May 2009


Korean tradition celebrates baby’s first one hundred days. It traces back to high infant mortality. Babies were often nameless before this point, just in case. Mother and baby stayed inside the home for 100 days to fully recover from the birthing process. Nowadays it’s the first party with family and friends to show off your healthy baby. There are no hard and fast rules for Baby’s 100 Day Celebration…as long as there is dduk/떡 (sweet rice cakes). It is customary to hand out 100 pieces of dduk/떡 for good luck. We reserved a private room at a nearby Chinese restaurant for our party and then scheduled baby’s first studio photography session.

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Cake made of dduk/떡 that reads “Congratulations 100 Days”.

We had a hankering for budae jjigae/부대찌개 or “army base stew” yesterday. It is a hodge podge stew made from what could be scavenged from US Army base trash during the Korean War when food was scarce. The soup base is spicy hot (made using gochu jang/고추장) with contents including sliced frankfurters, chunks of canned ham, scallions, onion, beans, cut corn, peas, tofu, ramen noodles and even a slice of American cheese. It is affordable, fun (boiled at the table) and seems appropriate to eat in light of the current economic downturn.

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The lesson learned while dining out was this: if you have a baby, beware of ajumas/아주마. The waitress dropped in the ramen noodles and then walked off with my baby. We were dumbfounded and had to demand him back. My husband taught me this essential phrase: eggy manjy jimah say yo (please don’t touch the baby)…you have to say this more often than you think in Korea.

Serving sizes are smaller in Korea.  It is best demonstrated in soda cans. The fat, wide can is the standard American size. The tall and short thin cans are found here…none has more than 100 kcal…which worried me ~ is it one thousand times more?? No, a kcal is the same as a calorie.

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If you’re interested in touring the DMZ with or without visiting guests, sign up through the USO (http://affiliates.oso.org/Korea/).  They offer the most affordable day trip ($46 USD versus +90,000W) and they get the most access because of their close ties with South Korean military.  Plus, the guide spoke pretty good English.

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Photo opportunity at the DMZ.

The display of springtime flowers in Seoul is amazing.  There are blooming trees and bushes in pale pink, fuschia, purple, yellow, white and more. It’s lovely while it lasts. Now it’s getting to be so hot that the flowers are melting, as am I.

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May 8th is Parents’ Day (어버이날) in Korea. It used to just be Mothers’ Day until fathers realized there wasn’t a day for them. Carnations are given to parents as bouquets, baskets and/or boutonnieres.

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Corner flower shop with display for Parents’ Day.

It’s Children’s Day (어린이날) in Korea. Families will celebrate by going to parks, zoos, museums and the like. If you don’t like kids, crowds, or the potential of swine flu, avoid these places today.

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Korean kids on a field trip.

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