Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ginkgo Embroidery

My latest (kind of) project. I actually started this is June or July, neglected it for a long time, and then finished it September. Now it's late October and I'm finally getting around to posting it! Also, this picture is not very good. This past week, I did a small embroidery for my friend's birthday, but I didn't take a picture of it. This week, I'm busy working, yoga-ing, and working on my Halloween costume! I'm going to be a martian. Yesterday, I rode my bike down to the big market and bought some silver and shiny purple fabrics and gathered other necessary martian supplies.  Then, I begin my next embroidery projects, which will be of Gwangju sky-rise apartment buildings. I'm going to try to be more on top of getting art projects done. We've been here 5 months now. 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

You can have a birthday in Korea and it can be longer than one day.

As it turns out, ASHfest is an international festival.  ASHfest 2008 was headquartered this year in Gwangju, South Korea. The day began with shopping at TIMEZONE, our headquarters of cheap Korean fashion. Actually, I think 99% of clothes I've bought in Korea have come from this fine establishment. My girlfriends and I met at 10 am and were there till almost noon. My prized purchase that day- shiny purple leggings that will somehow work into my Halloween costume. 

At work, there was a delicious cake! It was coffee flavored! Surprisingly, Korea really does cakes well. Also, everyone gets at least one cake on their birthday sometimes more. My school buys everyone a cake on their birthday. No one makes cakes because no one has an oven and the store bought cakes are really well done. My first period class surprised me with a lights off "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" when I walked in. They also drew a lovely birthday montage on the white board. 

That evening we decided to have a fairly quiet evening on our roof. (It turned out to be not so quiet and one of our mysterious neighbors who we never see left us a nasty note. Oops.) Leah and Stu stormed in with birthday cake #2!

Matt wrote me a sonnet, which I'm pretty sure he whoo-ed  everyone with, not just me. He also promised me many beauty and bath products, a whole lotta lovin', a delicious sushi dinner, and bottomless respect and adoration. I got a certificate, which means it's real. Below, he is reading the sonnet by candlelight. Poet boyfriends have their ups. 
Too rowdy for Korea!

(I stole the above photos from my friend, Justin- he has a neat camera.)

The next day was the Gwangju Kimchi Festival, one of Gwangju's most talked about festivals. Kimchi as far as the eye can see. I neglected to get a photo of the long and varied kimchi spreads, but these guys were pretty awesome. A: They are the only people I've seen with crazy haircuts to be crazy (not because they think they are fashionable) in Korea. One guy had dreads! There are no dreads in Korea. B: They were playing these sweet hand-made vegetable instruments! They hollowed out gourds, squashes, carrots, and radishes to make instruments. They must be from Seoul. 
Ack! This photo is sideways, but it's Matt making kimchi at the "Foreigner Making Kimchi Experience". You basically rub red pepper sauce and a few other things on cabbage and they put it in a bucket for you to take home. Now, we have a lot of kimchi in our fridge. I doubt we'll eat it all. 
Photo Op with a radish! (Note: I'm holding our bucket of kimchi.)

Saturday was Kent's birthday. This is Kent. We all went out to a steamed pork restaurant.
Then we went back to Stu and Leah's apartment for a fake facial hair party. Matt really fell into his character that evening, Fernando Fernando. I gave myself the ever-stylish chin strap.

Also, here is a video of my friend Leah singing her song, "Take Me From Behind on Tuesdays." She'd be CXXX material if she weren't so Canadian

So, now I'm 24. 

Thursday, October 16, 2008

It's my birthday!!!!

Asia makes you older because your birthday comes before you were actually born. This is probably screwing with some space time birthday continuum. 


Monday, October 13, 2008

This city is full of crazy.

This past weekend was our friend, Stu's, birthday. He a pretty cool dude and makes fun of how frequently and improperly Americans use the word "awesome". He a Brit from Essex. Since he's pretty cool and funny, we thought we might celebrate his birthday. He is only 5 days older than me. We went to one of the many little outdoor restaurants nestled in  the woods, along a stream at the bottom of Mudeung mountain- kinda Fern Gully-ish and sweet.

Afterwards, we headed downtown and watched the Chungchang-ro 7080 Remembrance Festival. It's supposed to a festival for nostalgia of the 1970s and 1980s in Gwangju. I'm not exactly  sure why those decades are commemorated with a large festival, but it was fun nonetheless. 

Here we are enjoying a strange combination of Disney, Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and more characters I couldn't identify all dancing in some strange show. We also found these marred-up mannequin heads, which actually were the source of a lot of our fun that night. Below is a mannequin head puppet show with Korea's booz of choice- soju!
Stu walked through the streets of downtown, bent like an old man and turning around to scare young Korean girls. This one girl below was particularly impressed with this shenanigan. I'll say that many others were not impressed at all. 

We went to a few of our favorite drinking spots and ended at Speakeasy- the foreigner bar. A few of the gentlemen decided that the stairs were too conventional of a way to enter a bar- my dearest included. They scrambled in, knocked off a few bricks, and were scolded laughingly by the management. Speakeasy is the black hole end of many nights in Gwangju for a miguk. 

Is Korea College: Part II? Some weekends feel like it. But hey- college was fun. 

Next weekend- MY BIRTHDAY! That post will surely be nothing, but wholesome, good, grown-up, responsible, 24 year-old fun. PS- I'm sharing a birthday weekend with the classy gentleman in the photo above. His birthday is the 18th although he says we have the same birthday because he was born in South Africa, which I'm not sure makes sense. His name is Kent and in the right light can be mistaken for Val Kilmer. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Gyeongju- Korea's old capital

This past weekend was our last three day weekend until Christmas or next year, so we took advantage of the time and went to Gyeongju. Gyeongju is Korea's old capital city and is almost on the opposite or east coast of Korea from Gwangju. It's full of old cultural relics. Matt and I went with Caitlin and Justin, our friends, neighbors, and fellow Readingtown/Avalon  couple. 

Throughout Gyeongju, there are tumulis- large earthen burial mounds. They were mostly for royalty, but if you had enough cash you could buy yourself a mound. Most are single mounds, but some are double mounds for husband and wife- like the mound on the right in the picture above. These mounds are from about the 3rd-6th centuries. 
We were saying as were walking around them that they felt both surreal and kind of made us feel like we were in a video game. 
Sunset over almost thousands years old burial mounds. 

This is Anapji, which was originally a much, much larger palace complex built in the 600s. However, like most historical and cultural relics in Korea, all we can see is the reconstructed version as almost everything was destroyed by Japan or China in their invasions. However, this was a nice place to see at dusk with the pond lit up and the sliver of a moon rising. 

Satuday, we went to Bulguksa, which I couldn't say outloud without making it sound Eastern European. It isn't Eastern European at all- it's Korean! It's so Korean that UNESCO deemed it worthy of being a world cultural heritage site. It's pretty impressive, but as its one of Korea's most famous temples- it was crowded. 
Inside the temple complex was this brass warthog or wild pig of sorts. There were many Koreans taking their while touching this animal. We don't know anything about it, but decided we probably shouldn't pass up the opportunity to have our photo taken with it. 
Matt and a little Korean boy building cairns. Matt lost a fingernail last time he tried one of these, albeit it was on a much larger scale. 

From Bulguksa, we rode a long stop and go bus ride up the mountain to Seokguram, which has a large stone Buddha in a grotto. We eventually got off the bus and walked up faster. This should have been a sign for what was to come. Once in the park, we waited in another long line to get into the grotto. Here you can see Caitlin and Justin and the line behind us to quickly walk through the grotto. There were no photos allowed in the grotto. All the Koreans were taking them, but Matt said I shouldn't, and he seems to know about when its ok to take a picture of a Buddha and when its not. 
This excursion took a long time, but was not a loss. The grotto was really impressive. Also, we met this funny Israeli couple in their late fifties or early sixties. They basically asked us if they could cut in line with us by just doing it. We asked them where they were from and the woman responded, "We're Israeli. Americans wouldn't just ask to cut in line!" (Israelis kind of have a reputation as obnoxious travelers). But they were really funny! We talked in line and found out that this was their 3rd trip to Korea since the 70s. We picked their brains over how Korea has changed since then. They told us that they travel a lot, not because they are wealthy, but they made traveling the world a priority in their lives. The woman was really great, she was telling us stories about tripping on Peyote in South America accidently and other fun stories. We kept running into them in town for the rest of the day after we walked down the mountain and they hitch hiked. 

Below is a lotus field. This photo is taken from a pagoda in the middle of it where we enjoyed beers after a hard day of sight seeing. Matt tried to start lotus plants early this summer, but due to several factors, they didn't make it. So, he was determined to gather as many lotus seeds as he could.
The problem was that other people had the same idea and all seed pods within arms' reach had been plucked and lotuses grow in water and mud. Matt and Justin rigged a tool and choreographed moves where one held the other as he leaned sideways and reached for the pods. They were surprisingly successful. Caitlin and I laughed as we watched this charade through the binoculars. Below, I think they are discussing a lotus-retrieval strategy. 

On Sunday morning, we rented bikes and rode to the Namsan mountain. We had a for-real hike. We started on the east side, went up to the top, down the west side, back up to the top and down to where we started! It was kind of intense. I was definitely the slowest member of our pack so they kept making me be in front so I could set the pace. This is a good method because otherwise they would always have to stop and wait for me. I'm not in awful shape, I'm just not a mountaineer. The picture below is one "trail" we walked UP. We lost the "trail" and had to do a little scrambling up the rocks. 

But all the huffin' and puffin' was definitely worth it. It was cloudy and misty, but otherwise a lovely day for  going up and down both sides of the mountain. 
(Check out my sweet gear. My pant legs are zipped off and tied around me head. Yeah.) Also, a sweet Buddha carved into the side of a mountain. 

We rode our bikes back to the bus station. We had to take a bus to Daegu to get  bus to Gwangju, but we couldn't get tickets on the a bus until 4 hours later. We passed the time by going to a DVD bang and watching "Michael Clayton", which was pretty good. We finally made it back to Gwangju at 2am. Good weekend. 

(I realize I only make blog posts when I go away for the weekend. I know I need to write some posts about my regular life.)