*This post is written by Alexandra DeMaria, one of the Korea Blog’s Worldwide Korea Bloggers.
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.
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)!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.