Monday, October 29, 2007

A Korean Wedding

This past weekend one of my good friends got married here in Korea. She and her husband chose to have a traditional Korean ceremony. They will also have a western-style wedding when they return to Canada next year.

The ceremony was gorgeous! Complete with bold bright colors and regal traditions. The bride wore a red hanbok and the groom wore a maroon outfit consisting of a chigori (jacket), paji (trousers) and a turumahi (overcoat).

Unlike traditional western weddings, the bride and groom did not have attendants, but were aided by staff of the wedding venue in performing their many bows and traditions. The ceremony lasted for almost an hour and a half. I was surprised to see people getting up and leaving all throughout the service to eat-- a common practice here.

Wedding ducks are a symbol of a long and happy marriage

The bride getting ready

The groom and bride walking down the aisle

With the groom's parents after the ceremony

Monday, October 22, 2007

My first Korean "Celebrity" Sighting

Lee Myung-bak and I

One of the things I miss most about life in America is following the Presidential Campaign. Yes, I know, I know, but i really do miss it! (Living in Washington D.C. for several years can skew your interests.) Of course I can read about it on the online papers, but it isn't the same as being right there.

However, now I'm starting to get interested in Korean politics. Admittedly, I really know nothing on the topic besides the very basics.. (the General Election will occur in December, the recent primary election had a low turnout, etc.) But, yesterday I got lucky and saw Lee Myun Bak, the Grand National Party Candidate, at a local restaurant.

I was eating with a fellow teacher and noticed a HUGE amount of Korean Secret Service Agents (or their counterparts) and decided to find out what was going on. I randomly chose one of the staffers to talk to, who ended up being a communications staffer, and was able to arrange a quick photo.

Yes, this reveals my dorkniness, but YEAH! I may have met the future South Korean President. It's interesting how something slight can spark your interest.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I'm Still Alive

The GRE test (the analytical writing portion) was not that scary. It was "strangely" the exact same as the practice tests. However, right before my test the GRE staff person informed me that I won't be able to take the rest of the test until late June of 2008. I kinda lost it (to put it mildly). I was promised that I would take the test in October of this year. Most Fall 2008 grad school applications are due in February of 2008 and January 2009 applications are due in early June. I don't want to have to wait that long to go back to school. So.. Japan, here I come. I should be able to take the test there this winter. (They have many computer-based testing centers).

Onto other topics...

This past weekend I went to our Annual Fall Teacher's retreat at Deer Mountain (in Sahsoomoey-dongsang). More than 300 English teachers got together to discuss our experiences and basically to relax. It was sooo fun! I didn't realize how much I missed simply talking with a large group of other English speakers.

On this trip I also experienced a few "firsts" in Korea. The first was our traditional sleeping mats (yos) and the squatter toilets. No need to go into detail about the toilets, but I will always appreciate public American bathrooms from now on.

Surprisingly, sleeping on the yos was almost comfortable. Korean homes are usually heated via the floor, so the flooring is softer--almost vinyl like and isn't as hard as I'm used to in the States.

As you can see from the photo, our retreat center was located in a very scenic area.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Frazzled and Frustrated!

Ok.. It's not really that bad, but it's so much more fun to exaggerate. I'm preparing to take the first portion of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) on Thursday in Seoul (a three hour+ hour trip from Kwangju). I feel pretty comfortable, but am now trying to spend daily quality time to my prep book (thank you Borders!)

However, it was not so easy signing up for the test in Korea. I went through rounds and rounds of questions with the local office saying "You can't take the test on a Monday" (for religious reasons, I don't work/test on Saturday), then hearing from the U.S. office that.. "yes, yes you can!"

Well, it all worked out in the end and I'm taking the first portion of the test on Thursday. The balance of my post-Korea life hangs on this test. Ok.. again, not really, but I'd like to do well and get into one of the beautiful east coast schools I visited this summer.