Posts Tagged With: Gifts

Birth of a Snapshot

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Heh heh heh

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From the notebook:

As I look over the stone schoolhouse, Korean flag waving in the light 35 degree wind, I imagine exactly where I’m going to be in one month’s time. . .

Los Angeles, preparing for a festival to blow minds off in record time. Heading with a troupe of characters that will be setting up the kind of amazing spectacle that can only be seen intentionally.

But right now, I have a view, as I’ve had every Thursday and Friday for the last two years, that will remain the same for years to come. Nothing in this image will change. The building in the window has been there for 50 years and will likely be there 50 more. The sky is wide and void of other buildings. The area doesn’t require buildings higher than two or three stories. Why should it? There’s plenty of space. Plenty of time to walk from one to another. So much stillness…

It’s 10:30am and I’ve already had a liter of water. Already sweated through my shirt twice and am tasked with exactly nothing for this afternoon’s activities. After work, I will go home, clean up my apartment, and have a house-sale and dinner with friends as I prepare for my departure.

There are times that I remember with clarity, others are lost. My thoughts are on writing, but not here. Not in this box. I must use a pen.

And so I did…

2012-12-01 23.06.11

The systematic overflow of the population is a residual of the medical and social advancement in the last few generations, but it’s worth wondering if it can peak like any other graph that gets pegged. That being said, I don’t think it’s a bad thing per se, more of an interesting balancing act.
Considering the fluctuation has me thinking about the cities that are so crammed full of people, together with the rural elements, it seems that there will always be a balance.

Right now is simply the product of an extremely prosperous time. I think our greatest void is our self-esteem ~ both micro and macro-scopically ~ in a sense that every day, people couple successes with self-depreciating ideas and comments habitually, ritualistically, and we (as a species) tend to look at foreign cultures as adversaries rather than neighbors on the same path. The cultural prejudices that inspire people to belittle achievements or to accentuate the faults of others (so as to look or seem superior) have got to be checked. The self-depreciating commentary I witness among peers is tantamount to the equivalent of abuse if it were coming from somebody else. Yikes! If we’re headed to Hell in a hand basket, we don’t need to paddle down stream. It would seem to me that we would do well with a little of the opposite. We have come so far. Even if it is not your fault personally, you should feel proud for the achievements that other people outside your family, town, country have done. You should use their successes as inspiration, to prove that anything really can happen. The world certainly has surprised before.

7-12-2013

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7-13-2013

Philo of an Expat:   See, once a body has made it out of the bubble, it’s clear the world has got to be seen, felt, experienced, walked through, smelled, sensationed beyond description, beyond imagination, beyond the expectations, abandoned years ago having noticed their inapplicability to the world at large, along with common sense when it became obvious that such constructs are simply more appropriately termed cultural or regional norms, rather than any inherent human reflex of the wise.

And once that happens, the method of travel, of financial stability while living on the road has got to be figured out. I have chosen English teaching for now. Maybe one day, I could be a buyer for somebody who runs a shop in the states, maybe another profession completely ie: writing for travel mags or something. But the business is rather competitive and I’m not a big fan of being competitive in formats like that most of the time.

Theoretically, once the loans are paid, I can dive into the world with even more reckless abandon. Spending instead on the best possible health insurance plan or diving from place to place. I could see the whole planet and write about it as I pass through.

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Today’s Snapshot:

Woke up late and laden heavily with a properly earned headache from a bit of dehydration created from sleeping in the heat of my room after having a gloriously successful party just last night. I had about a dozen people at my place for gnocchi and a house sale where we visited and hung out, had dinner, picked through some of my old gear and decided to keep on to a norae bang or singing room, afterwards.

So, of course everyone left all the things they wanted from me at my house in little piles for themselves to get later, and we went out to sing. I went to sleep looking at 4am on my telephone’s clock and checked out for the night.

As I woke this morning, the hangover combined with the small mountain of dishes in the sink led to a slow venture into my day. Finally, put the house and my head into order, to where I could leave the house around noon. Got to the station to find that the next train to Seoul was leaving in over an hour!! I had some time to kill.

The train station is very close to one of the schools that I teach at, so I figured it would be a good plan to walk to it to gather some sunshine, keep myself occupied and otherwise bring a smile to the situation.

It’s a beautifully hot and sunny day today, so it was good I had my water, and was pleased to find shade now and then. The school is a couple kilometers away, so I had more than a few nice moments with my camera, and eventually burned about 45 minutes on the walk. I still had 45 minutes to wait, so I figured on a slow stroll through the station to bide my time.

It’s a small place. Only two tracks. One sitting room with two cafes, one restaurant and a convenience store, and in the main walkway there is an area that has pictures of the buildings that are being built in the area as part of a massive infrastructural installation that is featured around the station. So I walked slowly and looked at each one of the artistic representations of what is to come.

While doing so, I have to say, I was brought to laughter by a simple oversight that the artists/planners showed in their pictures. A few of them had shadows pointing in three different directions! Always within the same 90 degree quadrant, but as much as, wait, no, there was one that could have been 140 degrees off. Seriously, just a funny thing to see on what was surely an expensive and otherwise thoughtful image.

So I had my fun with that and yes, I snapped a few photos, but soon I was done there and had to go sit down.

***A few of those shots***

Consider the shading. Notice where the shadow from the tree in the foreground lays almost at 20 degrees west of north, then the ones from the railing in the left look like they are heading 85 degrees west of north, then with the building, the smaller wing that comes off on the right, the shadow lays coming towards us, as if the sun is now off to the right and the shadow is now coming in at us.

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Now for a few from the walk.

The path from the station from two angles.

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A couple shots of my school during the walk up to it.

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Some locals just below my school.

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Up close.

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Back at the station:

The wooden benches weren’t exactly built for comfort, but nobody seemed to mind. More of a Zombie-limbo-parking-lot-for-the-digitally-inclined vibe than anything else. So I sat, and I waited between the tv seething garble and the friendly texter.

When it came time for the train to come, I went up to the outdoor platform, enjoying the warm air that welcomed me as I stepped up from the climate controlled zone I’d been in. Found yet another flat wooden bench to sit on and copped a squat.

The sun was shining and I put on my shades and just leaned back. Arms behind me just relaxing, when up lumbers a fella who’s obviously drunk and totally interested in my tattoos. Now, I’m kind of used to the attention that they get now and then as a lot of Korean folk don’t get tattoos so they’re a bit of a spectacle but this guy was something else. He leaned in like he couldn’t see’m ‘less he could smell’m. Head about 3-4 inches from my arm, totally bent at the waist to do it. I let him stare like a mentally challenged fella, but then he reaches in for my other arm and I calmly make like I’m gonna pour my water on his shoes to let him understand he is no longer welcome.

He gets it. So he’s traveling with two other fellas who don’t seem as drunk, but they are there, so he wanders over to them then plops down on the bench I’m on. Now, there’s another guy between us, but he gets up on account of the other dude’s smell and the way he just dropped down on the bench. Just read of trouble. So then it’s just him and me. I ignored him until I felt his hand on my arm which I instinctively and quickly swat away ~ telling him “That’s twice” and go back to chillin’. He’s obviously shaken, his friends come in closer, but I continued to enjoy the sunshine. No bugger like that’s takin’ my sun-time away from me. Hah! Good times.

Then it was time for the train we got on at different doors. While walking on the train later to find a coke, I saw him passed out – (at noon mind you!) in his seat. Heh.

The train ride was good. Quick. It got me to Seoul in about one and a half hours.  Seoul is a known variable. I needed to get to Insadong for some gift-shopping, burned a hundred bucks there or so and am now on the subway to the south end of the city to meet a buddy for a pizza before a poi jam.

Damn fine day~ Hmm. 6 more stops. Let me share a little bit of what Insadong is with you.

So, it’s this overly marketing-filled arts district that actually has a bunch of great restaurants, galleries, tea shops and nice things for gifts if all the redundancy of bookmarks and fans don’t get in the way. I bought myself my first watch in many years, a cool leather banded piece, simple, inexpensive, $20, but cool style. For gifts, I bought 3 business card holders that are inlaid with abalone, a pair of fans, some Korean paper to wrap things in, a stash of masks for burners, some more of these crazy-comic all-so-Korea anime socks and a collection of note cards with pressed flowers that will come in handy when the time is right to use them.

My stop is soon and this paper is valuable and almost filled, so I’ll call it for the day’s snapshot. Almost at Maebong to meet Seoul-Hunter on our way to Manshigan Studios.

July 13, 2013.

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Life just gets weirder

 

My life just seems to add layer upon layer of weird to it.

Not a complaint, actually, today is quite a nice one.  What do your school lunches have?  Mine was sliced duck with white rice, sides of cucumber, freshly picked hot pepper, pickled cabbage (kimchi), seaweed soup, and fishcakes. The sauce that went with the duck was a lightly spicy but robust thick reddish sauce that really worked well with the pepper and duck.  After finishing, I entered the teachers’ lounge where I was invited to join everyone in a batch of giant, plump, fresh and local deep-purple grapes that were sweet as a body could hope. After enjoying my fill, I stood, realizing that there was no hope for conversation with these nice people, said may thanks and bowed out of the lounge.
So here I sit at my desk, listening to an animated conversation under the window between two teachers. One a man, the other a lady. They are clearly talking about costs of something and weights thereof, but I can’t get any further into the conversation about what they are talking about.

Today was a special day~ I guess…  We all received an annual gift from our principal. It’s the run-up week to Chuseok, so gifts are being given as if it were Christmas in the states.  Only, Chuseok is a different kind of holiday. Sometimes called Korean Thanksgiving~ it isn’t that at all. It is actually the annual remembrance of ancestors. People visit graves and tend them, mowing the waist-high grasses that have grown on the hillside mounds and visit with the elders of the living family where they have elaborate meals that are created by intense labor by the women and enjoyed in lazy repose by the men. And in tribute to this time of harvest, this festival of ancestors and food, I have been given (exactly the same gift as last year!) a giant box of two bottles of shampoo, two bottles of conditioner and four tubes of toothpaste. Long live the harvest festival! Um… yea…

So here I sit at my desk with some time on my hands. So far, I’ve taught two 45 minute classes and I have one more to go. Granted, my first two class periods before them were in fact used for lesson planning, I’m pretty much done for the week after that effort.   So as it stands, I can sit and reflect a bit.

Recently I’ve been more busy than normal with working on the project of the Korea Burn as we called our Burning Man-like event that happened a couple weeks ago.   Just last night I sent in my final AfterBurn Report and spent the weekend up in Seoul in order to have a series of meetings that helped get some plans on the table.

Being in Seoul is always interesting. I was able to do some gift shopping and visit with friends, and most importantly, enjoy pancakes.

As far as I can recollect, it’s the first plate of pancakes I’ve had since a midnight stop with a dozen friends in the summer of 2010 right by Boeing.  That’s over two years since pancakes.  I’m not sure that’s legal.  So I took care of that.  They were twice the price I’ve ever paid, but what the hell, I was on the roof-top patio of a restaurant in Seoul, South Korea on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning with great company and I couldn’t deny the pull of a brilliant plate of the steaming wondrous goodness that is pancakes with cinnamon apple topping with half a liter of syrup on the side with bacon together with a bottomless cup of drip coffee (for those who don’t know, drip coffee is actually extremely rare in Korea. Even at the boutique cafes that are everywhere, you will always get an americano as opposed to drip  coffee. To me, pancakes require the latter.)  Really, that was nice.

On the other side of the coin, we had a major flood recently that totally washed out tons of stuff. check these two photos out to appreciate how much water was in the river that day.

The one on the left is full of water, and the one on the right is the next day after it all went away.  Look at the post in the background to get how high it was. In the foreground of the photo on the right, what you see are two roads that were totally covered the day before. Under the grasses in the pile was the remnant of a reflective mirror, the kind that stand like signposts so that people can see around sharp curves. It was totally bent over and gathered the debris in the flood.  It was a lot of water.

Of course, because “as Koreans, we work hard” even though there was an historic storm overhead and children were kept from school for their safety, we as teachers were still required to come in during the typhoon. At lunchtime they were evacuating the building because the surrounding roads were becoming flooded and getting home would have been impossible. ~ They actually wanted me to fill out forms to use a vacation day in the process of leaving.  I laughed and explained that just wasn’t going to happen.  We all left the building together. Some of the roads that we made it through at noon would have been completely impassible later in the afternoon. Good thing we left. I gotta wonder about that request though. Humans are a weird bunch.

Cute though.

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