My first Korean wedding (in 3 parts)
My watch says 7:32am. Aren’t I supposed to meet David at 8:00? Oh, no!
Stumbling out of bed, I make it to my bathless bathroom and splash water on my face.
Yeah, I’m meeting David six subway stops away to attend the wedding. My mind begins to crunch the numbers. Even if I literally walked out the door now, I’d barely make it.
But this is a wedding. I can’t just show up. I need to shave, brush my teeth, fix my hair, get dressed, tie a tie. This is not going to happen.
My mind switches gears to come up with a way to get out of going. Maybe I could. . . nope, I have to get there. I have the money from Daniel that I’m supposed to give the new couple.
A few of my teeth felt a brush, and my tongue tasted the toothpaste. Good enough. I break out the razor. No time to take time, I go at it with just a little soap and water, cold water too since hot water takes a minute to make it through the pipes.
Don’t bleed, don’t bleed, don’t bleed, I’m thinking.
Somehow I make it through the abbreviated ritual, including a tie but excluded a shower. And I’m not bleeding.
At the station, the subway pulls in just in time. Six stops later, I happen to glance out the door and notice its my stop. For some reason, I thought I had one more to go. Wow, thank God I checked.
Skipping down the stairs toward the exit, I spot David and his girlfriend, as they turn and hurry away.
No, no, no. I pick up my already hurried pace.
“Yo, David,” I call. “David!” The station is too load. David is too focused on making the bus himself now.
I finally catch them at the escalator. “David, whew. I’m so glad I caught you.”
“Hey, buddy! How did you find us? You look great.”
I don’t tell him I still feel 80% asleep.
“Where’s Kevin?” says David.
We’re hurrying into the hotel where the wedding will be held. Cars and buses and suits and dresses line the lot, but no Kevin.
This doesn’t surprise me. I don’t expect to randomly run into him among all these people.
David, his girlfriend, and I head into the reception area and grab plates of food. It’s a Korean wedding, which means everyone eats and chats during the ceremony, way different than I’m used to.
As we eat, David calls Kevin. His face turns to surprise. Kevin and Jamie, two other teachers from where we work, decided not to come. Looks like David and I will be the only ones who make it from Jeongsang Language School.
We originally assumed most of the teachers would attend the wedding. Some, including Kevin and Jamie, even talked about renting a place for the weekend to stay on the coast. Slowly, though, everyone had dropped off. Even Kevin and Jamie bailed last minute now.
And this poses a problem. David and his girlfriend booked a hotel for the evening, and they plan to stay until tomorrow. In fact, they’re leaving in like half an hour. I had planned to catch a ride back with Kevin and Jamie.
Now I’ll have to ride back with the bus that brought us.
We grab a second plate of food – it’s all delicious – before trying to work out my travel plans, plans that mean I’m leaving in about an hour after a four hour bus ride here.
They motion for me to pull up a seat on the left side of the group. Two women and two men, now three including me, sit in silence for a few seconds. I assume no one speaks English, and I know I don’t speak Korean.
But they’re my ride back, so they’re my friends now.
“Where are you from?” asks the man to my right.
He nods his head and then turns to his friend to figure out how to ask which State I’m from.
“Yes, which State?” I offer.
“Yes, yes,” they say.
“I’m from Kentucky. If this is America,” I frame a map in the air with my hands like I’ve done dozens of time before, “then Kentucky is right here.” I point to the middle east of the box. Yeah, technically I’m a middle eastern American, I guess.
“KFC, like the chicken,” I add, “comes from Kentucky. KFC means Kentucky Fried Chicken.”
The man on my right speaks the best English of the bunch, better than I assumed, way better than my Korean. He asks a few more questions, before one of the women on the other side of the table mentions something in Korean.
The man on my right translates. “She says you do magic on bus. She says very good. You show us?” He motions to the pack of cards I brought with me, the cards David bought for me to show his girlfriend the trick.
I smile. “Okay.”
I begin to deal out the cards on the table, three columns with seven cards in each column. Like many magic tricks, this one really works better with the accompanying story. Performing it in Korea means gauging how much of the story the audience can follow.
I do my best to adapt it well.
“Choose a card, but don’t tell me. . . Which column is your card in: one, two, or three?” Blah, blah, blah. I go through the routine to set up the trick, editing as much as possible.
Finally, after letting the audience members select one face-down card out of 21, I ask one of the ladies to flip over that last card.
“Is that your card?” I say.
She looks confused. The man to my right says, “Change-ee.”
He’s saying the cards must have changed. And no, that’s not part of the trick. Somewhere along the line, I messed up.
I try to laugh it off, and they try to laugh with me. And then we sit in silence again. Awkward.
That’s my first Korean wedding.