Cherry Blossom Festival

When I was in Washington D.C. for the past four days, I noticed something in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Cherry blossoms. I was looking around the gift shop in the museum and saw souvenirs that were related to the Cherry Blossom Festival. I became very curious about the Cherry Blossom Festival, so here we are.

cherry blossomcherry blossoms

History: The National Cherry Blossom Festival (全米桜祭り) is a spring festival in Washington D.C. This festival commemorates the March 27, 1912 Japanese cherry tree gift from Mayor Yuki Ozaki of Tokyo (he donated 3,000 cherry trees). Mayor Yuki Ozaki gave these trees to the United States in an effort to enhance and support the friendship between the United States and Japan.

Read more information on the history on:

http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/about/history/

The first Cherry Blossom Festival was held in 1935 under a joint sponsorship by numerous of civic groups. Now, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is coordinated by the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc. Each year, more than 700,000 people come to Washington D.C. to admire the cherry trees in the beginning of spring.

national cherry blossom

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is a festival that starts on the last Saturday in March (and lasts several weeks) with an opening ceremony in the National Building Ceremony. The 2013 National Cherry Blossom Festival is from March 20, 2013-April 14,2013.  There is a multitude of activities and cultural events on the following days such as photography, sculpture, and animation exhibits, parades, dancing, singing, kimono fashion shows, martial arts, and a rugby tournament. Every day there is a sushi and sake (Japanese alcoholic beverage) celebration, cherry blossom classes, and bike tours. The second Saturday of the festival, a three-stage festival takes place. After the three-stage festival ends, there is a firework show. The next morning, people can choose to participate in the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run (Washington Monument). At the end of the day, dignitaries gather at the Tidal Basin to light the 360 year old Japanese stone lantern in a ceremonial lighting. On the last Saturday of the festival, the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade takes place (Constitution Avenue) and the Sakura Matsuri-Japanese Street takes place during and after the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade (Pennsylvania Avenue-Northwest).

cherry blossom festival

cherry blossom float

cherry blossom washington

Festival gathering

sakura matsuri parade

If you’re ever in Washington D.C. at the end of March-early April, participate in this festival. I have never participated in this festival myself, but I would like to one day since cherry blossoms are one of my favorite types of flowers. Even if you’re not a “flower kind of person,” still participate. You only get to live life once, so you might as well live life to its fullest. Experience a new culture, you’ll be surprised about how different cultures (or anything in general) may appeal/fascinate to you.

South Korea’s First Female President

Today, February 25, 2013, is the day South Korea’s 11th President assumes office (technically yesterday due to the 13 hour difference from the Northeastern part of the United States and South Korea). Her name is 박근혜/Park Geun Hye, and she is South Korea’s first female President. She is preceded by 이명박/Lee Myung Bak.

Lee Myung BakPark Geun Hye

South Korea has a total of 11 Presidents while the United States has a total of 44 Presidents. Before South Korea was a Republic, it was ruled by monarchs (before the division of the North and South). The last dynasty was known as 조선왕조/Joseon Dynasty. The Joseon dynasty ruled from 1392 until 1910 (Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula).

korean emblemEmblem of 대한민국/Republic of Korea

Before I get off topic, let’s get back to Park Geun Hye. Exactly who is Park Geun Hye? She was the first child born on February 2, 1952 to Park Chung Hee (father) and Yook Young Soo(mother). Her father Park Chung Hee was the third President of South Korea and was known as a dictator. While growing up in the Blue House (equivalent to the United States’ White House), her mother (the First Lady) was murdered by a Japanese born North Korean assassin aiming for her father. At the age of 22, she acted as the First Lady after her mother’s death. She acted as the First Lady of South Korea until October 26, 1979, when her father was assassinated by his intelligence chief, Kim Jae Gyu.

She has never been married nor had any children. In 1998, she was elected a Grand National Party assemblywoman Dalseong, Daegu. In 2004, she was appointed Grand National Party chairwoman. She lost the Grand National Party bid for the Presidential election to Lee Myung Bak (who becomes President). She was appointed chairwoman of the Grand National Party’s Emergency Committee in 2011. In 2012, she ran again for the 새누리당 bid and won. (Saenuri Party/New Frontier Party)(The Grand National Party changed its name to the Saenuri Party). She won Presidency against her opponent Moon Jae In (from the Democratic United Party) on December 19, 2012.

South Korea has its first female President. Maybe soon, the United States will have its first female President.

Here are some articles about Park Geun Hye, her inauguration, etc:

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2013/02/116_131043.html

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2013/02/116_131060.html

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2013/02/116_131063.html

http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2013/02/385_131056.html

http://news.yahoo.com/first-female-skorean-president-faces-nkorea-crisis-013531771.html

Chinese: I Love You

For Americans, it is quite easy to say the words, “I love you.” However, this is not the case for many Chinese. The Chinese rarely say the words, “I love you.” In fact, some Chinese are even suspicious at these words.

Children and their parents and couples (married or not) here in the United States often exchange I love you‘s to each other, but not for the Chinese. After reading an article about this topic (see down below), the Chinese do not express their love through words and declarations. In this article, a woman named Zhao Mengmeng says that she never told her parents I love you to their face. She says that she only says I love you to her husband, “once a year, or twice every three years.”

The Chinese believe that actions are louder than words. Confucian traditional beliefs are that the parents should strive to provide their children with a good life while the children should respect and obey their parents. And also, sacrifice.

You might be wondering, “What is the Chinese word for love?” The Chinese word for love is 爱 (ai or eye-if that’s better). I love you is 我爱你 (wo ai ni).

Image

Article: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013-01/20/content_16144723.htm

Löwendenkmal

Löwendenkmal is a lion monument in Luzern, Schweiz (Lucerne, Switzerland). In June of 2012, I was fortunate enough to visit this monument. So let me tell you the history of Löwendenkmal…Image

History: This monument is a dying lion, designed to commemorate the fallen Swiss guards who lost their lives in the French Revolution serving King Louis XVI. These Swiss guard were massacred in 1792 when they were protecting the royal family from revolutionaries attack on the Tuileres Palace (approximately 760 died). One of the guards on leave, Karl Pfyffer von Altishofen, wanted to create a monument to commemorate his fellow guards. He started to save money in 1818, and Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvalsen designed the lion monument. The monument was hewn in 1820-1821 by German stone mason Lucas Ahorn in sandstone rock. The lion is impaled by a spear and covering a shield. Next to the lion is another shield bearing the Swiss coat of arms. The latin inscription above the lion reads, “Helvetorium fedai ac Virtuti.” This translate to, “To the loyalty and bravery of the Swiss.” Below the lion, is the inscription of the soldiers names and the number of fallen and surviving soldiers. Fallen-DCCLX(760). Survived-CCL(350).

If you are ever in Switzerland, das Löwendenkmal is definitely a worthy sight to see. Mark Twain praised this particular monument as, “the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world.”

Lunar New Year

Happy Lunar New Year’s! 새해 복 많이 받으세요! 新年快樂!

오늘은 설날이다! Today is the Lunar New Year! Can you feel the excitement? Some of you might be asking, what exactly is Lunar New Year’s? Well, I’m glad you asked!

Lunar New Year is the first day of the lunar calendar. Lunar calendar? There’s more than one type of calendar? Yes, there is actually. In America, we follow the Gregorian calendar (365 days a year, leap year every 4 years, 12 months, 28-31 days each month). The Lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon-hence the lunar. The first day of a lunar month varies. For the Chinese calendar, the first day is when a new moon occurs during a particular time zone. For the Hindi calendar, the first is the day after the full moon.Each month is approximately 29.530589 days.

lunar calendar

*Note: I’m not an expert on this, click on this website if you want to read more on lunar calendars:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_calendar

Moving on now. I’m sure a lot of you heard of the Chinese New Year (a.k.a. the Chinese Lunar New Year)The Lunar New Year is celebrated by more than the just the Chinese. The Lunar New Year is also celebrated by the Koreans, Tibetans, Vietnamese, and the Mongolians. Of course, Lunar New Year celebrations are not solely held in China, Vietnam, South and North Korea, etc. There are Chinese, Koreans, Tibetans, Vietnamese, and Mongolians living throughout the world in different countries. The Chinese community in Indonesia and Malaysia celebrates the Lunar New Year, Chinese-Americans/Korean-Americans/Vietnamese-Americans (and so forth) in the United States celebrate the Lunar New Year, you get my point right?

If you noticed from years past, the Lunar New Year is never on the same day. Lunar New Year is the first day of the Lunar Year and like I said before, the calendar is based on the phases of the moon. So every year, the days will never be exactly the same as the year before. The Lunar New Year this year is February 10, 2013 (hence the reason for this post). In this post, I’m mainly going to focus on the Chinese New Year and Korean New Year.

Chinese New Year: 新年快樂! Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy New Year in Mandarin, which actually means “congratulations and prosperity.” (*There’s numerous ways to say Happy New Year in Mandarin, not just Gong Xi Fa Cai.” This year is the year of the snake.

year of snake

chinese zodiac

The twelve zodiac signs are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig/boar.

The Chinese New Year (also known as the Spring Festival) is the time for celebrations which includes feasts, music, red envelopes, gift exchange, visiting relatives, fireworks, dances, decorations/ornaments, and lots of symbolism.

Food, of course, plays an important role in the Chinese New Year celebration (as it does for any culture or celebration. The Chinese eat foods that are symbolic. Here are SOME foods for instance:

Spring rolls and jiao zi symbolize wealth.

spring rolls

jiaozi

Chicken symbolizes happiness and marriage.

chinese new year chicken

Noodles symbolize a good life.

chinese new year noodles

Eggs symbolizes fertility. (Tea eggs)

tea eggs

Pomelo represents abundance, prosperity, and fertility.

pomelo

Niangao symbolizes raising oneself “higher” in the coming year.

nian gao

Red Envelopes: During the Chinese New Year, red envelopes /紅包 hongbao (usually decorated with gold characters-happiness and wealth ) filled with money are given to children, young people, and unmarried adults with no jobs from the older generations. The envelopes are red, because red symbolizes luck. Red envelopes are also given out on birthdays and weddings, and the amount of money depends on the recipient’s age and the relationship between giver-recipient.

red envelope2

red envelopes

Dances: There are two types of dances: dragon dances and lion dances. Dragon dances are performed to scare away the evil spirits. The Chinese view dragons as helpful and friendly creatures and symbolize luck, long life, and wisdom. is thought that the longer dragons are more lucky than smaller dragons. During the dragon dance, many people are needed to operate the dragon. The lion dance only needs two people to operate the lion. There are two types of “lion styles.” The Chinese Northern Lions (northern China)-northern lions have shaggy orange and yellow hair with a green bow (males) or red bow (females). This dance usually have more acrobatic movements and have stunts.The Southern Lion (southern China) resembles the Nian (a fierce horned monster). Its head is shaped like a dragon and has a drape. During performance, the Southern Lion thrusts its head to the sound of the drums and other percussion instruments. The colors of the dragon is usually red (bravery), gold (lively and dynamic spirit), and green (friendship and goodwill).

dragon dance

lion dance

dragon dance

Decorations/Ornaments: Chunlian, lanterns, paper cuttings, Chinese calligraphy

chunlian

red lanterns

paper cuttings

The Chinese New Year  is a celebrated for 15 days. To read what happens each day, click on the link below:

http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/Chinese_Customs/chinese-new-year-festivities.htm

The Lantern Festival ends the 15 day celebration.

lantern festival

lantern dragon

lantern castle

Alright, now let’s talk about the Korean New Year.

Korean New Year: The Korean New Year (know as 설날/seollal) is also the first day of the lunar calendar. Seollal is a three day celebration. Koreans also celebrate the solar/Gregorian New Year’s Day, but Seollal is a more important national holiday. Seollal is more of a family holiday. It is a time to pay respects to the ancestors and catch up with family members. During Seollal, Koreans wear hanboks (I’ll make a post on this later), perform ancestral rites, play folk games, give gifts, tell stories, and eat traditional foods.

Ancestral Rites: The morning is first start off with 제사/ancestral rite ceremony. Family members wearing their hanboks will gather in front of a ritual table and will place an ancestral tablet and ritual foods according to the ancestral laws on the table. Afterwards, the ancestral rites begin with 세배/ deep bows  to the ancestors. Children will do 세배 to the elders (parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents/etc) and the elders will give them money as a Seollal gift. They will then proceed with offerings and prayers. After saying farewell, all will eat the ritual foods. The main dish eaten is 떡국/ddeokgook (rice cake soup). After you eat 떡국, you are one year older. So some children will eat two bowls, so they will be two years older. After eating, children will perform 세배 to the elders (parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents/etc) and the elders will give them 세뱃돈/ New Year’s money as a gift

ancestral food

ddeokgook

After eating, the younger generation will pay respects to the elders. They take a deep bow and present the elders with gifts. The elders accept and offer them their offerings and blessings for a prosperous year.

Folk games: After doing ancestral rites, Korean will often play folk games. Some of these games are yutnori, jegichagi, neolttwigi, and paengichigi.

윷놀이/Yutnori-board game played with sticks

윷놀이

yutnori

제기차기/Jegichagi-game played with the foot

jegichagi

널뛰기Neolttwigi-seesaw game

neolttwigi

파엔기치기/pa-engichgi-goal is to knock over the other person’s spinning top

paengichigi

Gifts: Some popular gifts given on Seollal are money (of course), ginseng, honey, health products, toiletry, spam, tuna, and hangwa (see below).

Food: There are numerous traditional dishes that can be eaten during Seollal. Some of these are rice, ddeokgook (see above), kimchi, mandu dumplings, Korean pancakes, hangwa, and many other dishes.

김치/Kimchi

kimchi

만두/Mandu dumplings

mandu

한과/Hangwa (confectionaries)

hangwa

If you ever go to Korea for Seollal, make sure to visit the palaces, parks, and theme parks. Seollal is pretty much a pretty quiet day, besides family visiting relatives..But the palaces, parks, and theme parks are the busiest during Seollal; they offer tourists traditional games to play and events to enjoy.

If you know a Korean/visit a Korean community during the Lunar New Year, make sure to say “새해 복 많이 받으세요! (sae hae bong mah-ni bah-deu se yo)” to them. Or if you know someone who is Chinese/visit a Chinese community, make sure to say “新年快樂! (gong shee fa cai)” to them.

korean new year

chinese new year

CBYX Interview

I originally created this blog to talk about the CBYX process, but I haven’t really been doing that…so here’s the first! You can pretty much tell that I received a CBYX interview just by looking at the title of the post. First thing that most people are wondering is what did you wear? What should I wear to the interview? First of all, relax. It’s just an interview, and it is really laid-back.

Females: Skirt/nice dress pants/slacks/nice jeans and  a blouse/blazer/sweater/some sort of nice top. To be honest, don’t stress over the shoes. You can wear flats, heels, or any type of nice shoes. I wore these brown plain ankle boots with a black sweater type shirt and black pants. Your probably thinking to yourself brown ankle boots? Yes. I wore brown ankle boots, because we had inches of snow where I was from and plus I’m sick. I had this whole nice outfit I was going to where, but I decided I would rather be warm than make my illness worse. The interviewers are interviewing you for your personality, not your outfit. Just try to look nice and show them that you care.

Males: Nice shirt/collar shirt and dress pants/nice jeans (I’m not a guy, but this would be acceptable for this type of interview). If you want to wear a suit and tie or a dress, knock yourself out. But, I wouldn’t go over the top. Like I said, you just need to look nice and show them that you at least care.

The interview: My interview was held today at a church, and there were three other applicants there with me (for the morning session). The four of us and our parents sat in a waiting room and we chatted as we waited for our individual interviews. One by one we went into a separate room to be interviewed by a panel of four volunteers. They asked numerous of questions. I’m not going to give out the questions they asked, but I’ll just say that they will be asking hypothetical questions. They ask you all these hypothetical questions, because they want to see if you have the characteristics of a successful exchange student or not and how you would handle these difficult situations. The only question I will give out is the most obvious: Why do you want to go to Germany? Anyways..after all the individual interviews, the other applicants and I were brought back into the interview room. We were told that we had to create a tower using different objects. Sounds easy, but there was a catch. We could not speak any English. It was actually quite fun and interesting. Oh I almost forgot-there were snacks there also! Normally I wouldn’t pass up free food/snacks, but I was sick and already breakfast at McDonald’s so I was already full..oh well!

If you’re a CBYX applicant reading this (and didn’t have your interview yet), my best tips are to stay calm, relax, be confident, friend the other applicants, and just enjoy yourself. There truly is nothing to be nervous/worry about. The other applicants and volunteers will be super nice, friendly, and helpful. Also, do not regret anything after your interview. You can’t change what happened in the past. No matter how bad you think you did, it’s probably not that bad. We all probably feel like we did terrible, but that’s just how us humans are. The more you regret, the more you will stress yourself out.

There are 250 scholarships available in the United States, 50 in your region, and only a couple in your state. There are a lot of deserving applicants, but not everyone will get a scholarship. I wish everyone who applied would receive a scholarship, but the world doesn’t work like that. The best you can do is be happy, keep yourself busy, and pray for the best.  Most importantly, think positive.

Well..now all there is for me to do is wait until March (yes-they told us we would hear in a few weeks: early-mid March). Good luck to my fellow applicants (and future applicants)! 화이팅! /Viel Glück!