Sunday, July 31, 2011

Record Rainfall in Seoul

Btw, I forgot to mention that while I was in Korea, when I say it rained a lot - I mean A LOT. It's the most rain they've had in 100 years!

The Han River almost overflowed! And 4,000 cars were damaged!

A lot of it is fine now, but many people's homes and stores were severely damaged. Yowzers. Global warming, f'real!

Last Day in Seoul

Went to church with eemo. Apparently the pastor here was our pastor in Dallas - but I couldn't recognize him! I was originally going to visit the Every Nation church, but I'm really glad I got to worship with my aunt. It was very special to sit with her and sing hymns together. Dad - Even if we really didn't like family bible services because it was always before dinner and you always prayed too long and we were always starving hahaha I'm really glad we did those, because I realized I knew every single Korean hymn we sang :) and when I sing them, I really feel God's love deep in my heart. Thank you!

After church, my aunt and i did some last minute shopping in EeTehWon and MyongDong and then I ate boshin tang (dog)...

Ok I'm kidding. I actually couldn't do it!!!! Kimch - I kept thinking of Pete ... And I just couldn't do it!!! Hahaha. Who would've thought I would chicken out on this?! Awww...

Instead, we ate here:

Where they marinade their own mook (radish) kimchi soup thing .. Sorry, I forgot what it's called!

And I ate UhBok JengBan for the first time.

Kind of like a nabe, with really tender beef! So good!!

And of course, finished off with some NengMyun. This was the 'smooth' kind, where the noodles are very soft. Good - but not my favorite. The broth is the critical part. Here they use the marinade mook soup mixed with their house beef stock. Very nice!

Our second family :)

And happy birthday to my eemo!!!!

It was really a great last day. I'm so grateful that we had a break in the rain to do all the sightseeing and baseball game yesterday, because it rained cats and dogs all day today!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Family Time

'외 가족' / 'Wheh Family' means, mom's side of the family. Or is that 'chin'? Crap. JiHoon/Calvin - Am I right or wrong??

Anyway, I had dinner with my mom's side of the family at Han Cheh Dang and it was so nice :)

Unfortunately, "little" uncle and aunt couldn't make it, but I got to meet HyunHo oppa's wife and their baby girl, YehBin. Man, she is one smart spunky cookie!

We had a formal Korean traditional meal, which I guess means a thousand side dishes and small appetizers followed by a rice course with a soup and a refreshing dessert drink.

We were trying to figure out what my 'title' would be for YehBin ... And I guess it would be 'gomo' even though we're technically one generation removed. Ah, the Korean 'title' system is so confusing!! It's even difficult for Korean people!

Anyway, she's darn cute and she's helplessly in love with her daddy.

Traditional dining rooms.

After dinner we went to the outdoor cafe next door and had bingsoo and coffee.

Here's a picture of just the cousins, plus YehBin! Aww, I wish my brother and the rest of our cousins could be with us!

On the way home, we stopped by JiHoon's house to see MinJung unnie and DoYoon one last time. Aww, my aunt loves him to pieces!

Poor guy got a baby shot on his leg today, so he was a little zoned out. But he's still so super cute!!!

Bye DoYoon!

The One Insanely Sunny Day

Since my aunt works all day, she always pours a lot of love into breakfast and it means a lot to her for us to all enjoy our first meal with or without her. She's so sweet. Look at all this food! :) She even made me miyukgook (seaweed soup), because it was my birthday (Korean tradition).

And though it was SO hot outside, JiSung oppa (big brother) and I went to Gyeong Bok Gung (- the main palace of the JoSeon dynasty - to learn some Korean history. This is us within the main gates, in front of the Geunjeongjeon.

The palace was originally constructed in 1394 by King Taejo, the first king and founder of the Joseon Dynasty. Gyeongbokgung was continuously expanded during the reign of King Taejong and King Sejong the Great, but the majority of the palace was burnt down during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598). During the regency of Daewongun in 1867, the palace buildings were reconstructed and formed a massive complex with 330 buildings and 5,792 rooms. Standing on 4,414,000 square feet (410,000 square meters) of land, it was a symbol of majesty for both the Korean nation and the seat of the Korean royal family...

But from 1911, the Japanese government again systemically demolished all but 10 buildings during the Japanese occupation of Korea and ultimately constructed the Japanese General Government Building for the Governor-General of Korea in front of the throne hall, Geunjeongjeon, in order to eradicate the symbol and heritage of the Joseon Dynasty. In 1995, that building was torn down. This is what it used to look like:

This is what it looks like now:

Anyway, all the terrible and sad history between Korea and Japan is very important but has left residual dismay towards Japan in the minds of many Koreans. However, I'm very lucky to have grandparents who have had a very different view of the Japanese even through and after the occupation - which helps to provide perspective and balance for me. My grandma is still fluent in Japanese and their closest friends have always been their Japanese classmates and colleagues who moved back to Japan. During my stay with her, my grandma told me all about her friends and even showed me all the gifts and visits they exchanged over the years. I guess love knows no race.

One of the interesting things I learned that stood out to me was how the king's quarters (below) were intentionally designed to be simple and not overly ornate. The king instructed this to be done as an example for the people in his kingdom to live humbly. Who knows if this is all baloney ... But it sounded nice on the earphone tour rentals.

Hello Mr.Guard. Man, these guys must have been DYING in their costumes because I was in a thin dress and I was sweltering!

After we toured the grounds of the palace, we were completely melted. So, what better than to head to SamChongDong for some DongDongJu (rice liquor) ...

... And some ice cold NengMyun! (I had a few bowls of NengMyun during my stay, but I have to say this was my favorite. They used the chewy black 'chik' noodles I like too!)

And some galbi dduk, which is essentially ground up bulgogi grilled in a patty form. You can bet your bottom dollar imma be making these when I get back!

And some seaweed and abalone Kal (knife) Gooksoo (noodle). It's called this because it uses a technique in which the flattened dough is cut into thin noodles with a knife.

After we cooled down and the sun had set a bit, we headed to the baseball stadium for a Samsung Lions vs. LG Twins baseball game!

We had banging seats 3 rows from the field behind first plate. The crowd was cheering, LG was winning, we drank beer with straws ... It was great!

Thank you JiSung oppa for a great day!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Korean Independence & Pride

This is the the Korean Liberation Gate, to commemorate their release from Japan's occupation (8/15/1955). It stands kind of randomly in the center of a busy residential intersection. Apparently its location was shifted a few yards to allow for construction of some sorts - which sounds insane to me. If you move a historical structure from it's original location ... Does it mean you've altered history itself a bit? It just doesn't seem right ...

It may be an example of how this country has grown and evolved so rapidly. Though not in its original place, this gate is still here. To many historians' chagrin - many other cultural landmarks in Seoul have been regrettably demolished to make room for modern, fancy, sky scrapers and structures. However, amidst some regrettable choices in the face of accelerated growth, there are still a lot of positive advances as well. It is arguably true that Korea has come a long way in just 50 years - from a 3rd world country to now an emerging nation in the far east.

Another thing that is still intact is the house my mom grew up in in SamChonDong!!! That shuttered store front was grandpa's pharmacy! Mom - Eemo said you didn't have a chance to see it last time you were in Korea, so I took lots of pictures and videos for you :)

We had dinner with my aunt's pharmacy assistant who has known me since I was like 3 yrs old. Haha. Knowing I was going to be at my aunts house for a few days, her mom even made me some sangehtang! How sweet :) We had dinner in an old house in SamChonDong known for their seasoned fresh crab. It was a lot saltier than the one I ate with Calvin and Gina, but was still yummy.

I guess there's been a lot of 'revisiting the past' throughout my summer travels... Must be part of the list of themes I didn't expect :)

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Sorry, in a rush - so, will add captions and explanations later. For now, here are some photos!

National Museum of Korea (국립중앙박물관)

SoonDae (blood sausages!) at I-Park Mall in Yong San (용산)

Nanta show in HongDae

6-Course Korean Style Sushi

Shopping at NamDaeMoon Market (남대문 시장) and Eating Street Food!

Traditional Korean Homes in BookChon (북촌)

Gop Chang Jungol (pig intestine stew - my fav!)

Homemade (by none other than Gina the culinary genius) Book Uh Gook (dried pollack soup) for Brekkie!

And happy faces everywhere!

(My favorite purchase so far!)