Monday, October 24, 2011

A Korean Wedding

[Please don't forget to leave me little comments on here.  I love hearing from anyone who stumbles across my blog and get there take on the crazy life I lead here in Korea.]

#166.  In Korea, wedding photos are taken months before the actual wedding.  The bride and groom are in all of their wedding attire and spend an entire day with a photographer capturing their "wedding day."  The bride rents (yes rents) multiple dresses for the day and is photographed in all of them.  Some fancy.  Some more simple.  All breathtakingly beautiful.

#167.  Weddings are blissfully short.  We're talking 30 minutes from the minute the bride and groom walk down the aisle to when you're sipping on a drink at the reception that follows.  While i'm sure all weddings vary, most that i've heard of include: A quick walk down the aisle (accompanied by music such as "unchained melody" and others that are heavily influenced by western culture), a candle lighting ceremony and group pictures at the end to complete the affair.

#168.  Korean weddings do not have drawn out receptions like those in the states.  They generally have a buffet style lunch that immediately follows the wedding ceremony and then the guests are free to say a few words to the happy couple and then be on their way.  Short, sweet and to the point.

As you can tell from today's "Koreanisms", there is a special theme today.  Over the weekend I went to my first (and unfortunately last) Korean wedding.  One of my former co-workers was getting married and I was lucky enough for an invitation.  Early on Sunday (for me at least), we made our way to Daejon (about 3 hours west) for what would be yet another cultural difference between Korean and Western culture for me to witness.

After arriving at the wedding hall, we were greeted by family members of the groom and bride and given envelopes to put money in.  The Korean culture is quite brilliant in that they do not do wedding registries, cards or anything that spotlights someone for how much or little they give to the happy couple.  All the money (large or small) is put into identical envelopes and each person is then given a lunch coupon for after the ceremony to thank them for their gift.  Each guest then has the option to go and view the bride and pose for pictures.  Seated in a comfortable chair with the big puffy dress all around her, the bride waits (for hours i'm told) for those who want a picture with her.  The photographer takes a few photos and that's it.

With the beautiful bride, Haesan

As I said before, the actual ceremony is over within 30 minutes and the guests are escorted to the buffet-style lunch.  While the guests are busy gorging on sushi rolls and delicious plates of Korean food, the bridal party is completing the last part of their day, the Korean ceremony.  During this part, only the close family members are allowed to be part of this.  The bride trades her white wedding dress for the traditional Korean Hanbok (한복) for this particular ceremony.  After this is over, the bride and groom are allowed to come celebrate with the remaining guests and then they are on their way to their honeymoon in Bali.

The current staff of Kids College along with the happy couple.
Left to right:  Brendan, Director Minh, Groom, Haesan,
Lia, Me, Elly

As the pictures can attest to, Haesan made a beautiful bride.  I felt very honored to be included in her special day.  While I may not want a speedy ceremony when it comes my time for a wedding (though the guests may enjoy it) or to be holed up in a small room to be gawked at in my white dress, I find all of the differences intriguing.  The differences between our cultures in something as special and beautiful as a wedding remind me yet again that there are other ways to celebrate than how my country does.

This post is to you Haesan, though you may never read it.  May your marriage be blessed.  I wish you and your new husband the best and I hope that someday our paths may cross again.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Tilt Cruisers Photo Shoot

Over the weekend myself and the rest of the Tilt Cruisers (the Pohang motorcycle gang that I am part of) were finally able to take our long-awaited pictures in our newly crafted leather vests.  As many of you know, my bike was totaled a few weeks ago so I was able to take my personal shots on a friend's bike.  The following pictures are thanks to Jonny Finity and his ability to take amazing pictures.

Dad, I hope you're not too jealous of all the sweet bikes and awesome leather vests.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Festival Season: Rice and Liquor Festival

Next on our list of freakishly fun fall festivals (say that 10 times fast) was the Soju and Rice Cake Festival in the beautiful city of Gyeongju.  After eventually finding our way to the festival (in large part thanks to Dan and his ability to follow simple directions) we stumbled upon a few of our friends from Pohang and decided to enjoy the festival together.

The group for the day. From left to right:  Christie, Brad, Emily,
Leigh, Heather, (new Korean friend that I can't remember his name),
me, Dan

We had quite the successful day that included: making rice cakes (basically mashed up rice with other mysterious ingredients thrown in and are ceremoniously mashed together with a huge wooden lever), enjoying the DOZENS of free samples of soju (a rice liquor) from all of the vendors and wandering around the festival enjoying each others company.

With so many foreigners in the same group we were quite popular with the Koreans at the various stands where you could actually make some of the snacks that Korea is famous for. Other Koreans were pushed out of the way so that the foreigners could be photographed and videotaped for the evening news.  Thankfully, Christie ( the blonde on the left of the picture above) was more photogenic and looked more like the kind of foreigner that most Koreans think we are supposed to look like so she was the favorite for the majority of the shoots.  (Thanks Christie!)

Another great thing about this particular festival was the opportunity to get even more souvenirs for when I come home to America.  For the bargain price of $1, we were given a tiny little soju "shot glass" that was conveniently hung on a little thread so that we could have it within easy drinking access.

Posing with our handy dandy souvenirs
Clearly we have been having a great time at all the freakishly fun fall festivals around Korea.  Keep on the lookout for my next post about the motorcycle shoot that happened last weekend.  We finally got our leather vests and just know that we looked amazing.  Get ready Dad.  After all that leather I may want to get a motorcycle when I get stateside afterall!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Festival Season: Lantern Festival

This past weekend filled with fall festivals, my favorite kind!  First on our agenda was the Lantern Festival. in Jinju, South Korea.

After a relaxing Friday night at the beach (i'm afraid it may be our last) the boy and I were on our way to see some lanterns.  What originally began as a way for soldiers to pass military signals, turned into one of the most famous festivals in all of Korea.  The festival gives people the chance to make their own wish lanterns to send down the river, take a speed boat around the river to see all of the life-sized lanterns on the water (for the bargain price of $5), witness an amazing fireworks display, eat an amazing array of food from multiple countries, be entertained by local performers and so much more.

We were able to spend the day just meandering around the beautiful city of Jinju and take in everything the festival had to offer.  We took pictures with as many characters as we could (did you expect anything else?), ate the Korean version of carnival food (basically just meat on a stick or dough balls in a cup) and took in the sights of all things with lantern associations.  There were lanterns hung on the pathways.  Lanterns placed at the entrance to the swaying bridges that crossed to different parts of the festival.  Lanterns in the water.  Lanterns with fire coming out of them.  Lanterns with smoke coming out.  Lanterns that moved.  You get the idea.  There were lots of lanterns.

Tiny little guys welcoming us to the Lantern Festival

Just a few of the dozens of water lanterns

Hundreds of lanterns

Dan making our "wish" lanterns.

We got our portrait drawn.  I think it looks like
a Koreanized version of us.  What do you think?

Yup.  That's my boyfriend.  

Quick shot of us at the tail end of the festival

Between the beautiful lanterns (these pictures don't even remotely do them justice), great atmosphere and  incomparable company this is at the top of my list for festivals to experience in Korea.  Keep a lookout for my next festival post.  The next one?  The Gyeongju Rice and Liquor Festival.  Sounds like fun eh?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Cooking Challenge #1: Red Bell Pepper Bisque

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am shit in the kitchen.  I burn pretty much everything I make.  I set things on fire.  I create a mess.

All that aside, yesterday I was able (for the first time in my life) to successfully make a heart-healthy and  homemade bisque (basically just a fancy name for soup.)  It consisted of red bell peppers, onions, garlic (oh how i love it), chicken broth, celery, carrots and fancy schmancy yogurt all the way from Denmark.  Now, you may be wondering why I used yogurt in a soup but believe me when I say that it literally tastes exactly like sour cream (near to impossible to find here) and has 1/4 of the fat and calories.  Healthy improvising at its finest.  You can actually find my exact recipe here if you're eager to try something super easy and shockingly satisfying.

My first successful bisque (fancy soup) creation

Monday, October 3, 2011

Nakedness and Police Stations

This past weekend was the last 3 day weekend in my shortening stay here in Korea.  While I didn't go on a long weekend holiday or do anything especially out of the ordinary, it was an excellent one nonetheless.

Due to the fact that the upcoming month is filled with weekend trips to random festivals and other cities in Korea that I still have not fully seen to my liking, I had a very low key weekend with close friends.

Friday was spent at a jjingabang (a pubic bathhouse of sorts) with two of my favorite ladies, Emily and Anna. It is basically a place to be naked (calm down people, it's just with the girls), enjoy the multiple saunas and steam rooms, get massages and generally relax.  We worked our way through the different levels on the big daddy jjing in the nearby neighborhood of idong.  Rooms with scented oils.  Rooms with temperatures upwards of 122 degrees.  Some below 12 degrees.  After we had relaxed ourselves into oblivion (with a nice bottle of wine), we headed our separate ways .  The girls went home to rest up for a morning swim.  I went home to rest up for my impending police station visit.

That's right.  I had to visit the police station on Saturday about my scooter accident.  Needless to say, I was not a happy camper.  After being picked up by my Korean co-worker, we were on our way to see the future that the Korean government had in store for me.  Almost five hours later (i'll spare you the ridiculousness of the actual proceedings), it was decided that I was at fault and that I needed to apologize, sign some papers and wait for the insurance company to decide just how much of my hard earned Kids College cash was going to be sacrified for this.  Super.

Our next stop was the palce where my scooter was.  Or I should say, what was left of my scooter.  For $100 and endless debating, I was able to convince the owner of the shop to transport the remains of my bike to my mechanic near my house.  It's not that I didn't believe the joe schmoe downtown, but the guy near my house has been taking care of foreigners for years.  I trust HIM.  I will know by the end of the week if my bike is truly ruined beyond repair or if I will be able to salavage some kind fo money from it.  Stay tuned.

The rest of my weekend was a quiet one.  I met up with friends for drinks on Saturday night and then headed off to the Marine base on Sunday to spend the day with Dan.  A relaxing day of movies, American food (be jealous teachers in Korea) and time with the love of my life.  How can it get better than that?

My upcoming weekend is going to comprise of heading to the nearby city of Jinju for the annual lantern festival. My coworkers, Lia and Brendan went yesterday.  They also have a blog and wrote about their experience here.   I hope to see as many beautiful lanterns as they did.