the pictures you've been waiting for have arrived.
i now begin the laborious project of attempting to catalogue them all and write sufficient explanations for the events and moments they capture. this is going to take a long time. i know it. i should just stop complaining and do it. but im hungry and the water is boiling for my ramen... can't i do it later, after i eat? NO. now. get to it.
it took about four days for me to meet someone i knew after arriving in korea. those first few days felt long and kind of strange. i was in a place i knew and yet it seemed unfamiliar. i felt like i was coming home to korea, but it was as if i came home to an empty house. i didnt have much chance to inform my friends of my arrival due to how quickly i had to begin working once i arrived. i had no phone, so i used a payphone to call my friend 선영 (sunyoung), my korean sister. as soon as i saw her and heard her voice it was the atmosphere of korea completely changed, as i expected it would. i was back home. we met at 안양시장 ('anyang shijang' - anyang market), above.
me and sunyoung. she helped me by some 상추 ('sangchu' - lettuce), 김 ('kim' - dried, salted seaweed), and 김치 (kimchee - which ended up causing my fridge and thus apartment smell like kimchee for more than a month, until i finally threw away it away, a decision i later regretted after i learned from my students that kimchee lasts practically forever and that old kimchee is great for making 김치찌개 - 'kimchee jjigae' kimchee stew - one of my favorite home dishes)
that weekend i stayed with my good buddy and oldest korean friend (in terms of length of acquaintance, not age) 원츨 (wonchul - aka 'chris'). unfortunately i did not bring my camera to his home in anyang (foolish). nevertheless the weekend was a very welcome change of pace and escape from my less than desireable living conditions. wonchul's father works for the government as an executive in waste management. their family lives in a very beautiful part of anyang, next to a nice looking park with a gentle mountain overlooking the neighborhood in the near background. i promised myself that i would one day come back to visit one of the many nearby 찜질방 ('jjimjilbang' - public sauna/bath house). we grabbed some beers and fried chicken at a local joint, played go stop, and talked late. i remember noticing that wonchul's home seemed nearly exactly the same as other korean homes i had stayed in (i.e. same layout, arrangement, even furnishings, furniture, and appliances). so even though i had never had the chance to visit wonchul's home during my last stay in korea, it felt very familiar to me, not so much like an eerie deja vu, but just a comforting familiarity, much the same as wonchul and other koreans might feel about the reed roofs, lanais, and palm trees of hilo. after about a week and a half i was finally feeling more caught up in sleep and so i took some time to paint a little. i chose a familiar subject :) unfortunately, something was a little off in my sketching (possibly due to the wrinkled nature of the paper, post-unpacking) and my subjects nose turned out a centimeter or two longer than is commonly characteristic of humans. i cropped the picture to save you from nightmares. the following friday i was finally able to meet up with miri! we met at 한국외대 (hankuk university of foreign studies - a place from which many of my friends have come, but i never had a chance to visit last time i was in kroea). we were supposed to meet at the university entrance, and as i was waiting there looking for 미리 (miri), someone came up to me. i was even more startled when i realized it was miri! she had changed her hair and was wearing a different style of clothing than she normally did in hilo. i felt silly for not recognizing her right away and just a little disappointed that her style had changed a little, but then i should have expected as much. im sure i looked a little strange to her too with my military-length hair. anyway, as soon as we opened our mouths it was easy to recognize each other's old personalities. not much change there! it was just like old times. we grabbed some 회덮밥 ('hoedeopbap' - bibimbap with raw fish and lettuce) and took a look around the university. miri is living on campus now and she'll finish up school this winter. that means job-hunting-time and many stresses and sleepless nights for most koreans. i have learned that the process can be more than just challenging and stressful - for many it is isolating, exhausting, and even despairing. i have a lot of opinions and feelings about this aspect of korean culture (which i wont get into here, but, rest assured, will soon). for now, i'll just say that this is one area to which i feel especially called to share my perspective with koreans. i have really learned to trust things to work out in my life, despite failures, set backs, and the superficial judgement of people in decision-making positions. indeed, it is because of more than one supposed 'setback' that brought me to a place where i could learn about korea and later put me in a position to visit here two years ago. in short, i try to give as much support to my friends as i can - i know how much they need it. in that way, it is a real great thing to be here and give that personally again.
the next series of pictures are from my chuseok weekend; to hear a more detailed account of that, see previous posts. that very evening i was able to get out of my evening classes so that i could meet wonchul and his family who would be driving to 보성 ('boseong') to meet wonchul's grandparents and celebrate 추석 ('chuseok' - the korean mid-autumn festival). they happily agreed to allow me to come along and be a part of the family for the weekend. score! after 4 hours of driving, we stopped in 광주 ('kwangju') to spend the night. the following day we met wonchul's cousins, aunt, and ucle and went to the local market to pick up some fruit for the family gathering. as you can see, the market was like a warehouse full of people buying and selling local crops.onions
rural korea - soon i'd get my first up-close encounter
asleep in the car saturday morning. we have arrived in boseong. only a half hour left of driving to get to grandpa's village. 밤 ('bam') - chestnuts - we'd be picking a lot of these soon
wonchul's grandparents' home and where his father and uncles grew up. it lies on the slopes of what i called the 'park family mountain' where several previous generations had lived and many relations still lived. i later learned from wonchul that until recently there had been no toilet other than a hole in a shed and quite a few domesticated animals. red peppers (grown only a few meters away) drying in the sun. they will be used to make 고추장 ('gochujang' - korean red pepper paste, a staple ingredient to many dishes) among countless other culinary uses.
kimchee pots preserving homemade kimchee and other essential korean foods. traditionally these pots are buried underground and left sometimes for decades to achieve a truly remarkable (and a little sour) kimchee flavor.
wonchul's father (left) and uncle peeling for the imminent feast. wonchul's cousins (everyone is playing on their cellphones or one of the other mobile electronic devices that are so popular in korea) - they slept most of the weekend.
getting ready to eat my favorite korean food - 삼겹살 (''samgyeopsar' - pork belly meat). the meat is not cooked with any spices, simply grilled and wrapped in a leaf of lettuce or a sesame leaf with gochujang, marinated onions, garlic, and/or kimchee. alternatively, the meat is dipped in a dish of salt, pepper, and sesame oil (as in the picture). it is essential for this meal to be consumed with alcohol, preferably soju. and it's cheap. lovely.
on the way up the mountain in haraboji's tractor
i thought chris looked so silly in this hat haraboji - grandpa - at the chestnut orchard
it was a really beautiful afternoon - i cant imagine a lazier atmosphere
the waterfall where we washed our faces and took a nice long drink of fresh mountain water
the countryside around wonchul's grandparents' home
wonchul's distant cousins playing badminton (an extremely popular sport for all ages in korea)
after an afternoon siesta - it was hard work picking those chestnuts and digesting all that food.
haraboji found some old, forgotten bottles of soju which also preserved the remains of a snake haraboji had found, killed, stuffed in a bottle of soju, and burried over 10 years ago.
behind the house
the side of the house - where apparently some relatives used to live and the site of the household toilet before a porceline one was installed me and 할머니 ('harmoni' - gramma)
me and 삼촌두명 ('samchon du-myeong' - two uncles)
me and 할아버지 ('haraboji' - grampa) and wonchul's parents
at the 녹차 ('nokcha' - greentea) farm
posing like haraboji
much of the countryside right around here looked just like this. you could see green tea growing in rolls all over the slopes of hills and mountains, looking like fuzzy, green courodoy
with that ocean in the background, it almost looks just like old times in hilo...
no one was more surprised than i to discover this very life-like replica of my birth. also a pretty good resemblance of my brother on the left.
wonchul's father turns out to be a kindred spirit
a few days after returning to suwon, i took a train into seoul after finishing my morning classes and met my friend 민지 (minji). we walked around a cemetary park which housed the remains of countless soldiers who had died in the korean war (june 1950 - july 1953 - 1 million+ casualties). the park was unbelievably huge for being so near the center of seoul. it was a really beautiful day - one of my last summer days before the weather turned south.
all those little dots are graves. part of seoul in the background
some old guy was being interviewed outside this building. we couldnt figure out who he was. or i just forgot.
here housed the ashes of many other creamated people. a lot of these 'cabinets' were empty, as if the building had been very recently constructed.
these must have been for the general public, since the pictures showed lots of old guys.
looking down at the floor in the center of this building from above. a tradtional korean symbol. what is it called again?...
another view of seoul from the outside.
shooting at a wild boar
yeah archers! you rock!
화성 - the wall
children playing 'get the foreigner' - i was a little nervous seeing them run at me from a distance without slowing down
yup. the wall is right in the middle of the city. pretty cool actually.
the next week i took a train into seoul for the afternoon and met my old friend 영민 (youngmin - we've been friends since my first year in hilo during which we played in the hilo orchestra and volunteered at the UHH women's center together; later i stayed in her home for almost a month while living in korea for the summer) in 용산 ('yongsan' - a part of seoul that has lots of foreigners due to a military base). we ate some vietnamese beef noodle soup. yummy!
a group of kids seated under an immense bullet. this was apparently some secretly designated day for school field trips. many, many children everywhere.
주현 (joo hyun - 'hong-joo'), 현숙 (hyunsook), 보경 (bokyoung - 'bobo'), 명주 (myoungjoo - 'mj'), 혜진 (hyejin - 'alison') (left to right)
left to right again - mj, tall mikyoung, chris, daniel, hong-joo, hyunsook, bobo, alison, me
better not get into now.. i wont be able to stop...
hyunsook kindly helped me ask around looking for a good cell phone deal. we wandered around a department store (homeplus, i think) and at some point i was under the misimpression that hyunsook was looking for lamb meat, though i cant remember why. she bought me a pancake with an egg fried in it (i cant remember what those were called, but they were GOOD, yo) and we spent a while trying to figure out which bus would take me to the train station. although hyunsook apologized for the inconvenience, i thought it was really nice just wandering around aimlessly for a few hours.
me, miri, sieun
miri stopped by only for a short time; she was on her way to daejeon or someplace for her friend's birthday. of course, she hadn't gotten a gift yet, as everything she had encountered or thought of didnt seem special enough. so we made some hasty parousals of locals shops walking away from all of them empty-handed. lol
after miri left, we had a couple of hours left before i had to go. i made the timid suggestion of 노래방 (noraebang - singing room, just like karaoke) and sieun quickly jumped on the idea with whole-hearted approval. another craving fulfilled that day. i hadnt been to karaoke since japan. i sang my guts out and my voice was subsequently at 50% power for my evening classes. 100% worth it. just thinking about how much fun it was to impulsively go there on a late afternoon makes me want to get up and go right now... alas, only 2 hours until class... i gotta finish this up.
singing 80s songs gets the most enthusiasm out of me.
okay. now it's really rockin. and we didnt even have anything to drink. i think we were singing 'way back into love' - a song from the popular-in-korea film 'music and lyrics'
left to right, 9pm interchange 3 class: lucy, alicia, richard, josee's arm
my hagwon's secretary youngmin (left) and japanese language teacher (who i was able to communicate with in japanese surprisingly well, thanks largely to the soju, no doubt)
me and alicia (just pretending to be sloshed)
at the hookah bar following dinner (most everyone is sloshed by now)
it was a beautiful day for a festival in yeouido. many children.
mikyoung (aka: 'kate' or 'small mikyoung' - there were two mikyoungs in hilo the year she was there) a cool little garden path and a cute little family
alison paying respects to daniel and his parents at the wedding hall (actually a hotel)
alison in the wedding hall right before we sat down
daniel and his fiance bowing to each other at the beginning of the ceremony
daniel surprises us all with a song for his wife
the gang: bobo, hyunsook, chris, alison, jiwoo, sophia, sookjeong, brian (who came to stay in suwon with me that night), long J
the after reception gathering and drinking... good 'ol long J - as dapper as ever
i made it!