Friday, October 06, 2006

Chuseok and Family (10.5.06)

FAMILY - Vahid, Camille, Adalia, Iyabo, Magdala & Stephanie Posted by Picasa

According to Monk Sun Jae, a professor at Dongguk University here in Korea, "The origin of Chuseok is traced back to the Shilla Kingdom. On the occasion of the full moon of August in the lunar calendar, people held a festival to celebrate that year's harvest. Singing and dancing the night away, people enjoyed the foods prepared by each other. Chuseok is a warmhearted tradition of our ancestors."

Present-day Koreans celebrate Chuseok much in the same way as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Kwanzaa are celebrated in the US. There isn’t the emphasis on turkeys, commercialism, or the Nguzo Saba, but 90% of the country heads home to feast and be with family.

Like Koreans during this time of year, I found myself giving thanks for family and friends yesterday too. I’m grateful for the many connections I’ve made with people here in Korea, but yesterday I found myself counting blessings because I was with family.

Stephanie is the sister of my dear friend Cynthia’s friend, Crystal. I met Cynthia when I was in Peace Corps in Nicaragua and she and her boyfriend were traveling through Central America back in ’99. I’ve never met Crystal, and even though I haven’t seen Cynthia since I moved away from DC in ’03, we’re always in touch.

Iyabo is the daughter of friends of Mama Shukuru, a friend of my parents’ from their days at The East in Brooklyn in the early 70’s. I met Mama Shukuru once when I was in San Francisco for a wedding in 2002, but I’ve never met Iyabo’s family.

I have very few friends on My Space, but what I love about my real network of friends and family is how we are always trying to put people in touch with one another. Cynthia sent me an email several months ago saying Stephanie was in Korea, and that I should get in touch with her. I received an email from Stephanie shortly after we met, saying that she met Iyabo (whom I hadn’t met yet), through her friend, Camille. I met Adalia and Vahid when we all got together at Everest (excellent Nepalese food!) to celebrate Iyabo’s birthday shortly thereafter. Adalia suggested we get together for a Soul Food night during Chuseok. I invited Magdala to join us shortly after meeting her at a restaurant I was in for another friend’s birthday party.

Over a delicious karamu (feast) of collard greens, fruit salad and a noodle dish prepared by Camille; garlic mashed potatoes, rice and lemonade prepared by Adalia; an eggplant dish from Iyabo’s native Guyana; and fried chicken prepared by Ellis, we had our own Chuseok celebration. I wish I had an oven and pie shells so I could have contributed sweet potato pie to the meal, but in the midst of such abundant blessings I could not focus on any negativity. I found myself personally giving thanks for the distant family who made it possible for this family to assemble here in Korea.

It was such a beautiful night we found ourselves planning to make it a monthly event. Thank You, Kahmsahmnida, Asante Sana, Gracias, Grazie, and Merci Beaucoup to all of my family, both here and abroad. I love you.



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