The hotel was a typical chain hotel on a small mountain near Seoul Tower. Traffic was insane getting there. Colleen loudly proclaimed that she could “never drive in this city.” Sara glanced at her and cringed at the low-cut, red blouse she was wearing. Sara had never seen her mother’s cleavage in 37 years, and wished that she would never have to. Not only were there red streaks in her hair now, but she had started wearing lipstick. Apparently, someone at The Bay’s cosmetics counter had told her the colour of the season was “orange.”

“I really wish my dad was still with us. He really wanted to see you get married.”

“Well, I don’t know mom. He really wanted to see me get married to a nice, WHITE boy.”

“Eh? I don’t think he really cared either way. It was all a bunch of show. He always liked Rupa well enough.”

“Well, apart from the time he asked Ryan when he was going to give up playing around with that ‘darkie’ girl and find himself a proper woman to marry.”

“Oh Gosh. I was so embarrassed. She was sitting right there too! But he did warm up to her later on.”

“I guess so.”

“You were his favourite grandchild, ya know?”


“Yes. He saw a lot of his brother in you.”

“He always said I looked like Aunty Kat.”

“Well, back in her day…”

“I know. Bette Davis, Ann Margaret.”


A private dining room had been reserved. Sara had insisted. Not so much for their own privacy, but so that they wouldn’t disturb the rest of the diners with the circus. It was a moderately sized room overlooking the river and a large portion of the almost sci-fi-looking city. Several other Korean relatives had already arrived and were trying to communicate with Uncle Joe, Dad, the Angel, and Ryan. Rupa wore a green sari and had her feet propped up on a stool. Tak-Sin was giving her a foot massage, to the chagrin of mother-in-law who did not seem to approve. Tiffany ran over and grabbed onto Sara’s arm and held on tightly.

“Aunty? Don’t leave me alone. These people are scary.”

“Why? What’s wrong?”

“They keep touchin’ me. That lady over there tried to make me eat an octopus leg. I kept saying ‘no-thank-you’ but she wouldn’t listen.”

“Tiff, they are just trying to be friendly.”

“How can they eat octopuses? That is just gross. And I don’t understand anything they say. But that lady over there gave me some money. Look!  It’s like 10-thousand dollars!” Tiffany held out a 10-thousand won note.

“Sweetie, that’s worth only about ten bucks.”

“No, it’s not. Look. It says 10-thousand.”

“They have different money here and it isn’t worth the same.”

“So what can I get for 10-thousand dollars here?”

“About the same as you can get for ten bucks at home.”

“Well, that’s not really fair.”

Dad waved from where he and the Angel were standing in front of a bay window. He’d lost even more weight and had grown a beard. Angel was wearing a beautiful, rust-coloured, cocktail dress with a gold wrap. Her hair and makeup…flawless.

“I’d better go talk to your grandpa,” she said to Tiffany.

“I’m comin’ too. I told you not to leave me!”

“I won’t!  Come on Joon Yong. Time to meet my dad.” She grabbed the arm of her man and pulled him away from some old crone wearing a traditional Korean hanbok that he was talking to.

Herb gave her a hug and shook “Bob’s” hand a bit too enthusiastically. The Angel knew better than to give Sara a hug or kiss on the cheek, and in Dear Abby fashion reached out lightly and touched Sara on the shoulder exclaiming “You look just radiant Sara!  And such a handsome groom too!”

“So, you’re my future son-in-law, eh? Sara’s, uh, told uh…and I’m so glad we can finally meet you. So your name is Joan-Yawn, right?”

“Bob” cast Sara a knowing look of triumph then turned to Herb and Joanne. “My Korean name is Joon-Yong but English name is Bob.”

The Angel chuckled. “Well, that will certainly be easier to remember.”

After about ten minutes of polite chit-chat with dad and the Angel, “Bob” excused himself and dragged Sara along by the arm when mother-in-law screeched at him from across the room. Fortunately, the little leach niece decided to stay with her grandfather…well, it looked like she had decided to stay with the Angel who offered her a tube of Chapstick to try out.

Sara was introduced to dozens of smiling men and women. Most of the older women wore the traditional Korea hanbok and the men were in shiny, silk suits. They almost resembled eels in the slithery fabric. The younger relatives and friends were immaculate in their best Chanel, Burberry, and Gucci suits. She nodded and smiled until her neck and face hurt. She laughed along with the relatives who pointed to her cleavage, and accepted soft handshakes, and offers of wine and cocktails. They posed for countless pictures with dozens of different relatives until Sara could take no more and insisted on sitting down for a moment at a small bench near the bay window. “Bob” came and sat beside her, setting his big hand softly on her knee.

“What the Hell is this? It was supposed to just be a small dinner for our families,” she hissed at “Bob.”

“These are my family.”

“All of them?”

“Some are like family. My father has many business partner.”

“I thought your father was retired. Christ. I really need a smoke.”

“Bob” leaned in and whispered into her ear. “I love you.”

And in Han Solo fashion, she leaned back and whispered “I know.”

She snuck out a side door, and over toward an exit to an outdoor terrace where she could see a small group of well-dressed gentlemen enjoying their post-dinner cigarettes. She wished Ned had been able to come…well, she wished that he had been there at that moment to supply her with a joint. “Bob” did not approve whatsoever of any “herbal refreshment” and almost cried when she told him that she’d smoked weed many times before.

“You must promise never to do again.”

“No. I’m not going to promise that.”

“Why? Why?”

“Because it’s a promise I can’t keep.”

“But I don’t want you become drug addicted.”

“Sweetie, that is not going to happen.”

“Drugs is terrible!  You must stop. I insist you!”

“Oh do you? Big, tough, man now, are you? You have a lot to learn about Western women.”

Conversation amongst the men on the terrace stopped the moment she stepped out the door. She lit up her cigarette then suddenly realized there were about half a dozen pairs of eyes staring at her. Wow. Really? The skirt was new; a fitted, black number with a modest slit up the side. The top was dark green silk covered by a lighter green cardigan. She did look good, and had taken some extra time with her makeup. But she didn’t think she had looked THAT good. Maybe she had been wrong. The eyes continued to stare but now they started having a discussion.

“Yaka yaka yaka.”


“Yaka! Yaka yaka yaka yaka yaka.”

“Aaaah. Yaka!  Yaka yaka.”

Suddenly one of the gentlemen coughed something up from his throat and spat it out onto the ground on the side. Then an older man started shoving one of the younger men in her direction. The younger man protested with wails of “YA-KAAAA!” It seemed he finally caved in and walked in her direction bashfully. He didn’t look her in the eye and stared off to the left.

“Excuse me? Can I ask you a question?”


“How are you?”

“Uh, fine. Is that your question?”

“Hahaha. You bery punny!  You are prom Russia?”

“Uh, no. I am from Canada.”

“Oh my GAW!  I so solly. Bery solly.” He scuttled back to his cohorts and quietly repeated the converstion:  “yakayakayakayakayakayakayakayakayaka.” They all responded with loud “oohs” and “ahs” then immediately stubbed out their cigarettes, bowed, spat, and scampered out the door, each one saying “solly!” as they passed her by.

Sara smiled, and decided to have a second smoke.


“Hi handsome. You need a break too?” She handed “Bob” the newly-lit cigarette. “The strangest thing just happened…” She recounted the story of the smoking gentlemen.

“They ask you if you are Russian?”

“Yeah, but I explained…”

“WHERE they go?”

“I don’t know, honey. They just left.”

“I KILL them!  Mother-puckers!”

“Hey! Calm down!”

“They think you are prostitute!”

“No, they didn’t. He just asked if I was Russian.”

“In Korea same-same. Russia girl and prostitute is same.”

“That’s quite offensive.”

“Aish!  Sara, you so dippicult!  You must prease try to understand Korean culture.”

“Why do they think I am a hooker? I thought I dressed rather conservatively, actually.”

“I think because you are woman in hotel smoking the cigarette.”

“Well, for your information I cost $1000 per night and you have to pay extra for a blow-job.”

“Bob” laughed. “You are so weird.”

“Oh, I’m not kidding sir. Get your cash out!” She discreetly put her hand inside his front pocket.

“Oh my, sir. That’s a big wad of cash.”

He gave her a discreet kiss, a wink and a smile and they headed back into the dining room where it appeared people had been waiting for them. Everyone applauded as they entered the room. Sara blushed and beamed, then seated herself next to Colleen while “Bob” ran off to mother-in-law who was beckoning.

“What on Earth is she wearing?” Sara whispered to her mother, looking in the direction of Aunty Kat. Everyone had settled down at four long tables positioned around the room. “Bob’s” relatives took up three of the tables, while his parents, sister and her husband, and granny sat with the Bell clan at the fourth.

“Oh, it’s just awful, isn’t it? She showed me that stupid hat before we left. I told her the thing was ratty and old but she says that it kind of looks like the hats farmers over here wear in the rice-paddies. I say to her that it looks ridiculous. So, she just ties that stupid, pink scarf around it and thinks it looks like a million bucks. And I told her that dress was tacky.”

“What is it supposed to be? A parrot?”

“I know!  It’s a butterfly. That’s what she says. She’s all into this new batik phase. Good grief, you should see the blouse she made for me. It looks like rainbow vomit. And did you see her earrings?”

“Kinda hard to miss.”

“Dollar store. I’m not kidding. They aren’t even earrings. They are candle-holders. She glued them onto an old pair of clip-ons she had.”

“Well, at least they look a bit more like butterflies.”

“Wait til you see what she’s wearing to the wedding.”

Suddenly, father-in-law stood from his feet and shouted out “Yaka!” Conversation stopped. All the Bells listened politely and were quite sure that he must have made a nice speech, but the only words Sara understood were “Sa-La,” “Ken-uh-duh” and “Joon-Yong.” When he was done everyone smiled, clapped, and drank the last of their champagne. As folks were just about to go back to their conversations another voice was heard shrilly over the din.


“Oh good God. Mom, PLEASE make her stop.”

“Don’t be silly. This should be fun!”

“I AM COLLEEN’S…sorry, I mean…I AM SARA’S AUNTY. HER MOTHER IS MY SISTER. Wesley! Get your hand off me…leave me alone, I am trying to make a speech!” She swatted at Uncle Wes’s hand which was trying to pull her down to her seat.


“Okay, woman, that’s enough. Cheers to the bride and groom everyone!” Wes yanked fat Aunty Kat down into her seat causing her hat to fall off, then raised his empty champagne glass with the other hand. Thankfully, the Korean crew had understood about as much as the Canadian crew had understood of father-in-law’s speech, and they also clapped politely and drank.

“Wesley!  You are so rude! I prayed to the Lord for you to behave on this trip. I see that he has decided to test my patience once again.”

“Woman, if there is anyone whose patience is constantly tested, it’s MINE. What don’t you have some of that there bread. Keep your damn mouth busy with something other than mindless yapping!”

“You know I am trying to watch my figure Wesley! You shouldn’t be cruel and tempt me with that stuff.”

“Only more of you to love, peaches.” Wes shoved a buttered chunk of bread into Kat’s mouth.   

“Well, Ryan, looks like, uh, it’s uh your turn now,” Herb butted in out of nowhere. Ryan glanced up at him from across the table.

“My turn for what?”

“Get married, of course.”

Ryan and Rupa gave each other annoyed glances.


“Whaddya mean ‘maybe’? You got a kid coming now.”

“Herb, I don’t think this is…” the Angel tried to interject.

“We already told you that we don’t believe in marriage.”

“What’s not to believe in? It exists. How can you not believe in it?”

“Whatever.” Ryan snapped a breadstick in two.

“A child needs a mother and a father, eh?”

“Our child will HAVE a mother and a father.” Rupa nearly hissed at him.

“Yeah, uh, but the bond. You know, you need that…”

“Dad, are you really going to start lecturing us about the sanctity of marriage?” Ryan glared at him.

“What’s that s’posed to mean?”

“Sara, why don’t you tell Joanne about the traditional dress you’re wearing for the reception?” Mom interjected, trying to change the conversational course.

“You know EXACTLY what it means. And, by the way, I don’t see a ring on Joanne’s finger!”

“That’s, uh, that is a totally different stor…situation.”

“ENOUGH!” Sara could hardly believe the sound of her own voice. She rarely spoke above a whisper. “Seriously. Enough. It’s my wedding and I want you two to just knock it off. Please.”

“What knocking? I heard nothing.” It was “Bob.”

“Honey? Just…look, I don’t have the patience for an English lesson right now. Everyone just needs to calm down and enjoy themselves. Please drink heavily everyone.” She raised her glass, as did everyone else at the table. The Korean relatives also spied what was happening and raised their glasses as well.

Herb pushed himself back from the table, an uncomfortable look on his face.

“Oh, come on dad! Please? Just sit down and…”

“Uh, no, it’s not that…uh, the urge. I got the urge. Just comes out of nowhere…uh, restroom?”