Sunday, March 27, 2011

One Hundred Mornings

In England we have special days we mark down in our calendars, and when the day is done we move on, perhaps returning to remember them as annual anniversaries. But when I came to live in Busan, I learned that Koreans are counters of days. So whether it be 100 days after your first date, 100 days after your wedding, 49 days after the death of a loved one, 15 days after Seollal, or some other date of note, people are busy counting them off on a calendar, or perhaps more probably now, their iPhone apps. Maybe it’s this mentality which brought us Hadan’s ‘Five days market’, which being every five days essentially ensures that you never know when to go.

Sometimes the counting isn't indefinite though, because when it comes to personal relationships - as my wife so profoundly told me - "once you get married you tend not to celebrate any more."

The 100th day after a baby is born is a significant event in Korea. If it were not for all the other counting of dates, it might be sadly indicative of the historically high rates of infant mortality here, but as it is, it merely seems another manifestation of the need to mark certain intervals on a calendar. Photos must be taken, and much like with Buddhist offerings, it seems necessary to involve a good amount of food. I'd been busy with work, but had developed a suspicion beforehand that my wife was planning a little more than this, given the number of baby-related Internet browsing and phone calls she seemed to be making. Packages started to arrive.

So it was that by the time the 100th day came, the wall of our lounge was improbably covered with a large printed cloth banner featuring our son's name and face along with the legend "Happy 100th Day", surrounded by the entire world's supply of purple balloons. Our son was wedged in a sitting position on the couch, and the table in front of him was filled with fruit and a cake - into which three numeric candles '1' '0' and '0' were placed.

The photos were taken, but in that respect this was merely a warm-up for the big event that was to come.

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