Monday, July 07, 2008

Identical Cousins

One of my most unique students is now something of a twin to me. I usually recieve a daily visit in the teacher's room from "Eric." He comes up to my desk, taps me on the shoulder, and says in that funny little voice of his, "TTTTTTTTTTTeeeeeacccchhhheeerrrrr... what day library day?"
I show him on the calendar when the class will next go to the library, and he smiles. Eric is known to the other students as "Radio Show Eric" because when it's his turn to read he uses a strange electronic sounding voice. Yesterday "Radio Show Eric" came up to me in the teacher's room with a big smile on his face. He was holding a pair of glasses, when he got up closer to me he put them on his face and smiled. Over the weekend he had gotten the same pair of specks as me. We both had a good laugh, and I requested a photograph with him. He was happy to pose, and even more happy to know that tomorrow is library day for his class.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Heryi Art Village

On Sunday, our co-worker, Hong, took Kristin and I to one of "Korea's best kept secrets": Heryi Art Village. Heryi is like another world inside of Korea. It's quite close to the border of North and South. The weather was overcast the whole day, making the surroundings dream-like. There weren't many people abound, which meant plenty of gazing space.

Heryi is something of an artists' commune or complex. We wandered about in the maze of buildings that had a war-time look, and found art pieces of all sorts: some strange, complex, others simple and familar looking. There were a lot of juxtaposed pieces: bodies and paintings of trees, a sculpture of a head made of watches, a painting of strange looking women with seashells for eyes.

The village was amongst the most lush of grasses, fish ponds, wild flowers : strange to be in a place that consisted of concrete buildings, art, and nature (so many juxtapositions-- other than that of the art).

Inside of one of the galleries grew this massive cactus garden, which became the focus of a good bit of my photographic shots for the day. I thought of my mum enjoying the garden of pricklies. The most amazing was the center cactus, it must have been a good twenty-five feet tall, though perhaps I'm underestimating.

My favorite of pieces was a sculpture of a boy perched on the window sill with three little birdies. He had such a nice day-dreamy look to him, I so wanted to join him. I would have broken the pole though as a good part of the day was spent dining on absurdly delicious Italian food at the eateries. Heryi was full of cultural entertainment. To end the day we went to the concert hall/ coffee and tea room and became day-dreamed (much like the boy though perched on chairs) while sipping fresh tea. Hong is a tea expert and ordered us all of mild cup of tea, which had a name that started with a P., I cannot recall, but I do recall that it was a form of green tea, and made me feel plenty relaxed with Shubert and thoughts of the day.

The internet has a few links for more information on the history and the art village itself: (you have to click the English link each time you go to a new page on this site), and; and (this one shows the oddity of the buildings).

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Strange things to see

I took a walk through the muggy air this afternoon; in the over-crowded neighborhood, and it made me realize the oddities that we see in Korea's everyday: trucks that sell fruit via loudspeaker, crosses that are white in the day, neon at night, a baby playing a pac man machine on the side of the street; a chair tied to a tree (much like a dog).

Such oddities are something to scrap book; soon we'll be thinking that over-sized pick-ups and large men are out of the ordinary.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

On Preparing to Leave

I've been thinking a lot about small moments that we've had/ are having in South Korea. Mostly I'm trying to prepare to leave by having nostalgia for the near past. There are places in the neighborhood where we've become regulars, and I'm realizing that it's going to be hard to leave these places behind. I want to remember being here and the now as clearly as possible; that's to say the recent past can become as blurry as recalling the fourth grade.

Not only do we become attached to places, but people, what they do, and familar walkways too. Today I had my haircut, and walking home, I realized that it's going to be hard for an American hairdresser to replicate these Korean school-girl bangs.

Anthony and I have started to talk about the Korean foods that we're going to miss at home (which is a refreshing change from talking about the American foods that we miss now). We've decided to do our favorites one last time in these next two weeks. This rainy evening we had Jim Dak (a chicken type stew). After savoring each last bite we went to the DVD bong and watched a Chinese movie, "Bejjing Bicycle" which was quite good. It's not only the food that we'll miss, but surely the DVD bongs will be missed too, what's better than a movie theatre on a rainy day? I'd say a cheap and made for 2 movie theatre on a rainy day (the full jim dak belly made it even better).

*17 days and counting (surely this is bitter-sweet).*

Monday, June 23, 2008

Early Summer Roll-take

These early summer days are a lot like laying on the floor, listening to the slow turn of a record on the player: time is passing, no matter which way it's looked at (by watch, by clock on the wall, by daylight or night darkness). I've been forever lost in some of the last glimpses that I'll have of South Korea: little ladies walking from school in the drizzling rain, pathways, concrete mazes, weekend dazes.

This past Saturday, Kristin and I took a trip into the city, we thought we'd do a little shopping, and talking to plastic ladies, which turned out to be more interesting than first thought. The glowing halls of Gagnam station are never dull.

We celebrated the passing summer day with red wine, that was scrutinized by our lovely Austrian server, first thought to have corks swimming amongst the juices, he made his way back to the bar; our mouths watered for the mussles and wine we were about to sip, slip through our lips. He later came back, with the most lovely of glass full(s); meanwhile we'd been listening to a loud American guy on date, poor fellow was stuck sitting beneath the loudspeaker, which was playing melodies of French music; we weren't sure what his date made of the whole scene, but we were quite entertained by the scene.

Though we didn't need the entertainment, the mussles, wine, and fries provided every sensory stimulation that we'd ever need.

It's during these small moments I want to take with me from Korea. (Though I'll do without the strange military police stalker we had lean into our table and give us a show of his handcuffs-- the language barrier must have made the situation stranger; sometimes moments must turn more surreal than first thought, I suppose). I'll keep the gaze on those mussles and fries.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Death of a Birthday Cake

Saturday had us a little sad. Outside our apartment someone's birthday celebration was caused to end. Was the birthday girl/boy's cake dropped from a window? We could only wonder, though who could be so angry on their big day?

I wonder now, with our birthdays less than three weeks away, was this an omen? So many expectations that are had, could they be smashed so easily? Ice cream droplets mixed in with frosting.

Cakes should not be put to the sidewalk anywhere. Was the concrete so hungry?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Konglish Bread

This was on the package of my bread this morning:

The zero hemp cloth to be big li the peanut jam cream bread
with the sweet dreg is a possibility to the box
of enjoying the moist bread.

I tried to figure on what this meant or was meant to mean, but it was all too abstract, and so I simply ate my konglish bread instead.

Buddha's Birthday in Insadong

The colors of this Monday were something to feel dull beneath. I went with friends, Kristin and Shannon, to wander amongst the celebration. We walked the streets and temple in Insadong, Seoul trying to find something like a traditional dancing, but we swam in color instead.

The lanterns are placed to create the shape of a lotus flower; if one were to fly in an airplane or helicopter they might see this. I simply stole a glimpse of a pamplet instead.

Paper dragons protect temple ceilings. The more that I looked at the temple tile-work, the more I considered covering my question mark tattoo with a traditional flower design.

My thoughts eventually got lost in the crowds. Insadong was filled with people celebrating, and seeming at peace on their day off.

Overall we three Americans felt pretty good about being amongst the color and the colorful.