Posts Tagged ‘Korea’

Korea Trip Part V: Fake Traditional Birthday Party

Posted by Greg on May 3rd, 2010 with tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Don’t worry, this is part five of five…last of the Korea trip posts, and only three weeks after our return!

In Korean culture, a baby’s first birthday is a major event.  Not only do people host parties with their friends to celebrate, but they also mark the occasion with a ceremony called a ‘Dol’, where the baby dresses in traditional Korean clothes and is placed in front of a table full of food, decorations, and series of items for the baby to choose from.  The item that the baby picks up first is supposed to indicate the profession or future of the baby later in life.  When Yenari was a baby she chose a pen and a book – foreshadowing the fact that she would spend a lot of time studying…a fortune that came true!

Even though our area of California has a very high population of Koreans, there aren’t really many places where you can buy Korean traditional clothes, and especially not many where you can buy traditional baby clothes.  So, one of our goals on our trip was to find clothes for Hazel for her upcoming birthday (just one month away!).  Yenari’s grandmother said that she wanted to buy the clothes for Hazel and knew just the place for it – an open market in the middle of Seoul – a wild place filled with thousands of tiny shops, food sellers, and lots of commotion.

We made our way through the market, slowly following Yenari’s grandmother who was weaving in through the tight corridors as only someone could who had walked the market thousands of times.  We eventually made it a set of shops dedicated to baby hanboks.  Here’s a small slice of the wall:

Shopping for Hazel's hanbok for her Dol

We spent a while there with Yenari, her mother, and her grandmother talking to the women behind the counter and seeing what they had to offer. After serious debate on exactly how hot the hot pink of the dress should be, and after holding up many different hanboks to see how they’d look on Hazel we made our choice and followed Yenari’s grandmother out of the maze.

Shopping for Hazel's hanbok for her Dol

On way back home, Yenari’s grandmother and mother were both feeling a bit sad that they wouldn’t actually get to see Hazel wear her fancy new clothes at her Dol, so we suggested that we have an early birthday party for Hazel (2 months early) so that all the family in Korea and Yenari’s friends could be a part of it. Everyone was excited about the idea and we planned the party for the weekend before we were to leave. Yenari’s grandmother started all of the cooking and decorating preparations just about as soon as she got home.

Fast forward a couple days to Saturday and the preparations. Yenari’s father was the boss of the preparations, making a trip to the Korean equivalent of Toys R Us to pick out some stuff for her to choose from at the table. The table itself was his other main job, decorating it with fresh fruit, handmade rice cake, handmade carved dried squid, and about twenty stuffed animals. Here’s a shot of Yenari’s father preparing the table, and following that the squid and rice cakes that Yenari’s grandmother worked so hard on:

being coached by grandfather before her Dol

Dol table

Handmade rice cakes made by Hazel's great grandmother for her Dol

Carved dried squid made by Hazel's great grandmother for her Dol

Up next, the arrival of the guests and the dressing of Hazel in her hanbok:

getting dressed up for her Dol in a Korean traditional hanbok

Once dressed, Hazel had fun with the family before the event got going:

gnawing on stuff with her grandfather

with her great grandmother

playing with grandma, partially dressed up at her Dol

and then it was time to start the festivities – Hazel was put down in front of the table, quickly grew tired of her hat, and then started checking out all the things in front of her:

all ready to go at her Dol

what to pick...

second pick - princess wand

her first pick was a stethoscope – a total setup by Yenari, placed well in front of all of the other items. The stethoscope was followed by a princess wand, which was followed by a gold ring. Yenari’s father tried to have to her pick up money, a sign of wealth, but she immediately threw it on the ground…uh oh. We all had a great time watching it and then took some group photos:

fam photo at her Dol

with Yenari's friends at her Dol

and a not so happy photo of Hazel with her grandparents!

not so happy with grandma and grandpa at her Dol

quickly turning back to happiness seconds later:

with grandma at the Dol

Playing in her fancy dress at the Dol

We were all so happy that we decided to have this fake birthday party and celebrate Hazel’s Dol. While this was the fake one it’ll definitely be much more authentic than the one we’ll do here in a few weeks. A huge thanks to Yenari’s grandmother for both buying the hanbok and for preparing all of the rice cakes and decorations, thanks to Yenari’s parents for for hosting the party and preparing the table, and thanks to everyone who make the trip out to celebrate with us and who got Hazel such nice presents.

We had another three days in Korea, but I’ll spare you all and not go into extreme detail on each and every minute. We visited Yenari’s grandfather’s grave in the countryside, we met Yenari’s father’s extended family (who Yenari hadn’t seen in about 10 years), had some last visits with Yenari’s buddies DoYoung and Eulji, and spent more time with Yenari’s family. It was a great trip and it was so nice to see Hazel get to know Yenari’s family and to have her spoiled with all of the attention. She changed a lot in this trip and started to look a lot more like a kid and a lot less like a baby (looks can be deceiving sometimes though!).

So it was back to reality…a long flight home with an almost immediate hop back on to a plane for all of us to go to Boston (for my work) and Connecticut (to see my family)…but I’ll leave that for another post…


Korea Trip Part IV: Yenari Loves Chicken Wings

Posted by Greg on April 22nd, 2010 with tags: , , , , ,

If Yenari were going to rank the three things she loves most in this world, the list would be something like the following:

  1. Hazel
  2. Chicken Wings
  3. Me

I’ve tried to move up in the rankings (since I used to be number two before Hazel was born) but it’s really a lost cause.  At the top of Yenari’s list for chicken wings are Korean chicken wings.  While there are good Korean wing joints near us in Santa Clara, and other places Yenari has chowed down on in LA and New York, for the real deal you’ve got to get your Korean chicken wings in Korea.  So Yenari was pretty pumped about eating some chicken wings on our trip.

After a dinner one night with some family friends, Yenari asked her brother to pickup some chicken wings for her at one of the top spots in Seoul, Kyochon Chicken.  Despite having eaten a full dinner already, Yenari ate almost the whole box of chicken wings but couldn’t quite finish them off.  Fully satisfied with her midnight snack of chicken wings Yenari passed out for the night.

The next morning she spotted the left over chicken on the table.  Normally Yenari is very conscious of germs and proper food handling, but unfortunately her love of chicken wings blinded her and she ate the remaining chicken wings.  Before doing this she asked her mom if it was ok, and she said yes.  I caught her midway through the feast and asked her if it was a good idea to eat chicken that had been sitting out all night and she said ‘my mom said its ok’.  Not one to get in the way of Yenari’s love of chicken (kind of like stealing food from a hungry dog) I let it go and she finished off the food.

She was doing ok for a while, but had a bit of a stomach ache around lunch time….not enough to prevent her from eating beef soup at lunch, but enough to slow her down a bit.  We took a big family nap (me, Yenari, and Hazel) for a couple hours after lunch and upon waking up Yenari felt fairly awful.  After a bit she threw up and was definitely not feeling great.  Yenari’s mom wanted her to go to the hospital/doctor, but Yenari was refusing to go, saying that it was a stomach thing and there isn’t really anything the doctors can do about it – only time and fluids really help.

It was approaching dinner time, and we already had plans to have dinner with the whole family – Yenari’s dad was leaving work early and her brother was driving the hour from where he lives to meet us at a bulgogi restaurant.  Yenari’s parents decided that we should go without her, but right as we were leaving Yenari threw up again and Yenari’s mom decided to stay at home with Yenari and Hazel.  I offered to stay at home instead, but they insisted that I go out to dinner with Yenari’s father and brother.

So we went to eat and were enjoying our meal while Yenari was at home with her mom and Hazel.  About halfway through the meal Yenari’s dad got a call from Yenari’s mom and then said he was going home because they were bringing Yenari to the hospital and they needed help with Hazel, but that I should finish eating with Yenari’s brother and that everything was fine.  I assumed, from what Yenari’s father said, that Yenari’s mom had convinced her to go to the doctor, but the real story was somewhat different…

At home, Yenari started feeling worse and worse.  She had puked a number of times and she had been breastfeeding Hazel all day, so she was very dehydrated.  Yenari’s mom was playing with Hazel in her room so Yenari went to be with them in her mothers room.  She was lying there, zoned out, sipping on water…when she had to make another trip to the bathroom and basically was in a passed out / delusional state….she was sweating, having palpitations, was feeling lightheaded,  had numbness and tingling in her arms and legs, and blurred vision.  She asked her mom for water, but she didn’t want to let her drink it in the bathroom because that isn’t sanitary (but eating unrefrigerated chicken is?).

Finally Yenari asked her mom to call the Korean equivalent of 911 (which is 119 in Korea) – Yenari’s mom called Yenari’s dad first (the call I heard but couldn’t understand due to a slight issue of not understanding Korean) who said yes, call 911.  An ambulance came, the paramedics came into the apartment and brought her out on a gurney (after asking whether she was just drunk), and Yenari, her mom, and Hazel were driven away in the back of an ambulance, sirens ablast.

When Yenari’s brother and I finally finished the multi-course meal that Yenari’s father had ordered (and commanded us to finish) we started over to the hospital, but a few minutes away from getting there Yenari’s dad called and asked us to go back to the apartment and pickup Yenari’s glasses which she had left at home – it seemed odd that Yenari would have left them, but I didn’t think too much of it.  We drove the 10 minutes back home and another 15 back to the hospital….which was a real hospital, something I totally wasn’t expecting.  I was expecting something like urgent care, but this was a major hospital and we were heading into the emergency room.

Yenari’s father saw us coming in and directed us over to Yenari, lying in bed with an IV in her arm.  I was shocked as I had no idea she was actually that sick and that no one had told me!  She was obviously pissed off that I was coming so much later and asked very sarcastically if I had enjoyed my dinner!  She was actually feeling a lot better by then since she had been given some fluids.  The dangerous part was over, but they still attached an EKG and tested her heart – since Yenari is a nurse in a cardiac unit she was more than interested in interrogating all of the doctors and nurses on the results.  Here’s the happy chicken wing victim in the hospital:

Yenari in the hospital after the chicken wing incident

Yenari’s mom wouldn’t admit that the chicken wings were the cause and was looking for other potential causes, but we all knew that the chicken wings were to blame.  After her final tests were over we all headed home and Yenari finished off the evening drinking Powerade, Pocari Sweat (a Korean drink like Powerade), and water.  The next day Yenari was feeling much better and by dinner time was eating kimchi and pickled crab.

As a result of this two things happened:

  1. Yenari’s mom started putting everything in the fridge – even cookies made it in there, and soon the fridge was just about overflowing
  2. Yenari doesn’t like chicken wings anymore

So, on the positive side of things I’m back to #2 on Yenari’s list.  With chicken wings out of the way I’m right behind Hazel on the things Yenari loves.  I’m sure chicken wings will make their return on the list, but for now I’m enjoying my spot on the list!

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Korea Trip Part III: Jeju Island

Posted by Greg on April 10th, 2010 with tags: , , , , , , ,

After our first week in Korea it was time for a vacation within a vacation – a four day weekend trip to Jeju Island – Jeju is a volcanic island off the southern coast of Korea that is a popular travel spot for Koreans, Japanese, and Chinese…it’s kind of like the Hawaii of Korea. We headed to Jeju with Yenari’s parents and grandmother on a short 50 minute flight from Seoul.

We got our rental car, a three row mini-van, and Yenari’s father assumed the role of tour guide for the duration of our trip. On the way out of the main town we stopped at a supermarket to pickup some food, and then at the public market – a crazy place – to pick up some abalone. Check out the massive scallops next to the abalone:

Jeju public market

On the way to our hotel on a drive through the center of the island we stopped at big volcanic crater to take a look. Yenari’s parents and grandmother watched Hazel (which they did at countless spots in the trip) while we made our way to look around. The area was covered with magma everything – from the rocks lining the stairs up to the crater to the roofs of the surrounding buildings:

Magma rock roof

We continued onto Royalville – our hotel that was a modern condo-like setting right on the ocean with 3 bedrooms, and living room, and kitchen:

Our hotel/apartment at Royalville in Jeju Island

That night Yenari’s father prepared the abalone three ways: sashimi, pan-fried, and as a part of a rice porridge – all were excellent. This trip was the first extended period of time that Hazel had with her great grandmother…and they became great friends. Here’s Hazel sitting between her great grandmother and her grandfather at breakfast the next morning:

Breakfast buffet!

The next day we spent primarily driving around the island and checkout out the shoreline and the waterfalls pouring local streams and rivers into the ocean:

At the waterfalls of Jeju Island

At the end of the day we headed to the Jeju airport to pickup Yenari’s friend Eulji who joined us for just over 24 hours – but an action-packed 24 hours – on Jeju. In those 24 hours we did a lot of eating, climbing, fishing, swimming, and sight seeing. A couple photos:

Yenari and Eulji at the Shineville pool

Yenari and Eulji catching fish at the same time

Great grandmother caught one!

View of Jeju from Seongsan Ilchulbang after climbing up 30 minutes

Swimming in the Shineville pool with the fam and Eulji

Swimming in the Shineville pool with Eulji

We made a number of trips to that swimming pool at our hotel and Hazel started to enjoy it quite a bit at the end. She was a bit scared in the beginning and definitely didn’t like any water getting on her face, but she had fun with everyone carrying her around the pool, splashing water, and playing in an inner-tube:

Swimming in the Shineville pool

It was a great trip – so many beautiful things to see, great things to eat, but more importantly we had such a good time with Yenari’s parents, grandmother, and Eulji. Hazel formed a real bond with both her great grandmother and her grandfather and everyone took their turns in playing with her. She was so excited and pumped that she wouldn’t nap or sleep well…so she just partied until she crashed:


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Korea Trip Part II: Catching up with friends

Posted by Greg on April 6th, 2010 with tags: , , , , , ,

Our first week in Korea was mostly spent meeting up with Yenari’s friends from middle school and high school, spending time with family, and eating!

We started off the week on Monday picking up Yenari’s grandfather who was set to leave for Thailand the next day – he lives part-time in Korea, part-time in Thailand, so it was great to see him again (after the wedding the previous day).  We all headed to Yenari’s father’s office and met up with him to go to a nearby sushi restaurant for lunch. He are a couple of us eating the feast:

Sushi lunch with the fam

and Yenari’s father keeping Hazel occupied – but Hazel did the reverse – she kept him so occupied he didn’t really get a chance to eat anything:

Sushi lunch with the fam

Next we headed up to Yenari’s father’s office at the Korean Creative Content Agency, a government agency that promotes Korean culture overseas, with a focus of Korean music, movies, tv, animation, and video games – they do both promotion overseas and give grants to Korean content producers to allow them to finance their efforts. Up in his office, Hazel spent her time pretending that she was the boss:

In Yenari's father's office

His office was great for kids and much more fun that the average office since it was filled with stuffed animals, action figures, and posters from various things he’s worked on. The bottom floor even had a full Pucca Exhibition – here a couple shots from our visit:

At the Pucca exhibition in Yenari's father's office

At the Pucca exhibition in Yenari's father's office

At the Pucca exhibition in Yenari's father's office

It was a great little excursion of spending time with Yenari’s family, eating great food, and seeing a cool exhibit. On the way back to Yenari’s parents apartment we stopped so that both of u could get new glasses, and while waiting Hazel read the paper with her grandmother:

Reading the paper with grandma

The next day was a busy day – we first went to lunch with Jooyoung, one of Yenari’s high school buddies, at an American themed restaurant (though it wasn’t actually so American!). Yenari had a great time catching up with her, but Hazel was a bit cranky so I was busy walking her around the restaurant and getting her to sleep – in all the excitement was forgot to get a picture with Jooyoung. After spending a couple hours with her at the restaurant Jooyoung gave us a ride to Doyoung’s house so we could spend more time with her.

It was a nice day so we went out on a walk with Doyoung and her almost two year old boy Daehyun. As we were walking Doyoung spotted one of her son’s favorite places – a mini amusement park / restaurant aimed at 2-4 year olds called Chiro & Friends (who are cartoon characters in Korea). Hazel was a bit too young to fully enjoy all that they had to offer, but that didn’t stop her from having an awesome time – here are some photos:






The kids weren’t the only ones playing – here are Yenari and Doyoung showing off their architectural work:


We ate some good food there and then paid the extra fees for spending more than the two hours that came with the price of admission. The three hours we spent there were a blast!

The next night we met up with another of Yenari’s high school friends, Sanghee. Sanghee went to school in San Francisco a couple years ago, so I know her too. Here are the girls, catching up at an Italian restaurant in the middle of downtown Ilsan:

Catching up with Sanghee

And…last, on the list for this week was Daehyun’s 2nd birthday on Thursday. We met up with Doyoung and Daehyun for some lunch and then headed back to their place to help prepare the decorations for the party. Hazel had fun with all of the people giving her attention, and Yenari had fun spending more time with Doyoung and seeing Jiyoung, another high school buddy. Somewhere in the midst of decorating Hazel caught on to crawling – not a traditional crawl yet, but she can make her way across a room to where she wants to get, so she’s dangerous now! Here are some photos from the party:

Yenari with highschool buddies Doyoung and Jiyoung

At Daehyun's birthday party

Daehyun's 2nd birthday!

All in all, a great first week in Korea!

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Korea Trip Part I

Posted by Greg on March 29th, 2010 with tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

This past Thursday we embarked on an almost three week trip to Korea to visit with Yenari’s family.  We were worrying about the flight since its a long one – around 12 hours plus a few more in airport waiting, customs, waiting for bags, and driving both ways – but Hazel did great on the flight.  She didn’t sleep much, but she was in mostly good spirits.  We lucked out with a seat in the first row of our section so Hazel had her own little bassinet to hang out in:

Overjoyed with the airplane's bassinet

We had to keep a close watch on her since her idea of fun was to attempt leaping out of the bassinet to play with us. Most of the time she spent on our laps while we tried to entertain her while watching movies. Yenari plopped Hazel in front of the TV and put the headset on her to see how she would react and she was transfixed – we’d never seen her act that way in front of the TV. It was a Korean cartoon and Hazel shrieked out in excitement whenever the shark came on the screen.

Transfixed by Pororo (Korean cartoon)

Once we made our way to Seoul and then through immigration, baggage claim, and customs we were greeted by Yenari’s very excited parents. Yenari’s mom was with us in California for the first four weeks of Hazel’s life, but hadn’t seen her since…and Yenari’s father had met her yet. Yenari’s father was a little worried because Hazel is very fearful of strangers (and particularly men), but she only gave him a healthy level of caution and didn’t freak out too much. Here’s their first meeting in the airport:

First meeting of grandpa, reunion with grandma

Since it was about dinner time, we went straight to a restaurant and met up for dinner with Yenari’s brother who was also meeting Hazel for the first time. Yenari’s dad continued his courtship of Hazel – trying to feed her and carry her around the restaurant…this courtship was successful at times and cry-inducing at others, but it was a start. Yenari’s father is a very energetic guy and this energy scared Hazel off for the first day or so, but Yenari gave him some advice to start slow and build up to his full energy level over time as she begins to trust him. Now, after a couple days, Hazel seems to be quite comfortable with him and sits happily on his lap and lets him carry her around. Here’s her father feeding Hazel at that first dinner:

Grandpa feeding

After dinner we headed back to Yenari’s parents house and Yenari’s brother picked up Yenari’s grandmother to meet Hazel. Here she was kind of assaulted by love and affection…something that was a bit overwhelming for Hazel and resulting in a bit of a meltdown. We went to bed soon after and slept well, though Hazel woke up at an early 5am and turned the scenario around for Yenari’s parents by showing them what it feels like to try to play when you’re tired!

A little later in the morning we went with Yenari’s mom to bring Yenari to the salon – Yenari likes getting her hair cut a lot more in Korea than the US because they understand Korean hair better here. Yenari had recently trimmed Hazel’s bangs very unsuccessfully and Yenari’s hair dresser saw it and couldn’t resist giving Hazel a bit more of a trim to straighten things out. Here she is with Yenari’s friend Eulji who joined us at the salon:

with Eulji

While this was happening Yenari was busy being attacked by a ceiling-dwelling-robotic-octopus…or at least that’s what it appeared to be:

Attack of the alien octopus robot

Attack of the alien octopus robot

Later that afternoon we went over to Yenari’s Doyoung house – Doyoung is Yenari’s friend from middle school and high school and she and her husband have an almost 2 year old boy who we were meeting for the first time:

Meeting Doyoung and Daehyun

By this time I was somewhat zonked from the jet lag, but everyone happily chatted while I passed out on the couch. I’m pretty much caught up now, but the first two days were a bit rough.

Yenari’s mom and brother picked us up from Doyoung’s house and we went to pick up her father who had been on a day trip for business to Sunchun. While in Sunchun, Yenari’s father called to a restaurant called to a restaurant to get the famous Gwanyang Bulgogi – he didn’t have enough time to go to the restaurant, so he asked the owner to bring a cooler full of bulgogi (an order for 15 people!) to the bus station. Yenari’s dad didn’t want to cook it at home, so he called a BBQ restaurant where you cook at the table and asked if we could bring our own beef to cook – kind of bizarre, but they were okay with it. The bulgogi was incredible, nothing like the bulgogi we get in Santa Clara, LA, or anywhere else in the US. We also order some beef sashimi – raw beef marinated in pear, garlic, onions, sesame oil, and green onions. Here’s the family:

Bulgogi BBQ

and here’s Hazel passed out – I wasn’t alone is suffering from jet lag:

Passed out at dinner

Eventually we made it through almost all of the food…so the 5 of us ate about 13 servings of the bulgogi plus 2 orders of the beef sashimi. This was definitely some serious eating…the rest of the evening is a blur due to the beef intoxication!

The big event for Sunday was Yenari’s cousin Youngjoon’s wedding. We lucked out in having a family wedding while we were here – it gave us a chance to see lots of extended family without having to drive all of Seoul and the surrounding area to meet people. The wedding was also a new experience for most of us because it was a Korean traditional wedding – something that is very rare – both Yenari and her mother had never been to one in person. Yenari’s grandmother came over before the wedding and played with Hazel – she was in a much better mood this time and had a blast with her great grandmother:

with her great grandmother and a Louis Vuitton bag

The wedding was at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul and was held outdoors. Here are some photos of the ceremony:

Yenari's cousin Youngjoon's traditional wedding

Yenari's cousin Youngjoon's traditional wedding

Yenari's cousin Youngjoon's traditional wedding

Yenari's cousin Youngjoon's traditional wedding

Yenari's cousin Youngjoon's traditional wedding

Yenari's cousin Youngjoon's traditional wedding

Hazel was well behaved during the ceremony and didn’t scream out or anything like that. After the wedding she was mobbed by extended family members who wanted to meet her, hold her, and snap pictures of her. We saw Yenari’s grandfather (who we had seen recently in California) and I met Yenari’s aunt Jihae and her uncle Sungtae – both of whom I hadn’t met – now I’ve met all of Yenari’s mother’s siblings. The reception was very different from that of an American wedding – it was a no nonsense eat your food and get out of there situation – no dancing, music, or anything like that. We enjoyed our meal and then headed home.

We finished off the eating for the day by treating Yenari’s parents, brother, and grandmother to a dinner at a Chinese restaurant. I lost count after a while, but Yenari just counted out at least 7 courses. So, this was definitely a continuation of the massive food quantities we seen at just about every meal. I bet I’ll gain around 10 pounds if this eating style continues. Aside from the food, my favorite thing about this restaurant was that the brick wall was painted with a series of greater that life size paintings of Bruce Lee! No Bruce Lee photo here, but one of Yenari and her mom kissing Hazel instead:

Kisses from mom and grandmother

When we got home to Yenari’s parents house they brought out Hazel’s early first birthday present, a beautiful wooden block house from Soopsori, a Korean company that makes toys entirely out of wood…and entirely out of wood it is – even the screws and screw driver used to assemble the house are made of wood. Everyone was busy playing with the the little animals, appliances, and the house:

Wooden toy house - early b-day present

A great present that we can’t wait to get home with us!

We’ve had a great time so far in Korea and are really looking forward to the rest of our time here. This post is way too long already so I’ll hold off on covering today’s events, but will do my best to keep this up to date….

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