Wednesday, June 17, 2009

End of Semester

We've been keeping really busy here in Gunpo. The semester has flown by and we're now on summer vacation. We're going to visit the States again in a week. We've decided to flip our schedule - go home in the summer and travel around Asia in the winter. I love spending the holidays with family...but being couped up inside for a vacation isn't ideal. I'm really looking forward to hanging out by the pool in New York this summer and camping a ton while we're in Wyoming.

Since I've been a bit lax lately, I thought I'd post a photo summary of a few things we've done in the last few months in Korea. I figured it would be best to catch you all up before we see you again. :0)

Jason, Jake, Marnie, Fritz, and I went to the Lantern Festival in Insadong in May.

Lotus Lantern.

Ladies getting ready for the parade.

More parade folks.

Knick Knack shop.

Jake and Jason seem to share a love of wandering down random alleys.

The lanterns weren't typical laterns as you can see.

Most of them were around 15 - 20 feet tall.

And some of them breathed Bear Gryllis would say, "It was just awesome!"

Kellee, Dale, and their daughter Abbey came up to Seoul for a visit. We went to the DMZ and the War Memorial Museum. It was so cool! I learned so much about the Korean War. I think I'll start going to the non-arty museums from now on.

The DMZ is the most heavily fortified border in the world. We went there around the time that the North was shooting off rockets. Maybe that was why I found it so fascinating.

People come to the DMZ and leave memorials. It's possible they're for the families that were seperated during the war, or maybe just in solidarity for other human beings.

It rained the whole day so we didn't get very many pictures. Jason didn't want his fancy camera to get wet.

Isn't he cute?

Yes, there are train tracks that run to Pyeongyang. People aren't allowed to travel by train to North Korea's just for grain and other relief supplies that the South sends to them via the Sunshine Policy agreement.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Wedding Medley

I've been to quite a few weddings so far in my life and all of them have been different. I've been to a swanky Manhattan wedding on a rooftop overlooking Central Park, an outdoor wedding in the Colorado mountains, a few small town traditional weddings, a garden wedding in Phoenix, and a Mormon wedding (which had the most boring reception I've ever been to). Over the weekend I went to another wedding that was once again different from all the others.

My co-worker Nathan and his fiancée tied the knot. I had seen pictures of a Korean wedding that (other) Nathan had gone to a few years ago. So, I was kind of expecting the same thing...but I should know by now not to expect anything in Korea.

Nathan and Sung Hee didn't have a traditional Korean wedding. Instead they had a combo wedding - modern Korea, Vegas karaoke, and traditional Maori. It was interesting to say the least.

Modern Korean weddings take place in wedding halls; however wedding megaplexes would be a more apt name. The wedding halls have several floors of pre-decorated chapel rooms and a huge buffet style restaurant. It was the first (and probably only) wedding that I've attended that had the wedding procession accompanied by smoke machines that ran down the center aisle. The ceremonies are booked for a half hour each and you have to be prompt since the next wedding party is gathered outside the chapel waiting for their turn.

During their ceremony, Nathan sang a romantic Elvis song to his new bride. When I say this, you probably assume that Nathan is an accomplished singer. He is not. I wasn't sure if it was okay to chuckle as I watched him but there was no other reaction that seemed appropriate.

Nathan's mother, a nice lady from New Zealand, wore a hanbok as did the bride’s family. The wedding couple wore traditional western wedding clothes for the ceremony. Sung Hee looked beautiful in her white wedding dress, tiara, and glitter. The happy couple changed into hanboks for the reception.

The reception at the buffet restaurant was also interesting. There were several wedding parties there and it wasn't geared toward any specific couple. There was however a few choice wedding photo ops. There was a generic unity candle-type thing, a rubber cake that the couples pretended to cut, and a champagne tower that the couples stood next to while the wedding hall host made some generic toasts.

After the buffet, we went to a great little bar in Ansan where Nathan changed out of his traditional Korean clothes. His third wedding ensemble was a super tight white Elvis costume and an exaggerated Elvis wig. He joined the band for a humorous rendition of Heartbreak Hotel and the crowd went wild.

Toward the end of the evening, a few of his friends from home convinced him to join them for a traditional Maori dance. Only one of the guys was part Maori, but it was surprisingly well done.

All in all, I'd give the wedding a 10 on originality. As Jason was saying the other day...Korea should change its tourism slogan from Korea Sparkling to Korea: It's never boring.


I've included pictures from a trip Jason and I took to Chiaksan National Park a few months ago.

We went early in the season so all of the pensions and minbaks close to the park were closed. Jason approached the family that owned this one and they agreed to open up a room for us.

This was an old school minbak so it was nothing more than a small room with some blankets to sleep on. Since the owners weren't expecting guests they didn't have the restroom in working order. I asked the lady who owned the place where the bathroom was...and she gave me a small chamber pot.

Since the place didn't have a bathroom (or shower or sink or ....) this is the only angle I allowed Jason to shoot of me all day.

Last year we were in the Philippines for Buddah's birthday so we missed all of the celebrations.

Lanterns are put up on every street/path in Korea that leads to a Buddhist temple.

The temple was in the National Park - as many of them are.

Coolest bridge ever!

This waterfall has been turned into a wishing well. The bottom of the pool is covered with coins.

The trail was really steep and a bit freaky in some places. In this picture, you can see that the trail is only a couple feet wide. What you can't see is that there are 50+ feet drops on either side and gaps in the rock trail.

It was really windy that day and in order to not do what the sign says, we decided to turn around and try again another day.

View from the trail.

Jason contemplating the best way down.

It was easier to appreciate the view on the way down knowing we'd soon be on level ground.