So we thought about it and decided to make a big mound of snow and then shape it into a snowman, An hour later, we had a four foot mound of snow, starting with a wide base and tapering off to a head. We plucked a carefully carved carrot into make a nose and decorated the rest of the features with black stones. For finishing touches, we tied an old sweater around the "shoulders" and topped it off with a paper birthday hat from my work party. We were excited and happy with our creation.
When I walked into work the next afternoon, my boss gestured to the snowman and declared that she know my husband made it because it was "American style". I asked what she meant.
"A Korean snowman is made of two big balls and has a black hat."
I explained the problem with the snow not packing and how we cleverly maneuvered around the problem. As for the hat? It was the only one I had. She smiled as nodded as she usually does when I am speaking.
As each student, parent and bus driver arrived they asked about the snowman's lack of a defined body or black hat. I fumed silently as each student was given the explanation that the snowman was "American style".
After about the 10th explanation, a light bulb went off. Unwittingly, my boss was actually giving me a compliment.
The sameness culture pervades South Korea. Everyone does everything the same way and if you don't you are questioned and asked to explain yourself. Sometimes, this place reminds me of a scene from A Wrinkle in Time, where upon arriving on a new planet, Meg and Charles notice that each is identical and that in each driveway is an identically dressed child bouncing a ball to the same rhythm. Each Korean snowman probably DOES have exactly two balls and is topped off with the same, Lottemart bought, black hat.
My snowman, however, is American. In the face of a challenge, my husband and I rose above by putting our American ingenuity to use.
We thought creatively.
We built a snowman, despite all odds.
You, Mr. Korean Snowman, would have given up when you realized you couldn't make proper snowballs or didn't have the requisite black hat.
But not us, the Americans. We thought for ourselves. And we persevered. Long live American ingenuity!
Meet Gene. He's visiting from America.