do our best to wipe the slate clean and think of how much fun we had my first year.
shortly afterward patching things up with hazel, i received an invitation to her wedding. it was on a saturday (which i had fewer and fewer of remaining), it would be a long bus ride to daegu and back for what would be a short ceremony, i'd be leaving glitchy all day, not many other teachers planned on attending. i had plenty of reasons to not attend, but i sort of wanted to- i just needed one shining incentive. i found out another former brighton teacher, whom i adored, would attend. . . and she planned to take the bus- so i had a bus buddy. and i had a way to spend a whole day with sunni t.
i asked tracey t. to watch after glitchy, which she did graciously and i hopped on the bus in the early morning. i figured that i might get a small nap in, or i'd be able to spend time chatting with sunni- both would be good.
surprises on the bus included: 1- both her sisters took the bus. i figured they would be at the venue with hazel. i guess their task was to escort the guests on the chartered bus. they passed out fruit and rice cake snacks as well as coffees and juice. neither of them ever smiled.
and 2- i got to watch some of the opening ceremonies to the sochi winter olympics on a giant flat screen tv located at the front of the bus.
there was a couple of naps and lots of chatting. i was so thankful for sunni's company. i think there might have been one other foreigner, but i'm not much for striking up a conversation with a complete stranger. especially early in the morning.
we sat for a while at a rest stop. able to use the toilets, grab a snack, and stretch our legs.
this is the view from the interior of
the bathroom of the rest stop. (and if you think that's good, rest stop
food is a major part of their draw)
sunni bought herself a nice camera her last year at brighton. while
no longer on the hagwon schedule, she gave herself time to join a
photography class. the last few times i met with her she was really
excited to show me some of the assignments she worked on for that
class. she talked about how helpful the people in the class were. what
i found funny was that she was showing an interest in places that my
friends and i (the foreigners) would go to in seoul and ansan that she
had never been to before. she was getting to see her own country in a
new way- kind of like a tourist- and it was fun to share that with her.
and since i also had a newish camera. i walked around with her while she took shots.
once in daegu we only had about a half hour before the wedding ceremony. the bus driver also announced that he'd be leaving back to ansan in about an hour and a half. (i don't remember the times exactly, but it was something like 11 when we arrived. the ceremony and buffet would start at 11:30, and the bus would leave around 12:30) doesn't seem like much time (especially by western standards) and even the koreans were a little huffy about the rush of it all. turns out there was plenty of time.
we surveyed the lobby and found the gift desk. (this is where you fill out an envelope and fill it with money.)
the elevator system was a little confusing, but we finally figured out how to get to her wedding room.
she didn't have a separate bride room where guests greeted her, but rather an alcove on the same floor. the way it was dressed up paired with the small rise from the rest of the lobby made it feel especially zoo-like.
you could sit and pose with the bride for a picture and the attendants would make sure her dress and flowers were perfectly set each time.
this particular wedding hall had more bells and whistles than previous wedding halls that i had seen. the floor of their wedding had a little garden area with a pretty water feature and was kept warm with a propane flame.
the flowers and lights that lined the 'runway' raised and lowered as the bride and groom entered separately. i tried to take a picture of the groom, as did sunni. neither of us were fast enough. he jogged down the aisle with a really happy bounce to his step. he's the only son in his family and just getting married in his mid or late 30's- late by traditional korean standards. when i pointed out how it must be such a relief to his family to see him married, sunni laughed at me and joked that i understood korean culture too well.
everything is run so efficiently at these modern wedding halls. ceremonies are kept under 30 minutes. i think the shortest i witnessed might have been 16 minutes long, and this might have been the longest reaching over 25 minutes.
each minute with an attendant to perfect the dress.
each minute with an attendant to show them where to stand and what to do.
each minute with a conspicuous photographer (this one clad in plaid, jeans, and trainers). two in this shot, the photographer behind the couple and the videographer in front.
and each of those minutes are caught on live video with two large viewing areas to the side of the main event.
part of the reason the ceremony ran long was because the groom wanted to sing a song. he started with a guitar, then got too nervous to continue and sang the song sans instrument. it was sweet.
the grooms family's faces were beaming from ear to ear through the entire ceremony. it was odd to see hazel's family seem so unhappy. i didn't see either of her sisters smile once. (actually, i was surprised to find out she had two older sisters. i only knew of one.)
there were larger family pictures, and then friend pictures as well (which i don't have since i was on the other side of the camera). our brighton bosses showed up to offer congratulations. also two other former teachers (judy t., nikki t.) also joined. judy, nikki, hazel, and i had all been 5 year old teachers together, along with amanda. it was a nice way to see them again. both judy and nikki moved on to different teaching jobs after our year with 5 year olds.
we moved on to the buffet event, which featured foods similar to VIPS. plenty of variety and yummy. everyone except for the main bridal party were finished eating before needing to board the bus. hazel's sisters carried food with them and picked up more at the rest stop on the way home. as we exited the bus they both thanked everyone with the first smiles i'd seen on them all day. i got both a korean and english 'thank you,' one from each sister.
i'd been searching for ways to spend quality time with friends before leaving korea. turned out that this wedding excursion was just what i was looking for.