The Advent fast isn't all that strenuous, and no, I didn't break it with these. But really, can you think of a better way to end a 40-day stint of near veganism than deep fried bacon wrapped hot dogs? My arteries shudder....
Koreans are rather nonchalant about their shit. It is one of the most common doodles I see in my classroom, boys and girls alike. Most add steam squiggles and even a few flies. Korea-sides bloggers don't seem to be all that shit shy either. The Marmont recently spoke of the 똥 개 which is a unsurprising aspect of rural life. Where I lived in Africa, such was the main canine raison d'étre. Is this then, a shit dog's dream of paradise?
Found this up near Hyehwa Station near the Catholic University. There were several of 'em. Strangely, they seemed much less defaced than the other public sculptures.
There's only a week left to Choi Minshik's exhibition at Ilmin Museum in Jongno-gu. He does cool things with light and steam and ropes, and grounds all of it with a human face. I guess that's why they call it "Humanity, the Only Hope." A wee melodramatic, but these photographs put soul in people. I'll have to write more about this later....
A few months ago I went to Chuncheon, where they had an interesting monument to the Ethiopian soldiers who served in the Korean War. It seems while they were here they started an orphanage, which veterans now want to visit. They'll be coming later on this month. If we're lucky, they'll stay and open a restaurant.
I'm sure the title's grammar indicated just how little Korean I know. Antti Leppänen's post at Hunjangûi karûch'im on the background of the word jjang was most interesting. Especially:
A researcher from the Cyberculture Research Institute (사이버문화연구소) thinks that it has to do with giving recognition to those who excel in socially less recognized areas such as fighting and games. The article also mentions the view that it's an example of subculture picked up by the mainstream for commercial purposes, and also a critical view that the use of term forces standardized norms of appearance.
I hear the word most often inbetween classes, especially among10-13 year old boys joshing around. I can't tell, because I don't speak the language, but there seems to be a combination of one-upmanship and sarcastic put-downs. The "recognition to those who excel...in games" definately fits with the behavior I've observed.
And I've got photos of it. The Feast of Lanterns collection has been duly updated. Have a look-see. The 7th Korean Lantern Exhibition was utterly amazing. And it had some very amusing mistranslations....
This weekend I went down to Mokpo, mostly to try out the KTX. 'Tis old news, I know, but I happen to like trains a great deal, and the higher speed the better. In general I found the Korean version to be quite satisfactory, though it seemed a mite smaller than the train I recall riding in France. (There, too, I rode it soon after it first opened; though open in this case means to Montpellier rather than nationally.) Trains are wonderfully civilized. All Koreans need to do now is learn how to eat a slow dinner, set that dinner on the train, and the journey will be unadultered bliss. That or utterly Koreanize it and put a sauna on board. Complicated, yes, but can anyone think of a better way to arrive at one's destination than refreshed from a good soak?
Mokpo was largely uninteresting (my apologies to her inhabitants), but not without its amusements. People were friendlier, even though I saw a lot more pale faces than I usually do. When I got of the train and was poking about for the taxi stop, a rather entertaining morning drunk took a shine to me and railed at me in broken English about his ballpoint pen calligraphy. (I am now the rather confused possessor of some such.) I think he might have wanted some money off me, but his English wasn't good enough to ask; that or the soju bottle kept distracting him. If only I had a liver that could handle soju at 10:00 AM.
I went to the National Maritime Museum first, which was one of the most fascinating museums I've been to in Korea. Koreans, living on a peninsula that may as well be an island, are a people obsessed with the sea. The museum is rather new, and covers a vast amount of history as well as the anthropology of fishing villages. Unfortunately, they didn't conver much in the way of poetry; the way I understand it, the fishman is the symbol par excellence of the poet-sage. Happily, although most of the documentation wasn't in English, I had the place and the guides mostly to myself (except for a brief invasion of school children), so I walked away with most of my curiosity sated.
The Museum's pride and joy are two recovered ships: the first a small Korean trader from the Goryeo period (11th cen. approx.); the second a quite large Chinese international trading vessel from the Yuan Dynasty. The Korean one had been as fully reconstructed as possible, but the Chinese one was still in progress. In one of the best museum displays I've seen, you can watch the work from a railing above the workshop. Enthralling work. So many pieces, all looking the same. Like a jigsaw puzzle, yes, but with half the pieces missing and the ones left are broken or chipped. There were scale models of both.
What was most interesting about the Chinese ship was its cargo. Presumably they were on their way to Japan, carrying a hold of celadon, tin ingots, and spices. Many personal effects had been rescued - a Buddha, a spoon, a pair of dice, bronze locks, ceramic water droppers, coils and coils of coins. Thankfully, they left some of the coins and ceramics uncleaned, still decorated with their barnicle tumors. Beautiful. The crew was also equipped with a medicine chest full of croton seeds, litchi nuts, and quisqualis indica nuts.
After the museum, I headed to a restaurant recommended by the Planet of Loneliness call Hemingway's. It was bizarre enough to appeal to me. It wasn't that specatcular a place, but I did feel the need to read poetry, drink whiskey, and distain the wretched music they played. I climbed Yudalsan next. Not a difficult mountain, but it had some nice views and was pleasantly rocky, with lots of crags and boulders. There was also an interesting sculpture garden with weirdly sacreligious Buddhistic pieces.
The next day, after church (we had a deacon this week; liturgy is always better with a deacon) I head with a friend to Jongno to check out the LanternFestival. It was as though I were paying my dues, along with every other individual lacking sufficent melanin. Disconserting all the furinurs. The parade itself was okay, although the people walked way too fast - it was as though they were just trying to get it done with. And I'm not sure if they Enlightened One would have approved of half-naked teenagers gyrating on a stage to bad music in his honor. He was an ascetic after all.
The weekend ended with Guinness at Murphy's in Jongno. If the stuff weren't so bloody expensive, I could live off it. Pictures of all the above can be found on the left. Tomorrow I'll probly poke around some temples, so I might have some updates then.
Recently I received an email from the Marmot; some other time I'll comment on the more important bits of it, but for now, a response to a specific question:
I have indeed been to the the Monastery of the Transfiguration. January First is the Feast of St. Basil the Great, which in Korea is customarily celebrated at the Monastery with His Grace Soterios Bishop of Zelon. I went to the service and spent the night there. It was cold and I didn't have much time to wander, but it was quite beautiful. It is probably one of the few shoeless monasteries in the world (Japanese Orthodox churches are shoesless, but I don't know if they have any monasteries). At the moment it contains only a bishop, a novice, and an English nun who is often away for medical treatment. So when he's around it's a rare opportunitiy to have lots of one on one time with a bishop.
Some photos from the church I attend can now be found on the side bar.