Daily Archives: May 15, 2006

save the moon bears!

Please help Korea's Moon Bears
a few weeks ago three of the most tolerable american students took a trip out to the east coast where they proceeded to save a drowning puppy from a freezing river. i was sitting in my neighbor An-ji’s room when one of them called and asked her what to do – she told them to call the cops or something, then she laughed and explained to me while sparing their sweet, naive innocence, that she really didnt know what to do either, and that there are roughly a bazilion homeless puppys in this country, and that frankly, nobody gives a shit. regardless of my lack of innocence and naivete, i felt a little sad place in me that would save a drowning puppy any day, and hoped the boys would succeed in their task –
they returned home late the next day on the bus, puppy stowed away in Ryan’s messenger bag, looking as cute as ever. they couldn’t keep her, however, so they forfeited her adorable little life to JK who promptly fell madly in love and let the little bugger, whom she named “Inka” rule the entire GV office, tumbling over papers and under desks and peeing where ever she jolly well pleased. within a few days JK gave Inka to a nearby horse ranch where she has lived for the past few weeks. recently she broke her leg and needed an operation which must have cost our compassionate JK a pretty penny…
after our trip to the studio and Insadong, JK hadnt seen the pup for a few long days, so we went out to the farm together on sunday afternoon. it was a beautiful drive with the windows down in her mini-car, pleasant conversation about our dreams and aspirations, and farmers, the toiling sundays worldwide – wading through their warm, wet rice paddys in the early afternoon sunshine –
but when we got the farm, we were informed of the devasting news. our little accident-prone-miracle-puppy had died that morning when a hay bale fell on her little body. sigh. JK cried at her little green grave. we went for a walk in the sunny, pine-laden mountain and vented our sorrows and insights on life and death. we hiked up a modest slope until we came to a clearing that opened into a small garlic field with a valley in the distance. below the garlic field a somewhat large cage surprised us from behind the brush, and as we neared it we were even more surprised to find that it contained a small black bear!! of course we were both startled and the ferocious barking of dog nearby didnt make it any less scary. we went back and reported the odd sighting to a farmhand, who, after being shown the operation herself (whereupon we found that the disheveled complex held not one but TWENTY of these pitiful looking black bears, and about four heavily abused and frightened canines) took the information back to the ranch owner, a Korean-American who is part of the Korean royal family, and, needless to say “has connections.” she was infuriurated and immediately called her sister in Hong Kong and alerted her and the moon bear organization that she is heavily involved with about the incident. copy and paste this URL if you don’t know anything about moon bears and what they are used for in Asia, and their impending extinction as a result (or google it yourself…) the photos here are exactly the kind of sad little bears i saw this sunday http://www.hsus.org/wildlife/issues_facing_wildlife/wildlife_trade the_unbearable_trade_in_bear_parts_and_bile/

the eventful day was entirely unreal. we lost the sweet, little life of our Inka, but may have saved the lives of 20 moon bears as a result. it was at once the most bizarre and yet the most real experience i have yet to have here. while the exposure to such a wierd, far-out and illegal circumstance really put me on the peripheral of the culture here – it also gave me a sense of complete immersion. i learned more about East Asian philosophy, medicine and tradition from this one bizarre illegal practice than anything else here has managed to teach me so far….

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of tea and ceramic – the stuff of my spirit

my roommates always go home (Seoul) for the weekends, meaning that i am left at the dorms alone, unless i choose to do otherwise. i spent this weekend hanging out with JK, our program director. our friendship surprises me, given the age difference (18 years) and the fact that Korean culture is usually so bound to restrictions of age and standing – but our friendship crosses those boundaries and perseveres nontheless. maybe its because JK is not your typical Korean woman, and i’m not your typical American college student…. or maybe just that our communication levels fit eachother well.
on saturday she took us, myself and two other global village mates, to her friend’s pottery studio near Seoul. it was a really refreshing experience. it felt good just to break out of the bubble that is my university life here and get some clay on my hands and arms. i was craving dirt. we sat together, drinking tea and coffee and sculpting in her cramped studio. “Sunny”, the artist, studied ceramics in Korea and the UK, where she earned her masters. she gave me a lesson on the wheel and in the traditional style of Korean pottery. the main differences seem only to be that wheel spins in the opposite direction and that instead of throwing one single piece of clay to make one piece of pottery, they usually throw off of a much larger lump – centering only the part of the clay that they are using as opposed to the entire thing. anyhow, i was clearly mesmerized and totally in my element. unfortunately, we cut the experience short to visit a teashop in Insadong district of Seoul where Sunny’s friend had a display of her work. there was a fantastic display there of traditional and ancient korean pottery, particularily tea-ware. we drank some tasty (and be-sa-da, or expensive) teas there from modern glass pots, disapointingly enough. but it was still a completely wonderful time….

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