Sunday, April 21, 2013

You can paint that house a rainbow of colors

Whew. It's been quite a busy month, as I've taken on an extracurricular as well as another teaching gig, so I haven't had as much time to blog about everything. So here are some snapshots!
Some of my students presented their environmental science projects at the Gyeongnam Province Water Expo (March 22nd). The text at the top of their booth reads "Changwon Science High School".
I went hiking with friends a few weekends ago on a gorgeous day (March 23rd). On the way up, we passed this tree with a spirit carved into it, along with the axiom 過猶不及, which, according to a friend, means: "Doing too much is the same as not doing enough, praising the ability to achieve perfect balance while achieving a goal."
My friends at me at the top of 정병산 (Jeongbyeongsan), 566 meters above sea level. It took about 2.5 hours to reach the top.
Last weekend I went bowling and went on a picnic with friends from Korea, England, and the US (April 13th)! This photo was taken at Yongji Lake (용지호수) in Changwon. If you were wondering, I still suck at bowling.
This past weekend, I traveled up to Seoul to visit my friend Miyuki, a fellow Swarthmore alum who is currently globe-trotting on a Watson grant to conduct research on queer art and activist communities around the world. She's in South Korea this month, having a blast, and I wanted to join in on the fun. On Saturday, we spent the day eating vegan, shopping at Gwangjang Market, and scoring tons of free fabric scraps from the Hanbok Market.

This is actually kind of a funny story: I wanted to show Miyuki the Hanbok Market because I knew that the amazing colors and bright fabrics clustered in the narrow aisles would be a feast for an artist's eyes. It was like color heaven, and Miyuki really wanted to ask for some extra, unneeded fabric for some of her DIY sewing projects. I wasn't sure if it would be impolite or not to ask this of the tailors and shopkeepers, so I cautiously approached a kind-looking old man and asked, "혹시... 필요없는 글로스를 있습니까?" That roughly translates into, "By any chance, do you have any cloth that you don't need?" I'm sure the grammar's off, though. In any case, we managed to get our meaning across, and Miyuki showed them some of the things she'd made with leftover fabrics, such as her skirt and pins, and the man gave us several pretty squares of silk for free.

This was great, but as we kept wandering around the maze of stalls and colors, Miyuki wondered why we couldn't ask for more from the other shopkeepers. Some refused us, but others were quite enthusiastic to share -- and probably also very intrigued by these two young, random Asian-but-not-Korean foreigners in their traditional market. One man told us that the Korean word for fabric scraps is 자투리 (jatoori), and when the woman across the aisle from him heard us talking about this, she vigorously motioned for me to come over to her stall, then handed me a plastic shopping bag literally stuffed to bulging with 자투리. I was shocked, and then thanked her profusely when I came to my senses. Miyuki and I were ecstatic at this find. After we shopped for a bit -- I got a new jacket and tie -- and ate street food, we went back to her apartment to jam on the guitar and swim in a rainbow of colorful silk.
In the evening, Miyuki and I met up with fellow Swattie Jen and Miyuki for some excellent chatting and catching up at Churro 101, a cafe in Hongdae, Seoul, that specializes in churros con chocolate!
And of course, because I was in Hongdae, I had to stop by my favorite bar in the country, AcousticHolic. Folks there remembered me, even though they haven't seen me in over a month! That made me really happy. Of course, the great music made my night, as usual. In this photo, Sunho, Mijeongi, and Guitar Jedi (I found out that his name is Junho!) are performing.
Lastly, on Sunday afternoon, I attended a fundraising event for a queer women's group called the Mapo Rainbow Alliance. There was a home-cooked lunch, a tag sale, and some performances. There was also a man doing caricatures, which Miyuki gladly sat down for. Her caricature was so adorable!
Long story short, a great weekend! Cons: I keep forgetting how easy it is to blow a hundred and fifty bucks or more in just a few days when I spend a few days in Seoul. I mean, transportation alone is killer: since bus ticket prices have increased, it costs over ₩60,000 just to get there and back. Factor in food, fun, and a place to sleep, and gahhh, my wallet is left as skinny as a few receipts because there's hardly anything else inside. Another con: trying to follow and make sense of the Boston lockdown as it unfolded in real time during my bus trip to Seoul on Friday evening. It sort of haunted me the entire weekend. But I'm thankful that everyone I know and love is safe and that the ordeal is now over.

But pros! I had so much fun in Seoul, met old friends and made new ones, and had some new experiences while introducing old ones to people who I knew would appreciate it. I learned a little bit about queer (퀴어) culture in Korea, which left me wanting to know more. I watched Pokemon in Korean and ate many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the Yellow Submarine hostel. Most importantly, I think, I did not feel like a stranger in a strange land. I promise I'll be back again soon.

P.S. A gold star for anyone who knows where the title of this post is from.

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