Monday, March 21, 2011

And her hair it hung over her shoulder, tied up with a black velvet band

Happy belated St. Patrick's Day!

Since the holiday fell on a Thursday this year I saved the celebrations for the weekend. Luckily Korea is awesome and had a festival for the occasion:
It was hosted by the Irish Association of Korea which according to their website has been around since 1996:
The AIM of The IAK is to highlight & Promote Irish culture in Korea. We do this by providing events of interest to the Irish in Korea, and opportunities for Korean people to experience and learn more about Irish customs and traditions.
Basically there were a bunch of bands who played and some dancing in between, though no badass step dancers like I was hoping for. There were a few tents set up selling t-shirts and Irish tea and one area where you could make a donation for a memorial the IAK is hoping to build in honor of Irish who died in the Korean War. Ireland wasn't actually in the war but apparently there were at least two hundred soldiers who fought with the American, Canadian, and Australian forces.

Probably the strangest thing about the set up was that there was no beer tent. I had to walk down the block to a 7-Eleven though it was slim pickings since everyone else was doing the same thing. Korean beer is just okay, nothing to write home about, and they don't offer a big selection of imported beers which is too bad. However, there are no open container laws here which is a happy trade off.

So I bought a few beers and a hotteok (호떡) from a street vendor to go with them. Hotteok is the most delicious thing ever. It's basically a fried dough pancake with a brown sugar/cinnamon/peanut mixture inside that melts into gooey goodness. They're super cheap on the street and you can buy pre-made mix in the store in the baking aisle for making at home. When you buy one they hand it to you in this little rectangular piece of light paper that makes it easy to eat as you walk.

Of course if you are a space cadet like myself and not paying attention as you eat and walk, there is a chance that the gooey brown sugary sweetness inside, blazing hot since it's fresh off the griddle, will gush out and make you believe that you just stuck your hand in a POOL OF LAVA. Oh man did my hands have some blisters after that. If I ever have to booby trap my house like Kevin did in Home Alone I am totally making one of the traps trigger a giant falling bucket of half eaten hotteok. Delicious yet deadly.

Once I rinsed my hands under some cold water I headed back to the festival area and grabbed a seat to enjoy the music.
I wasn't really sure what to expect from a Korean Irish festival but it was a good time. I heard some familiar songs and some new ones and the crowd, though mostly foreigners, was a nice mix of folks from all over. At one point I was in line for the bathroom (apparently no matter where you go in the world women always get stuck waiting in long ass bathroom lines) and this girl behind me had this crazy get up going on with green tights and shorts and green shoes, etc. She asked if she looked ridiculous and someone responded, "There is a Korean man out there with a green mustache.... you do not look ridiculous".

After the festival I went to Itaewon and met up with a bunch of my co-workers for dinner and drinks. As part of the festival the IAK was also hosting two hooleys, a big one in Gangnam and a smaller one in Itaewon, so we went to the latter. One of the bands from earlier was there playing and we just spent a few hours hanging out, having some drinks, and listening to Irish tunes. My kind of evening.

You know it's funny because as I was looking around the crowd on Saturday I'd been thinking that it seems so random having an Irish Association in Korea. It really isn't at all but I guess it just took me by surprise at first. But then I was thinking that Ireland and Korea actually have a hell of a lot in common. In terms of size they're both relatively small nations (though their populations are hugely different) and geographically they're each slightly set off from a bustling continent. Ireland is an island and though Korea is a peninsula, considering that you can't exactly just take a road trip through the North and into China it's pretty much just as cut off. Ireland and Korea both have a history of being occupied by a neighboring nation and each country has been wracked by civil war that's left it divided.

It just seemed unexpected at first to hear one of the members of the IAK making announcements to the crowd in his Irish accent and then moments later repeating it again in Korean. And maybe I'm completely grasping at straws here but I think I can appreciate a little more how these two countries might get along so nicely.

Oh yikes except now I'm trying to picture an Irish/Korean dinner gathering of corned beef and cabbage with a side of kimchi and some Guinness and soju to wash it all down...

The unique cuisine makings of a beautiful friendship.

Trivia of the Day: Kim Yu-Na (김연아) is a South Korean figure skater. Kim is the first South Korean figure skater to win a medal at an ISU Junior or Senior Grand Prix event, ISU Championship, and the Olympic Games. She is the first female skater to win the Olympic Games, the World Championships, the Four Continents Championships and the Grand Prix Final. She is one of the most highly recognized athletes and media figures in South Korea. She has never placed off the podium in her entire career. At the 2010 Winter Olympics she won the gold medal, becoming the first South Korean skater to medal in any discipline of figure skating at the Olympic Games. Kim's gold medal was South Korea's first medal at the Winter Olympics in a sport other than speed skating or short track. Due to her dominance for the past few years, she has been nicknamed "Queen Yuna".

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