Birthday (and) Surprises…
Such was the musical element of last night, as we celebrate Meg’s twentiCENSOREDth birthday with Soju, cake, music, and our furniture dealer’s immediate family (note: the ‘clap, clap’ element is a Korean variation on the otherwise identical song, leading to a certain amount of mumbling as everybody matched the same pace. Also, I believe they were initially unsure how to pronounce Meg’s name).
Apparently, such a wonderfully abstract scene is totally within the norm in Korean culture. Allow me to convey the backstory:
Meg’s birthday morning: consisting of staggering from bed to prepare necessary cups of morning energy, prepare bakery-bought sweetbread and arrange horrifically-wrapped presents reminiscent of the Edward Scissorhands wrapping school. Present presents (oh, the English language) to birthday person, await glee and/or violent disappointment.
As it turns out, she likes her ‘Pugs Not Drugs’ t-shirt. Thank you, Russell Howard.
In a fit of birthday hedonism, we then decided to ‘go and have another look’, ie. give in to finally buying the fabulous chest-of-drawers and floor lamp we’ve been eyeing in a local furniture/’antiques’ dealer. Stop me if this is getting too domestic for words to express. For two twenty-ish-year-olds, such an act of obvious maturity takes some effort.
Anyway, we are now the owners of said wonderfurniture – but not via any sales process we would be familiar with in the Rolfey’s or flea markets of England (give money, struggle with item, gtfo of my shop). Firstly, we paid a good price for said items. Secondly, Mr & Mrs Ryu (owners) went to the local shop and bought us coffees while we waited (for all of about 10 minutes) for them to remove the furniture from display and wrap it in a duvet for safety.
Mr Ryu then drives us to our house, insists on carrying as much as possible so as not to inconvenience us, fits it all in the flat; then, upon noticing Meg holding up pictures on the wall, he sprints down (four floors) to his van, grabs his drill and puts them up for us. Would you like some birthday cake? we ask. Your birthday? he inquires. We have party tonight. My family, here, nine thirty. We are friends. You light candles, we give you birthday present. And, fast as he came into our lives, he was gone.
Six hours later, we host a genuinely enjoyable evening with the Ryu family, actually involving singing ‘Happy Birthday’, doing animal impressions and discussing cinema (in our case, trying to explain Borat without offending them). Mr. Ryu has now taken it upon himself to tailor-make a glass surface for our new ‘chopping-board/food preparation’ space in the kitchen – again, refusing any attempt of ours to offer payment.
I’m starting to forget if England actually has any customs; so far, it feels not so much that we have ways of our own so much as we don’t do things that others do – ie. be nice to one another and offer things without expecting more in return. Maybe I’m just jaded. I’m clearly going native.