Sunday, April 12, 2009

Spring Sprang Sprung

Day 208

Jikji spring. Yellow bushes line the walks, pink spots on rocks, cherry blossoms have fallen. They are replaced by picnickers on the lovely spring day.

Post morning, A visit to the campus of Gimcheon College provides the sight of a miserable monkey family in a 20 foot jungle-gym cage. Papa's a little aggro, but who can blame him? Next up on the sad sights tour is the Deer Pen. 4 deer lay in the shade of sheds within their 30 foot cage. The trees are sheathed in metal...perhaps to prevent antler sharpening by the raging buck? Who knows. Handstand practice happens near the pond while Myeong Hee ponders the present.

On an afternoon walk through town, I meet 5 new foreigners and am accompanied by another. Gimcheon has recently become home to... 12 new people? Perhaps more. This occurance has changed my outlook for the spring. A positive outlook requires less determination than it has in the past month.

During dinner, I am surprised by arms around my waist and turn to discover an ajuma covering my bared back with an apron. Perhaps a longer shirt would've prevented this, but it was certainly entertaining.

Home to special tea and scrabble. Recalling the sweetness in tiny bites of lilac as a child, I collect some from the bush outside. The flowers change from...well, lilac, to pale gray. The taste is faintly bitter. I add rosemary to create a rather medicinal tasting nightcap.

Day 207

Walking from home to the station. Riding from the station to the station. Walking from the station to class. This all happens.

Walking from class to the subway. Riding from the stop to the terminal. Riding from the terminal to the temple. This also happens.

Walking from the bus stop to temple site. Hearing massive chanting. Seeing chains of lotus lanterns. Walking 108 steps up. Seeing masses of people walking a maze while carrying replicas of the woodblocks housed at Haeinsa on their heads. This happens.

Wandering. Being invited into line. Having my arm taken by a woman whose mastery of English rivals my mastery of Korean. Walking past the Tripitaka Koreana. Peeking through slatted windows large enough to call walls. Accepting a plastic replica of a woodblock from youthful monks. Supressing a laugh as monks supress looks of surprise. This all happens.

Walking the maze single file. Completing and exiting the maze. Being guided to the temple cafeteria. Walking arm in arm to the parking lot. Getting in the couple's car, which happens to be a taxi. Riding in the taxi from temple to town. Subway to station. Station to station. This finally happens.

Finally back in Gimcheon 14 hours later, I meet up with a woman who has recently arrived. The night is filled with cathartic chatting first at one Hof with brick pattern wallpaper, then at another with walls that could've passed for a High School locker door.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

. . . and on, and on . . .

Day 197

Flashback to Christmas Eve: I'm sitting at a table with kimchi pancakes, moccoli (traditional rice wine) I don't need to drink, and a co-worker, and a friend. We've already had more soju than I anticipated and I'm not too excited about the moccoli. I excuse myself to go stand outside for fresh air, and when I come back, there is a red-faced man in a shiny pin-striped suit, smiling, nodding, smelling strongly of cologne, and pouring moccoli into my bowl.
"I saw you and, you know, I just want to speak Eng-uh-lish with you, you know? Is that okay, I blah will blah not blah take blah a blah hint..."
Young Mi and I exchange "who the hell is this guy??" looks, and simultaneously raise eyebrows at Ted, who has invited him to sit down, assuming that the man knew Young Mi. He stays with us for quite a while. I think of him as "Bluster Man"

Flash forward three months: shiny pin-striped suit man Bluster Man is sitting at the desk across from me. He is the new teacher at the Hagwon. Now we will be talking alllll the time.

Day 200

After Korean class in Daegu, I invite my friend to the Kitty Cafe. With a fennec fox in the window, grown cats lazing about, and siamese kittens playing 'round our feet, we sip banana shakes and eat lunch.

Follow this with hunting for strange parks filled with cherry blossoms, wandering the herbal medicine market on a slow day to find stuffed fanged deer cousins in windows near an albino mongoose fighting an albino snake, and there's my day, basically.

Plus the fox thing in glasses...

and a very convincing rice-cake octopus.

In the evening, another friend serves as my guide on the bus to the University district. We meander the campus amid blossoming trees of varying sorts, and sit at a park bench. It's amazing how familiar the smell of the Student Union cafeteria is. We finally complete a full circle of the campus. The final building we pass is called "Useful Building". It is spelled in a brick pattern on the side.

Day 201

I spend much of the afternoon harvesting wild mugwort from the bank of a lake outside of town. The sun is out, and a kind breeze keeps us insect-free. There aren't many, but I've noticed that they're coming. Oh, they're coming.

This week's reading has been (in order of appearance): The Red Dragon, The Exorcist, and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Not my first choices. In fact, I've been avoiding reading the first two all year, but my options in English literature are severely limited. Donations of the published kind are happily accepted.