Friday, October 12, 2012

Korea in Broadview Station

I was standing at Broadview Station on my way to work yesterday waiting for a train, just like I do every day. My eyes briefly scanned in front of me, and because I hadn't had my morning coffee yet I was double-y impressed I picked up on this. The ad in front of me was for Korea. It brought a huge smile to my face at a very early hour of the day.

You don't see many billboards promoting Korea, so this really caught my eye. It was a "Visit Korea" poster sponsored by Korean Air and LG. Smack dab in the centre was a figure doing traditional Korean dance, nongak (translates to farmers dance), or pungmul. On his head he was wearing sangmo,  a hat with a beautiful long ribbon attached to it that spins and flips when the person wearing it moves their head. I saw many different performances of this in Korea and it is a beautiful sight to see. The dancer was jumping above Gyeongbukgung, way off in the back ground. Gyeongbukgung is the massive, stunning, royal palace smack dap in the middle of central Seoul.

The poster also directs people to check out their facebook page to win a trip to Korea or an LG tv. Their facebook page can be found here:

 In a society where advertising is evident in every single thing we absorb, and everywhere we look, I found I really appreciated this one. Just another little piece of Korea I found right here in Toronto.

<< Check out a blog entry HERE for a fashion show I attended at Gyeongbukgung where the palace was all dolled up for Korean Heritage Day. >>

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Raising The Flag

Timing is everything. Just as I had decided to reinvest my interest back in blogging about Korea I get a notice in the post from the Consulate. "On the occasion of the Anniversary of Korean National Foundation Day and Korean Heritage Day, the Consul General of the Republic of Korea in Toronto requests the pleasure of your company at a flag raising ceremony and a reception afterwards".


Location: the legislative Building at Queen's Park. Seriously. I don't know how I got on their VIP list, but I couldn't be more pleased. I am pretty sure I can squeeze an early/extended lunch on the day this goes down so I can be there. I don't really know what to expect other than a flag being raised and a good possibility because it happens over lunch time, some good Korean eats. I will pack my camera and be ready for whatever it is that comes my way. Kamsa Hamnida!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Oh, Korea! We meet again.

A few weeks ago, I came across a new opportunity to link me back to Korea. I have been sulking a little recently about blogging and my lack of writing over the past few months. I arrived home from Korea about 6 months ago, just as summer was starting to kick in. This past summer, after being away from Toronto for so long, was epic. I caught up with friends, spent lots of time with family and did lots of excursions to remind me why I love Canada so much and how happy I was to be home. As much as I love Toronto, it was great to go up to cottages and spend weekends up North, out of the city. It has been an amazing home coming.

Saying all that, looking at my blog archive window, I had one entry in June, one in July and none in August. Part of the reasoning behind that was because my summer was so jam packed and there was barely a minute to spare to focus on my writing. But part of it was also because for a long time, my blog was so deeply entwined with my life in Korea, that it lost a little bit being back home. How does one keep up a travel blog, when one is no longer really travelling? I struggled with this for a while. Do I change ALEX ON THE LOOSE, to ALEX IN THE CITY? Do I start up a whole new blog now that I am back in Toronto?

Technically, I am still writing for The Korea Blog, for my second year. I wasn't sure how to make that work once I left Seoul. My mission turned into "finding Korea in Toronto". Over the past 6 months I have really enjoyed learning about Korea within Toronto. But somehow, my blog wasn't thriving (translation- Alex was lazy). I made some great new friends at the Korean Consulate, I was invited to some great events they organized, I took part in the Korean Film Festival, I met another local blogger that is part of The Korea Blog (her name is Cindy and she has a great Korea-centric blog too, ). Also, I am always on the hunt for good Korean restaurants to check out.   I love Korean food and miss it so much. I've had a few opportunities to introduce some of my friends to Korean cuisine, who were just too intimidated to ever brave an authentic Korean restaurant.

Now this brings me back to my introductory sentence. A new opportunity, Korea related. 2013 is the fifty year anniversary between Korean Canadian relations. It is a big year and the Korean Consulate has many different events planned to celebrate and educate and promote Korea in general. A few weeks back I read about a contest they were holding in order to select 50 bloggers to be part of everything going on in 2013 and tell the world about it. The writer inside me got very excited. Yet another wonderful opportunity to connect me with Korea. Living in Toronto, I already have the advantage of proximity to such a huge part of the Korean population, so basically culture, food, music.... it's all at my doorstep.

So autumn has arrived, and with it I have infused myself with fresh incentive to get back into the swing of writing and blogging and do what I love to do (notice all the new September posts in my blog archive). I can't wait to get my posts rolling again and really hope I make the cut to blog for Korea in Canada! HAPPY READING!!

A Night At The Castle

*** PLEASE NOTE: this is an event that happened back in JULY but for technical reasons was never published on my blog. I know it's somewhat untimely, but it was such a beautiful evening I felt it necessary to put up. 

Last Friday, was the highly anticipated event "Rendezvous Korean Cuisine 2012", hosted by the Korean Consulate in Toronto. The venue was one of the best the city has to offer in my opinion, Casa Loma. I grew up just a few blocks away from the Castle, so it definitely holds a special place for me. It is a grande, majestic and lavish location to throw a party.

Welcome to Casa Loma
My boyfriend and I arrived fashionably late and things were well under way (no one and nothing was ever on time in Korea, I guess that trait didn't make it all the way to Canada). The main entranceway upon entering the castle was set up with different stalls sampling some of Korea's favourite bits and bites. The room was packed with people and within the first few minutes you could tell there was a great turn out and the night was destined for success.

Line ups to sample of the eats.

Korean food, on show. 

Peperro, amongst other goodies.

Chocopies, a Korean fave!

Posing with some ginseng.

We said our hello's to the Consul general and his wife, a few other friends from the  consulate, Cindy, another Korea blogger, and a small selection of familiar faces. Garry and I popped out onto the balcony just to appreciate the castle in its splendour. The grounds and gardens and fountains are so beautiful all around the property it was almost a shame not to be outside soaking it all in on such a gorgeous evening. But duty called.

Quite quickly following the small reception in the main hall the doors to the dining area were opened and peopled were called in to find their seats. We were assigned tables upon arrival and we were at lucky number 17. At our table were 2 people from the Japanese consulate. Cindy and her guest, a producer from Arirang Korea TV and his camera guy. We were an eclectic little bunch and it made the evening even more enjoyable.

As per the title of the event (Rendezvous Korean Cuisine 2012), the night was all about food, one of my favourite things about Korea. The dinner set up was gorgeous. There was one main dining room with a podium for the hosts and a small stage set up. There was also the conservatory where we sat, filled with more tables and TV screens set up to see the action from the main room. One of the best parts of attending these events is that I have my big camera with me at all times and I am free to roam (within reason) where I please. As a blogger, that's what I'm there to do. So even though technically I was seated in the conservatory. I was out and about shooting pics anywhere I saw fit. Especially during the special performances. Okay, one thing at a time, back to the food.

The menus we were provided with before the food started coming out was so beautifully detailed in Korean and English. I had a huge difficulty knowing the names of all the dishes I ate in Korea and being able to pronounce them properly. So it was a real treat to read what the Korean name of the dish was and the ingredients in English. Never was there a decent Korean meal served without the accompaniment of a slew of bottles of soju. I was curious to see if Korea's national alcohol would make it on the table at this fancy affair. Instead of soju, we were served bekseju, the best possible alternative. Soju and bekseju are similar drinks (in my humble opinion), but the latter has just a nicer, more pleasant, fragrant taste.

I had major camera envy for Mingu's equipment.

The first course to come out was pumpkin soup. After the soup came a plate of japchae (noodles with veggies) and a skewer of boneless beef rib, with crab meat, pepper, egg and mushroom.

The main course was braised beef ribs and steamed king prawn. These were accompanied by a mixture of vegetables. Korean meals are always served with plenty of banchan, side dishes. The banchan served was cabbage kimchi, braised lotus root, and a stuffed cucumber kimchi. No meal in ever complete without rice, or a rice dish, so the last course was bibimbap, a Korean classic. This is a combination of julienned vegetables (usually carrot, mushroom, sprouts, zucchini), combined with gojuchang  (red pepper paste), a few other flavours and egg. It's served separate and then combined together at the table. Fantastic! 


The main course. 

A favorite, bibimbap.

And last on the menu was dessert. There was a beautiful fruit salad/punch served with sweet rice balls.

Kom Bai!
(cheers in Korean)

Just Charlee: A Meal To Remember

At about this time last year, I took part in an amazing press trip to Jeju Island and Seoul with a small handful of other selected bloggers from The Korea Blog. It was trip to not only expose us to more of what Korea had to offer, but also to thank us for all the time and effort and work we put into our blogs, sharing our experiences of Korea with the world. On that trip I had one of my most memorable meals in all my time in Korea.

Just recently, I started writing for a great new online publication called Just Charlee ( I wrote all about that meal in an article on their website. Here is the link to both the article and then a separate photo gallery with some mouth watering snaps.




Arirang TV & 5 Minutes of Fame

Arirang is a very popular Korean folk song. It has lots of different versions both old and new. It is said to be like an unofficial anthem for Korea.

During one of the Korean events I attended in Toronto over the summer, I made a new friend Mingu Kim who is the producer of Arirang TV in Toronto. We sat at the same table as him and Young, one of his camera guys, who were covering Rendezvous Korea 2012, at Casa Loma.

We chatted all through the meal and towards the end of the evening he interviewed my boyfriend and I. We jumbled over our words and probably sounded silly but it was still lots of fun. Here is our 2 minutes in the spotlight. Be nice. Garry and I debut at about 1m55s.

A few weeks later, Mingu got in touch with me and told me about a TV series he was working on called, ALL ABOUT KOREA, for Omni TV. The premise behind the show was interviewing Canadians who love Korean culture. I most definitely fit the mould and said I'd love to be part of it. He ended up coming over with Young again, and filming a short segment asking me all about how I feel about Korea and my experiences and about my blog. This ones only about 5 minutes long.

So there we have it. Korea and my interest in it, has brought me 5 minutes of fame!

I also ended up introducing Mingu to a friend of mine from Korea, another teacher, to interview for his program. Here is her interview:

Friday, July 27, 2012

Buk Chang Dong

Happy Alex, with an array of Korean dishes.

After a recommendation for some really good Korean food in Toronto, Garry and ventured all the way to the west side of Toronto, in Korea Town. Just being in the vicinity of so much "Korea" was nice. Stores with their signs written in hangeul, and pictures hanging from all the restaurant windows of food that was on offer was enough to place me back in Korea.

The place we were headed for was called Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu. It's located at Bloor and Clinton, just west of Bathurst. The menu for Buk Chang Dong is really basic. For people maybe just experimenting with Korean food it'd be great just cause the menu is not overwhelming. There are only 8 different options, 6 of which are soup meals. The soups are a combination or choice of the following; seafood, kimchi, pork, beef, dumplings, egg and tofu. The of course there is all the banchan, which translates to side dishes. There was both radish and cabbage kimchi (obvs!), little flavoured beans, sprouts (one of my favourite banchan), and with some of the meals a miso style soup. The other 2 options on the menu are the bulgogi (marinated beef) meal and bibimbap (julienned veggies and rice). And of course rice. In some restaurants in Korea they would do this with the rice: serve it in a stone pot, scoop out most of it in a bowl for you, then pour boiling water into the stone pot to soak up the rest of the rice caked onto the sides. Basically just a different way of eating rice. They did this at Buk Chang Dong.

As all the sides starting coming out, I think our smiles just ended up getting wider and wider. My soup arrived with a raw egg on the side and I cracked it into the boiling broth and within moments, shazaam, all ready to go. Garry ordered the bulgogi because he isn't the biggest fan of soup, but it was awesome, cause it meant I got to have a sampling of everything. The beef was perfect, and my soup was great. There were 3 massive dumplings floating in it, the cracked egg, and tofu. Just how I like it!

Just like in Korea, there was waaaaaay too much rice for us to finish served and we should've known to only get one order (why in the world would you fill up on rice when there are so many other delicious flavours to go sample?). But we did really well with the rest of it, even getting seconds of all the banchan.

The best part of all of this was the meal cost us less than $20. Not quite as cheap as Korea, but definitely good bang for your buck in Toronto. If you've never been, check it out at 691 Bloor St West, TORONTO!

The dish on the top left is the one they added water to the rice in.

Bulgogi, rice, soup, kimchi, sprouts and beans.
Mmmmm, good! 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Just a blog about stuff.

PHOTO CRED. ChongWu   -

Last night my boyfriend and I went for a little stroll in our neighbourhood and ended up at Mercury Espresso Bar, a local coffee joint. We overheard the barista chatting with someone about living in Korea and a few minutes later I couldn't resist striking up a conversation with him. My ears always perk up at the mention of the word Korea, no matter what context it's in. So we stood around with this random guy, who lived in Seoul, just like us. Like war veterans we swapped stories, comparing exactly where we were stationed, how much time we put in, and generally trading experiencing.

Similar to me, this guy loved Korea. And like me, it seemed he loved Asia in general. My second home. It makes me happy to hear people who speak so highly of Korea. I feel like it is a part of the world so far away from us, that we don't really give it any thought. I know I didn't before I got a bee in my bonnet about moving there. So it's great to hear people with the same fond memories and words on Korea.

We talked about Hongdae, about cheap sight seeing, fantastic national transport, good food, norae bangs (singing rooms), and Korea's cherished love for throwing a festival for just about anything. (see this blog for THE STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL and here for THE CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL  and here for THE LANTERN FESTIVAL) It was fun to see this guys eye's light up when he spoke about Korea and listen to the stories he told.

Oh Korea. How I miss you! I think we all do. Just yesterday I was writing to a friend who is still 'in the trenches' to enjoy her remaining time there. Although we were on Korean soil just 4 short months ago, I warned her that now, it all seems like a distant foggy memory.

In other news, next Friday is a big Korean event. My tummy is rumbling just thinking about it! Through my fantastic new friends at The Korean Consulate, I have been invited to a really cool looking soire. First off, the venue is STELLAR! It's being held in, I assume the main ballroom, at..... CASA LOMA. I grew up in that neighbourhood, so those grounds are familiar territory for me. Casa Loma is a beautiful castle steeping in history and makes for a gorgeous backdrop for any event! The event is called "Rendezvous Korean Cuisine 2012" and as far as I know there will be a good dose of Korean culture involved as well. A fashion show and maybe some traditonal music performed. I cannot wait! So stay tuned for a blog entry sometime after June 6th that will be full of pictures and delicious details from the whole night!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Happy Birthday Blog!!!!

Happy 4th Birthday to you! 

On this day in 2008, my blog was born! How exciting. Ironically, I was sitting at the exact same desk I am sitting at this very moment when I wrote my very first blog entry. Circumstances were slightly different then though. It was the eve of a nice extended trip to Southeast Asia *sigh*. Oh how I wish I had a plane ticket headed for Thailand and dated tomorrow right now! But lots has evolved since then so I can't complain. This blog is a travel blog and I love to travel. I started it to map out my adventures on a 3 month trip to Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. I stopped in England for a few weeks to get the ball rolling and that turned into a common ritual. After living in England back in 2003-2004, I started routing all my worldly trips through London so I could make the necessary visits to friends there. Here is a link to my first blog entry and then it carries on for a few months through Southeast Asia. I remember stopping in internet cafes and it taking FOREVER to upload pics and videos, so my entries tend to be a little wordy and light on the eye candy. But here is entry one from that trip, my first touch down in Asia:


Those entries ran from May until end of August when I came back to reality. My boss and my job was amazing and flexible and I was able to take a summer off and be back in time for end of summer, when our busy time kicked in. I also kept paying rent with my room mate at the time while I was gone, so I had a comfortable home to come back to, which is a great feeling after living the vagrant lifestyle. Life was good.

2009 was a pretty Toronto-centric year so the blog lay dormant, with no buzzing activities. The next big trip was back to Asia, my love affair was in full motion with this continent by now. A part of the world so unexplored to me and so different from home, full of new and fascinating things to see and experience. Unlike my first gallivant through Asia, this time I quit my job and moved out of my house and was free as a bird. February 2010, after a pit stop in England, I found myself alone and in India. The majority of this 6 month trip was spent in India, check out this link for the first entry of my adventures.

India. I Am Here.

I spent a few months covering vast territories in India. I started in Delhi with my sister in law, and we made our way through Rajasthan and then kicked back in Goa. There was also Darjeerling and Hampi, Kolkata, Pondicherry....too many places to name, check out the blog from about February till May in 2010. From India I travelled to Nepal and after enduring a few weeks of political unrest and a country in turmoil I returned to India in the heat of the summer. I was winding down my trip in Varanassi and finally left from Delhi, the same place my Indian adventures began. From India I had good intentions of travelling high and low in Indonesia. Granted scuba diving and general beach bumming was my main goal, I had intentions of seeing as much as I could of the country at large. BIG CHANGE OF PLANS. I arrived in Bali and experienced reverse culture shock. It was teeming with people, all dressed with practically nothing on, a huge contrast from the extreme covered up mentality in most of India. I ooh'ed and ahh'ed for a while and then beelined to a little piece of heaven. The Gilli Islands. The Gilli's ended up being just what the doctor order. After crossing such epic distances in India, and travelling alone in a country where that was not a common practice, nor widely accepted, it was a relief to be able to put my feet up on a minuscule speck of land in the ocean and not worry about anything. A vacation from my vacation if you will. A beautiful way to wind down a great experience.

Next stop: Toronto. With no home and no job, Toronto in the summer of 2010 was just a quick stepping stone. I was there for the wedding of an old and dear friend. I was there to meet the newest member of my family, my nephew Jack. I was there to see friends and family, and see the love of my life (in truth he is what made me stay the longest). I was also there to fill out visa applications, job hunt, interview and get all my papers in order. Next destination KOREA. The Asian Love Affair flourishes.

After hearing nothing but praise for peoples' individual and unique experiences living and working in South Korea, this was how I decided to connect my addiction to travel and the need to work together. After just a few short months my bags were packed, a contract was signed and off I went. Welcome to Korea, check out my fist blog entry in Korea here after arriving in the Land of Morning Calm.

The first few months of blogging in Korea were just to keep my friends and family up to date with my new life. For the first time I was calling Asia home and it felt fantastic. Keeping up my blog was a great way for everyone at home to see pictures and read about what was happening on the opposite side of the world. A few months in, my blog was selected to be featured on THE KOREA BLOG. The Korea Blog is a site run by Korean Culture and Information Services (KOCIS) and features different writers both around the world and based out of Korea and their experiences relating to Korea. Being one of a small handful of these writers based out of Korea I was offered so many amazing opportunities. Our first meeting together was the Welcoming Ceremony, followed by a trip to the Blue House, called Cheung Wa Dae (where the Korean President lives and works).

About 6 months into my partnership blogging with KOCIS, 6 people were chosen from their writers around the world to take a media trip to Jeju-do and Seoul and I was selected to be part of this small group. It was such an amazing honour. We were treated so well and I got to experience even more of Korea than I would have been able to do on my own. Here is a list of posts that covered my weekend with the Worldwide Korea Bloggers:

Jeju - Day One

Jeju - Day Two

Jeju - Lunch Spot - Day Two

Jeju - More of Day Two (apparently Day Two was a busy one!)

Jeju - Day Three

Living in Korea, I was pretty much at the doorstep to the rest of Asia and was able to get out and see a little more. I spent a week in China, mostly in Beijing and travelling to the Great Wall of China (I bow my head in shame to admit I have no blogs about this trip. Chalk it up to undeniable laziness). And once Garry was settled with me in Korea, we managed a few weeks in Paradise, oh, I mean Boracay, in the Philippines. This is one of 4 entries on my trip to BORACAY.

I ended up extending my contract in Korea. I went from living in a small suburb of Seoul called Osan to living in a much more central location called Anyang. Both experiences, for different reasons were unbelievable. From all the travelling I had done through Asia as a whole, there is nothing like living somewhere to really get a handle on the culture. In Korea, I was immersed. At times it was awful and frustrating and made me miss my North American roots till I almost cried (okay, I did cry a lot of those times). But overall, it was one of the best "travel" experiences of my life. You embed yourself in a culture, open a bank account, pay bills, show up to work everyday, learn (attempt) to read and write the language and that is how you get a feel for the place. I worked and played in close contact with so many amazing Korean people which I never would have done had I just passed through the country on a trip.

And that was Korea. Sixteen amazing months of my life. And now I am home. Like home, home. I moved back to Leslieville, one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Toronto, I signed a lease with my boyfriend, I bought a car, and I am back to work. The question now arises on how to continue a travel based blog, while being in Toronto? Which direction does Alex On The Loose turn to?

Luckily, I was asked to continue on blogging for The Korea Blog, for a second term, even now that I have left the country. For now, I am concentrating on Finding Korea in Toronto. I have mad an amazing connection to some people at the Korean Embassy in Toronto and therefore have an in for Korean events going on here. So until I decide which direction to take my writing, or until I whisk myself away on another new adventure, I will just be checking in every once in a while and getting in touch with my Korean connections. I'm sure there will be other random posts like this one to carry me through. This is my favourite post in a long time. It enabled me to look back on the last 4 years of writing entries and checking out the places I have been. It has been a great journey with a nice growth curve to get the blog where it is today and I can't wait to see what's in store around the next corner! So thanks for reading and stay tuned for ... who knows what!


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Korean Film Festival

This past weekend in Toronto was the Korean Film Festival. It was held at Yonge and Dundas at the AMC Theatres. The event ran from Friday evening till Sunday evening and there were 5 different Korean films being screened. During an event at the Korean Consulate (check out here for more on that), I found out about the festival. We were shown a trailer on each of the films and given a quick written synopsis of each one. There was a good selection of different genres of films and they all looked great. Here is a quick list of each one:

GLOVE - About a hot tempered baseball player who finds himself coaching a hearing impaired team of young boys.

NAMELESS GANGSTER: RULES OF TIME - Set in Busan, this film is about the under belly side of this city. Organized crime, drug trafficking and corruption.

THE FRONT LINE - This is a war story set back in 1951 and is set all around the ending of the Korean War, the fight for territory and the lives it affects.

SPELLBOUND - A love story between a haunted girl and a magician.

The last movie was HELPLESS, and this is the one I went to go see. It was a really heavy movie and not a 'happily ever after' flick. It is about a man whose fiance disappears at a rest stop on the side of the road. The plot traces him devoting all of his time and energy into unraveling the mystery that unfolds and finding out who his fiance really is. Both the main character Lee Sun-kyun, and the detective he uses to help him solve the mystery, Jo Sung-ha, do a phenomenal job as their characters.

I recognised  Jo Sung-ha  from another Korean movie, called The Chaser (I think) where he played almost the exact same character of a washed up detective and he does it so well. Although I was only able to catch one movie at the festival I really looking forward to eventually seeing all of them. As long as your okay with reading subtitles I think these will all be worth the watch.

For a more detailed review on the films check out Cindy's blog on all the movies she watched here.

"I Love Hangeul Because......."

If you asked me 3 years ago, if I ever thought I would be spending a Friday night in the basement of the Korean Consulate in Toronto and feeling totally at home, the answer would have to be, no way. But the world works in funny ways and last Friday, my boyfriend and I attended an event, with no expectations, and had a really, really good time. Seriously.

I love Korea!

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to be a part of a great meet and greet with Kwang Kyun Chung, the Consul General and his 2 lovely coworkers (check out here, Finding Korea in Toronto, to read more about that blog entry). At lunch I was given the heads up about a few upcoming events in the Korean community and was openly welcomed to them. After spending so much time in Korea, I felt like this was the perfect way to fill the void of Korean culture in general in my life.

Last Friday's event was called "I Love Hangeul Because...." (FYI, hangeul is the Korean alphabet). After a busy day at work, my boyfriend and I headed to the consulate for 6pm. We were starved, and not knowing what to expect, I promised him just a quick pop in to check out the event, snap some pics to blog about it, then we could be off to find dinner somewhere and fill our bellies. As soon as we walked down the steps to the event room we were instantly transported back to Korea with the spread that lay in front of us! We both lit up and I think we may have even started drooling a little. One of the biggest things I miss about Korea is the delicious food and a perfect selection of all our favourite bits and bites lay ahead of us. We grabbed a plate and a drink and filled up on kimbap (Korean sushi rolls, without the raw fish), japchae (glass noodles mixed with some veggies), kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage), bulgogi (marinated beef), and some type of other roll, which I don't know the name for. We pigged out. I went up for seconds and by the time that plate was cleared neither my boyfriend or I had any room left for the best part.... bibimbap. Bibimbap is one of the most famous Korean dishes and it's similar to a stir fry. It is a whole bunch of chopped up veggies, sometimes some beef or an egg mixed in, and then added rice and gochujang, which is fiery, delicious red pepper paste. Luckily I was toting around one of my kitchen sink kind of purses so we actually took the bibimbap home with us as leftovers. Such a good souvenir from the night (and we heated it all up in a wok at home the next day for lunch, so delicious)!

Japchae & kimbap.

Bibimbap & the food spread.

Aside from the great food put out for everyone, the rest of the night was really enjoyable. Ji In Kim was the hostess and she did such a great job. She was one of the people that took me out for lunch with the Consul General and she just naturally puts people at ease and makes them smile. She commanded the room really well and kept the evening running smoothly. To start things off Consul General Kwang Kyun Chung welcomed everyone with a lovely speech. There were a few more welcoming speeches to follow him and then we were treated to 2 musical performances. The first was Minkyo-seo, who sang his heart out to us and that was followed by two beautiful songs performed by Seohoo.

Consul General and our hostess for the evening.



The Korean Film Festival in Toronto happened on May 4th, 5th and 6th. In order to promote it, we watched all the trailers for the five different films being screened. The titles were Glove, Spellbound, The Front Line, Helpless, and Nameless Gangster. To read more about the film festival, check out my blog entry on one of the movies, or Cindy has a great review of all of them here.

Next up was a speech, which I unfortunately didn't understand because it was all in Korean. Yuki Sakai was a student who learned Korean and had won a speech contest. Her pronunciation to my untrained ears sounded great, and it seemed like everyone in the room loved it, so congrats to her. Philip Leal was the next person up at the mic and he was telling people about something I know very well, moving to Korea to teach English. He did his time in Korea with a company called TaLK, a little different than GEPIK, which is who I was with when I was in Korea, but basically the same principles. Contract work, flights and apartment paid for, support, and wages. It's interesting hearing about other peoples' experiences in Korea, especially now that I am back. It is so nice that so many people (especially so many Canadians) have had such great, positive and fun experiences working and living in Korea. After leaving Korea just a few months ago, I know that I look back on it so fondly and miss so many different aspects of living there.

Philip Leal does an impromptu tae-kwon-do demo.

The next guest speaker was Cindy Zimmer. I have met Cindy a few times now and our connection is basically blogging and a love for Korea. Like me, she is a Worldwide Korea Blogger, which means we both blog for THE KOREA BLOG. She said a fantastic speech, accompanied by a great slideshow and it was all based on her love for Korea. Cindy used to teach English in Korea, and upon her arrival home she has submersed herself in all things Korean, based out of Toronto. Check out her blog here.

Go Cindy!

Cindy shares her love for Korea to everyone.

All throughout the evening there were short little quizzes to win prizes. Some of the questions seemed a little difficult and they were obviously all Korea-based. I managed to win a cute little prize for answering the question "What is the tallest mountain in Korea?" I choked a little (Garry's fault, not that I am blaming anyone. Garry! Garry! Garry!), and initially answered Seoraksan, but then *realized it was Hallasan. Hallasan is the massive mountain that is on Jeju Island. I visited Jeju a few times whilst in Korea, so I should've known that answer much faster. But Ji In was lenient and gave me a lovely prize anyway. It was lots of fun.

The very last part of the evening was an unbelievable performance by  Sungmi Kim. She spoke a little to get things started and taught us about the traditional Korean instrument she was going to play a few pieces on. The instrument was called a geomungo sanjo and it reminded me of a Korean version of a sitar. It sounded so raw and beasutiful and was a really nice way to end the evening.

Sungmi Kim playing the geomungo sanjo.

From there, there was a little bit of mixing and mingling. Interviews were done and lots of photos were taken.  All in all, a very successful event put on by Toronto's Korean Consulate. A nice variety of guests and performances went on.  I am so happy I was invited to attend as an Ambassador of Korea. It was a total pleasure to take part in and I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to go.

Here are a few more photos from the end of the evening.

What's a Korean event without a group photo to end things properly?

Media stuff. 

New chingus (friends). Posing with Ji In. 

Korea & Canada.

Worldwide Korea Bloggers unite!

Bibimbap..... great leftovers. 

Everyone received red ginseng candy on their way out.

Here is a short clip from all tv news, who covered the event (it's in Korean but it sets the scene nicely).

P.S. All evening I thought of what I would say if someone were to actually ask me why I love hangeul (which for the record they didn't). My answer to the question would be this. I love hangeul because it is Korean. It is something I didn't know before I moved to Korea and it is something I learned there. It made me understand and appreciate so much about the culture that I wouldn't have know otherwise. There you have it.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Cherry Blossoms

High Park Cherry Blossoms

Spring is probably one of the best times of year for a lot of people. I am actually a summer girl through and through but it doesn't mean that I can't appreciate all the wonderful things happening in the spring time. After a long winter, there is nothing more refreshing and awe inspiring than a breath of fresh spring air. The grass starts to grow, brown turns to green and flowers come into bloom.

In Korea, spring was beautiful. Spring in Korea = cherry blossoms. I highly anticipated this time last year because Korea needs no special reason to throw a festival and cherry blossoms, are as good of a reason as any. Last April I went on an amazing biking trip to Gyeongju, a very historical city in Korea that is infested with cherry blossom trees and eye popping scenery. It was pretty epic.

Here is a link to that blog entry: BIKING THROUGH BLOSSOMS.

This year, although I am not in Korea to experience the cherry blossoms at their finest, I did the best I could do here in Toronto. The biggest collection of cherry blossoms in one area in the city is in High Park and it is usually mayhem there at this time of year. People flock from far and wide to walk under the arched branches strung with the light fluffy cotton puffs of cherry blossoms. On line, like in Korea, there are ways to monitor what the exact day is that the blossoms will peak, but because of moving and life's general craziness I missed the height of the frenzy (my boss went and said frenzy was an understatement). This was actually a blessing in disguise because the day my boyfriend and I went, we were able to grab a coffee just before the sun went down, and stroll through the park without being crushed by a herd of others. It was busy, but not to the point that it was over crowded. Just a bunch of like minded people, out in nature, enjoying the beauty around us.

Typically, I took a slew of pictures (before the battery on my DSLR died) but due to aforementioned move (and again, just general unorganization), I cannot find my camera cable to download all my pictures to my laptop, *sigh*. Luckily, when camera #1 died I switched to my iPhone. So below is a collection of iPhone pictures and when I finally organize my life (and my new house), I will find the camera cord and do a separate "Cherry Blossom Photo Blog". But here is a little teaser just for now.

Happy Cherry Blossom Season!

Last rays of golden sunshine of the day.

Posing with coffee and camera with dead battery :-(

Like minded people enjoying pretty things.

Happy Cherry Blossoms from High Park!