Friday, July 4, 2014

The Flag Cake and the Fourth

I baked a chocolate cake last night and woke up a bit earlier than usual this morning to decorate it with vanilla frosting, strawberry jam, frozen blueberries, and white chocolate chips. The result was the delicious Pan of Patriotism pictured above. Well, I don't actually know if it was delicious or not, since I didn't taste any of it. 왜?!

왜냐면, This American flag cake was for the teachers at my school, in celebration of American Independence Day. They all told me the cake and the chocolate chip cookies I made were 진짜 맛있어요, so that's good enough for me! I also brought two huge watermelons in a suitcase, because they are in season right now, and because, as I tried to explain in Korean, "In America, on Independence Day, people get together with friends and family and barbecue outside and eat watermelon... and there are fireworks..." It's quite different from the somewhat solemn Korean Independence Day (August 15th), and actually in comparison it seems rather frivolous.

But the point is that my job is to share American culture in a positive way, and in Korea, food is one's best bet for building relationships. All of my school's faculty are amazed that I made the cake and cookies from scratch. Literally, they have a hard time believing that a cake can come from anywhere other than the corner bakery (ovens are rare in Korean households). But tasting is believing in this case. I'm happy to have helped everyone start their day right: with sugar and a healthy dose of red, white, and blue.

A great morning continued with a great day. I was productive during my desk-warming hours, preparing for some workshops I'll run at the 2014 Fulbright Orientation (which begins, incidentally, tomorrow!) later this month and taking care of some errands. My "Before I Leave" to-do list seems to get longer every day, and I'm a bit worried. But I'll take things one step at a time.

My students finished their final exams today, so everyone I met in the hallways and at lunch was quite happy. Also, more alumni came back to visit! Well, they didn't come to visit me this time, as this particular group of boys was... well, they were my sleepers, so I didn't have the opportunity to get very close to them. Still nice to see them, though.

And in the evening, all the faculty celebrated the end of finals and the approaching end of the semester with dinner at a wonderful barbecue restaurant by the Junam Reservoir called 호수에 그림 하난 ("One Picture at the Lake"?). We ate outdoors and watched the sun set over the mountains and the lake. Everything was lit golden, and large cranes flew by on occasion. It really was lovely. Even though I didn't get my fireworks or pool party, I am still grateful that I got to spend this Fourth of July in good company and in a beautiful place.
Junam Reservoir at sunset. The water is covered with hundreds of thousands of lotus plants.
Even indoor soccer at taekgyeon tonight couldn't ruin my good mood. Actually, soccer was saved by the middle school taekgyeon students, who stuck around to join us for our game. These kids are so full of energy, it's hard not to enjoy anything when they bring their game on at full volume. The best part was that the kids on the sidelines would yell out a constant live commentary, a skill they'd picked up from World Cup announcers. They also referred to me as 박지성 since I was scoring the most goals (not terribly difficult to do when you're a head taller than all your opponents). The only time I'll ever be compared to a professional athlete is when I'm playing indoor soccer with the taekgyeon kids...

Well, a very happy Fourth of July to all of you Americans! Celebrate your good luck and your liberty, crack some jokes, and then remember to support ongoing efforts to secure freedom around the world.

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