Celebrating Children’s Day (어린이날) with a Parade (05/05/19) NSLI-Y Korea AY

05/05/19 Sunday

Today was Children’s day which is basically what it sounds like: a day to celebrate children just like Mother’s and Father’s Day (except in Korea the two are not on separate days but on one collective Parent’s Day.) A lot of events for children are held during this weekend and of course kids are showered with gifts. 

My current host family consists of two older daughters so they had nothing planned for the occasion. I ended up getting in touch with my previous host family again and we planned to get dinner together and attend a parade! My host mom messaged me all the information for the location and time of the event and eventually the day rolled around. 

To be honest, I was kind of nervous about meeting my host family again. We had talked very frequently about meeting up more after we made gingerbread houses (that blog —> linked here) but they always seemed to be free when I had program obligations or school activities. Because of our uncooperative schedules, I hadn’t seen them in more than three months. I was nervous that they wouldn’t be impressed by my progress in Korean (or that they wouldn’t even notice that there was a difference). I was afraid that my siblings would be awkward with me and that things wouldn’t feel the same. 

I also had no idea where we were meeting so I loaded up the address on my Kakaomaps app and took lots and lots of screenshots. I also took advantage of street view to figure out how I would get from the subway station to the meeting spot. (I had to do this because there would be no wifi to help me out once I left the station and I had no international data and usually relied on free wifi sources). Luckily, it was only a 5 minute walk and there were even signs on my way there advertising the Children’s Day event. Turned out, I was entering the outdoor mall through the back entrance—where the parking garage was at. 

I walked into the mall and it reminded me a lot of a promenade shopping mall back in America. Besides Lafesta, this was my first time going to such a place in Korea. However, unlike Lafesta Mall, Bella Citta (the name of this mall) had a lawn and lots of green places. I called my host mom and she told me where they were but I had trouble finding it from just looking around. I tried walking around for a bit in search of the said section she told me she was at, but no luck. I also began getting more nervous as it seemed that all the families and children were staring at me as I surely looked confused walking around the perimeter of the mall. Eventually, I stopped to look at a directory when I felt two pairs of small hands tap me on the back. I whip around to see my three host siblings all wearing costumes and smiling widely at me. I immediately shrieked and grabbed them all for a tight hug. 

They took me back to where their mom was sitting and we caught up for a bit before grabbing something to eat. We knew that it might be one of the last times we would be seeing each other before I left so wanted to make the most of it. 

For dinner we ate at the food court of the mall which not only had a large outside area but the inside was just as impressive. The top floor even had a movie theater! We ate 떡국 (rice cake soup) and chicken skewers. After we quickly ate our food, we had to go get ready for the parade we would be walking in. Basically, the event was that the kids would get to dress up in fun costumes and walk behind a marching band that would play fun tunes. My sisters were dressed up as a witch and perhaps a lady attending a masquerade ball (?) while my brother was some sort of super hero.

With the band, we walked around the inside of the mall and then went outside and walked around the courtyard part before stopping at the main square for a full on performance by the marching band. It was a lot of fun dancing around with my host siblings. At one point, the band played YMCA and one of the drummers would do the arm movements along with the chorus when you are supposed to spell out YMCA. No one else (kids and the parents in the parade) would do the dance, though! It seemed that no one knew the song well enough and definitely not the hand movements. I was, for some reason, feeling myself so I started doing it by myself which only prompted double the stares (Let’s just say I was the only foreigner in the parade). I also tried reaching my siblings but they were just not catching on. My host mom was laughing at me but the band member made eye contact with me and gave me a thumbs up. Eventually, the younger of the two of my host siblings started copying me and we got a whole wave going of a bunch of small Korean children dancing to YMCA.

The best part of the parade was when we made our way outside and since the sky was darkening since we were approaching the cooler night, the view of the dark sky against the string lights hanging from around the outside was really pretty. At the end the band also played their own rendition of Baby Shark (That really popular children’s song from Korea that also made its way to other countries as well.)

After the parade, they collected their free movie vouchers (for participating) and we hung around the mall for a bit. Looking at the different stores (our favorite being the stationary stores) and even stopped at the theater. We did not watch a movie but we did wait in the lobby area and eat popcorn and peppero. 

Eventually, my host family brought me back to their place and I hung out with the kids for a bit longer. They gave me a package that was received a little after we met up in January which included my Christmas gift from my friend Jazmin from back home (My friend group did secret Santa! I had finally gotten it!) The gift was a little book filled with 500 reasons to be happy. It was the cutest thing! 

Eventually curfew rolled around and I had to make my way home. I said goodbye to my host siblings and my host sisters whined about me leaving. My host brother grabbed onto my legs and tried keeping me inside because he did not want me to leave. It made me so emotional seeing them like that. I know I’m going to miss them an insanely amount. It hurts me to think about it. 

We promised to meet up one more time before I leave so today would not be the last meeting. I left the apartment and made the very familiar walk back to the station. I don’t know but I cried the whole way back. Luckily it was really dark (besides the couple of street lamps) and no one else was walking in my direction so I was free to ugly cry as much as I needed.

I just could not help but think that this would be my last walk from their house to the station. A walk that I dreaded sometimes when it was cold and in the early mornings on school commutes but it was also a walk I grew to love as it meant getting on a train and having an adventure or doing something fun at the end of it. I thought back to my first ever walk to the station with my host dad and, along for the ride, my little host sister in tow. I was so excited then. A whole year of memories waiting to enfold in front of me.

I rode the train back in silence. 

I came home and couldn’t stay in that negative (albeit sentimental) mood as I was greeted by my adorable host dog. I did some Korean studying before calling it a night. We had no school or Korean class tomorrow as it was a public holiday for Children’s Day. I would get to sleep in~ And NOT wake up early for a long commute to school.

That is all for this blog post. I hope you enjoyed! It is kind of weird reading these posts over again because in light of the world today, these experiences seem like a lifetime ago–a normal that almost feels surreal. I am currently at home taking a medical leave of absence rather than attending my university in New York which definitely shakes up my life even more. But here we are, living day by day like everyone else. Well, thanks for reading.

  • Emma 엠마 

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