Teacher friends planned a Christmas part in their apartment, which has only foreigner residents. They posted a sign in the lobby saying “Christmas Party” with the time, date and apartment number.
Somehow the Mutawa (Religious Police) got word of it and objected. They came to the apartment building, removed the sign, and came to the apartment listed. They told the teachers they could not have the party, and that the Mutawa would be back at the date and time mentioned to ensure it.
Sound far-fetched? No, and it’s not only Christmas that is un-Islamic, and thus banned. According to an article on the bikyamasr website, a foreigner was just arrested on the street for celebrating the New Year’s Eve with balloons.
Saudi Arabia arrests foreigner for celebrating New Year’s with balloons
So, when I was in line in the grocery store the day after Christmas, and a nice guy in full Saudi dress first helped me unload my cart, then wished me, “Merry Christmas!” …I said, “Thank you” but wondered
…is this a trick question?
Christmas Dinner …oops no, better make that “Graduation Dinner”
I was wandering around in E-Mart two days before the Korean holiday of Chuseok. (This would be like being in SuperTarget two days before Thanksgiving or maybe even Christmas.)
I was first surprised because there were dozens of women throughout the store dressed in traditional Korean clothing, called Hanbok.
Occasionally, I’ve seen women wearing these at a wedding hall or cultural performance, but in this case, I realized, they were sales representatives for various Chuseok gift lines.
Last year I received toothpaste and soap from my employer and a small suitcase-sized box of dried seaweed from friends. This year, I received a gift certificate for a restaurant. Cool!
Boxed Chuseok gifts were hot sellers at E-Mart that day, as shoppers filled their carts with a diverse selection of items:
- Alcohol: Korean traditional soju or Makgeolli, or Jack Daniels or Chivas whiskey
- Drinks: Korean ginseng tea, aloe vera juice, or Minute Maid or Del Monte brand orange & grape juice sets
- Coffee & Tea: Expensive loose green tea sets or instant Maxim or Taster’s choice coffee
- Oil: Grapeseed oil bottles
- Herbs: Fresh ginseng roots in boxed sets, set on an elegant red or gold cloth
- Canned food: Boxed sets of tuna or spam, or combinations of SPAM and dried seaweed packets artfully arranged
- Fresh fruit: Boxes sets of three large peaches, or a whole flat of purple grapes
In Busan Plaza tonight, people were celebrating the national holiday of Buddha’s Birthday. About 25 women were walking, with one man who was beating a drum, and one man leading the way. They were repeating a simple chant, and made a loop around the tall sculpture that was lit up with lights, and hung with lanterns.
Then, a crowd gathered around the fountain and for about 30 minutes, there were a variety of songs using the fountain, laser lights, and video screen of Busan highlights. At the end, projected colorful images of spots and creatures moving on the ground inspired the kids to chase after them.
Then a reporter from KNN (Korean Network News) stopped me and interviewed me. Omigosh, I hope that doesn’t make it to TV, as I wasn’t exactly articulate and ended with a mishmash of what was supposed to be thank you very much, ”changmai kamsahamnida” but was missing a few important syllables, so was more like “changkamsida”. oops