Australia Days in South Korea

I spent three Australia Days in South Korea, as teacher, tourist and family member-in-law respectively. I could date the first one, because the fact that it was Australia Day was directly relevant to what I did that day. Having consulted my diary and photo album, I can remember what I did on the second and third, but couldn’t have dated them to Australia Day. Here are my (partly edited) diary entries for those three days.

Fri 26 Jan [2007]
[I had pronunciation classes in the morning and general discussion classes in the evening] I knew that Australian wine and cheese was available in E-mart [supermarket], so after my second pronunciation class I headed there for provisions. I’d told [the language college’s owner/director] that I was going to talk about Australia Day. Serving students cheese in class is no problem, but serving alcohol is, so I bought the wine with the thought of serving it to any students or colleagues who wanted to stay afterwards. About 10 minutes after getting back to the school, it started snowing. After lunch I got [a Korean colleague] to take a picture of me holding my Australian flag in the snow. I stood in the snow and [she] stood under cover in the doorway, and the cleaner was just behind her, looking rather bemused.
[Further description of snow]
In the evening, I set up maps, photos, wine and cheese … and noone turned up for the 6.30 class. Actually, one student turned up 20 mintues late and the secretary shunted her into the room. She (the student) later explained that she’d been very early for the 7.30 class, not late for the 6.30 class. At the 7.30 class one student looked at the (opened) cheese and the (unopened) wine bottles and asked if I was going to serve wine. I told him the whole story, but said I could offer them “Australian flavoured water”, so some students drank that. [The manager had left for the evening – this was the one advantage of being in the ‘fishbowl’ classroom, a room with a glass wall looking onto the foyer (and vice versa).] One question one student asked was “Is it true that the first immigrants to Australia were British prisoners?”. Actually, no – the SECOND immigrants to Australia were British prisoners. Discussion class is meant to be them talking to each other under my guidance, but, being Australia Day, it ended up me talking to them, or them asking me questions, but I think everyone (including me) ended the evening knowing more about Australia than they had started it. (Did you know that the official proclamation of the colony of NSW took place on 6 Feb, not on 26 Jan?) [I have since written a masters honours dissertation on language contact between the British and Indigenous peoples, so I know a lot more now than I did then.]

Sat 26 Jan [2008] – clear and cold
[This is the least interesting, as there was no immediate Australian connection. Instead I spent most of the day exploring Korean historic sites to the west of Seoul’s CBD (Sajik Shrine and the Shrine of Dangun, Dongnimmun Independence Gate and Seodaemun Independence Park, Seodaemun Prison). In the evening we went to a housewarming dinner for a newly-married friend of Inyoung.]

Mon 26 Jan [2009] – foggy, then moderate cloudy, but dry. Today was Seollal, or lunar new year. This skips around in the western calendar, like Easter. This year it just happened to fall on the same day as Australia day [in 2015 it will be 19 February]. We left home at about 7.30, and the trip took just under an hour. I wore hanbok, but Inyoung wore comfortable driving clothes and changed there. Inyoung’s older younger brother lives on the other side of Seoul, but now there’s a bypass motorway. In the morning there were two brothers and their families and us. We had a short service of hymns, bible readings and a talk from one of the brothers (all in Korean). Seollal was originally a pagan festival, and some people still celebrate it in that style. Other people have “christianised” it to some degree. Inyoung’s sisters, with various members in tow, arrived later, having first gone to their respective husband’s family’s gatherings. At one point I counted 21 people in a small apartment. (I just counted – there were 25 total, though maybe not all at the same time.) It was a disrupted sort of day, with comings and goings, and meals at odd hours. One centre of attention was 3-week-old [great-niece] who didn’t seem at all fussed by it. 18-month-old [great-nephew] found the electronic horn on his cousin’s toy car. In the evening I went to a pool hall with the rest of the males. [Long description of the local varieties of pool.] On the way there I spotted a pub with “VB” [Victoria Bitter – a famous Australian beer, my personal favourite] advertisements outside. That would have been something – wandering in wearing full hanbook and saying “G’day, mate! A slab of VB, please!”

My comment in my travel blog at the time was 'Daejeon's Australian community celebrates Australia Day'.

My comment in my travel blog at the time was ‘Daejeon’s Australian community celebrates Australia Day’.


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