Monthly Archives: April 2006

a little time alone…

i went for a pleasant walk/nature photoshoot down kissing lane. alone. and it was fun, damn it. and not just because its taboo and there are wierd superstitious threats that i won’t be able to land a boyfriend for the next three years now. the place is gorgeous, the scent of the air is divine. even if you are walking alone….IMG_1959.JPG

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“flowers in her hair, flowers everywhere”

you know, i’ve been pretty patient and accepting throughout this whole cultural experience. but recently i realized that i can’t hold it back any longer – i’ve got a bone to pick with the Korean culture….
in a land where oceans of cherry blossoms turn up their sweet and fragrant faces to the springtime sun, and the beautiful, slender women wear their pitch-black hair long and comfortably cradeling their soft faces; there is a nasty superstition that exists in their folklore. somehow along the way these motivated, high speed, intelligent people decided that “only lunatics wear flowers in their hair”. i really don’t understand it. and of course i didn’t find out until i, ironically, shoved a little purple proclamation of springtime into my own short-choppy-brown-petty-excuse-for locks. i wasn’t thinking, really, kind of a seasonal habit of sorts. but the Korean friend accompanying me laughed and swung the flower right out from behind my ear before i could murmer “hyacynth” and i have to admit, i was a little startled. upon requiring an explanation, i learned the only tidbit of Korean culture that i can truly say i loath. just completely insensible! lighten up here, and open your eyes to the the treasure trove you are sitting on that is beautiful women+beautiful flowers=a beautiful sight!

sigh.

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little diddy

here is the article i finished this week for my student newspaper, the Promethean, at UWS. it was printed on wednesday.

Ever tried kimchi? A few of the UWS students studying abroad in South Korea this semester had never even heard of the spicy fermented cabbage but have now grown accustomed to the condiment with every meal. And yes, that includes breakfast. A new taste for diverse foods is among the many changes and exiting lessons that our students are experiencing abroad, for example Kevin Pattee says: “Being here has inspired me to learn more about where I am from.” Who would have guessed?
Last semester an amazing study abroad opportunity came to our campus right before finals week and resulted in the export of seven of UWS’s students. The students, who come from varied backgrounds of interest, major and year at UWS, bravely joined the new program and flew out of Minneapolis on a grueling flight to South Korea on February 22. The Global Village Program, developed at the Yonsei University in Seoul, invited UWS students to participate in the initial trial run at the Yonsei branch campus in Wonju. UWS was one of eight universities visited by ambassadors from Yonsei last year. Lucas Behn says of his experience “Not only have I had the chance to make friends with many Koreans, but also to meet a diverse group of American students who are living in the same new and foreign circumstances.” The GV program is intended to integrate Korean and American students in social circumstances to promote the informal teaching of English conversational skills. The American participants also have the opportunity for an in-depth experience of Korean lifestyle and culture.
The adventuresome students Lucas Behn (Psychology), Stacy Farnham (Elementary Education), Ryan James (Botany), Andy Johnson (History-Secondary Education), Jason Johnson (Social Work), Kevin Pattee (History-Secondary Education) and Tegan Wendland (Political Science/International Peace Studies) are participating in the GV program for one semester, which lasts from March 2nd to June 19th, at which point the students have the option to continue travel or return home. Currently the students spend their days attending Korean language and culture courses, in addition to up to four elective courses taught in English. As participants in the program they attend the “team meetings” and “mutual mentor sessions” necessary to fulfill the required 15 hours a week. These sessions serve to encourage the American and Korean students to socialize with each other and are meant to stimulate cultural and language exchange. The GV program offers free housing and tuition to participants, as well as a comfortable stipend that covers living expenses and even offers enough coverage for some interesting leisure activities. Seoul, a world city with a population of ten million, offers many opportunities for adventure and excitement and is merely an hours’ bus ride from the Wonju campus. Ryan James stated “The Korean experience is multi-faceted, the people here are conservative, they work very hard, but also know how to have fun sometimes.” Needless to say, the majority of students in Wonju, native and international, take the weekends off to romp in the metropolis.
Jason Johnson, a graduate of UWS who is accompanying Professor Judy Dwyer in developing a social work internship program in Wonju to compliment the GV program, advices other UWS who are thinking of joining the program to keep in mind that “It’s a beautiful country and an exiting experience. But don’t expect it to be the US – because it’s not.” This program offers a rare and exiting opportunity for UWS students who are interested in East Asian culture or language and who desire to gain what Ryan James claims he has: “a unique perspective, a new taste for food and a new outlook on life.” UWS hopes to send ten students to Yonsei for the Fall ’06 semester with preference to students who have taken a course in Asian History. The program will have gone through a few changes by then, including added tuition fees from UWS, but the costs will not exceed $5,000 for the semester, says Cherie Sawinski in the office of International Programs “Our two universities have entered into an exchange agreement through which we hope to continue sending students indefinitely with the hope of also hosting some Yonsei students for a semester here at UWS in the future.” If you think you are, as Kevin Pattee advices, “prepared to not be prepared, and ready to go with the flow” or if you would like to know what it feels like to fall “in love with the people, the geography, the food and the culture,” as Jason Johnson has, look for more information about the GV program and stop by the office of International Programs, or go to
http://www.uwsuper.edu/oip/study_abroad/

The UWS crew in our friday afternoon Taek-yun classIMG_1935.JPG

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people are dying, everywhere

the cemeteries here are really quite amazing. they are terraced so as to bury the wealthier and more privledged on the upper terraces and the laymen on the lower tiers. the graves, although technically buried western-style, have raised mounds above them and huge stone slabs that lay across the site. they have markers, or tombstones like we do, but they are all very similar – unlike the status proclamations that we hold in the US. i visited this cemetary with my pal Jae-woon a few weeks ago on a beautiful spring day when the sun peaked perfectly over the mountains and lent a very earie aspect to the whole experience….

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the uppermost terrace. notice how roomy it is….
rich folks like to be buried here so that they have a good view and are closer to the sun.

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interesting eh? about 40% of the population in south korea are christian, another 40% are buddhist and the remaining 20% claim no denomination.

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some groovy kids i met on the roadside on the way home. Jae-woon insisted on stopping and having my picture taken with them. i think i made them more than a little uncomfortable and interrupted their bridge-dwelling, yogurt-sipping activities…

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the ethics of kimbop

this entry is going out to kimbop and philosophy. i have to proclaim my all-time favorite fast food has got to be tuna kimbop. kimbop (or “seaweed-rice”, directly translated) is sold in many different ways here, although its near impossible to find a vegetarian version. so i have settled with tuna. probably the most popular, while remaining slightly traditional, is the kimbop roll which is found in restaraunts and stores throughout the country. it’s a lot like sushi actually, except the concept is more about cleaning out the refrigerator than about savoring the delicacy of raw fish. it seems that ham, eggs, onion, etc are the favorite ingredients. the triangular kimbop, my favorite, abounds on campus. there are about 20 different kinds at the 7/11 here, ranging from kimchee to beef fillings. they are these little triangles of white rice wrapped in kim (toasted seaweed) with a dollop of whatever in the middle. the best part is opening the package, which takes a few tries to get down, because the rice and seaweed are actually wrapped separately and encompass eachother only when the right physical dynamics are reached – by pulling the center tab and then the right and left corners consecutively…. anyhow, i am making it sound a lot more complicated than it is (but it’s worth the effort) here, see for yourself
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i want to add that i have a really fantastic three-hour class on wednesdays, the philosophy of ethics, and the teacher is ridiculous. he never ceases to be brimming with energy, and challenges all of his students on a weekly basis with his wit and pride. my job, as an international student in his class, is to somehow funnel all of the readings and lessons presented by him in english, into the heads of my korean counterparts during the class time. this often means summarizing articles that i have not even read yet. it’s really an experience you’de have to be there to understand –
but at least we get to go on fieldtrips now and then….IMG_1782.JPG

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jack handy et al

making an effort to blog at a more regular bliggity-blogging-basis means more variety in content, if my presumption is correct. today i layed around a lot, ate kimbop, and did a little homework. later, i went out with my friends Sung-gyu and Jin-hyung for dinner and coffee in downtown Wonju. last night was the full moon. i am procrastinating from finishing my article for the Promethean (UWS student newspaper) about GV, instead i am reading the Korea Herald, and, less productively – chuckling at Jack Handy quotes. i just can’t get over that guy. here are a few that have kept me guffawing until the wee hours…
“At first I thought, if I were Superman, a perfect secret identity would be “Clark Kent, Dentist,” because you could save money on tooth X-rays. But then I thought, if a patient said, “How’s my back tooth?” and you just looked at it with your X-ray vision and said, “Oh it’s okay,” then the patient would probably say, “Aren’t you going to take an X-ray, stupid?” and you’d say, “Aw fuck you, get outta here,” and then he probably wouldn’t even pay his bill.”

“Dad always thought laughter was the best medicine, which I guess is why several of us died of tuberculosis”

“To me, clowns aren’t funny. In fact, they’re kind of scary. I’ve wondered where this started and I think it goes back to the time I went to the circus, and a clown killed my dad.”

“If you ever fall off the Sears Tower, just go real limp, because maybe you’ll look like a dummy and people will try to catch you because, hey, free dummy.”

“He was a cowboy, mister, and he loved the land. He loved it so much he made a woman out of dirt and married her. But when he kissed her, she disintegrated. Later, at the funeral, when the preacher said, “Dust to dust,” some people laughed, and the cowboy shot them. At his hanging, he told the others, “I’ll be waiting for you in heaven–with a gun.”

okay okay, i can stop now. but its your fault if you read them. or if you feel yourself becoming addicted… search for deep thoughts by jack handy. it might keep you up until 3 am. meanwhile, the Korea Herald has informed me about surging stock rates and the tension with Japan over the Dokdo islets (they leave much to be desired, but apparantly have great fishing waters), and korean carrot soup. i don’t know if i can sleep i am so exited. i think the only thing funnier than jack handy right now is the fact that i have not been following the news in the USA for almost two months straight – and the only thing funnier than that is the fact that i havent even noticed…..
here is the disputed Dokdo
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(image courtesy of google search engine)

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cut to the chase, kid

tada! i guess this blogging-thing is turning more and more into a weekly-post thing. i think i am focusing too much on the photography, then i get stressed out with the uploading, resizing, reformatting, etc etc, and forget what the point is….. hrmmpp.
anyway, this particular post is remaining along those lines of franticly scratched entries sketched around a beautiful life-event that is pieced together with digital photography which could never really tell you the true story – the smell of the cherry blossoms, the view from Ha-na’s roof, the texture of homeade kimchee for breakfast, or holding my roommate’s hand in the crowded subway……

Ha-na lives near the notorious Lotte world, known for the plethora of deaths and injuries that take place on it’s grounds, needless to say, Ha-na kept me far away from the amusement park. but i managed this picture from across the lake.

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and this one of the front entrance

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in fact now that i think of it, she let me get pretty near the death hole…. suspiciously close, in fact…. wait a minute…

here is the view from Ha-na’s parents apartment building. they own the building and live on the top floor, so i got to check out the roof that they appreciate in the summertime when the grow flowers there and eat their meals….

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Ha-na, Arrum and her boyfriend, and i all went to the Seoul Grand park on saturday. we ended up splitting into groups however, because the admission to the amusement park (a park much less notorious than the feared Lotte world, and thus much safer, in Ha-na’s opinion) was way too high – 30,000 won for a day pass. Ha-na and i went to the zoo and had a splendid day of it indeed.

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(not actually a real seal)

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we spent sunday at the ridiculously over-crowded traditional celebration of the cherry blossoms. a festival of sorts that is held all over the city at various landmarks. thousands of people congregate to push eachother down the uncomfortable sidewalks, pausing now and then to breath or take pictures of lovers or kids in poses that make it seem like there are less people in the world, if possible.

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this is for real. balloons. everyone wanted their pictures taken in front of it. actually, just in front of the heart, which made me feel relieved in some strange way.

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here’s a pretty classic asian photo op with some anonymous creature.
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king sejong and i are pals. he’s a smart guy

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i thought this was an amusing sight – it made me laugh, not particularily the most alluring name for a minimart.


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right as we were leaving the festival, a long line of protesters dressed in fruit and veggie outfits came marching down the sidewalk. i couldnt really read any of their signs or anything, but my roommate informed me that they were part of the vegetarian movement in south korea, a recent movement that has, of late, been developing a stronger foothold in the nation.

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right after i took this photo a woman ran up to me with a flyer about Jane Goodall and animal rights (i gathered through the photos)


if i looked any more korean i would have to be wearing high heels and sleeping in this position….
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it was a busy, crowded, overwhelming day, but i had a wonderful time with my roommate. when i think about the cherry blossom festival now i realize that there is so much beauty in the event. despite the crowds and confusion, what the korean people value is really the simple beauty of these delicate flowers – and i don’t know of any event in the US that draws such an audience for a seasonal natural occurance….

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