Most of the Westerners I work with here in Korea are American (a few Canadians and a lone Brit round out the roster), so American holidays get all the attention from the school administration. For reasons to me indecipherable the university who runs this place have the idea that Thanksgiving is…well, glamorous.
No one has yet explained to them that Thanksgiving is a day for lounging around, baking, napping, and watching football. Apparently. Since the Korean idea of Thanksgiving is a catered dinner complete with a forest of balloons and door prizes and professional entertainment. Thus the yearly ritual has become known to the teachers (mostly affectionately) as “thanksgiving prom.” for a number of reasons:
1. Semi-formal attire. (but let’s be real: everyone just tries to find something they DON’T wear to work every.single.day)
2. The event is held in the gym, complete with balloon arches, balloon bunting, balloon tent-scaffolding. and bubble machines. and fog machines. and did I mention balloons?
3. Hired entertainment (rather than a band. or dj. idea for next year?)
Let’s discuss those entertainment choices, shall we?
We teachers spend every day working with elementary school children. What is the last thing you want to think about, in general, on holidays? Work. (that’s me, at least. for you it might be the impending robot uprising, or maybe your diet, I don’t know.) So then it made perfect sense to bring in…the Daegu Children’s Choir.
Don’t get me wrong. They were awesome. They wore school uniforms (PLAID PANTS) and performed a traditional fan dance (don’t know if it was Korean or Japanese) and sang beautifully. But. I had a nagging feeling they would finish singing, rush the tables and ask me for stickers.
And there were also…belly dancers.
Belly dancers on Thanksgiving. Groan with me, American readers.
THIS IS NOT THE HOLIDAY ON WHICH YOU WANT TO SEE anyone’s perfectly sculpted abdominals gyrating skillfully. This is a holiday to HIDE the stomach, not bring it out to play. Thanksgiving is about elastic waistbands and groaning tables! Not fireworks (which were cool, but…in the gym? really?) and bikini tops and flexibility. COME ON.
To be fair there was also…”entertainment” from the teachers. About ten of us (yes, I was involved) performed a brilliantly choreographed and vocally crisp a capella rendition of ABBA’s “Take a Chance on Me.” And by brilliantly choreographed I mean there were like three moves we tried to remember, and by vocally crisp I mean we had some parts! and it was a really good and ridiculous time–at least for us performing it was.
Post-dinner–oh, the dinner? One table of “American food” (fake mashed potatoes, a tiny bowl of stuffing, canned cranberry sauce, and a forlorn turkey–it was DELICIOUS and I am not being sarcastic) and a huge buffet of Korean food (also delicious). Post-dinner they crammed everyone on stage for a photo (the guests of honor were from the United States Army base in Daegu. ‘MERICA!) and I managed to position myself just exactly behind another teacher, so in the photo they handed out to everyone I am invisible but Brian has a ‘fro.
And then there was dancing–Kpop and b-boys. And that part was pretty great. Minus the kpop. I think I could live the rest of my life, forever, and never hear it anymore, and be so, so happy. but that’s another post.
Of course the dancing on stage spilled offstage, and led to a mostly impromptu dance party with the teachers and the Korean staff. Don’t recall if the Army folks joined in. In the USA, no one dances on Thanksgiving. Unless they 1. are twirling batons in the Macy’s Day parade or 2. have just scored a touchdown.
But culture clash isn’t always a bad thing.