Sunday, 13 September 2009

Sunday Service

It was a magnificent Sunday morning. The sun’s rays were beaming through our frosted windows, welcoming us to another day in Andeok. Ken and I planned this exquisite day to do our daily chores: laundry, vacuuming, and planning our lessons for the coming week.

Ken was talking with his family on Skype and I was typing my lesson plans, when I heard him yelp. Aunt Kimchi, our captivating landlord, was staring right at us, through our sun room’s glass windows. She had a bright smile on her face and waved me over to the front door of our house. I put on an equally cheery smile and walked outside.

She asked the usual questions, “How are you? Have you had breakfast? Are there any problems with the house? What are you doing today?"

Our landlord thought that we would be bored - staying in the house all day, with nothing to do. Even though I tried to explain to her, many times, that we had plenty to do, that this day was reserved for our many chores, she wouldn’t listen.

“Come to the church. There are many people who want to meet you English teachers.”

“Oh, I see.” I replied, dryly. I could see a problem slowly emerging… I tried to clarify again, “I’m sorry, but we’ve reserved this day for our chores. We have much work to do on our computers, and this is the prime time to talk with both our families.”

“Oh, you mean on the phone? Internet chatting?” she questioned.

“Not really… It’s more than that.” I tried to make things clear. “We don’t get to speak with our families very often, and this is the best time for everyone to get in touch.”

“But if you’re phoning your families, it must only take about fifteen minutes to talk to them,” said Aunt Kimchi.

For ten minutes, I tried to explain the situation to her, but when it finally came down to it, she beat me with, “The entire community is going to be at the service, and I told them that you were coming today. They’ll be sooo disappointed if you don’t go. I’ll wait for you. The service starts at 11:00am.” I checked the time. It was 10:00am.

If the entire town was going to be there, I figured that both Ken and I had to go. I feared that if we refused, we would be shunned for one year by everyone we had just met in the past couple of weeks.

So, I walked back into the house, and gravely looked at Ken.

“We’re going to church,” I stated.

“Oh no we’re not,” he protested.

“The entire town is going to be there, and they’re waiting for us. Aunt Kimchi already told them that we going. I can’t do anything about that.”

So for forty-five hectic minutes, Ken and I took our showers, quickly ate, and prepared ourselves for the unknown.

At 10:50am, Aunt Kimchi came knocking on our door and led us to her church (which was across our rice field). We immediately caught the attention of everyone outside the distinctly marked building. We were presented to the pastor outside of the church, and were then shuffled inside.

Other than the group of singers standing at the front of the white curtain-laden hall, we could see no one else even remotely close to our age. It was as if every member of the retirement home had decided to change venues for the day.

The entire eleven o’clock service was in Korean, but I couldn’t understand it. I managed to translate some words for Ken, but I was pretty much as lost in translation as he was. For an hour and a half, we sat through the service, looking around at the Korean Bibles before us, the retired community spread out around us, and at the streams of sun, peering through the cracks between the curtains. There was even a photographer who was taking photos of us randomly throughout the entire service. Towards the end, the pastor called out our names (the first bit of the service we had understood) and told us he would buy us Bibles and English hymn books for the next week. It looked like we were suddenly being committed to attend every Sunday.

After the announcements were over, Aunt Kimchi led us to the small room connected to the church. There, we ate lunch – kalgooksoo (noodles in broth) and kimchi – and were greeted by a young couple who knew a little English. For half an hour, we made conversation and ate our appetizing meal.

As soon as we finished, we were brought outside by Aunt Kimchi. We were saying our goodbyes, when she replied, “So, we’ll see you again at 2:00pm?” I almost jumped back, startled.

“T-two?” I stuttered.

“Oh yes,” she said happily. “The service continues at two o’clock.”

I looked at Ken and we both wearily sighed (in our heads).

“Take a break,” she added. “Go home, rest, and come back.”

Ken and I both knew that if we weren’t there at 2:00pm, she would come and fetch us. So, we “rested” for an hour, and walked, jaded, back to the church.

The hour service mirrored the first one, with Ken and I sitting like mannequin being displayed in the church hall. After the service completed, we exited the building, and were held back by the photographer. Aunt Kimchi joyfully said, “They want to take your photos – portraits.” So we took glamour shots with each other, individually, and with Aunt Kimchi.

We once again, said our goodbyes, but the day-long event wasn’t over. Aunt Kimchi invited us back to her temporary home, which was next to the apple farm she owned. Once we were there, she treated us to apples and apple cider, and she and I had the best Korean conversation I had had since I arrived in Andeok. She said that I reminded her of her daughter in Daegu, and that we were to become very close, her and I…

As Ken and I were about to leave, Aunt Kimchi held us back for a few minutes. She stocked us with her very own kimchi, seaweed, fifty packets of apple cider, and Andeok rice (which might have come from a nearby rice field!).

After a day-long series of tiring events, Ken and I were pooped. We walked outside and for a brief moment, enjoyed the sunset enveloping the apple orchards with its crimson-yellow glow. Before we reached the road, Aunt Kimchi called out to us, “See you next Sunday!”

Oh boy.

- Jess

1 comment:

  1. Christine(Jess's mom)19 October 2009 at 07:05

    laughing, laughing and laughing... that's all I can say