Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The pig shat fire so we got a good price for it

Korea is tagged as the Land of the Morning Calm. But it's Land of the Morning Calamity if you've had night-time dreams of teeth being pulled, of hair being cut, or of dogs; in the folk tradition of Korean dream interpretation, these are considered very bad omens.

Losing teeth or hair suggests that you will lose someone precious to you, or, more precisely, someone around you will die. Alternatively, another source says that if you dream of losing an upper tooth, disaster will befall a senior, and a lower tooth portends disaster for a junior. I'm not quite sure what the deal with dogs is, but I've heard that Koreans used to call nightmares "dog dreams." Maybe they're haunted by the ghosts of dog soup 보신탕? (The controversial practice of eating dog is increasingly less common in Korea, but before you go thinking that people are snatching Fidos off the street to boil, note that, just with other livestock, only a certain breed of dog is bred specifically for food).

Those are the bad omens, but what of the good? When is it Dream Land of the Morning Celebration?

First, I learned that it's lucky to dream of pigs. I was told that as the totemic animal of banking, pigs signify money coming your way. And in talking with Koreans, I've concluded that luck is usually synonymous with money, or, in the odd case, a baby. Traditionally, dreaming of pigs can also suggest you'll have a baby boy. The feminine counterpart? Snakes. This would potentially trigger an outcry over unfairness (what- the boys are represented by the likes of Babe and we get snakes?! You can kiss my asp) but then I read that large serpents and dragons (venerated creatures you'd be lucky to dream about) are closely associated in Korean lore. Serpents who are deemed worthy are transformed into dragons and ascend heaven on a rainbow. Weeeeeee!

A vision of your house burning down-- would you guess this is worthy of a high five or crying? If you chose high five, high five. Koreans believe that if you dream of a bad thing, often it means something good. Various signs, like fire, are interpreted in this reverse manner. A dream about your house burning down is one of the most auspicious dreams you can have. A dream about death means you'll have a long life. And, a dream about POO is good luck too! Who knew?

I started to muse with my Korean friends over how I could combine elements to make a super rockstar auspicious dream. What if I dreamt a dragon burned my house down? Awesome, they said. What if I dreamt a giant Poo Monster killed me? Thumbs up, they gave me. And then-- get this-- they told me I could SELL my dream.

I don't know how common it is, but they say people can buy and sell dreams. People usually want to keep good luck dreams for themselves, but sometimes they'll sell (the makings of a plot focus for Inception II, perhaps?). If you read the fine print of the dream-selling manual, you'll see that you can't tell anyone about the contents of your dream without nullifying the good luck (just as you can't tell someone your wish or it won't come true), so your only strategy is to say that your dream is really good and hope they believe you. Sample sales pitch: "Wanna buy my good luck dream? It's really good. And lucky. For realsies. 10 bucks."

You and your buyer agree on a price, just as you would if you were selling a can of Spam or a bowl of dog soup, and then you tell your buyer about your dream, and then they'll own the luck of it. SOLD- one lucky dream!

If this is really the case, I wonder why there aren't more dream con artists out there. You could fabricate dreams and turn them for a 100% profit! Minus the guilt overhead. That's it-- I've found a new career path-- I'm going to start building my inventory of auspicious dreams right now. The following illustrates my deluxe model, the Rolls Royce of dreams (PS dreaming of presidents means you will achieve great things):

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Don't Make Me Turn My Goose

My friend's getting married, so I got the couple some geese. US Immigration might take issue with them. "Hi, Jordan, congrats on your wedding! You can visit your presents in quarantine at the airport, k?"

Despite how fun sending live fowl would be, these are actually geese carved out of wood and painted prettily in a traditional Korean style. They are an ancient Korean wedding tradition; they symbolize the love and devotion of wild geese who mate for life. Back in the day, the groom would ride a pony to the home of his soon-to-be in-laws for the wedding ceremony and present his new mother-in-law with a live goose to signify his fidelity to her daughter. This act later evolved into presenting two wooden ducks instead. I would assume that's because wearing your wedding suit while riding a pony and carrying a giant bird who in all probability is not an equine enthusiast is a dangerous recipe. It is an ancient tradition for geese to shit.

Anyhow, on that note, as I've heard it you can give these geese to a couple as a symbol and a blessing. With this image of beauty and poetry in mind, I shopped Seoul's famous neighborhood of Insadong for the lucky pair who would get an all-expense paid trip to the States. It is my hope they will grace Jordan and Daniel's home in a place of honor, or at least be hastily unpacked for display when I come to visit.

I've heard tell of an interesting tradition associated with these beaked love icons. Apparently, when the relationship is going well, they are supposed to face each other, like they're kissing. But... when the relationship has taken a bad turn, you're supposed to turn them away from each other. Many versions of them come with heads on a swivel to accommodate just such a change in mood. We have done much joking about this. Daniel: "Good morning, Jordan! Can you pass the syru-- [sees turned geese] OH NO!" Gina: "Hey guys, wanna hang out? [sees turned geese] Oops, maybe you guys need some time alone..." Or Jordan: "Daniel, you left the seat up AGAIN! [storms over to the geese and deliberately turns them] As the adjusted position of our geese demonstrates, I am PISSED."

Congratulations, Jordan and Daniel! May your wild geese always be kissing.