Wednesday, September 19, 2012

한국어를 말하는 것이 다시 이겼다! (Speaking Korean Wins Again!)

Last week we crossed into San Pedro de Atacama, Chile from the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia. While cooking some lunch in the communal kitchen at our guesthouse in San Pedro, I noticed a sweet-looking Korean mom and her two children. I instantly recalled the conversation I had with my K-mom the night before:

"애슐리, 한국어 공부해야지." (Ashley, you need to study Korean.)

I guess she noticed my Korean getting a little rusty on the phone.

So approached the kind looking Korean mom at the guesthouse. I mustered my courage and spluttered, "저... 한국분 이세요?" (Excuse me, are you Korean?)

Well, of course she was surprised to see a white girl speaking Korean, especially since Husband was in another room. After her initial shock and 101 questions about how I learned Korean, we had a great chat and shared lunch together.

We hung out with her and her family for the remainder of our time in San Pedro. We took the same tour to Valle de la Luna and hung out with her super cute kids. When they left to go back to their home in Vina del Mar (her husband is working for a Korean company in Chile), she not only sweetly gifted us with her electric travel pot (cook ramyeon anywhere!), she also invited us to come stay at her house after we spend a few days in Santiago.

Speaking Korean wins again! I can't wait to meet this family again soon. They are too sweet.

If you're studying a foreign language, approach and practice with native speakers. You never know what new relationships you can build.

And here are some pictures of the lovely family during our time in San Pedro.

the lovely family at Valle de la Luna, Chile

She complained about us being too tall, so she stood on rock.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Day I Almost Died (for reals!) But Didn't (yay!)

Remember that song, "Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen?" Well, I do because the song was crazy popular in the year I finished middle school (now you know how old/young I am).

I'd like to make an amendment.

Wear a life jacket.

I grew up on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. I took swimming lessons from a very young age. I'm comfortable on boats of all kinds. I was once insulted that a tour operator made me wear a life jacket while snorkelling.

My attitude changed the day I went rafting on the River Suarez in Colombia.

I first tried white water rafting in Costa Rica a few months ago. Husband had done it while travelling in India and Nepal. He really enjoyed it, so he suggested we try it together. I knew that you had to wear a helmet and life jacket, but honestly I never considered rafting to be particularly dangerous. I guess that stems from my coastal dwelling arrogant non-fear of water. I figured if you followed the directions of the guide, you'd be ok.

River Pacuare in Costa Rica presented no incident. The rapids were levels 2-4 (6 being the highest and only possible in kayak, not raft). We had a great time, so we decided to tackle the more extreme River Suarez in Colombia (levels 3-5).

It was definitely more exciting than Pacuare. The rapids were intense, with waves coming up over our heads at times. We successfully made it through about two hours of rapids. The other raft flipped over once, spilling everyone into the river after a level 3. Don't worry; everyone was fine. Level 3 is no big deal. Finally we reached the final rapid of the course, a level 5.5 appropriately named "Surprise."

Our guide instructed us to listen for his commands and "tie our feet" (shove them under the seat of the raft). We entered the rapid, basically a huge hole of rushing water. Our guide shouted "get down" so we all jumped into the middle of the raft while water crashed in all around us. The entire raft filled with water. I felt myself being lifting out of the raft. Apparently my feet were not adequately "tied."

Luckily (?) I was holding the safety line, so even though I ended up outside of the boat, I was still at least attached to it. I thought about the safety course we took before starting. Ok, I just needed to hold onto the line and someone would lift me back into the raft. Unfortunately the rapid was about 500m long, so the rest of the team was still navigating the rapid and unable to rescue me immediately.

I felt my legs getting sucked under the raft. We were approaching another huge hole of water, so I let go of the safety line and decided to detach from the boat rather than get crushed and possibly drown. Obviously I was in mental and physical shock. I went though about 150m of rapids in just a life jacket, thinking that the raft could still save me if I just stuck it out. Apparently Husband was having a panic attack in the raft from looking at my terrified face bobbing in and out of the water, desperately sucking for air and spitting out water as I went through the rapids.

Then I finally remembered I could swim (thanks to my mother who forced me to go to swimming lessons at the local Y since as early as I can remember). I swam with all my little heart through that rapid to the shore. I found a rock, climbed on top of it, and decided I was not leaving that little rock... EVER. Even when the other raft came by and tried to save me. I would not leave that rock.

An eternity later (maybe 10 minutes), our guide, after parking the raft beyond the rapid and hiking back along the rocky shore of the river, came to rescue me. I am embarrassed to say that he had to hold my hand as I half-walked-half-crawled along the shore to where the raft was waiting. I am proud to say I did not cry (if you know me, you know I'm a crier).

Since "Surprise" was the last rapid on the course, after my rescue everyone was free to jump out of the raft and float down the last 500m of the river. I opted to stay inside, explaining "I've drunk enough river for one day."

So am I now afraid of water, never to raft again? No, actually having survived a class 5 rapid, I feel pretty comfortable I can handle most situations in the water.

But I will never scoff at the noble life jacket again.

PS: If you are a friend or family member who I lied to/omitted details about this incident when it happened, it was only because I didn't want you to worry about me. I'm safe. I'm alive. No worries.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


You might have noticed things are looking a bit different around here (notice my fancy tabs up above?). You may have also picked up on the fact that Husband and I are currently working our way across the globe on an around the world trip (or maybe you haven't... SURPRISE!).

Due to popular demand (by that I mean mostly my family) I'll be updating about our travels here on this blog along with my regular Korean posts because I'm lazy and don't want to juggle two blogs.

If you don't want to read about that, you can simply click on the "All Things Korean" tab.

Or if you don't care about anything Korean and are just here to read about our trip, you can click on the "Around the World" tab.

Of course, if you like a little bit of both, you can find it all on the main page as usual labelled "Home."

Much love from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile


Saturday, September 8, 2012

써니 (Sunny)

I watched this movie way back in Mexico (about two months ago), but I recently rewatched it while Husband was out cycling on the world's most dangerous road (Bolivia). I, of course, was not confident enough in my cycling ability or ability to function in extreme heights to even think about attempting such a journey, so I was quite happy to wander around La Paz for the day and then return to my hotel room and the awesomeness that is this movie, 써니 (Sunny)!

This movie has appeal on three levels.

1. Honest Portrayal of Girlhood and Maturing Female Friendships
There are about a kimchillion movies that explore and celebrate male friendships, but honest portrayals of women and their relationships with other women are pretty hard to find in film (the most recent decent girl movie... Bridesmaids?). I believed in the characters of Sunny right from the start. The friendship and interactions of the members of Sunny were believable and honest. That of course made the whole movie more relatable and entertaining.

2. Sweet Dual Timeline Accompanied by Awesome Soundtrack
This movie achieves the perfect balance between it's two equally awesome timelines, the main character's present and high-school lives. Neither one outshines the other. Both timelines are entertaining and engaging and integrate well into the whole of the film. Additionally, the high-school timeline has a pretty awesome soundtrack (both Western and Korean).

3. Sense of Humour
The writer of this film obviously has a great sense of humour. I will direct your attention to probably my favourite scene from a movie, ever.

See what I mean?

The only downside of this film is the ending which totally abandons the honest feel and resolves the problems of all the characters deus ex machina style. Lame!

Oh well, still one of my favourite movies ever. Go watch it. Right now.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

페루 쿠스코에서 쿠스코리아 축제 (CusCorea Festival, Cusco, Peru)

It's been one month and three countries since I last updated this blog... 미안해요!

It's not that I haven't had anything to write about (aside from switching cities every 5-7 days: San Jose-Arenal-San Jose-Panama City-Cartagena-San Gil-Bogota-Lima-Huaraz-Lima-Cusco since we last talked). Long bus rides make for good opportunities for watching movies (Sunny, A Moment to Remember, Memories of Murder, Introduction to Archaeology) some of which I will hopefully make the time to write about sooner or later. Husband and I had a brutal Olympic nationalism feud in Colombia (friendly, don't worry). I'm loving 버스커 버스커 right now. Anyway, I just haven't made much time for blogging.

The funny thing is, I've probably spent more time speaking Korean than English or even my ridiculous excuse for Spanish since we've arrived in Peru. Husband found a Korean guesthouse in Lima, and since we've spent a lot of time in English speaking backpacker hostels, it was only fair that we switch it up for a change. Plus, he really wanted a chance to access some Korean books. The owner of said guesthouse in Lima let us know about an upcoming Korean culture festival in Cusco (bizarre?). We were heading to Cusco anyway, so we decided to check it out.

Turns out there is a Korean cultural center in Cusco. They offer Korean language lessons which are surprisingly popular, especially among teenage girls. These girls LOVE their K-pop which might be their motivation for learning Korean, who knows? I knew Hallyu was getting big around the world, but seriously, I had no idea... These girls knew all the words to every popular Korean song. They knew the dances too! 강남스타일 was the crowd favorite.

The center hosted this two day festival to spread awareness of the center and its programs. There were traditional games: 제기차기, 널뒤기, and 팽이. They offered samples of Korean food: 주먹밥, 계런마리,  and some other delicious meat pancake that I can't remember the name of. Plus the students of the center put on an awesome talent show, stunning us with their Korean singing and dancing skills!

The festival was a great experience for me in two ways. First, I got to connect with other L2 Korean speakers. It was nice to talk about our shared interest and challenges in studying Korean. Secondly, the Korean community were so welcoming and kind, and it was nice to have a little taste of home, especially after travelling so long.

Well, that's all for now. I didn't take many pictures at the festival. I was having too much fun. But here are a few.

Husband teaching some Peruvian kids to play 제기차기

the students of the center and their Korean idols

Monday, July 23, 2012

역전! 야매요리

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently started reading 신과합께, a webtoon hosted on Naver, as a way of studying Korean. 신과함께 can be a pretty meaty read sometimes, especially vocabulary-wise, so I started probing Husband for other webtoons that I might find interesting.

He had two recommendations, 이말년씨리즈 and 역전! 야매요리.

I read a few episodes of 이말년씨리즈. It's really funny, but has a lot of text, so that takes me just as much time to read per episode as 신과함께. However, I'm really enjoying 역전! 야매요리... a lot.

Sorry this picture is so small!

For starters, it combines two of my great loves, comics and food. Every episode is not only super funny but also teaches you a recipe. Really the benefits for me are tri-fold: entertainment, recipes, studying Korean!

This is a slightly easier read than 신과함께 maybe because I already know a lot of cooking and food vocabulary. The sometimes difficult part is that there are variations/irregularities in spelling and slang that I can't find in a dictionary and have to either guess at or ask Husband for help. Most of the time, luckily, I can figure these out from context.

The author/illustrator 정다정(Jeong Da-jeong) is a real talent for being so young (born in 1991). Both her writing and cartooning is weird (in the best way), offbeat, and hilarious. Several times I have laughed out loud while reading this webtoon.

I have no idea how to translate the title, so let me know if you have any ideas...

Husband said 역전 has a similar meaning to "Fighting!" and that 야매 means something along the lines of "fake" "pretend." Of course, 요리 is cooking. Granted he was busy doing something else at the time I asked him, so these might not have been his best translations. In any case, check out this webtoon and enjoy reading/cooking in Korean!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

바토스 어번 타코스 (Vatos Urban Tacos)

Husband and I recently finished up our travels in America (New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas) and are now working our way through Central and into South America. Though I'm not documenting our trip on this blog--mostly because I don't have the stamina to keep up with blogging everything we do--I still want to blog in my own half-committing way, so I'm trying to stick to the original concept, all things Korean.

Well, as you can expect, that's getting harder to do. My posts may be sporadic, but they are nonetheless still filled with love.

We're currently in Mexico where I've been doing a whole lot of temple/ruin visiting, lying in the sun, and of course, my favorite--eating! While gorging myself on delicious Mexican delights, I have not been thinking "This would be great with some kimchi!" though that does remind me...

Mexican food + kimchi = delicious

If you want proof, and you live in Korea, do yourself a favor and visit Vatos Urban Tacos in Itaewon. This place is just a short scamper down the road from The Wolfhound. My friend Stephanie took me there for my birthday, and I went there two or there more times in the 3 weeks after that before I left Korea. It's that good.

My favorite thing on the menu is the Kimchi Carnitas Fries (10 000 won). I don't mean to exaggerate, but these are life changing! I wake up in the middle of the night just wanting to eat them again. French fries covered in cheese, meat, and kimchi, plus some kind of delicious sauce, sour cream, and onions. The menu says great for sharing, but I recommend eating a whole plate to yourself if you're gross like me.

They also have delicious tacos (6-7000 won) and quesadillas (8-10 000 won), both fusion and more traditional. Drinks range from the classic margarita to the delicious makgeolita (12-15 000 won) made with, you guessed it, makgeoli!

The deets:
Vatos Urban Tacos
2F 66-8, Itaewon-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul Korea
서울특별시 용산구 이태원동 66-8 2층

It gets pretty busy on the weekends, so I recommend making a reservation. Nothing is worse than spending your day dreaming about those delicious kimchi fries and then having all your hopes and dreams dashed when you realize you forgot to make a reservation.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

사랑하는 김치 (Beloved Kimchi)

On our first date, Husband asked me if liked kimchi. My response was, "Oh yea, my favorite is hot kimchi!" He looked a little puzzled. "You know," I explained, "when you eat samgyeopsal and you put the kimchi on the grill. That's delicious." Then he just laughed.

When we left Korea, Mother-in-Law insisted that I pack two huge bags of kimchi in my suitcase. When I opened the suitcase, after about 2-3 days due to some flight issues, ALL of my clothes stank of kimchi! I was so mad. I hated that kimchi. I never wanted to smell kimchi again.

*Note* The kimchi and I eventually got over our differences and shared many delicious meals together.

Now I've tried many kinds of kimchi, but I'd have to say "hot kimchi" still ranks at top. I know the general opinion on kimchi among foreigners goes either way. Some love it; others hate it. I'm not here to preach about the life changing qualities of kimchi, but I have been told that it prevents cancer, and that it's one of the reasons Korea was not affected as adversely by the SARS outbreak a few years back.

After too much excess in Vegas (drinking, gambling, junk food, cigarette smoke everywhere), what I really wanted was a bowl of kimchi jiggae. I don't know why, but I always magically feel healthier after I eat it. I wanted that jiggae so bad that I paid $13 USD for a bowl of kimchi jiggae in Las Vegas. It pains me to write that. That's almost triple the price of what I pay at a restaurant in Korea! But I have to say, I was really satisfied after that jiggae.

To sum up, I'll leave you with my favorite view on the subject. I once asked Husband if kimchi was his favorite food, and he responded, "No, kimchi is like air."

범죄와의 전쟁 (Nameless Gangster)

I've been wanting to write about this movie for while... mostly because I've been wanting to watch this movie for a while.범죄와의 전쟁 (Nameless Gangster) came out in Korea in February 2012, but I couldn't find a cinema that was playing the film with English subtitles. Then, last month while staying at a youth hostel in Winnipeg, Husband and I met a university student from Korea who was travelling through Canada for the summer. Not only was she kind enough to give us a whole bag of 김, she also gave us a bunch of Korean movies, including 범죄와의 전쟁. Alas, her copy of the film was also without subtitles.

Well, I'd been periodically searching online for a subtitle file, but had found nothing. Husband and a friend got to talking about Korean movies, and 범죄와의 전쟁 instantly came to mind, so I searched again for a subtitle and finally found one!

I love police/gangster movies, particularly Asian ones. My university years were filled with Hong Kong police movies, and only recently have a starting watching some Korean gangster films. Well, 범죄와의 전쟁 did not disappoint.

The cast is pretty amazing. 최민식 (Choi Min Shik) of Old Boy fame plays a corrupt Busan customs agent who gets into relations with the mob after having to take the fall for his department's acceptance of bribes. Choi balances gangster coolness and tragic pity. His partner in crime is played by 하정우 (Ha Jung Woo) who is a total badass. To round out the cast is 곽도원 (Kwak Do Won), who plays the prosecutor determined to take down Choi as part of the president's "war on crime." Kwak plays the straight-laced prosecutor perfectly, and his first scene in the movie is one of my favorites.

The plot is good, but due to several time changes throughout the film, it can get a little confusing. It took me two viewings to really get it. I don't want to give to much away, so I'll just say that like a good gangster film should, it has action, emotion, violence, and betrayal.

As a bonus, here are my top 5 Asian police/gangster movies:

Police Story (Jackie Chan)
A Better Tomorrow (Chow Yun Fat)
Hard Boiled (Chow Yun Fat)
Infernal Affairs (Tony Leung)
Kill Zone (Donne Yen)

What's your favorite gangster movie (Asian or not)?


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

쉽지 않지만 맛있는 닭볶음탕 (Not so Easy but Delicious Dak Bokkeum Tang)

As I mentioned in a previous post, we were recently in New York, visiting with friends that we had met in Korea. We decided to make them some 딹볶음탕 (a spicy chicken dish) to say thanks for having us in their home and showing us around NYC. I thought I'd share the recipe here in case anyone else was interested in trying it at home.

But first, a little fun Husband had before he butchered the chicken. Check out his blog at He writes in English and Korean!

요리재료  Ingredients
생닭 한 마리      one whole uncooked chicken     
당근 2개            two carrots
감자 2개            two potatoes
양파 2개            two onions
고추장               gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
고춧가루            gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
설탕                  sugar
참기름               sesame oil
마늘                   garlic
간장                   soy sauce

만드는법  Method
1. 닭은 한번 데쳐낸다.
    Butcher the chicken and boil it for about one minute. Then drain and set aside.

2. 감자와 당근은 깍뚝 썰고 양파는 채 썬다.
     Cut the carrots, potatoes, and onions into large chunks.

3. 양념장을 비율로 만든다. 고추장 1, 고춧가루 3:1, 설탕 1:1, 참기름 (조금), 간장 1:1,
    다진 마늘 (많이) 놓고 양념장을 만든다.
     Depending on how much chicken you have, you can make the marinade using the
     following ratio: gochujang 1, gochugaru 3:1, sugar 1:1, a little sesame oil,
     soy sauce 1:1, and as much chopped garlic as you like. Put the ingredients in a
     bowl and mash them into a paste. Taste and adjust as necessary. 

4. 냄비에 감자와 당근, 양파를 놓고 살짝 볶다가 닭을 놓고 양념장을 놓고 볶는다.
     Quickly soften the potatoes, carrots, and onions, and then add the chicken and

5. 재료가 물에 반 쯤 잠길 만큼 물을 놓고 물이 거의 졸아 없어질 때까지 끓여준다.
    Fill the pot halfway with water and then let it cook down until the excess water is gone,
    stirring occasionally.

6. 친구량 밥과 맛있는 닭볶음탕을 먹는다.
    Enjoy delicious dak bokkeum tang with your friends!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

한국어를 왜 공부해요? (Why Study Korean?)

Sometimes I question why I invested so much time and energy into studying a language that is spoken in only one country (Well, two I guess, if I ever make it to North Korea). After all, I studied French for almost ten years, and still can barely manage to put a sentence together. Wouldn't that have been a more productive use of my time?

Being married to a Korean might be part of the reason, but actually, I rarely speak Korean with my husband outside silliness and playing around. All the meaty conversations of our life together are conducted in English. So why bother studying, especially now that I'm proficient enough to meet all my basic needs, and I don't even live in Korea anymore?

Today reminded me why.

Husband and I are currently visiting New York and staying with some friends that we met back in Korea (though they're not Korean). To say thanks for putting us up in their place for the week, we wanted to cook them some delicious 닭볶음탕. They had told us that the market close to their house stocked a lot of Korean items, so we went there to pick up some stuff for the meal. We overheard the shopkeepers speaking Korean, so when we couldn't find any 고추장, Husband encouraged me to ask the shop lady in Korean. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: "저... 고추장 있어요?"
[Excuse me, do you have any gochujang?]
Shopkeeper: "고추장?"
[Gochujang?] (laughing) "I think we have one left. Over there."
Me: (seeing that it was 삼장 not 고추장) "이것이 삼장인데. 매운 고추장 없어요?"
[This is samjang. You don't have any spicy gochujang, do you?]

At which point she realized that I had at least some competency in Korean. She broke out into a big smile and called to the other shopkeeper in the back to bring out the real 고추장 for this Korean-speaking-American-looking girl.

As she was ringing up our purchases, she asked me, "어떻게 한국어를 말할 줄 알아요?" [How do you know how to speak Korean?]
To which I answered, "한국에 살았어요." [I lived in Korea.]

But even that wasn't a good enough answer. She continued to ask me why I could speak Korean even after I introduced her to Husband and explained he is Korean. Finally he explained that we had been living in Korean for a long time and were just visiting the states, not living here. This she seemed to accept and laughed, then proceeded to chat with us for another few minutes.

So aside from my need for 고추장, why is it that I study Korean? Well, I guess it's probably the reason that most people take up studying a language outside from external pressures like passing an exam or getting a job. It makes us part of a new community, gives us a home away from home, and genuinely gives us opportunities to connect with people we might never have had the pleasure of meeting otherwise.

Free 고추장 isn't bad either.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

쉽게 만드는 김치찌개 (Easy Kimchi Stew)

I'm not known for my cooking skills, but I am known for my love of eating. One of my favorite things to eat is the classic, 김치찌개 (kimchi stew). While I used to eat this 2-3 times a week, since leaving Korea, it's just not as common.

Anyway, here is a simple recipe for making passable 김치찌개 with limited access to Korean ingredients. It's adapted from Husband's home recipe.

요리재료  Ingredients
김치  kimchi
참기름  sesame oil
파  spring onion
물  water
삼겹살이나 목살이나 스펨  pork belly, pork neck, or SPAM

만드는법  Method
1. 작은 냄비 바닥에 김치로 덮어요.
    Cover the bottom of a small pot with bite-size kimchi pieces.

2. 참기름을 넣고 5-8분 동안 구워요.
    Add a generous amount of sesame oil and allow the kimchi to cook in the oil on a
    medium heat for about 5-8 minutes.

3. 냄비의 물을 3/4 정도 돼도록 넣어요.
   Add water until the pot is 3/4 full.

4. 파를 썰고 냄비에 넣어요.
    Chop green onion as desired and add to the pot.

5. 김치국물을 조금 넣어요.
    Add a splash of the "kimchi water" (from the bottom of your kimchi container).

6. 고기를 썰고 넣어요.
    Slice and add the meat.

7. 10-15분 동안 끓여요.
    Let the pot simmer for 10-15 minutes. The longer it cooks, the more delicious it gets.

8. 밥과 김을 먹어요. 김치찌개를 만들었어요!
    Serve with rice and seaweed, and be proud of yourself.
    You just made 김치찌개!

Friday, May 18, 2012

신과함께 (Together with Gods)

It's pretty much undisputed that extensive reading in your L2 is one of the best ways of improving language ability. Due to my relatively low reading level in Korean, I've preferred children's books lent from a friend or translations of stories where I already know the basic plot. But there's also another great tool out there if you're looking for some L2 reading practice, and like me, just think the newspaper is too difficult... 만화 (comics!). I started reading 크레용신짱 (Crayon Shin-chan) a while back, and have enjoyed reading comics in Korean ever since. Top reasons why reading comics can improve your Korean?

* It's fun, so unlike other methods of studying, it doesn't feel like punishment!
* Vocabulary are usually useful in real life, and grammar patterns tend to be popular in speech.
* Picture clues help you decode unknown words.
* Vocabulary are often repeated, helping you learn new words.

I could name more, but those are the most prominent ones for me. Recently, Husband recommended I start reading 신과함께 a web-toon hosted on Naver. If you have a smartphone, you can download the Naver web-toon app (search "네이버웹툰") and read anywhere. It's awesome! I installed a Korean/English dictionary on my smartphone, so I can flip back and forth, searching words I'm unsure of as I'm reading. My dictionary also happens to have a history function, so I can look back for frequently occurring words that I've already looked up.

So why do I love 신과함께 so much? To start, the story is interesting and fast-paced. 신과함께 explores the Korean mythology of what happens after you die. The story follows two sets of characters, a middle-aged recently deceased Korean man and his afterlife lawyer, and a team of afterlife police-type characters. Hard to explain, but very interesting. The comic has humour, emotion, and creativity. The characters are well-developed and loveable. The art style is simple and expressive. It's really just a fun read. 

Honestly, I would recommend this comic to everyone if it was in English too, but since it's in Korean, I really hope you'll check it out if you're studying. Also I heard a movie is in the works, so you better get reading!

If you have any other recommendations for Korean reading, let me know!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

내 한국 결혼식 (My Korean Wedding)

This is the story of my Korean wedding. I blogged a long time ago about Korean weddings (before I actually got to be the bride in one) See here. Needless to say, my experience was a bit different, so I thought I'd put it down here, what it was like for this one particular 외국인 marrying a Korean in Korea.

Well it all began on a sunny day in October. Boyfriend (I guess I should call him Husband now) and I were eating burgers and enjoying a lovely Sunday. We were talking about our plans for the new year when we would both quit our jobs and travel the world together. Suddenly, he asked, "Don't you think it would be better if we were married?" To which I responded, "Did you just propose to me?" And he replied, "Well, that's not really how I wanted to propose, but do you want to get married?"

Fast forward two months (short engagement!). After a meeting with his parents, photo-shoot, invitations, blah blah blah, it was finally our wedding day. I expected a low stress experience, since the few Korean weddings I had attended before were pretty short and to-the-point: listen to a twenty minute speech, a friend sings a song, FREE BUFFET! My wedding was a little bit different. I'll save you the minute-by-minute details and stick to the things which I found interesting/different/awesome/frustrating about getting married in Korea.

I'm not really a fancy kind of gal. I'll admit that my sense of style is crippled at best, but I do enjoy things that are pretty in an understated and classic kind of way. What I found when I was preparing for my wedding day, and on the actual day, is that I was expected to look and act as much like a princess as possible. My wedding planner insisted that I try huge jewelry, tiaras, gloves, etc even when I insisted that I wanted a simple and elegant look. Maybe this happens to brides in every country... I don't know, but I'm happy that I stood up for my pearl studs and french manicure over a tiara and gloves. That is a bride's choice to make. I'm not saying gals shouldn't princess it up if they want to. I just think no one should be pressured into a style that they don't like/aren't comfortable with.

If this woman tries to make me wear a tiara one more time...

The 대기실 is the room where the bride waits before the wedding ceremony begins. Rather than hiding and then making a huge entrance, the bride sits in her little bride room and takes pictures with friends and family as they arrive before the ceremony. I actually really liked this part. It was nice to meet family and friends before the wedding. It calms the nerves and adds a bit a fun. Being a foreigner, it was also kind of like being a really exotic animal on exhibition. Lots of Boyfriend's friends and family were very shy about speaking English, so they'd poke their heads into the 대기실, smile broadly and wave. It was pretty cute.

My brother and I in the 대기실

Because Boyfriend is a culturally sensitive and romantic kind of guy, he suggested that he read his vows in English and I read mine in Korean. This was one of the most stressful but rewarding experiences.

Desperate practicing of the vows

After we finished our western style wedding ceremony, we changed into 한복 and had a short Korean ceremony called 폐백. This is not a full traditional Korean wedding ceremony, but it's a chance for friends and relatives to say something to the bride and groom (best wishes or advice, etc). There's a lot of bowing and soju. The highlights were: Boyfriend's parents threw chestnuts and figs into a sash in my lap to determine how many kids we'll have (2 daughters, 1 son), Boyfriend and I fought over the seed in a fig to determine who will hold the power in our relationship (me!), and at the end I got a sweet piggy-back ride!

Fighting over the fig seed (not actually making out)

After our ceremony we walked the beaches of Busan and then sang the night away with all of our friends at a private 노래방. Safe to say, it was pretty much the best day ever.

Oh yea, and here are some of the highlights on video!

Anyone else get married in another country/cultural tradition? I'd love to hear about it!


Saturday, April 14, 2012

미안해요 (Sorry!)

Well, it's been about six months since I've posted, which is probably not my longest hiatus, but still, pretty disgraceful. If you were reading back in July, needless to say, my blog/study challenge failed miserably. As always, life gets busy, priorities have to be made, and somehow I always seem to put wine, binge eating, and trashy TV above studying Korean. It's a problem.

But I'm happy to say I haven't been completely useless in the Korean department. I went back to class at 오누리교회 and basically got free 1:1 lessons with my favorite Korean teacher ever, 안진명선생님. She's the best. I brainwashed a bunch of my friends to come with me too. Now everyone loves studying Korean! The month I spent living with my in-laws probably did a lot for me too, at least comprehension-wise. Oh yea, did I mention I got married? More on that later.

Anyway, now I'm back in Canada. More on that later as well. After three years abroad, it's a big adjustment. I feel a little like I've been rewired, and now I'm trying to go back to a previous version of software. Seriously homesick for Korea, so I'm back to this blog. Now I'm thinking have I become one of those annoying white people who tries to be Asian? Probably.

Well this post is kind of lame, but restarting the blog is always a little awkward, especially when you're pretty sure you no longer have any audience. But now that I'm funemployed (unemployed with out the life crushing stress of looking for a new job/worrying about bills), I'll have more time for updating. I promise better programming in the near future... Maybe.