From Korea with Love

"I carry your heart with me… always."


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Watching Cherry Blossoms at Seokchon Lake

BLOSSOMS

Last Sunday, hubby and I went to  Songpa Naru Park in Jamsil to see the cherry blossoms. We were in the Philippines two weeks ago, so we missed the festival from April 12th to 14th. We weren’t expecting a lot of people since the festival was over, but the place was brimming with sightseers.

The cherry blossom trees wrap around Seokchon lake. Across the lake, you can see some of the lofty rides at Lotte World.

Some cherry blossoms were shedding their petals. Watching the petals cascade like snow in spring was lovely, and it was lovelier because hubby and I were walking hand in hand, like many young couples who were there to enjoy a romantic walk in the park.

Last year, hubby and I were very busy that we didn’t have time to see the cherry blossoms. Also, he was a bit worried that I would complain about the “walk”, but who would complain about walking for a couple of minutes when you are surrounded by beautiful trees and happy people?

Here are some of the photos hubby and I took on Sunday. I forgot to turn my cam’s auto-flash back on, so the pictures aren’t as good. The photos hubby took from his mobile phone are even better.

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Everyone was busy sight-seeing and taking photos, so hubby was reluctant to ask someone to take our picture. Luckily, I found a very friendly 외국 사람 or 외국인 (foreigner) who was kind enough to take more than one picture of hubby and me doing “emo” poses. ^^

This is my favorite.

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The cherry blossom trees all looked the same, but we found one that stood out with its big pink petals. It has just bloomed. The tree reminded me of a scene from my favorite movie “Memoirs of a Geisha“, when the beautiful Sayuri stood under the pink cherry blossoms and the chairman she secretly loves said, “Even the cherry blossoms are envious of her.”

Hubby and I couldn’t get near the loveliest cherry blossom in the park, because there were so many people taking photos. We had to wait for a few minutes, but people kept coming, so we couldn’t really get a good shot.

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Besides cherry blossoms, there are also yellow forsythia or 개나리 (gaenali/gaenari) in Korean.

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20130421_125620The lake itself is a sight to behold. Different kinds of fish swim in the water. They are colorful and “huge”, I guess because they are well fed by people visiting the lake. I wanted to feed the fish, but we weren’t bringing any food.

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15There are bleachers by the lake where people can stay and watch shows or programs. Some students were rehearsing for a dance. Hubby and I watched for a while. I suddenly missed my school days. Although I wasn’t a very good dancer, I  enjoyed dance class and got into cheerleading.

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Hubby and I had a splendid Sunday.

Sometimes it’s better to simply take a walk together and relish the beauty of nature than spend money and precious time waiting for a seat or your food to be served in a fancy restaurant.

CHERRY

After our long walk, we saw a little girl scooping out with her tiny hands some of the cherry blossoms that had fallen and are scattered on the ground. I smiled at how easy it is for that little girl to find happiness in a pile of petals… and then I started to wonder how something that had fallen and been trampled on many times could be beautiful  to a child.

Hubby said, “Why don’t you try (it)?”

I did. I took some of the petals in my hands and blew them away… like the little girl with her big smiley face. ^^

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29To get to Seokchon Lake, take Seoul Subway Line 2 going to Jamsil station; Exit Gate 3.
Walk straight, 200 meters, to arrive at the entrance of Songpa Naru Park.


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정월대보름: First Full Moon Festival

Yesterday, February 24th, was the first full moon of this year’s Lunar calendar, also known as 정월대보름 (Jeongwol Daeboreum) in South Korea. 정월대보름 (or 대보름) is celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the Lunar new year.

Some Korean families have rituals or activities during this day. In some places like Jeju Island or Gangwon Province, a great bonfire is held and various folk games are played. In the olden days, people would play a traditional game called 쥐불놀이 (geuybulnori/jwibulnoli) on the night before the festival. They set ablaze the dry grass on furrows between rice fields to fertilize the fields and to get rid of insects and worms that damage crops. My husband told me that when he was a child, he would put holes in a can, place charcoal fire in it, and spin the can until the burning charcoal fire goes through the holes and makes a spectacular sight similar to a whirling firework.

In the morning, people ate 오곡밥 (ogokbap) for breakfast. 오곡밥 is steamed rice mixed and cooked with five kinds of grains such as barley, millet, soybeans, red beans and black beans. Farmers would share the rice with their neighbors. They believed that if they share it with at least three families, they would receive good fortune and good harvest throughout the year.

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They ate the rice with different kinds of dried herbs and nuts like chestnuts, walnuts, pine nuts and peanuts as symbol of prosperity and good health. The nuts are cracked with their teeth. People believed that by doing this, their teeth will be stronger for the whole year. (Ouch! Have you tried cracking a walnut with your teeth?) Nowadays, Korean people don’t really follow this 대보름 ritual of cracking nuts with their teeth. (After all, going to the dentist to have your tooth/teeth fixed could get quite pricey these days.)

On Saturday night, Omonim, my mother in-law, cooked 오곡밥. We ate it for dinner, along with 시금치무침 (sigeumchi muchim: sauteed spinach) and dried seaweeds which I was asked to prepare. There were also other side dishes that we often serve for dinner like kimchi and grilled fish, as well as kimchi soup, which is one of my specialties.

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My parents-in-law brought home dried peanuts and walnuts, too. I was full, so I skipped the part when all the members of the family would sit together, crack nuts and eat them. Besides, my husband who happens to be my official nut cracker was not home yet, and I can’t crack walnuts with my bare hands, just like what the rest of the family does.

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Next year, if possible, I would like to try climbing a mountain (or a rooftop/tree) on 대보름 to watch the rising of the first full moon of the year. They say that the first person to see the full moon will have good luck all year. I don’t believe in luck, but I think it will be so romantic watching the first full moon with your special someone, as you cuddle up on a cold winter night.

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