I'm going to tell you about Maxine's first birthday party, but first I'm going to explain why it has taken me more than two weeks to do so.
Things have been busy here, as usual, but I had one unusual assignment: file my taxes for the past three years. Yesterday I finally finished getting all the paperwork done, and today I was going to mail it, but I found that my computer at work was not up to the task of printing a modern (i.e. post-millenial) Adobe PDF file. In fact, I found that my computer at work was not even up to the task of installing the latest version of Adobe Acrobat (A.A.).
Granted, "Acrobat" is kind of a funny name for this program. When one thinks of acrobats, some adjectives that come to mind are "slender", "flexible", "entertaining", whereas the Adobe version of an acrobat is more like an old, fat, cigar-smoking, annoying Marlon Brando who you only keep around because he can damn well get the job done.
Anyway, tomorrow I will have to beg access to a computer in the main office, or perhaps go to one of the student computer labs, because we will be getting new computers soon (i.e. before the next millennium), and it's not worth the hassle of getting this one to cooperate. And there's nothing I can do about it here at home, so I am putting the final touches on this entry (which I started on Maxine's birthday) today. So back to the birthday party:
First of all, it cost us just a bit more than my average take-home pay for one month, not taking into account that our apartment is provided as part of my salary. I am not complaining, it's just that I enjoy irony. For example:
Usually when we go to a buffet, I pay around $70 and come away completely stuffed. This time I paid more than 20 times as much, and was hungry by the time I got home. Because, as the Hokey-Pokey puts it, that's what it's all about.
It was all worth it, though. I didn't eat much because I was moving around, talking to our guests, encouraging them to sign the guest book (like in the next picture) and making sure they all had enough to eat. We had a total of 80 people, I believe, with about a dozen of them being young enough that we didn't pay full price. Of course, I didn't eat my money's worth, and Horyon didn't eat anything. Apparently she was unable to play hostess while sitting down with the occasional plate of food. Also on the no-food-thanks list was Youngwhan, Horyon's brother. He took all of the pictures you see here, and was also unable to combine that with eating. It didn't help any that Horyon to move his stuff so that someone could use his chair, but as I demonstrated, creativity and determination can get one at least a couple of plates of food.
The guest book was included as part of our photo services (see the Birthday Photos entries for details on that). It was a hardcover book with photos facing blank pages that our guests could sign. Some of them just wrote their names, and some filled up half a page with words of wisdom and blessing for Maxine. It is a lovely souvenir, and a reminder of the friendships and family that we have here in Korea.
We had the party at Bexco, which is a huge exposition/convention center. It also happens to be where D.A. and I went for the Star Wars Exhibition. If you buzz over to their homepage you can see what it looks like, and if you dig a bit in their website you will find that "The Bexco is modeled after a seagull soaring to the east-south Pacific Ocean, combined with a cruise ship." Lucky seagull, being combined with the Love Boat like that.
Our party was actually at the Bexco Buffet, which I couldn't find anything about on their website. But to get there, you have to go through the front space, which is called:
"The Glass Hall, of light green double-glass,
is a unique and marvelous hall hallucinating
you are in an extensive three-dimensional space,
which is rarely to be seen in any convention
center in the world."
I wish we could have had the party there, because what party isn't improved by hallucinating that you are in 3-D? Instead we were stuck in our conventional 2-D space. On the other hand, by the time they started the birthday party portion of the event, I may have already been hallucinating, because I saw some things that I would not have been able to imagine without the assistance of substances used to alter the state of one's consciousness. I would never have dreamed up:
The Golden Cowgirl, or her cohorts, the two clowns with bottoms like that of baboons.
I know that you can only see one clown in this picture, but trust me, there were two. And it is an added bonus that you cannot see his bottom in this picture, or any of the pictures we have from the party.
You can see some of our guests in the pictures.
I like this picture in particular, because you can actually see that we had some foreigners at the party. And of course, my buddy Earl was slugging back a brewsky. I should have known that if there were only one picture with him in it (and there was), he would be drinkin' (which he was).
There are many pictures of Korean friends and relatives, but these are the only two with my foreign friends. So if you came to the party and are waiting for a picture with you in it, you might as well stop waiting and start photo-shopping. Apparently Youngwhan had some troubles with his camera that night. I'm afraid that some of the pictures are very dark, and a lot of them are blurry.
Our home-movies came out fairly well, but I have no idea how to post a movie on here, and most of you are probably not interested in watching the whole thing anyway.
So as I mentioned, we had the Golden Cowgirl (as I dubbed her) and the baboon-butt clowns to spearhead the entertainment for the evening. They played very loud music, used a loud soundsystem for their microphones, danced around, and guaranteed that it would be a memorable evening for everyone involved.
Except for them, of course. Thirty minutes earlier I caught a glimpse of them doing the same exact show in an adjoining room. Apparently Golden Cowgirls and baboon-butt clowns are pretty popular. I wouldn't have guessed.
A key point of any first-year birthday party is when the guest of honor is given the opportunity to choose whichever item catches her eye. The item she chooses traditionally foretells her future. It was my job to explain for our guests in English what was going on.
We set in front of her a pencil (indicating that she would be an author or scholar), a bundle of string (long life), a cross on a necklace (ministry/mission field), a mouse (cat) (no, sorry, I meant computer geek. Wrong mouse.), a microphone (entertainer), and a stethoscope (manufacturer of medical supplies) (Sorry again, I meant "doctor"). Traditionally, parents also set out some money or coins, indicating that their child will grow up to be a greedy person. (No, sorry, it means they will MAKE a lot of money, not that they necessarily LOVE money.) We decided to pass on that one. We tossed around the idea of putting out a tiarra, indicating that she would grow up to be a princess, but decided that she had already pretty much accomplished that one.
Maxine chose the pencil. Perhaps because both of her parents have had jobs involving writing, perhaps because there was a cute helicopter-thingey at the end of the pencil. Only God knows what Maxine will grow up to be, and I doubt that God reveals His plan in this manner. Still, it wouldn't surprise me. She already likes books.
The most fascinating thing on our display was the microphone. I may have to just write about it in another post, because we still have it, and I find it to be strangely fascinating. It is a Hello Kitty microphone, and it doesn't amplify your voice. Instead, it has four buttons, and the head flashes in time to the sounds it makes. One of the buttons makes it play a song, and it cycles through quite a few before repeating. The ABC song, the one about Sippin' Cider through a Straw, Do a Deer, and one I don't know.
How about that. It only plays four songs, and I thought it played "quite a few before repeating." I'm telling you, this Hello Kitty Microphone is extraordinary.
Anyway, one of the buttons makes a cymbal sound, and one makes a buzzing/referee whistle sound. The fourth button starts a little conga riff. It cycles in just four beats, but it is strangely hypnotic. When I hear it, I can't help but tap my foot or sway to the rhythm. Cowbells, conga drums, maybe a little snare in there. The other little songs it plays are electronic beep songs, standard stuff for baby toys. But press the conga riff button and it instantly cuts to the conga riff, taking it to a whole new level. The contrast between the two can be shocking, and dreamlike in the way that events and objects in a dream are seemingly disconnected from each other.
But there's more. While it's conga riffing or playing one of the four other songs, if you press the cymbal button, it layers cymbal clashes on the main beats of the song. Ditto for the referee whistle button. It makes the kiddie tunes into harsh, clashing nightmare soundtracks that jar the nerves and make your teeth grind and sweat break out on your brow and you want to grab the damn thing and throw it across the room and then you hit the conga riff button and...
You're back in that hypnotic dance. Doo doot doot da-doo doot da-doot doo...
And as you read this, and wonder what the phone number is for the Korean mansion of rubber rooms and whether they understand English well enough for you to tell them where I live, I am wracking my brain for a way to upload these sounds to the internet, so that you too can be taken away from reality for a brief moment that lasts forever.
Doo doot doot da-doo doot da-doot doo,
Doo doot doot da-doo doot da-doot doo,
Doo doot doot da-doo doot da-doot doo...