Monthly Archives: June 2006

barefeet in wisconsin grass

messing up my sleep cycle didnt really have the desired effect that i was expecting. its about 1am here in wisco and i’m not tired a bit. but this afternoon i passed out for like three hours (at about 4am korea time… makes sense…)

home is not so bad. i mean, in reality i just wasnt ready to leave korea. i hadnt done, learned, or explored nearly enough. now i am here – and i cant stop talking about it. but its only been two days. maybe i will forget. my real question is – will i feel this connected to every culture that i explore? or is it just korea? (i’m guessing i would enjoy any country, just the way that i enjoy school at UWS even though its a crappy little state school, i think i could enjoy life almost anywhere just for the experience, because i want to. thats all it really takes)

the flight was long. but not as long as flying there. there was something more relaxing about it, even though the 10 hour flight from tokyo to chicago was completely packed and the wierdo sitting next to me said absolutely nothing…) it wasnt difficult figuring out the airports either. and although flying for 20 hours really slaps it to your body, i think i could really get used to this whole travel thing. i like what i am seeing.

meanwhile, the homeland is feeling familiar and comfortable. it feels great to hug the fam and give away all the sweet stuff i brought home in my (ridiculously heavy) carry-on mountain climbing pack. life, although a little aimless at present, is good.
i am trying to compile an email archive post from korea, i thought that would be pretty cool. i think i’m going to abandon this blog soon, coming back to it every time i travel to some distant land. which i hope in my future will prove to be quite often. thanks to all of my readers! dont throw this address away!

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packing…

its 4am here in south korea and i am wrapping up my affairs in this country of bibimbop, buddhas and bowling alleys. its 2pm at home now, i am trying to mess up my sleep cycle enough that i wont notice the difference so much. with a little dose of evening caffiene i think i am doing great.

i returned to Wonju today after my personal five-day excursion. it was, frankly, quite liberating. it was so nice to be in charge of my itinerary (and not have to deal with any americans). i was surprised at how easy it really is to navigate the railroad and subways in this country. i think its beneficial to know how to read hangeul letters, i found it a lot easier to get around being able to use the skill but one can get around pretty easily without if they are english speaking. travel here generally feels so safe, even for a single young white female, because the crime rate in this country is so low that i almost always feel comfortable and able to ask anyone for help. i love that.
i went to the DMZ on saturday morning after a ridiculously pleasing blueberry muffin and caramel latte. it was an amazing experiece. the DMZ, that is. i thought the north was more than a little bizarre prior to my visit – but now i am convinced that they are completely wacked. i have photos and intend to post them with a more substantial view on north korea in the near future.

the next day i hung out with my good korean-american friend who is staying here in seoul to study korean and eventually find his real parents. hopefully they dont live on Jeju-do and speak an entirely different dialect…
we had dinner and drinks together along with an extremely hot korean accomplice who was departing for a five-day galavant to california the next morning to visit his girlfriend. he bought about 5lbs of cookies at the market and asked me to bring them to various american friends. of course, i was going to be in seoul for another three days – i ended up renting a locker in the crazy subway station at Myong-dong market. it was actually pretty convenient, if a little spendy (only because i kept forgetting what i needed and having to open it again).
i spent some time with my roommates, shopping and dinner, then went So-youn’s (english-major aquaintance) house at Garrak-shidang where we gorged ourselves on her produce-dealings parents’ aquired varieties of fruits. simply scrumptious evening indeed. we attempted to wake up and watch the france vs korea game, but our attempt was far from the spirit of those 60,000 koreans dressed in red who cheered outside of the city hall from 4am to dawn, and then had to deal with a somewhat unsettling tie of 1 to 1 – we slept through it all.
in the morning we went to Tapgol park where Koreas’ declaration of independence was written and read. then Insadong, to a beautiful tea museum, and to aquire a few gifties for the fam.
our TM met up at Myong-dong for dinner and ice cream one last time, and a photo-shoot. it was sweet. afterwards we went to Yoido and biked along the Han river on tandems while watching the orange sun descend off of the end of the world… all i could think of was –
two. more. days.
i am so sad.
i cant believe it.
its all been a dream, and i just cant get enough. i wish i had woken up earlier, but the truth is that i had moments of awakening throughout. my heart is so heavy now!
Ji-min, andy and i took the train back this afternoon after a rushed visit to the national museum in Ichon. we spent three hours there, but ideally i would prefer about ten. it was fabulous and filled in a lot of blank spots in my understanding of korean history and culture.

returning to my empty dorm room really woke me up to the reality of leaving.
i started cleaning and pre-packing, then Eun-ju picked me up in a fancy new hyundai. her parents love new stuff. we went out for dinner downtown, then coffee, then beer (talk about stimulants) then to the DVDbang for a wholesome korean flick on highschool life. actually, it was far from wholesome and more like realistic and gruesome. it seems that there is more stress to korean high schools than the sheer mass of content and relentless studying, but also a huge violence problem.

so thats that. here i am. soon to be there, quite far far away. and things will never be the same ever again. they are changing every moment of our lives, the most difficult task just being to feel them happening as they do, simply by being in the moment, enjoying every crack and crevice of it to the fullest. i have done this here in korea, but not enough. i have been very absorbed in a new-found female existence that has prompted so many physical and philisophical struggles for me in the past months. but most importantly, i think i went from a close-minded belief that i had an open mind, to really knowing what an open mind is and learning about the steps of achieving it.
it rains every night lately.
i’m going to sleep now.

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my grand adventure has been turning out quite splendidly. except for the Etaewon part, but i knew the district was going to suck.

i went to Youngju yesterday to talk to the Kun-sunnim (head monk) about coming back in the winter to teach english at the temple to a group of children. at first i was hesitant about saying yes for a variety of reasons, but then i realized that it would be a great way to break up the boring wisconsin winter (with boring korean winter!) and maybe i can bring my little brother along. and they are going to pay for all of the expenses. so i just said yes, and i told them i would bring my little brother too. but i havent told him yet.

it was a really nice one day stay. i woke up early to meditate but the monks weren’t even awake yet at 5 so i did 108 bows on my own. it was refreshing. the mountains in all of their foggy veiled splendor were fabulous as the sun peaked over the summit. one of the sunnims then took me on a little field trip to a nearby temple which happened to be one of the oldest in korea, and housed the oldest wooden structure in the country. it was simply stunning.

i left carrying way too many vestiges of their love, and my committment, in my backpack – prayer beads, portraits of Boddhidarma, and a few buddhist calendars.
then i boarded the train to Seoul and three hours later i was making my way through a ginormous and confusing subway system. luckily it was only three stops to my destination, and they were fairly simple to navigate. as i am going on a DMZ tour tomorrow with the USO at the base near Etaewon i decided i would brave it and experience the army-district myself. (my roommates were pretty opposed to the idea when i mentioned us going together – but i feel like this place has something to teach me! how can i come to korea and leave not knowing nothing about the US army, their role and lives and influence here? i’m a natural sociologist. i had to come…) i had dinner at a random little western place where i enjoyed a salad, cold beer and a quessadilla with the sunshine and warm breeze blowing through the window. its going to suck to be underage again when i get back to the US.
but really, Itaewon is a shady dive. i finally really feel like the korean people around me hate me for a valid reason. i dont feel like a minority anymore, but i feel like a jerk.
so here i am, at a (nearly) empty jimjilbang below the hamilton, i will wake up around 8am and catch the subway a few stops over for my tour.

more on all this later – my rented internet time is up…..

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over and out (back on the the 19th)

(unless i stumble into internet access before then…)

i submitted my last paper an hour ago and took my philosophy test this afternoon, so the semester is officially over. in a way i am relieved because my body has been screaming “WTF?!! ITS SUMMER NOW!” and summer indeed ’tis. its raining profusely these days, on and off, and then the heat hits and its ridiculously humid. this is my last night with the roommates, tomorrow i am going to take the train in the morning to Youngju and stay at the temple. the sunnims and everyone else at the temple, particularily kuh-sunnim, have been pressuring me to come back in the wintertime to teach english to gradeschoolers for a few weeks. as annoying as it may be, and as lacking as i am in confidence of my korean skills, i think i might say yes. it would just be fabulous to come back and visit my friends and have another huge adventure. (but i keep dreaming about learning spanish and going to Guatemala instead… am i crazy?) i miss my camera a little. i think i will really be missing it at the DMZ.

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countdown – – –

10pm tuesday.

i can’t even believe it, but my determined study habits payed off and i completely aced my korean tests. it was beautiful. but now its tuesday night and i am finishing up some essays that are due tomorrow, and getting ready for my philosophy test, and the five day trip that will ensue on thursday morning. i am a little nervous about travelling all over on my own – but i did it this weekend in Gyungju, so i think i will be alright. i will be sure to pack my cell phone and spare battery. i am most nervous about the subway in Seoul, funny enough, even though the toughest part of my trip should be travelling to the temple in Youngju and then from there to Seoul friday night, then to the center of Seoul, where i need to find someplace to sleep, and in the morning i will start my DMZ tour. then i will galavant around Seoul for a few days with friends and roommates, seeing a few cool things like the national history museum (and if i am really lucky, a fantastic picasso show that just came to SK…) next tuesday i am back here, packed, and ready to go early thursday morning. and thats that. it was so fast, i am so entirely stunned.

the Korea vs Togo world cup game starts in a few minutes, screams can be heard throughout campus and everyone was wearing their red shirts today. the whole country is bedecked in national pride – everyone from grannies to little babies, and even some small animals, are sporting their nationalism.

i am feeling really forlorn. i’ve only got one real day left on campus before i leave for my little trip, then come back to the quiet campus before going home. i dont know how to say goodbye to all of the friends i have made, i have been so lucky, and this has been such an amazing experience. i am definately coming back. but even then, i am not going to know the same people or lead the same life. the end never felt so near, so real, or so empty….
at the same time, its going to be fantastically surprising and strange and wonderful to be home.
my heart aches.

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its 8am

i edited my blogroll and put facebook, a college profile system, on there for you to check out.
i put up my last photos from my beloved first digital camera. RIP cannon 220, or maybe you will find a better life to live, snapping photos of real korean life.
its 8am and i slept for three hours last night (accidently) i really wanted to experience the korean phenomena of studying all night. i’m not that good at it. although i have hopes of aceing my korean tests today.
thats all i got.

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most amazing sights in the world: sans camera….

through my exiting online-life i have managed to reunite with a lot of long lost friends because of various profiles, etc. sometimes we find eachother accidently and have some wierd coincidence happen, all through the www. a amazing friend i met last year at the rainbow gathering; he was our doughnut fry-chef, wearing his sturdy overalls and 1950’s rimmed glasses his red beard sizzling with the fry-grease, Shaney was love at first sight. we talked about literature and life and i ended up hanging out with him later that summer at his home in Eugene with my other fantastic friend Annie. he gave me the most life-revealing tarot card reading and took a group of us to some remote mountain hotsprings where we soaked under shooting stars. and he confided in us that he was sick and may be dying.
recently when we bumped into eachother online, he looked a lot thinner in his photo. we started dropping eachother emails and he told me that he actually used to teach here in Daegu, and told me not to leave the country before seeing Gyungju.
after drumming class the next day, Jason and i dropped all of our study responsibilities and hopped on the train to Gyungju. we got there at like 3:30 so we just wandered around the city, looking at this and that and marvelling over the random placements of ancient earthen tombs in city parks. this is what Gyungju is famous for. its a big tourist place, but mostly for Koreans because it has so much historical importance. it is the ancient Silla capital of Korea and hosts hundereds of earthen tombs and countless other treasures, like a thousand year old temple, a mountaintop grotto, and countless stone buddhist relics. the city itself is quite small, the surrounding area hosting various national parks, small and large, that host the various marvels.
after having a discusting breakfast (we just ordered “koh” or soup – which ended up being this horrid concoction of half-cooked fatty pork and rice gruel. i thought i might be brave enough to eat the rice out of it, but almost choked when i tried a spoonful. the ajuma was understanding enough to offer me some side rice and kimchee instead….while jason bravely slurped his way through.) after losing my digital camera somewhere downtown before 6am and reporting it to the little shoebox of a police station, we hopped the first bus to Bolgoksa, the ancient temple with the grotto on the mountain peak above. i had to forcefully stave off my camera-losing-blues as i explored the impressive monument with its two famous pagodas and amazing stonework and paintings. i prayed inside a few of the halls, and they were absolutely stunning. sitting on the 700 year old creaking floorboards and looking up at the smiling golden Buddha, while carved dragons roared overhead and a thousand lotuses bloomed on the ceiling – cured me of all fatigue and frustration.
next we trekked up the mountain to the Grotto, which was a huge stone statue of Buddha surrounded by Boddhivistas and creatures. (both Bolguksa and the grotto are protected Unesco treasures.) the entire display was tucked under a small hillock behind what orignally looked like a small Buddha-hall, but held a huge underground dome cavern for the display, unfortunately, it was protected by a glass wall so we couldn’t enter to pray or view it more clearly. we met an overly friendly man named “Michael” (so many Korean gradeschoolers, college students and business men have english names) and his children. we chatted about our lives and he ended up inviting us to join him and his family for the day. but when we met his wife and mother-in-law in the parking lot, they were just livid, screaming and stomping to the car where she slammed the door shut behind her and continued screaming. we rested in the sun and waited an hour to catch the bus to downtown.
when we got back to Gyungju we visited the parks that are within the actually town. these boast a huge stone celestial observatory and over 20 earthen tombs. the traditional Korean tombs are really a pheneomena of their own. first the ground is duggout and the huge wooden coffin, filled with the deceased and all of his/her treasures and food for the afterlife, is placed on top a slab of stone. the coffin is then stacked with tons of boulders which are covered in clay and then soil, and last, planted with green grass. the entire thing just looks like a wierd, unnaturally steep and well-groomed hillock. they are kind of magical, really. especially the ones we saw in the early morning dawn. by this time, around 4, we were really tired out. we fed rice cakes to some huge goldfish in a pond for awhile, then caught a bus to the ocean side where a famous underwater tomb of a king Mutmu lies. we had ramien and beer as the sun went down on the beach.
on the bus back to Gyungju we met a really interesting french student named Julien, who drank a few pitchers with us in Gyungju before we caught our train back to Wonju at 12am. the beer tasted great as we sat in the little bar, full of sneaky highschoolers getting drunk for their friend’s birthday and watching the world cup on the tv. a gentle rain began to fall as Jason and i said goodbye and slowly walked back to the train station. i have to say, i held hopes throughout the day that the police station was going to call me with good news. but maybe there just weren’t enough inspiring photos on it, or maybe the wrong person picked it up. either way, i’m trying to imagine my camera-free life now and its both a little freer and a little depressing.
after a few hours of much needed sleep, we got back to Wonju – home-sweet-home, at 5am and waited for the bus until 6. i took a nap and just woke up and showered. i feel refreshed, better educated, inspired, and liberated from the world of digital photography, but totally unmotivated to memorize all of the Korean that i am supposed to for tomorow’s test.
it was a fabulous journey, and i saw the most amazing things i’ve ever seen in my entire life. i’ll always trust in Shaney’s word.

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