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So now it’s late summer. And I’m hoping that I’ll be better at keeping up this “journal” on this other side of the world. It was a whirlwind getting ready to leave Krakow which we did on June 27. A tough decision because we loved the city and really wanted to stay in Europe for various reasons, but it was not to be for various reasons.
So I return to now with hopes that I can catch up a bit of our summer European ad (and mis) ventures and the good bad and unfortunates of our rather brief American stay. The 12-hour flight was well of course long, but our luck to be flying Singapore Air which offers about as much comfort and amenities as possible. [Photo: Susan Snead; Joan at a Korean artist's family farm]
We had booked a motel in Seoul via internet and we’re glad we really had a room. Luckily for us (and after too many bumps alone our USA road), things went very smoothly with David making his first phone call, etc. Those of you who travel well know the hows and whats of even trying to make a phone call-which coins, what exact numbers, will they understand you…the lot. After not sleeping on the plane and staying up until 9:30 pm we were able to sleep through the night pretty well. Sunday morning found us in the middle of Seoul looking for some place to have breakfast. Well, I hate the admit this BUT the only place open was Starbucks and there were several in Seoul. I promised myself not to declare “I’m from Seattle” when I ordered a latte. Hey, I’m the last person to want to admit this, but corporate America’s good for something. After lattes and scones, we walked to the train station to check on trains to Jinju City (west of the port Pusan). We returned to the motel and quickly packed up and caught a taxi.
So by now we’ve been on the train for +4 hours and will arrive in a few more. After all this rambling what I really want to convey are images and impressions.
A very mountainous and green country with a lot of water (lakes, wetlands, seas, and wide rivers). Where you see water you see people. small tents, umbrellas, deck chairs, fishing poles. Cement and other manmade constructions on hillsides. Acres upon acre of cultivated land-rice felds primarily…vineyards, and various systems of coverings and frames over crops. In such a mountainous county it's not surprising to see almost every inch cultivated or lived on. I don’t think I’ve seen any what we would call houses though most likely wealthy people and people in smaller places have them. Rather row upon row of apartment blocks 20 floors or more each one numbered in Korean script and roman numerals. Along the way we also see some smaller builidings, and now and then a cluster of older Asian styled roofed houses. There is a bullet train from Seoul to Pusan, but not that many train lines throughout the country. Buses are probably a more common mode of transporatiotion. Lots of bridges and raised freeways and smaller roads. Layerings of mountains in the distance.
One thing that reaslly struck us when we took the bus into Seoul last night from the rather new Inchon Airport which is on an ilsnad to the west was all of the red neon crosses. We had read and hear that there are many Christians in Korea but it was still surprising. They churches tend to have tall narrow steeples with a simple cross of the top, and a number of them are designed after western forts or castles, simply so but netertheless that design is there. There are quite a few large cement structures standing idle alone the way and I’m guessing they’re projecting a new bullet train line.
We just found out today through email that we’ll be staying in an apartment with a balcony, a 10-minute walk to the university. That’s good news. We’ll have more autonomy and be able to cook easier. Guess they decided that it wasn't proper to ask a married couple to live in an apartment in the dormitory with lots of students. Warm and humid here, about 85 F or 29 C. Signing off.
By the way, welcome to S.Korea!
And now we jump to November 5th. We're still "waiting" for a kind of winter after not really experiencing a fall. Though some leaves are turning here and there. The weather stayed mostly rather warm up until a week or so ago, but then it's been getting cooler at night. We launched our classes and with only a few bumps and grinds, we're well on our way. Hard to believe tomorrow starts week 8 out 12. We're both teaching the highest levels (English) and really loving the students. There are about 30 of use in all teaching at this English Only Zone. From USA, but more so from Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and a few from Britain and Ireland. Some of these teachers have an amazing background too in terms of ancestry and places they've lived. The ages range from early 20s to over 50 with wide experiences and interests so it's fun getting to know people and of course we've gravitated towards some more than others.
I try to keep up my Tai Chi and yoga practices and lead a yoga group of 4 to 8 teachers every Tues and Thurs. I'm really enjoying doing this and am thinking it'd be a good idea to become certified at some point.
My new friend here, performance artist Sue Lee from Australia, has helped me perform at festivals. I've done 2 so far. Really fun and interesting, but outside and no "stage". These have been full of chaos and uncertainty (schedule changes, etc) but enjoyable, and I'm trying to do more and more.
So of course the months have gone by, or shall I say years. And I am compelled to update this journal. Especially since, we are about to embark on yet another chapter of our life. After being gone from the US and Seattle for four years, we are returning to live in our home in Greenlake though we’ll be living in the upstairs apartment for a year or so. We are so looking forward to having a garden, getting baby kittens (our wonderful Chica passed away several months ago after having been lovingly taken care of by our tenant), to speaking English without having to grade our language, and of course to sharing our adventures and continuing our lives with friends and family.
Will sign off for now. And promise to update every month at least. I want to write more on this, but I'll just let you all know that I attended Kazuo Ohno's 100th Birthday Celebration in Yokohama October 27-29. I was so fortunate to be able to go. And besides reconnecting with people from the "Butoh" community and meeting new people, I got to see some very dear friends in Tokyo and nearby. I've even decided to start studying Japanese again and have a British teacher who is fluent to meet twice a week. By for now.....
Today is November 19, and it's getting quite brisk at night. A few things I've been meaning to add... In the fall, for weeks actually, we noticed and were quite fascinated by hummingoffs or mothbirds. They were hovering and darting in and out of tiny flowers of some bushes we pass by every day on the way to university. At first I was a bit worried because they're huge and after I started having severe reactions to stinging things, well I don't really feel too comfortable around these creatures. At first I thought they were some kind of bee, then David decided they were tiny hummingbirds. But really they look like someone mixed part moth, part hummingbird, and threw in, well I'm not sure what. Even the Koreans don't seem to know what to call them-one person saying yes they are hummingbirds and another no they're moths. Anyway, they're quite fascinating, and we kind of miss them because as the cold weather approached we rarely seem them any more. I even had a dream the other night that there were many flying around-rather pleasant and enchanting actually.
We really enjoyed our night at Kyung-mi's family farm (see photo here). After I performed for my friend Sue's exhibition at a gallery in the country about 1 hour away from JinJu (have a look at Kogut for photos), we all went to this farm where they grow lots of persimmons and also some vegetables for family consumption. Had a wonderful meal, and really enjoyed trying lots of new tastes and textures. Korean food is really quite delicious just be prepared for lots of peppers (though not everything is hot). Then we sang songs and hung around a fire in the middle of the compound. (the first photo of the essay is me on the farm).
It's hard to believe we only have 3 weeks left before finishing our first term here. Luckily we finally picked up a few extra hours of teaching too. We'll just have a week or so around the holidays and are hoping to go down south to Cheju Island, known for the tallest mountain in S Korea and to be quite beautiful. Then after the New Year we'll teach one very intense month, have a month off, and teach another 4 month period. All in all it's being a great experience!