Baek-il: 100 Days

Baek-il is a Korean celebration of a baby’s first 100 days of life. It is a big milestone for a baby to reach 100 days. Back in the day, babies would pass away because of illnesses and poor living conditions. Parents would try and avoid bringing their babies outside until they were 100 days old, since 100 days was a sign that babies would see their first birthday.

On baek-il, parents pray and worship the spirit Samshn. They offered rice and soup to the spirit to thank her for helping the baby and the parents through this difficult time period. Afterwards, family, friends, and relatives celebrate with rice cakes, fruits, and other treats. Usually during this celebration, the parents dress their baby in a traditional Korean hanbok.

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Planning a Trip to Europe

In a few months, I will be going back to Europe for the third time! The past two times I went to Europe, I traveled to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Holland, and Denmark. This time I will be going to Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Italy, Luxembourg, and France. 

So far, I’ve traveled to 13 countries. After this trip, though, I will have traveled 17 countries in total. Right now, I’m still currently in the process of planning the trip. Some of the places I’ll be revisiting and some of the places are going to be completely new to me. I’m not going to say exactly where I’m going just yet. I’ll leave that for after I come back and can post pictures. 

Dia de los Muertos: Day of the Dead

From November 1 to November 2, the people of Mexico celebrate Dia de los Muertos, otherwise known as day of the dead. During Dia de los Muertos, people celebrate the lives of the deceased. It is said that on November 1 the spirits of deceased children come down to reunite with their families, while on November 2 the spirits of deceased adults come down. 

Dia de los Muertos is celebrated first in each family’s home. An altar, called an ofrenda, made for the deceased and then decorated. The altar is decorated with candles, flowers, foods such as tortilla and Day of the Dead-bread, drinks, toys and candies for the children, cigarettes and alcohol for the adults, skeletons and sugar skulls, and favorite memories or things of the deceased. They leave these things for the deceased, because it is said that the deceased’s spirit will come down and enjoy these things when they come down to reunite with their families.

On the afternoon of November 2, families go to the cemetary to their loved ones’ graves. They clean the graves, play games, listen to music, and celebrate the lives and memories of their deceased loved ones. 

Adventures to Nagoya and Kyoto

It’s been about a few weeks since I’ve came back from my trip to Japan and since school is canceled again because of the recent snowstorm, I decided to write about my trip.

Before even going to Japan, I had a layover in Beijing, China for 2 hours. Well that was a trip itself…While I was on my flight to Beijing, they decided to cancel my flight from Beijing to Nagoya due to the lack of people. So you can pretty much understand how worried and confused I was when I arrived to Japan. First off, you are not even allowed to stay in China for more than 3 days without a visa. Second off, I had to explain my situation to customs and the ticketing officers with the basic Chinese
I know which still led to confusion from the language barrier. And third off, trying to figure how and when I would be able to get to Japan while trying to find my suitcase.

All in all, after a few hours everything worked out. I found my suitcase, the airplane carrier I was traveling on was able to book me a (free) ticket and hotel room, and the next day I was able to fly to Nagoya.

*Note: when traveling, expect the unexpected. You’ll never know what will happen. Make sure you have enough money, a way to contact someone from home, and keep track of your belongings at all times.

When I finally made it to Japan and my friend picked me up, I felt like I was in a whole new world. Everything was in Japanese, smaller, and the very best-cuter. You could see mascots and pictures of famous anime characters from e.g. Pokemon or Love Live!

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We were around Nagoya for about a week and then spent about 2 days in Kyoto. Even though I was only there for about a week and a half, we were still able to see and plenty of things.

The first day we went to the aquarium in Nagoya. There I was able to see not only fish but seals, turtles, penguins, whales, dolphins, and some really ugly fish (and I mean ugly).

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Throughout the days in Nagoya, we did a lot of shopping, went to Nagoya castle, Nabana no Sato (a winter wonderland of lights, a science museum, and one of my all time favorites-the Pokemon Center.

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Before New Years, we visited Kyoto for about 2 days. Each day we went to about 3 different sites. This included Kiyomizu temple, Fushimi Inari-taisha, Kinkakuji temple, and Sanjusangendo (Buddhist temple with 1000 statues). On the way to all the places, there were vendors and souvenir shops all over the place. One of my favorite things I saw at most of the shops were the amount of kokeshi dolls. If you’re not sure what kokeshi dolls are then you can read about them in my blog post here:

https://christinathepolyglot.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/kokeshi-dolls/

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Visiting all the places was definitely a lot of fun. Another thing I enjoyed about being in Japan was the food. I was able to try so many different foods and desserts while I was there. And there’s so many I already miss eating. I tried tonkatsu (pork cutlet), okonomiyaki (vegetable pancake with meat and sauce), fried shrimp, loco moco (even though it’s technically Hawaiian), kishimen noodles with miso, different types of soups, real ramen with dumplings and rice, melon bread ice cream, cakes, strawberry cheesecake kit kat, and so much more!

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All in all you can say I had a great trip. I’m so lucky and thankful to have such a good friend (who’s like my twin) to allow me to stay with her and her family and show me around like she did.

Japan is definitely a great place to visit and I highly recommend to go if you ever get the chance!

The Land of the Rising Sun

In less than  one week, I will be going on my next adventure to-if you didn’t get it from the title-Japan!

Japan is also known as the Land of the Rising Sun since the Kanji (Chinese characters) for Japan-日本 (Nihon/Nippon)– literally means  “the sun’s origin. Then from “the sun’s origin” translates to “The Land of the Rising Sun. Also in the national flag of Japan, officially known as 日章旗 (Nisshoki), has a red circle representing the sun in the center of a white background.

Japanese flag

Anyways, I’ll be going to Japan for about a week and a half to visit a friend of mine I met in college. I’m really excited now, since the closest I’ve came to actually being in Japan was being in the Narita airport 3 years ago. This time I’ll actually be exploring in the cities of Nagoya and Kyoto-the food, the culture, and the language. The language part will be interesting since I decided to start learning Japanese this semester, so let’s see how that works out…

Matryoshka dolls

Matryoshka dolls are wooden Russian nesting dolls, which are popular Russian souvenirs and often given as gifts. A matryoshka doll is taken apart in the middle, revealing a smaller doll. Matryoshka doll sets ranges from three to twenty dolls. The first matryoshka doll was created in 1890 in a workshop called “Children’s Education” in Abramtsevo.  It was inspired by Japanese souvenir dolls for kids. The outer most layer of a traditional matryoshka doll consists of a woman in a sarafan, and the inner most layer is a baby. Matryoshka dolls artistry can be very elaborate and often follow a theme. The name Matryoshka comes from the Russian girl name Matryona or Matriyosha, which comes from the Latin root ‘mater’ meaning ‘mother.’ The doll is considered to be a symbol for fertility and motherhood.

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The Berlin Wall

It’s been almost 2 weeks since my departure from Germany. So far I’ve been really busy with appointments, studying, watching the World Cup, and readjusting back to American life. Now that I have a little bit of time, I would like to tell you one of my favorite highlights in Germany.

One month ago, my host family and I took a trip to the capital of Germany-Berlin! We walked around the city for a bit, went to tour the dome at the Reichstag, took a city bus tour, and saw the one thing I wanted to see most-the Berlin Wall!

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I remember that I’ve always wanted to see the Berlin since the 6th grade, when I learned it in my Social Studies class. And coming across the Berlin Wall that day was actually pure luck. I knew that most of the wall was torn down, and probably wouldn’t be able to see it still standing. We were actually looking for a parking spot, when we suddenly find a part of the wall still standing.

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Some history about the wall:

After WWII was over, the German Reich was taken over by the Allies and split up into four zones: (Western Germany) American, British, French, and (Eastern Germany) Soviet. And Berlin was split up into the same four zones. On August 13, 1961, the communist party of the German Democratic Republic began putting up barbed wire and a protection wall between East and West Germany. The people of East Berlin were basically deprived from the western world. They were not allowed to leave East Berlin, and if they try to escape-they were shot by the border patrol. However, Germans from West Berlin and West Germany were allowed to go to East Berlin by going through Checkpoints, such as Checkpoint Charlie (pictured above). At least 136 people died trying to escape, and over 5,000 people have successful escaped from the East to the West. Communism began to falter in 1988 and 1989 in countries like Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. And in 1989, an announcement from the East German government official Gunter Schabowski came-the borders between East and West Berlin were open. There was a huge celebration afterwards. People began hammering the wall down. After the wall came down, East and West Germany were finally reunited as one single state on October 3, 1990.

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East and West Berlin