Yeon Jung Getting Married

My good friend Yeon Jung got married this past June 2nd. It was such a great day ^^ I was so thrilled to be attending. She looked amazing and moreover, I was just happy to see this wonderful story starting a new chapter. 

It was a Korean style wedding hall, with the bride taking pictures in an alcove while friends and family gathered and waited for the ceremony to start. 

Dave, Matt and I had joked to Yeon Jung about starting a band one night. We asked her to suggest a name and she said, “Why not D.A.M.?” Eventually she approached us and asked if D.A.M. could perform for her wedding. Eeek! 

We are for hire … lol just kidding ..seriously we would do it for free .. or maybe for food. ^_^ 

The newlyweds, Sung Ho & Yeon Jung, in their traditional hanboks.

Here is a wee bit of what we sang. Hopefully we will see the final video soon:


A Korean Piggy to Inspire Me

As I had a moment today in class that had me giggling and correcting my student’s work, I realized something that had been on my mind lately. Here is what happened: 

So here it is, a moment where I can see how effective and important it is to learn conversational English and really just how important these beginning-of-the-class warm-ups are. And sometimes out of these moments it is when my students learn the most important English – the kind they would actually use in every day life. And how much of my every day conversational Korean is so limited? A big chunk of it. The most effective I ever was, was when I started tweeting every day happenings in Korean and I started keeping a simple journal of what I did that day. It was the most effective at having me practice my sentence formation and the vocabulary that actually mattered to my every day life. 
As I finished my Korean class this past Tuesday, I realized how much more ahead I really should be. I’ve been pretty lazy lately. So seeing my student’s work I realized how much more conversational I should be in this language I’ve been surrounded in for the past 2 years. Researching what 곱창 was for my student, I came upon CNN’s 5 Korean ways to eat a pig, and as I stared at that article it struck my how I’ve been picking at my Korean pig this whole time, not using fully what was before me. So I need to practice more … and I just need to milk it for what it’s worth. Or in this case … use every lil bit of that piggy ^_^. 

My First – A Baby’s First Birthday!

My co-teacher invited me to her son’s First Birthday Party (dol or doljanchi – 돌 or 돌잔치), which is a big deal in Korea. I was super excited to go because I always wanted to experience one. The party takes place in a Wedding Hall, and like a wedding most guest give money (around $30-50) to the birthday boy. 
There was even an MC, making jokes and moving along the celebration. Again, similar to Korean weddings, the buffet was shared with other birthday parties that were happening simultaneously. The whole thing was about 3 hours, though guests seem to wander off and come in when they wanted to.  The family was very busy making sure they spoke to all the guest and posed for the camera and the videographer. 
Here I am with the whole family. They wear the traditional hanboks, which look amazing as a matching set! So beautiful! 
Chiyoon had posters made to welcome guest to his party. He is so adorable! 

Party favors! I received the wine bottle as a prize. The game was “Who has traveled the furthest”. I won by default lol. 
In the past, due to a lack of medical information, Korea’s seasonal temperature differences, and many childhood related diseases, the death rate for children was extremely high. Many children died before their first birthday. After the age of one year, the survival rate steeply increased, making this milestone a very happy one for the child’s parents. It has also been a custom to celebrate a child’s 100 day birthday (baek-il) , but in most areas this birthday is less important than the Tol and any celebrations are smaller in scale.
Tol has two meanings in Korean. The most common meaning is a child’s first birthday. It can also be used as a generic description for birthdays: Chut-tol (first birthday), Du-tol (second birthday), Seo-tol (third birthday), etc.

For her/his first birthday, a child is dressed in traditional Korean clothes. A boy will wear the hood that was the custom for unmarried young men, while girls wear make-up. A key part of the celebration activities is the toljabee ceremony where the child is seated before a table on which various foods (rice, rice cakes, jujube, etc.) and objects (calligraphy set, pencil, knife, book, money, thread, needle, scissors, ruler or bow and arrow) have been placed. He/she is then encouraged to pick one or two of these. According to tradition, the first or second choice foretells the infant’s future.

For example, if the object is a:
Bow and arrow: the child will become a warrior or have a military career
Needle and thread: the child will have a long life
Jujube: the child will have many descendants
Book, pencil, brush: the child will be a successful scholar
Ruler, needle, scissors: the child will be talented with his/her hands
Knife: the child will be a good cook
Money or rice: the child will be wealthy
Cakes or other foods: the child will be a government official

Food Meanings

Each food type and other items on the table have specific meanings.
-Baekseolgi (백설기 white steamed rice cakes) symbolize a pure and divine clean spirit and longevity.

-Susu-gyeongdan (수수경단 rice cakes coated with rough red bean powder) are used to ward off evil spirits so that the child can grow without any disease. (Koreans believed that evil dislikes red color.) Koreans believed that if they prepared these two rice cakes for each birthday until 10 years old, the child would not fall down and would grow healthy.

-Injeolmi (인절미 sticky rice cakes) and chal-ddeok (sticky rice cakes) are prepared to wish the child to be tenacious and strong due to the stickiness of the rice cakes.

-Songpyeon (송편 stuffed rice cakes shaped like a half-moon) Two different moon cakes are prepared. One is left empty and the other one filled. The empty moon cake means the child will grow with a big heart. The filled one means to grow to be wise.

-Jujubes (대추) and fruit are for the child’s descendants to multiply and prosper

Long Tradition

Like I said earlier, because of the high infant mortality and so on, the child’s first birthday was very important. Here are some pictures I found on the subject:

Apples and Pottery in Cheongsong

Patricia, Analie and I headed out on a trip to Cheongsong (청송 – literally meaning green pine) with Daegu Compass. Cheongsong is known among Koreans for its apples and for a famous prison near Cheongsong. For a mere 59,000 won aka about $55, we explored this amazing place! 
Our first stop was Songso Gotaek (송소 고택), a famous hanok (traiditonal Korean houses) situated in Deokcheon Village. The house, which displays various features of an upper class family’s house in the Joseon Period, is currently used as a tourist attraction. It is said that more than 4,000 people visit the house every year, something I plan to do one day during my stay here. What is amazing is seeing the traditional heating system they use (the ondol heating system).  This house still keeps a conventional kitchen where cooking and heating is done by placing firewood in the fire hole. But it has modern showers and toilet facilities installed as well. It was amazing to see the “chimneys” they had. The smell of burning wood was intoxicating. It reminded me of camping. 

Outside Songso Gotaek were farms. It was such a brilliant green! I couldn’t believe it. An old woman saw our tour group and urged us to buy cucumbers from her, so we did! Fresh cucumbers that we were able to pick ourselves! 

We then headed across the road where an older man taught us how to dye handkerchiefs using an herb that can also be consumed. As soon as he said that of course I had to try it. Gross!! It was soooo bitter! Blah! 

We then headed to Cheongsong Baekja (청송백자) where we met 80-year-old  Go Mangyeong (고만경) who is famous for continuing a long tradition of creating the pottery not from clay but from stone. 

The bowl he helped me make

We finished our pottery adventure by painting our own bowls. We didn’t make them but they were fun to paint.

My plate is super special to me because I wrote what has really been on my heart since being here in Korea:

“To thine own self be true” – William Shakespeare

“너 자신에게성실하라.”
-윌리엄 셰익스피어

We ended our trip by apple buns and apple liquor at two different locations. The apple distillory was made in what had previously been an elementary school. And the buns? The potter’s apprentice’s mother made them at her bakery. She is one of the few female business owners in the area and was so proud of what she had accomplished. The city also helped her financially because they want to support female entrepreneurship. Included is the article written about our trip on the July addition of the Daegu Compass: