Jogyesa Temple Chrysanthemum Festival: In Photos.

Every year sometime between mid October and mid November the Jogyesa Temple holds its annual Chrysanthemum Festival. Last year we were lucky to catch it as we hadn’t actually planned it into our schedule. It usually lasts a few weeks so some of the events, such as traditional musician performances, are spread out throughout the Festival’s run.

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Arriving just before dusk the flowers were amazing, in the bright sunlight of earlier in the day they very well may have been overwhelming.

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Although the history of Jogyesa Temple goes back a long time, the Temple that sits on the site today is fairly recent. It is also in the middle of Seoul surrounded by modern buildings, but don’t let that put you off visiting particularly if you are in the area visiting other attractions.

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The Jogyesa Temple is the main temple of the Jogye order of Buddhism and holds a number of National Treasures, including a 500 year old Lacebark Pine tree. ( Designated as National Monument no 9. )

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It is also well known for holding TempleStay programs which allow tourists to stay in the Temple and learn about Korean Buddhism.

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The chrysanthemum is a traditional and popular fall flower in many parts of the world and Korea is no different. Chrysanthemums originated in China and may have spread to Korea very early on, definitely no later than the introduction of Buddhism in the 4th century CE.

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There was a touch of whimsy and humor in some of the displays.

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As well as a great deal of skill as this Bunjae (Bonsai) chrysanthemum shows. Just look at those roots and the thickness of the ‘trunk’.

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This “tree” was just beginning to blossom. It would no doubt have been magnificent when fully in flower.

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And of course there was a dragon in all his glory.

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If you find yourself in Seoul I would recommend a visit to Jogyesa Temple, particularly if a festival is taking place.

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Other festivals take place during the year, and one of our other trips we caught them setting up for Buddha’s birthday.

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Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Spirit GardenBongeunsa Temple, and Haedong Yonggungsa Temple.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All phpto credits to Elizabeth Marzec.

Korean Banchan.

If you’ve been to a Korean restaurant you are no doubt familiar with all the little side dishes that come with your meal. Know as Banchan these side dishes can transform the whole eating experience.

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Korean meals usually have multiple components such as rice, soup, a main dish, kimchi and a selection of other side dishes. Even the plainest meals will have a selection of Banchan.

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The Kimchi can come in a variety of ways using different ingredients. Cabbage, radish and cucumber are popular, but you might also be served kimchi made from Korean chives, or even mustard leaves. Kimchi is usually fermented but can also be served ‘fresh’ particularly in Spring and early Summer.

Namul are vegetables that have been cooked or marinated and then seasoned. Bokkeum is something such as pork, octopus, or mushrooms stir fried with a sauce, while Jorim is something simmered in a broth. A fairly common version is tofu simmered in soy sauce.

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Korean versions of potato salad and pasta salad also show up from time to time among the more traditional Banchan. Jjim are steamed seasoned eggs, or steamed fish, and Japchae are glass noodles.

Jeon are savory pancakes made with green onions, or kimchi, potatoes or even seafood.

 

Danmuji is the yellow pickled radish that comes with many meals, once we even got it with pizza.

Banchan are usually carefully chosen with a variety of sweet, sour, spicy, and salty flavors presented in order to enhance the meal. In some cases just adding an aged kimchi to rice can be wonderful, at other times Japchae can be the perfect cool down companion to a spicy meal.

Banchan are presented on the table for all to share so next time try all of them even if you’re not quite sure what they are and you’ll have fun food adventure.

Our temple food had so many dishes and courses we didn’t know what was the ‘main’ meal and what were Bachan, but everything was interesting with some items being spectacular. These are a very few of the many choices that kept coming in a never ending stream of colors, tastes and textures.

Have a great day everyone.

You may also enjoy Eating Bibimbap in Jeonju, the Gastronomical Capital of S. Korea,  Green Tea Waffles,   and Korea Without the Chili Pepper.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to original owners, Elizabeth Marzec, Kenneth Kim, and Debora Marzec.

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From a meal last week, we had no room on the table so we had to make do with a Banchan plate!

BTS: Love Yourself Tour, Fort Worth.

BTS, arguably the top Kpop group in the world right now, held 2 shows this past weekend in Fort Worth Texas. I was lucky to get tickets to the Sunday night performance as both concerts sold out in minutes.

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I travelled up to Fort Worth with friends on the Saturday and we headed straight to the large Korean/Japanese/Asian shopping and food area in Carrollton. After shopping, eating* and drinking we drove to our hotel to check in.

We stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown Fort Worth which overlooked the venue. Fortunately I got a room that gave me a perfect view of the line of waiting fans. (My friends weren’t as fortunate.) Saturday’s weather was a mess with heavy downpours which made me feel for everyone out in it. Many fans had umbrellas and plastic ponchos but quite a few looked unprepared for the rain, but obviously they weren’t going to risk losing their place in line to take shelter.

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The City of Fort Worth tried really hard to prepare for the concert and the fans by closing off the street in front of the venue, putting out a lot of porta-potties, having police command center vehicles and increasing their bicycle patrols. On Sunday, with the sun shining, they even had a DJ in the park playing Kpop. The cleanup crew were amazing too and had a trash pick up crew pretty much constantly circling the venue.

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We decided to be lazy on Sunday and didn’t do much more than check out the nearly Water Gardens and see if we wanted to wait in line for merchandize.

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The line doubled back on itself a few times and we decided not to wait. However talking to people later the line apparently moved quite quickly, and after lunch we went back for my friends to buy light sticks and only had to wait in line a few minutes. (Some merch had sold out by then though.)

We had a good lunch at Little Red Wasp, before I settled done in the hotel bar to watch the lines to see when to enter the venue. With seated tickets we weren’t too concerned, and it ended up we only had a dozen or so people in line in front of us to get in. We found our seats easily with plenty of time to spare.

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There was a little surprise for the fans in our area as Matthew McConaughey and his family sat down near us. I don’t think many people really noticed him until the venue staff made a big production of him being there, bringing him drinks and popcorn etc. He only stayed in the seats for about 3 songs before he headed down to the arena floor. He seemed to have a great time at the concert.

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A few more minutes of waiting and the show began with a roar.  Smoke and flames accompanied their arrival. Loud, thunderous, roaring, no words can really describe the decibel level of the crowd’s cheers and screams. Everyone was on their feet in a second and bopping along to the music in 2.

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They started off with Idol, followed by Save Me and then I’m Fine. They performed in their trademark dynamic style, capturing the attention of everyone there. From their appearance, to their singing, choreography and ‘visuals’ everything was on point. They had large screens set up so we could see them close up and catch those fun and cheeky expressions as well as their sultry/ sexy looks that they have perfected for their fans. The screams got louder and louder as the fans of each individual member tried to outdo each other.

In between some songs they spoke to the fans, with some of it being in English and some in Korean, which was then translated into English for us non Korean speaking fans. All of them expressed their happiness and joy at being there and how much the love of their ‘army’ meant to them.

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Along with their group songs there were also solo and sub unit performances. J-Hope was the first and wowed everyone with Trivia: Just Dance. He gave a tremendous performance, compelling everyone’s total and complete attention. There were also solos from Jin, V, Jimin, and Jungkook as well as a performance by all four of them singing The Truth Untold. The solos and sub-units showcased the individual talents of each member, and not a single one of them failed to impress. Their vocal range is really impressive for ‘pop’ singers of any nationality.

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The rap sub-unit of Suga, RM, and J-Hope also got their chance to shine with a highly charged and powerful rendition of Outro: Tear. Their ability to keep the fan’s feelings and emotions wound up and tied to their own is one of their strongest draws. BTS sings and raps from the heart with lyrics that draw from both their own experiences and those of young people all over the world. They express the complexities of growing up in the modern world which resonates with many of their fans. When a new song is released it is very quickly translated into multiple languages. The music is also beautifully composed, which along with the lyrics, exemplifies the feelings and emotions so many people struggle with in their daily lives.

 

Unlike many groups in the past, the BTS fans feel personally connected and intertwined with the members of the group. The use of multiple forms of social media has allowed that interconnectivity to grow and now there seems to be almost a symbiotic relationship between the two. BTS has acknowledged their fans love and support on multiple occasions, and credit them with a greater part of their success. This two way emotional connection was obvious during the concert as it fed the excitement of the crowd, and the energetic and exuberant performances of BTS.

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As the evening progressed there were some songs that just blew me away. Fire has always been one of my favorites and I didn’t think it could be any more explosive than it was in the MV, but boy was I wrong. They killed it. It was powerful, dynamic and ‘totally’ amazing. Sweat had been running fairly freely down their faces all evening, but they continued to put their all into each and every song.

I also have a soft spot for Dope and so was glad to see it was one of their choices, and of course Fake Love and Mic Drop were wonderful. But really if I’m honest every song was amazing and it is only personal feeling that have made me highlight one song more than another. The whole concert was flawless. The stage was set up with a walkway to an ‘island’ stage. Every part of the main stage, island stage and walkway were fully utilized making sure as many fans as possible got to see them up close. Large TV screens helped everyone to see them up close and were perfect for their little intermission ‘shows’. While there was a costume or set change they played what could also be described as ‘teaser’ videos. The boys posed, and acted cute, and sexy, and teased each other and they were ‘squishy’ and handsome, and completely adorable.

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In many ways the evening was cathartic for most of the fans and nobody wanted the concert to end, but end it did. Long after fans left the building I could see groups of fans hanging around outside the venue chatting and reliving the experience. I know it took me a long time before I could even think about going to sleep.

Have a great day everyone.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to original owners. All the good photos are from Kathy and Rick Silvers (the performance ones), the bad ones to me.

My thanks to BTS for coming to Texas, to my friends Kathy and Rick for driving, taking photos, and hanging out with me, to Spencer the barman at Hampton Inn & Suites, the City of Fort Worth and their Police department. Also to a sweet young lady from Infirespins.com who gave me a lovely pin for my jacket and the other fans who took a few moments to chat with me. It was definitely a weekend to remember.

 

*There are two areas for Asian goodies and entertainment in Carrollton, usually I go to the HMart side of the highway, however this time we visited the Daiso side. We ate at Rice Chicken, with dessert at Snowy Village and shopped at Daiso and Kinokuniya.

 

 

 

A Look At Some Of My Favorite Kpop Dance Practice MVs.

Those of you who are on my Facebook page know how much I love dance practice videos, sometimes even more than the official music videos. So today I decided to share some of my favorites. This is by no means a ‘best of’ list, just some of the ones I like and go back to again and again.

Right now I’m really enjoying iKON’s Killing Me.  There’s something about the way they are using their hands and arms as well as their whole bodies. A lot of the moves look simple although I doubt they are, and they fit the music perfectly. I find it slightly hypnotic and been watching it daily since it came out.

NCT is particularly noted for their dancing ability and I could easily choose more than one of their videos to be on this list, but NCT U edges ahead with Boss. Again it has that look at me vibe. I have to watch.

I Like You (Boyfriend version) from Got7 is still my ‘to go to’ MV for if I’ve had a bad day. The are so young and cute, yet trying so hard to be sexy. They make me smile every time.

BTS could also be on the list multiple times, but I keep going back to the iconic Fire. I’ve followed them since their debut ,and there has always been something addictive about their personalities, music and dance. I’m happy to see them succeeding.

Originally dance practice videos were just that, a video of the group practicing. Nowadays most of the videos are of polished performances and while that allows us to watch the choreography without all the distractions of the sets, costumes etc it can occasionally lessen the charm. This old video of 2NE1 & Big Bang is a classic ‘oldie’.

And then There’s Big Bang.

Big Bang has moved with the times and their dance practice video for Bang Bang Bang is still one of my favorites. One of the reasons being that they are not the perfectly synchronized idol group like those we usually see today. They each have their individual character which is especially striking if you watch TOP.

But that uniqueness and individuality in the oftentimes cookie cutter world of Kpop will always make them special to me.

Do you have a favorite dance practice video?  Please let me know in the comments below.

Have a great day everyone.

 

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photos and videos credits to original owners.

You may also enjoy Kpop: The Best Dances Of The Time (around 2009) and Like Dance? Watch Kpop.

 

A Quick Trip To Victoria, British Columbia: In Photos.

Although I usually focus on all things Korean from time to time I take a vacation both figuratively and literally. My last trip was to Alaska and this time I chose Canada. My daughter can only take limited time off so it was a short trip, basically three and a part day in town.

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People travel from all over the world to Victoria, especially during the summer, so there were a lot of tourists in town. As well as the pleasant summer weather most people come for the flowers, food, and fun. We saw, and did, and ate, and drank as much as possible for such a short trip.

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We flew into Seattle and then had a short flight to Victoria. The skies in Seattle were smokey from the forest fires and there were even some flight delays.

Fortunately the skies were a little clearer over Vancouver Island. We caught a bus to downtown Victoria (1 bus change ) which takes over an hour as the bus winds though the countryside. We got to our AirBnB right at check in time and within the hour we were out exploring. We chose a waterfront apartment near Chinatown so we were a little bit away from the main tourist area.

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Since it was so close we headed into Chinatown to explore. It is the oldest Chinatown in Canada and the 2nd oldest in N America. It wasn’t very large but it had a few old alleys to explore and of course a gateway at the entrance, plus a variety of restaurants and shops.

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Fan Tan Alley is the narrowest commercial street in North America.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After grabbing a bubble tea we headed out on a trek to find a street market but got sidetracked into a quest to buy art. We stopped in a small gallery which had quite a selection of works by local artists. Most were well out of Elizabeth’s price range but one or two of the smaller pieces caught her eye. The lady in charge suggested we try the main gallery which was housed in an old Victorian mansion. So we walked a few more blocks and found the gallery in a quiet neighborhood. Lots of great art for sale, but we left empty handed.

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The gallery had a lovely Shinto Shrine in the secluded garden.

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Although there were restaurants aplenty we walked back to the Chimac Korean Pub. about a block from where we were staying.

I can’t pass up Chicken and Beer if it is to be found and this was a fantastic find. It was like being back in Korea for a short while. Highly recommend it. Then it was back to our room and a much needed sleep.

 

Friday dawned with clear skies and after breakfast at Jam Cafe, a highly popular breakfast place we headed along Wharf street to the Inner Harbor.

After a stroll around the Inner Harbor area, we walked past the Parliament buildings, the Empress Hotel and onward to find the Bug Museum.

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Although quite small it was packed with bugs, some of which we were allowed to handle. The docents were very informative and knowledgeable. Even without having kids with us it was a fun experience.

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A quick stop at an art gallery focusing on the artwork of the First Nations was enjoyable, but then we had to head back to the Inner Harbor for our Whale Watching trip. Elizabeth is not a fan of boats so a quick drink at a harbor side cafe strengthened us for the voyage ahead.

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We got great seats on the upper deck. Be warned that even though the temperature on land was pleasant once you head out into open water it can get really quite chilly. We had brought jackets but had to borrow hats. It takes a while to find the whales and there are rules on how close you can get to them. (They can come as close as they want to the boat.)

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We were fortunate to see a group of four humpback whales but as they were passing through the area they were swimming and diving so we never really caught up to them. I had brought my binoculars so I got a decent view, but Elizabeth’s phone camera doesn’t do justice to what we saw.

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After our time was up, each boat is only allowed to stay near the whales for a limited amount of time, we set off to see what else we could find. We saw sea lions, seals, and a single sea otter named Ollie.

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Later we stopped by a restaurant called OLO on the off chance we could get a table.          ( reservations are really a necessity. ) However, luck was on our side and we got a table.

39515437_10212579146704164_2445640930523348992_nIf I had to make a list of the best meals I’ve ever had this one would be near the top. The food was excellent and the presentation incredible.

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The next morning we went to another highly recommended breakfast place called Mo:Le.

We then caught the bus towards Butchart Gardens, stopping at the Butterfly Garden on the way.

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There were so many butterflies it was amazing. We even had a few land on us as the walked around.

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Back at the bus stop we had maybe a 2 minute wait before our bus arrived. We were tempted by the vineyard next door which was just opening but the bus arrived before we could make up our minds. Next time.

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Butchart Gardens are probably the most visited place on the whole of Vancouver Island, and it is easy to see why. The flower gardens are incredible. And no photos can really do them justice.

The skies had a slight smokey haze that increased as the day wore on, but the colors were still outstanding. Even the greens were amazing.

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It was as if some of the garden were straight out of a fairy tale.

 

After a long day looking around the gardens we went to the main restaurant for dinner. (Reservations strongly recommended.) We were given the most perfect table.

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Our meal was fantastic too.

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For our last full day in Victoria we had a good breakfast at the Sour Pickle Cafe and walked down Wharf Street to the Inner Harbor and then on to the BC Museum.

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Having got there a little while before they opened we checked out the native plants area, and then the park at the side of the museum with a lot of totem poles for people to look at.

 

Once inside the museum we found the First Peoples gallery to be fascinating, there was so much to see and learn.

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I understand that there are still issues to be sorted out over some of the artifacts, but as a visitor I was overwhelmed by the quality and quantity of the pieces on display.

The Museum’s other galleries were cool and I enjoyed some of their discovery areas, particularly the ‘Jules Verne’ one.

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We then returned to our room before setting out again on one of the little ferry boat/taxis that ply the harbor area. We got off at the Fisherman’s Wharf area and checked out the house boats before talked the harbor side path back to the Inner Harbor.

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On our last night we went on one of Victoria’s Ghost tours which was interesting. We ended the tour just after dark by walking through a park that had once been a graveyard containing over 1500 bodies. And when they turned it into a park they just left all the bodies there…….under us…..right where we were walking.

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We had a fantastic trip to Victoria and were very glad we still went even with the smokey air. The day we left a fire had broken out on the island itself and our flights home were both delayed. So we also had a bit of an adventure.

Have a great day everyone.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to Elizabeth and Debora Marzec.

You may also like Yeomiji Botanic Garden, Huwon: The Secret Garden Of Changdeokgung Palace, and Silla: Korea’s Kingdom Of Gold.

 

Korean Ghosts.

Many Asian countries have a more intimate relationship with ghosts than we do in the West. Perhaps it has to do with with their traditional beliefs of ancestor worship, Shamanism, Taoism, Buddhism, etc. or perhaps it is their close ties to the natural world and the land. Whatever the reasons for their relationship with ghosts it peaks in ‘ghost month’.To Catch a Virgin Ghost Poster

On the traditional Chinese calendar ‘ghost month’ falls on the 7th month of the year       ( Aug. 11th – Sep. 9th in 2018 ). This is often why spooky Korean movies and Kpop MVs come out during late summer rather than at Halloween. (Korea has started to ‘celebrate’ American style Halloween in some places, but more as a ‘party time’ than as a real connection with the dead.) Ghost month is a time when the barriers between the three realms, Heaven, Hell, and the Land of the Living, weaken. On the 15th day of the seventh month ( Aug. 25th in 2018 ) the doors between the three realms open wide. The doors of Hell are opened as the sun sets. The deceased are said to visit the living to seek food and entertainment, but as we know from watching Kdramas not all ghosts are benevolent.

Many Asian countries hold Ghost Festivals to assuage the visiting ghosts with lots of traditional music and dancing. Food is an important aspect of the festivals too. In Korea many of these festival take place in a more agricultural setting and are harvest orientated, which makes sense as the harvest bounty can be shared with both the living and the dead.

Korean ghosts fall into a number of categories, and we have seen these portrayed in various ways in multiple Kdramas and movies. In general many ghosts hang around after death because of unfulfilled tasks, or for vengeful purposes. Korean ghosts tend to be a little more like monsters or vampires than western ghosts in that they can sometimes take over a human body, or can drain away a person’s life energy. They can also kill people. A Korean ghost is not something to take lightly.

Korean ghosts often appear legless and seem to float just above the ground. The main types of ghosts ( Gwisin ) include the virgin ghost, or Cheonyeo Gwisin, who is often bitter and angry. In order to appease her villages in some parts of Korea often erected phallic statues. Another ghost is the Chonggak Gwisin who is a bachelor ghost who hangs around looking for a wife. Sometimes a Korean Shaman, or Mudang, can perform a marriage between between the two.

The ghosts become more frightening with the Mul Gwisin, or water ghost who wants to drown everyone. Constrained by the limits of needing to be in, or very near, water, it appears with extra long arms to drag you down under the water until you die. Occasionally seen on land where it appears dripping wet. It is a vengeful angry ghost.

Even more fearful is the Dalgyal Gwisin who haunts the mountains and wilderness areas of Korea. With a featureless face it looks kinda egg like, but don’t let that fool you as it stalks hikers and drives them to their deaths. In some versions it also has no arms or legs. Not perhaps a traditional Korean ghost as it can’t be found in the old folktales. It might have arrived in Korea during the Japanese Occupation of Korea, however it has now become part of the Korean lexicon of ghosts.

(Foto: Demonstre.com)

And last is the Joseung Saja who is somewhat similar to the Grim Reaper of the Western World.  In Korea he is a messenger of death and leads the recently departed into the afterlife. He is a familiar feature in Kdramas in his black robes wearing a gat, a type of traditional Korean hat.

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Even the modern version of the Joseung Saja seen in the Kdrama Goblin wear’s a hat, although he has updated it to a fedora. Most Koreans see the Joseung Saja as a category of ghost rather than a separate class of supernatural being. They do not necessarily believe there is only one, but rather a whole cadre of them.

There are multiple Kdramas featuring ghosts with some notable ones being Let’s fight Ghost, Oh, my Ghostess, The Master’s Sun, Arang And The Magistrate, Bride Of The Century, and of course Goblin. Korea makes exceptional horror movies, many with a focus on ghosts. Being faint of heart I can’t recommend very many but To Catch A Virgin Ghost was weird, and horrific, and in some parts, charming. Spellbound was a much lighter take on a ‘ghost’ story. Kpop music videos can be quite scary,  but many feature monsters and vampires rather than traditional Korean ghosts.

Many Kpop idols have ghost stories to tell, and it is said if they see or feel a ghost before they release a song it will be a success. T-ara have said their dorm was haunted, SM has a practice room ghost, and Big Bang’s ghost followed them when they moved out of their dorm rooms. There are also multiple stories of ‘shower’ ghosts. While this doesn’t prove the existence of ghosts, it does however let you see how Koreans believe in ghosts in a much more familiar way than perhaps we do.

Have a great day everyone, and remember to feed and entertain your ghosts during ‘ghost month’.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to original owners.

 

You may also enjoy reading Beolcho: A Korean Tradition Of Maintaining Ancestral Grave Mounds, and  Juldarigi: An Extreme Form Of Korean Tug Of War.

Silla: Korea’s Kingdom of Gold.

Throughout world history there have been civilizations, such as the Scythians, the Aztecs and the Asante who were known for their gold, but another should be added to that list. The Korean Kingdom of Silla which existed from 37 BCE – 668 CE as one of 3 Korean Kingdoms, and from 668 CE to 935 CE after its unification with Koguryo and Baekche. (It conquered the other two.)

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The Gyeongju National Museum houses a fantastic display of artifacts discovered in the burial mounds of important officials and royalty from the Kingdom of Silla.

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There are a large number of these tumuli in Gyeongju some of which produced a multitude of artifacts.

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Silla was a large city, perhaps one of the largest in the world during that time period.

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It was on the eastern part of the Silk Road from China so commerce and trade were important aspects of its economy. Silla was also known for its amazing craftsmen and artists.

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For those who could afford it gold was the medium of choice.

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The royals were wealthy enough to have ample leisure time and so poetry, music and games played a part in their daily lives.

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Even their horses wore gold.

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Other incredible jewelry was found.

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To really take in and appreciate the beauty of all that the museum has to offer I would suggest a visit of at least a few hours.

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There was a lot more items on display than I could show here, including everyday objects as well as armor and sculpture.

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Have a great day everyone.

 

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. Photo credits to Elizabeth Marzec.

You may also enjoy reading Juryeonggu: A Fourteen Sided Dice From The Golden Age Of Silla, and Baduk, The Korean Game Of Weiqi, Or Go.

 

2018 Monsta X 2nd World Tour “The Connect” In Houston.

It is said “a picture paints a thousand words” which no doubt explains the popularity of images on the internet, however it also means that people have come to expect to see photographs in concert reviews. No luck today I’m afraid as the concert organizers had a no photos or recordings edict in place and the venue staff strictly enforced it.

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That was not necessarily a bad thing as it meant that with no one holding their phones up above their heads everyone had a better view. It also meant that everyone could really be in the moment and totally concentrate on the performance.

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This tour in the USA is the 2nd for Monsta X, although it was their first time stopping in Houston (well actually SugarLand a wealthy suburban town SW of Houston). The venue was new and large, which meant it was’t quite full although you couldn’t tell that from the noise level of the fans. Due to the extreme summer heat the venue, Smart Financial Center, asked fans to not show up before 6pm, a request that most fans followed. Just after 6pm though the line was doubled back long, but everyone was so amped up for the show they cheerfully withstood the ‘feel like’ temps of well over 100 degrees.

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It took a while to get everyone through security and into the venue. At first many people just soaked up the air conditioning and recharged. Others queued up for official tour merchandise or grabbed a cold drink from concession booths. As the venue filled up the chatter and excitement were palpable and built up to a peak as darkness descended on the auditorium and the volume of the music increased.

To deafening screams Monsta X burst onto the stage and  into all our hearts with a dynamic rendition of Jealousy which had everyone on their feet moving their light-sticks to the pounding beat. It was followed by Be Quiet and Beautiful. There was a small break where they spoke with their fans like we were close friends. There were relaxed and comfortable with us and each other, laughing and joking around.

The whole show was filled with great singing, powerful dancing, and stirring rap rhythms. This plus their obvious joy at being there, and their joking camaraderie they have with each other made the evening one to remember. However some of the most memorable moments for me were the ones just a little off the usual track. Seeing Kihyun, Wonho, and Minhyuk in little boy style sailor suits just made me laugh. I grew up when little boys did wear those, but comparing my memories to what I was watching was somewhat surreal. In short pants, disheveled in a partially untucked shirt Minhyuk looked like he had just come on stage after doing something ‘naughty’, while Kihyun looked like a choir boy. But it was Wonho who really caught my attention, or rather his thighs did. All I could think of was it was the first time I’d seen someone in a little boy sailor suit that looked like he could play Rugby for the All Blacks.Aletta - Blue Cotton Sailor Shorts Set | Childrensalon

Apparently not everyone was blessed with seeing them in sailor suits singing Neol Hada as they wore other outfits in other cities.

Other moments were often brief, the pat of encouragement, or smile and glance at each other during their sets. Wonho acting so much more confidently and comfortable than on last year’s tour. In fact he was positively chatty with lots to say plus he flirted a lot with the monbebes (the name of Monsta X fans) which thrilled them and drew excited screams from them too.

Shownu being made fun of for his shirt and tie. (He looked so gooood.) Jooheon being cute and bubbly and squishy and also quite talkative. Kihyun showing off his vocal range and being a joy to listen to, while I.M’s fierce rapping demanded the audience’s undivided attention. Towards the end of the show he explained that his voice condition had been bad all that day, but that he managed to perform because of monbebe’s support. Personally I thought he seemed on top form.

Hyungwon with his amazing ‘resting bitch face’ breaking up into smiles and laughter. He seemed to be so happy to be there with us and to be having a good time. He also did an amazing job showcasing his clothes, even the horrendous side laced regency poets shirt crossed with I don’t know what that was so bad it would have drowned someone with lesser charisma. But Hyungwon made it work.

And lastly Minhyuk who was so extra that I was mildly irritated until I saw that it was actually his pent up emotions. Towards the end of the show he was obviously moved and you could see tears in his eyes. As they left the stage and posed at the end he sank down into a squat and looked really like he was crying. I think he really felt emotional at all the love that was shown by the audience.

After an amazing show most of the audience was ushered out quite quickly while the P1 & P2 fans waited for the ‘hi touch’ with the boys. This was done perhaps too efficiently and the line was speedily moved past each of them with only the briefest of moments to do a high five and make eye contact. I managed to point to their patch on the jacket and a couple did raise eyebrows and make vague exclamations of interest as the line continued  inexorably onward.

Although I enjoyed the show that in some ways was better than last year’s, I think my favorite show was the one in 2017 in Chicago, particularly since the ‘hi touch’ was slower with enough time to say a sentence to each Monsta X member. Having enough time to say ‘thank you’ or some other compliment should be a given for ‘hi touch’.

So a thousand words later I hope I’ve been able to share just a little of the feel of the Houston stop of Monsta X 2nd World Tour. Here’s to a 3rd one.

Have a great day everyone.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to original owners. Photo of Monsta X to Starship Ent. Sailor suit pinterest. All others to Debora Marzec.

 

You may also enjoy  Mad Clown & San E In San Antonio,  Zion T Delights Dallas Fans,  and Busan One Asia Festival: Opening Concert 2017.

 

The Beauty of Korea.

I have written lots of posts about Korea, and about what a great country it is to visit. However today I just want to show you how wonderful it is.

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From beautiful temples,

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and palaces ,

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to nature at her best,

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Korea is beautiful all year round.

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The modern side of Korea is daring and vibrant with  cutting edge technology and architecture.

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The food is tasty as well as photogenic,

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and the public art ranges from folk art to the striking.

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There are pretty beaches,

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rocky shores,

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and waterfalls crashing into the ocean.

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There are amazing museums with a wide variety of things on display.

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Beautiful parks.

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You can learn more about Kpop,

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or even catch a glimpse of an idol or two.

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You can eat out all night,

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or even eat street food in the rain,

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but the best thing of all is to share time with friends.

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I really wish everyone will be able to discover the Beauty of Korea.

Have a great day everyone.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to original owners, Debora Marzec, Elizabeth Marzec, and Kenneth Kim.

You may also enjoy My Favorite Place To Stay In Seoul, Gyeongju: Why You Should Visit On Your Next Trip To Korea, and Spirit Garden.

A Korean Folk Village: In Photos.

There’s more than one Folk Village in Korea, but they don’t always have obviously different names, so it can be a little confusing when looking online. The one we’ve been to a couple of times is about 12 miles from Suwon in Gyeonggi-Do province. It is the nearest to Seoul and you can get to it relatively easily as a day trip.

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We’ve been there both in early Spring and in the Fall. The Fall visit was probably my favorite, but there’s lots to see and do in all the seasons.

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Folk Villages are somewhat of a cross between an open air museum and a tourist attraction, but they do give you a look at what Korea was like a few hundreds years ago. They focus on Korean rural life which has often remained the same for generations.

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The houses and buildings may look alike, but once you look closely you can spot the regional and class differences.

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For example the ones from Jeju Island use the local volcanic rock.

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Along with a large selection of regional buildings to explore there are also artisans showing traditional arts. This gentleman was making baskets and shoes.

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Blacksmiths are popular all over the world. This smith was making traditional tools which were then displayed for sale. On both visits we’ve bought his Korean hoes for gardening. They are our favorite gardening tool.

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The herbalist area has a little cafe where you can get a variety of medicinal drinks as well as regular tea and coffee. You can sit inside or outside in a very quiet and relaxing area.

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There is also at least one play area, probably more, but since I don’t have a small child I wasn’t really looking. Notice the big swings for Geune Ttwigi, although here they are downsized for children.

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Various shows are put on at specific times and they are very much worth watching.

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The equestrian show is pretty amazing too.

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As you can imagine from all our exploring we needed to find somewhere to eat, and there are quite a few options. The main gate area has a selection of restaurants and places to eat and then way in the back there’s a ‘food court’ which has cheaper options. We’ve eaten at both and not been disappointed.

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Now that you’ve looked through the photos I’ll show you one of the main entrance when we arrived. Don’t be worried if it looks like this. The Folk Village covers a large area with over 200 buildings so it is fairly easy to avoid the crowds once everyone spreads out.

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Have a great day everyone.

 

You may also enjoy reading Korean Games,  Hanji: The Paper Of Korea,  and Hwaseong Fortress.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to Elizabeth and Debora Marzec.

Eric Nam ‘Honestly’ 2018 North American Tour In Houston: Thoughts.

I have to admit that before the concert I liked and knew about Eric Nam more from his hosting and interviewing skills than for his music. Seeing that he was having a concert relatively close by, a 3 to 4 hour drive for me, I immediately bought a ticket hoping to make up for my lack of attention to his musical abilities.Image result for houston traffic

Going to Houston was a bit of a change up for me since so many Kpop concerts in Texas focus on Dallas. Eric did also have a show in Dallas, but I hate the longer drive and constant roadworks on the main highway from San Antonio to Dallas, so Houston became my default. Houston traffic is no picnic though. So Kpop groups please appreciate the efforts of Texas fans to get to the venues. (Texas is almost 7 times the size of Korea, with no railways to speak of. We have to drive or fly.)

 

The concert took place at the House Of Blues in Houston which is located downtown which meant finding parking, which actually turned out to be relatively easy. A line had already formed by the time I got there just before 3pm . It didn’t take long to get to know a few others in line. The venue staff were good, putting out a ‘hydration station’ so the fans had easy access to water, a necessity in the Houston summer heat. At one point they even came around with frozen ice-pops which was really nice of them. As time passed and the lines got significantly longer they came around and did the security checks and handed out wristbands while we were still in line. This allowed everyone faster access to the venue and the air conditioning once the doors opened at 7pm.

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Feeling my age a little I jumped at the opportunity to get a table seat in their VIP area when Tyler came down the line with the offer. It did cost extra. And it was well worth it. Not only did I have a great view of the stage, I was in the center right behind the sound booth with an unobstructed view of the whole stage, I was also able to have dinner and a drink before the show started. I was so happy not to be in the crush in front of the stage.

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The evening started with Loote who put on a note worthy performance on their first live tour. Made up the duo Jackson Foote and Emma Lov Block, and assisted by Jacskon’s brother on the drums they got the crowd fired up. Being both singers and songwriters they sang a few of their own songs such as Out Of My Head and Your Side Of The Bed, which you can find on Spotify.

Although the cheers of the crowd were loud for Loote’s performance they rose to a roar when Eric came on stage. He even commented on the noise level and the fact that some fans screams reached ‘dolphin levels’. He controlled the stage and the crowd with ease.

He has sometimes made fun of his dancing skills, but he went all out once he hit the stage. His body rolls and other moves thrilled the crowd. Eric has one of those somewhat unassuming voices that sneak into your soul without effort, and then he’ll switch to power vocals and wow you into unabashed admiration.

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It was a pleasure to hear him perform and fun to see how he interacted with the audience with a somewhat self deprecating dry wit. He is obviously smart and definitely  has a sense of humor, which is why he is the to go to guy for interviews with English speaking celebrities while they are visiting Korea. In 2017 he was chosen by Forbes Magazine as one of their 30 under 30 Asia Edition and was one of  GQ Korea’s Men of the Year in 2016 so he has multiple facets to his skill set.

He was born and raised in Atlanta, graduated from a good university, studied abroad in China and speaks 4 languages. ( English and Korean fluently, proficient in Spanish, and can carry on a conversation in Mandarin. ) So perhaps not your average Kpop star. This North American tour included 15 shows in 14 cities. He sold out all the US dates and only the Mexico City one still had tickets available. And all this without all the fanfare that surrounds many other Kpop celebrities.

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The show was fantastic and I enjoyed every moment. It sped past way too fast which made me appreciate all the more the moments he took to interact with the crowd. His interactions with the audience when asking if it was anyones birthday, were both funny and sweet. What was also notable was how everyone seemed to be happy. I have never seen such happy dancers at any show I’ve ever been to. They looked like they were having the time of their lives. The photographer and other staff also smiled a lot, so it must of been a fun tour even if it was also long and exhausting.

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After the show everyone who had bought the VIP tickets lined up and waited for group photos with Eric. It was advertised as ‘meet and greet/group photo’ but although he did shake hands with each of us there was no time for much more than that. There were 5 people, plus Eric, in each photo and as we all asked him to consider San Antonio for a future tour stop the staff were ushering us along. So in future staff/promotion company please don’t use “meet & greet’ in your advertising when basically all we were getting was a group photo. We would have probably all still bought the VIP tickets but we would have had lower expectations, and therefore not been disappointed. A last impression of an event can be the impression that lasts the longest. We were handed a signed poster as we left.

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It is too late to catch any other stops on his tour as Houston was the last one in the US, but he promised another tour and I strongly recommend you get tickets for that. You can watch fancams on youtube from the tour, and you can also listen to his music on spotify etc. Youtube also has multiple music videos of his as well as those of him interviewing a long list of famous celebrities. There’s lots to like about Eric Nam so see what you like most about him.

Have a great day everyone.

 

A shoutout to Briana Val Verde who was my line buddy and was in the crush near the stage. She kindly allowed me to use some of her photos. All photo credits to original owners. Featured photo, plus 4, 5, and 6. to Briana. (You can also follow Briana on instagram. )  Houston traffic photo to City of Houston.  All the rest to me.

And Melvia W  was kind enough to also share some photos with me.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation.

You may also enjoy reading Zion T Delights Dallas Fans, and Korea Spotlight At SXSW 2018   

 

Horse Related Artifacts At Gyeongju National Museum.

A while ago I wrote a couple of horse related articles, Horseback Archery In Korea, and The Horses Of Jeju. They generated some interest with equine history enthusiasts and I promised to add anything else horse related that I discovered while in Korea.

Originally much of what was known about the history of horses in Korea came from things such as tomb paintings ( 5th – 6th century CE )

and sculptural artifacts.

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These could be studied and some conclusions drawn, but without seeing actual horse barding and horse accoutrements these conclusions lacked the final proof.

In 2009 a tomb was discovered within the boundaries of the ancient Kingdom of Silla with the remains of both horse and human armor. Oddly the bodies weren’t there. Silla was a long lived Kingdom on the Korean peninsula ( 57 BCE – 935 CE ) and the tombs was dated to 5th/6th century CE.

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Most of the artifacts went to the National Museum Of Korea at Gyeongju, once the ancient capital of Silla. Artifacts from other tombs in the area are also housed at the museum.

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There were lots of stirrups, bells, and other harness pieces.

As well as parts of saddles.

 

One of the other tombs in the area, Cheonmachong, ( ‘the tomb of the heavenly horse’ ) is so called because of this lovely painting on a birch bark saddle flap.

Jangni cheonmado (Painting of Heavenly Horse on a Saddle Flap) from Cheonmachong Tomb, Gyeongju image

I’m sorry I don’t have a lot of information for you, as this was a quick trip. I believe there is talk of the National Museum of Korea at Gyeongju going online with their collections, otherwise I would suggest you contact them through email for more information. They have a really wonderful page showing their restoration and preservation work which is well worth a look.

Have a great day everyone.

Please do not copy or use without permission and accreditation. All photo credits to original owners. Photo of tomb painting and the one of buried armor were found on multiple internet sites, original source unknown. Photo of the ‘heavenly horse’ from Gyeongju Museum. All others to Elizabeth and Debora Marzec.

You may also enjoy reading Gyeongju: Why You Should Visit On Your Next Trip To Korea,  and Korea And The Silk Road.

 

Note. If you look closely at the tomb painting you can see a banner coming off the back of the saddle, that’s this …..

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Isn’t that cool?