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Posts Tagged ‘Korea’

Ironman 2 is apparently much simpler than meets the eye. At least, according to a first grader of mine, it is pretty straight forward and as he says, “Very good, Miss Anna, Ironman 2 very good!”

Every Friday, I help four students write letters to their e-pals and at the same time I aid two boys write their own stories. William has recently gotten into the groove of writing summaries rather than originals. Now, he doesn’t know what a summary is, exactly, nor does he know that if he claimed these stories to be his own they would be plagiarism. But if you can’t plagiarize as a first grader, when can you?

So, for the past few Fridays I have gotten thrillingly straightforward, yet grammatically stilted one-page stories of scared Pokemonsters, blazing blue Avatars, and, most recently, deadly Ironmen. It’s this most recent story that I will share with you today because when I read it, I was amazed at the simplicity that William brought to the story. It somehow lands on all the directly important pieces of the plot and yet still shows the movie through the eyes of a 6-year-old boy who saw the movie in English with Korean subtitles.

Ironman 2 as presented to you by William

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What does a girl with theatre degree from Northwestern University do in a recession? Make theatre with unsuspecting little Korean children of course.

Once a week over two months, four charming snot buckets wrote, acted in, and assistant directed their very own play. And all of it in English. And, I swear, I barely helped at all. This was an unexpected class that I taught, but I man-handled my way around the office until I got them to agree with how I wanted the class to go. I would not force them to write about what I wanted them to rather than what they wanted to. I would not write the drama for them, perhaps the speech is a little less than perfect but they wrote it. And I would not, would not, would not perform it for parents. Having a final product is very important for the parents, too important. It’s actually probably more important than the actual class and what their students learn (yes, I have judgement oozing out of my fingers right now). So, this video is the best of both worlds solution: the students get to perform their work and see it performed and there was no pressure, plus their parents get that final performance/confirmation that their children are speaking English that they so crave.

One of the most rewarding parts of it all? Seeing Kevin’s (the Baby Crow) face light up in one of the most genuine little smiles I’ve ever seen every time I mention this movie. Seriously, it’s an amazing sight.

So, here it is. The Mean Crow and the Lady Crow (yes, the title is different in the video-it’s a slightly outdated version). Enjoy it. Savor it. And be generally dazzled at the beauty of children and their willingness to play whenever they are given the chance.

Rock on, theatre, rock on.

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Walking up to Jogyesa Temple last Sunday, I had no idea what I was getting into. The courtyard was packed with people of all nationalities. Dancing and drumming echoed around the streets. Incense burned filling the air with a hearty, floral punch. Lanterns flooded the sky with colorful shade. Photographers craned their heads around crowds and searched out new photo-ops like a mother bird searching for breakfast.

The Buddhist Street Festival spanned several blocks of the 6-laned street in front of the temple. Buddhist culture was presented to anyone who wanted it, and most people wanted it. Incense making, acupuncture and moksa therapies, wish-making, lotus lantern making, Buddhist literature, temple food. White tents lined the street filled with smiles and a wealth of experiences and information.

At dusk, the infamous Lotus Lantern Parade began at Dongdaemun Stadium and made it’s way down to Jogyesa. Lanterns lit the streets for two and a half hours bringing ajummas and ajusshis, children and chanters, drums and dancers. Monks were applauded as they filed past the spectators. Fire-breathing dragon lotus lanterns the size of several cars were oohed and ahhed.

At the finale, pinks papers representing lotus petals rained down on spectators as lanterns were swooped up to take home and music blasted out of speakers above the crowds.

The day brought feelings of comfort, generosity, compassion, and loving kindness. Free things are given to you as you walk down the street. Free food was offered to us while debating where to go next. Everyone smiles and treats festival-goers, Buddhist or not, with respect and generosity. And it is infectious. I found myself still smiling on my way to work the next day. No other festival has impacted me as much as this one.

But this was just my own experience. There was so much to do and enjoy on this joyful day it was hard to take it all in. If you ever get the chance to go, do it. Do everything. And stay through to the end. You won’t regret it.

There will be a video later, but until then, here are some photos. Be sure to check out our Lotus Lantern Festival Flickr set for even more photos of the glory.

Taeguk in lanterns
Photo by Anna Waigand

Happy birthday, Buddha! Photo by Anna Waigand

Lanterns, lanterns, lanterns
Photo by Anna Waigand

Graceful lantern carriers
Photo by Anna Waigand

Fire-breathing dragons were a crowd favorite
Photo by Anna Waigand

Ajumma's and their lanterns
Photo by Anna Waigand

Lotus petal rain and fire-breathing dragons Photo by Danielle Harms

For more photos, be sure to go to our Lotus Lantern Festival Flickr set!

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Rockin' Out Photo by Andre Francisco

Seoul’s new young, hip generation has a billowing new underground music scene popping out in pockets around the city. One of the greatest examples of this we have seen (and become slightly obsessed with) is The Rock Tigers. The group looks like a bunch of Korean punk rockers, but they wail like a fresh, up-beat Elvis Presley.

Rock Tigers Photo by Anna Waigand

The style is called “Kimchibilly,” a Korean version of the age-old American Rockabilly. Why and how this 1950s version of rock has become popular in Korean and even earned its own nickname is beyond me, but for the amazing nights I’ve had rocking out to it, I’m glad it has. We’ve seen them twice in concert and each time the audience has been kept rocking and moving to the beats.

Check them out if out if you ever get the chance. You will surely have a hip-swaying good time.

Rock Tigers, the whole group Photo by Anna Waigand

For upcoming performance dates, check out their website at http://rocktigers.com/.

For more information about the band, check out our friends’ blogpost at http://harmsboone.org/what-world-kimchibilly.

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Taking the subway every morning in Seoul can garner some widely varying results. Andre’s trek to work is like pressing the snooze button on the alarm: he is guaranteed a seat to relax in and free space to lounge. My trek on the other hand is a whole different kit and caboodle.

The first leg of my trek is packed to the brim. I am consistently squished up against the door with people propped up against me like Barbie dolls in storage, unable to move our legs, hoping that the train doesn’t stop too abruptly. Invariably though, it does and we all tumble over each other creating a live Korean version of dominoes. Eventually we all get our bearings and brace ourselves for the next stop hoping we, and the person next to us, has learned a lesson and fixes the issues at hand before the next stop.

After my transfer which consists of a hike up two flights of stairs, usually spent jogging since the Koreans love to jog to the escalator just to passively let it push them upstairs and I always get swept up in the fast-paced excitement, I have another packed train. Don’t worry, though, it is no where near as filled as the first. Instead, I actually have room to move my arms and even write this little informative piece on my way to work.

So, when taking the subway, beware. Each leg of the subway is different from the next, but here are some quick tips for when the going gets tough:

  • Koreans love to push. Never apologize for a nudge or a jab. Unless you have truly injured someone, apologies will fall on the footsteps of the ajumma that has already taken that seat you were rushing to grab.
  • When the train is packed and you’re in a rush, stay by the door. It’s the easiest to get out when you get to your destination. If you don’t, you risk being pushed further and further back each time new passengers jam in. And even worse, you risk missing your stop all together because you are just too packed in and the people around you are just too oblivious to your futile attempts to squirm out. The easiest way to stay in the front is to immediately go to the left or right upon entering and rest against the railing of the seats. No one can push you away from here. Stand your ground.
  • On at least one of the doors for each train there is a guide that tells you the best door to stand at for the quickest transfer route, depending on where you are going. This is really helpful, especially when there are those hellish, 15-minute, practically-walk-across-the-city transfers (and yes, they do exist). Also, each train car has a number and each door has a number. This is very useful if you are meeting someone on the subway.

Happy travels and may your trek be easier than mine.

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When out for a night on the town (or in our apartments) in college, the night would undoubtedly end in some greasy, salty, sugary and/or buttery scavenger hunt. Whether it was found in the oven, at 7-11 or, God forbid, the BK Lounge, it happened far more often than I would care to admit.

I had assumed that Korea, being a nation of practically professional drinkers, would be a part of this late-night shame eating as well. The majority of their street food is battered and deep-fried afterall. But what I’ve found is the exact opposite. I’ve already written about the pork back bone soup that we ate one night. We’ve also eaten galbi, which is just meat that you cook at your table and wrap in lettuce, and the occasional mandu (dumpling) on our way home if we were really hungry. None of these even come close to the artery-invading powers of the King’s Quad stacker (which I am proud to say I have never eaten…don’t worry mom!).

Photo by Anna Waigand

The most surprising late-night snacks we have come upon came about after a kimchibilly, Korea’s version of Rock-a-billy, concert about a week ago. We left the roaring, punk, Elvis-inspired concert to find ourselves in need of another location to hang out and our bellies in need of some grub. We found a nice little place with a white brick interior packed with plenty of 20- or 30-somethings. When we ordered we used the point-and-pray method: point at what another table has and pray that it tastes as good as it looks. What we received tasted as if it had been sent from heaven.

First, we ordered pajong, a savory fried pancake with vegetables and seafood. It was greasy, as all pajong are, but even through the grease it was stuffed with fresh vegetables and squid. I don’t know any late-night snacks in America that include fresh seafood. This makes it a unique find I treasure on my late-night food round-ups.

Delicious, simple and healthy. Photo by Anna Waigand

Second was a fat metal bowl filled with small clams each about one inch wide. There were about 80 clams in all. No soup to go with it. Nothing fried. No batter. Just fresh boiled clams with some soy dipping sauce. Simply put, it was delicious. And you even had to work for your food. It’s hard to beat that amount of deliciousness without adding fats and carbs.

Third, we had my favorite dish of the night: dubu kimchi. This is a three part dish. There is the obvious, kimchi. And this was a delicious kimchi: spicy, tangy, and with a gingery zing. It was slightly sauteed which helped to bring out the spices while keeping just a dab of heat inside the strips of fermented cabbage. This was complemented perfectly with a thick, hot tofu and juicy steamed samgyeopsal (pork belly) slices. The kimchi’s zing was tempered by the simplicity of the hot tofu and pork. It’s a dish I’ve craved everyday since I ate it, which is very shocking to me because, well, I don’t like tofu. But this tofu was warm and soft. It slid down my throat with a heated ease after the spicy-heat of the kimchi. It was like coming home from a cold day out in the snow, slightly warming and just plain old comforting. And let’s not forget, it is as healthy as can be (as long as you don’t eat the huge fat chunks on the samgyeopsal).

Sorry, it went to fast for a pre-eating shot. But trust me, it really was pretty. Photo by Anna Waigand

So next time you’ve had a few mugs of beer, sips of wine, or shots of soju, remember: It doesn’t always have to be greasy, gross, or gosh-darned bad for you to be oh so gut-pleasingly good.

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Last night during a night out on the town for Andre’s birthday, we came across a new Korean dish: Pig Backbone Stew. Wanting some food, we had two rules: it needed to still be busy at 12:30AM (we didn’t want to walk in somewhere that was about to close) and it could not have chicken feet on the menu. What we ended up finding was an interesting new stew that we may or may not go back for.

Photo by Anna Waigand

It came as a stew and was everything a stew should be: hearty, heavy and hot. It seemed a popular choice among the young, late-night Korean crowd seeing as almost all of the tables were full by the time we left. Drunk 20-somethings kept stumbling in, eating and drinking until their red faces stumbled back out into the cold again.

We were uncertain about what we were eating until a Korean with very good English (he studied in Australia for eight months, apparently) told us that it was pig back bone meat. With that mystery solved, we dug into the fragrant stew that was bubbling on our table. We combed through the spinal bones to find the meat that was still ever so loosely hanging on. It was the most perfectly cooked spinal meat that I have ever had (although I suppose that isn’t saying much). We jabbed it off the spine easily with our chopsticks and it arrived at our mouths juicy and tender. To help it go down, the hearty broth provided a vibrant Korean style taste (think: Korean chili powder with some garlic and green onions) with a miniscule kick at the end. Vegetables swam through the stew providing some extra flavor and a slippery texture.

Photo by Anna Waigand

The problem that we found was the amount of meat that actually came in the stew. As one might imagine, spinal meat is not very plentiful. The size and shape of the bones were much more impressive than the meat volume of the stew. So, it was a delicious meal perfect for a cold late-night on the town, but not something I would want to eat on a regular basis.

If you live in Seoul and would like to check it out, the restaurant was off of the Sinchon subway stop, exit 2. Take a left after the big red tube, then your first right, then your first left. It’s across from the chicken feet restaurant (you’ll know which is the chicken feet restaurant because it has a big picture of a man with chicken feet and it says “Chicken Feet Restaurant”). If you check it out, be sure to let us know what you thought!

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