Yesterday, New Year’s Eve, my Romanian friend and her Korean husband invited us to join them to see the New Year in. Mariana, my Romanian friend and I have been friends since the first year I came to Korea. We met in Paju City up by the North Korean border. She was working in an English book shop at English Village, and I was teaching at a school. I was one of the customers, and she waited on me. I could tell she had an unusual accent, so I asked her where she was from, and she said, “I am from a very small country in Europe than no one has ever heard of.” I thought, “That sounds like Romania,” so I began speaking in Romanian to her, and she was so shocked she almost fell down! We were instant friends! After that, we taught at the same university for several years always visiting back and forth. My daughter and I were delighted when she invited us to spend New Year’s with her and her husband.
She said to come about 8 or 9 o’clock, so we did. However, my son in law was still at work. He had to work Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and is at work today on New Year’s Day. He doesn’t get overtime pay, but he is expected to work anyway. When he got off, a little after 11, he joined us at Mariana’s house.
We began with food. Mariana is a really good cook. However, she had been sick and was apologizing for not inviting us for sarmale, the traditional food they eat in Romania on holidays. Sarmale is wonderful, but she made good food for the evening anyway, even if it wasn’t sarmale. She made salata de beouf, a french potato salad the Romanians all make and eat. If you want the recipe, I made some and blogged about it, so you can find how to make it on my blog. She also made Romanian meat balls and deviled eggs which are always good. We brought Christmas cookies, ice cream, and Coca Cola Zero.
After we ate, we all sat down to play Rumikube, a game Mariana loves to play. If you have every played Rummy with cards, it is very similar, but it isn’t cards. It is tiles. It really didn’t matter to me who won, just that we were able to have a good time and play, but I think Mariana won. After we played for a while, my son in law called, and he had gotten off work and was down at Hwagok subway station, the closest subway station to where we were, so Danny, Mariana’s husband, went to get him. Danny also taught at the same university where Mariana and I taught. That is how Mariana and Danny met. We were all English professors together.
When Danny got back from the subway station with my son in law, we waited to play anything else and gave him time to eat. It was almost 12:00. Mariana is Romanian, and Romanians must have a toast on New Year’s Eve. She was sorry she didn’t have champagne, but she had white wine. We don’t drink, but Romanians drink. They drink differently than Americans. Many Americans think that if they drink, they must get drunk, so there are many who don’t drink in America. However, many Romanians drink and have a whole different attitude toward drinking. The object in Romania is usually to take a drink, but not get drunk. As in any country, there are drunks, but not most of the population. Their parents teach them from the time they are small how to drink without getting drunk. In America, parents forbid it, but responsible Romanian parents think the wine and other liquor is going to be there, so what they need to do is teach their kids how to handle it. In America, many 18 year olds go off to college and spend the first year drinking and drinking and drinking beer until they drop out of school or figure out that they are tired of drinking. One of my professors when I was in graduate school in Texas used to call beer “the national drink of the freshmen.” In Romania, they don’t have that problem because the good parents have taught the kids early to drink, but be responsible with liquor. Every Romanian grows grapes in their yard, and most of them make homemade wine. They are very proud of their homemade wine. When we were there, a man from church even made something called “must,” pronounced “moost,” that was somewhere between grape juice and wine for communion for the church.
Anyway, Mariana got her Romanian white wine out just before midnight. We turned the TV on to watch the countdown, and Danny opened the bottle of wine just at midnight. Next, Mariana poured just a swallow or two of wine in a glass for everyone so we could all toast the New Year. I was so unused to wine that I felt when it was handed to me that it smelled bad, and I didn’t want to drink it. However, Mariana said it was sweet, almost like champagne, which really didn’t help me much because I have never tasted champagne. I wasn’t a party pooper, though, when we toasted, I took a small sip, and then I put it down. It wasn’t that bad. Everyone just had a small sip in their glass, and that is all they drank. We were fulfilling the Romanian tradition of toasting the New Year.
Next, Mariana wanted us to all go around and tell what we were thankful for in the year that just passed and what we wanted to do in the year that was coming. She said she wanted us to do New Year’s resolutions, but no one wanted to do New Year’s resolutions, and she said she understood because everyone breaks them. There was a lot of discussion because my daughter and her husband are thinking about moving to America in the coming year and Danny and Mariana are looking for new jobs.
After that, we got out the “Apples to Apples” game I had brought. It is a hilarious game! You match adjectives to nouns. It sounds like it is a grammar game, but it is a nonsense game that makes everyone laugh. We were getting tired, and we thought we would play one game and be finished. However, they made the one game go on forever on purpose. If you collect 7 adjectives, you are the winner, but when we got close to many of us having 7, they said, “Let’s make it 10 cards instead of 7.” After that, they said, “Let’s make it 13 cards instead of 10,” and then they said, “Okay, we don’t want to quit, so make it 15 instead of 13.” When my son in law got to 15 cards, I said, “It is late, and we need to go home.” Finally, everyone agreed, but I could tell Danny and Mariana still didn’t want us to go. We felt very welcome, and we had a great time, but it was about 2:30 in the morning.
When we left, Mariana said we were going to have to bring her more cookies because Danny had already eaten all the cookies we brought. She also loaded us up with salata de beof and sarmale she had in the fridge they hadn’t finished on Christmas. Sarmale is cabbage rolls with ground pork, rice, and unique spices inside. They aren’t spicy like Korean food. they taste wonderful! I gave Mariana a hug, and we all headed for home.
When we got home, my daughter had bought some non alcoholic strawberry champagne she had in the fridge. She wanted us all to toast with her before we went to bed. I was tired, but I cooperated. We all liked her non alcoholic strawberry champagne much better that the actual wine! She and her husband decided that is what they needed to buy every year to toast the New Year with. Finally, at 3:00, I made it to bed. We never stay out that late.