Monday, June 30, 2008

Deoksugung 6.14

Sarah's second day in Korea, we visited two of the five grand palaces in Seoul (I had previously visited Gyeongbukgung with Se Jin in February and fell in love with the statuary on the roofs of the palace structures). The first was a small one, Deoksugung, that we went to before we met up with my Korean family. It was a very beautiful day. Sarah and I had a lot of fun exploring the grounds

Sarah conquers Asia. This one would make Tyra proud.

This is my sister as I see her--it's a side of her few get to see. This is my favorite picture I took on our trip.

I'm not half so photogenic, but the setting was too lovely to pass up as a photo op.

Looking at all the 한자 carved on the palace inspired me about learning Korean again. I learned the characters for a bunch of stuff recently. I'm really getting into thinking about linguistics these days.

Just as we were leaving to meet the Kwons outside, there was a guard change ceremony.

You should absolutely check out the other pictures from this palace--they include an enormous statue of King Sejong (inventor of the Korean alphabet) and beautiful scenery in perfect weather.


And watch out for more about Sarah and my adventures in Korea over the next few weeks!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

We belong together...

To Sarah: We sang Mariah Carey in the noraebang about two weeks ago. When you left I lost a part of me... A Tuesday night. We had gone dancing with my swing club in the park downtown after work. You didn't dance with other people, just listened to my ipod in the park, sometimes with a stolen umbrella when the rain was bad enough, dancing with yourself. This was before you broke my ipod headphones. You were so beautiful.

Sarah, dancing to her own beat.

When the rain came, we tried to decide what to do. Ben wanted to stay in the rain and keep dancing, but Korean rain is harsher somehow than the rain back home. Dirtier. I said it. You agreed. You were still jet-lagged. We left the group--we'd see them again on the weekend.

We went to Sugar Joe's because I wanted you to meet Min Gi. Everyone there--the owners, the men, the other bartender Max--fell in love with you. Honestly, who wouldn't? We stole two bartenders (I swear the owner of that place is going to kill me one day) and went to another bar and then to the noraebang and didn't get home until the sun was coming up around 5:30 a.m. And still I went to taekwondo the next day without you because I hadn't gone since you'd been there, and I needed to go.

Pouring out the soul through song in the noraebang

I can't believe you are gone. I can't believe you were here. I didn't take enough pictures. I forgot to take ones of us together. We didn't do enough things...

Tyra would be annoyed

This song ain't even half of what I'm feeling inside...

Just like that... You were gone.

We found Kool-Aid

I don't know when I'll see you again. I have been crying and depressed on and off since you left. This is the worst homesickness I've experienced in my entire 10 months living in Korea.

Can't stop laughing

And I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sarah's Here!

My sister is visiting, so no updates. Just forgot how much I miss her. We're going around a bunch, and I'm taking tons of photos, so I'll have lots to blog about soon. For now, be freaked out by looking at North Korean soldiers in my album from the DMZ tour we took on Friday:

DMZ (De-militarized Zone)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Plans? What plans?

This weekend was a three day holiday (the Korean memorial day). I was supposed to go to Japan with Se Jin. And then to Uleongdo, a beautiful island off the east coast. Then a day trip to Oedo, another island. But everything kept getting cancelled. We have bad travel luck.

So I made plans with Min Gi to go hiking. I met him Friday morning, as agreed, but on our way to the mountain mentioned that my friends Kelly and Sarah were at Haeundae Beach in Busan for the day. So Min Gi asked if I wanted to go to Busan instead of hiking. I didn't have any beach stuff on me, but when have I ever let minor details like that stop me from going to the water?

Turned out to be a gorgeous day and a sand art festival.

Beautiful, right?

We had a lovely day, even if Min Gi was late getting back to the bar where he works some nights, Sugar Joe's. With Kelly amusingly chastising Min Gi's smoking, Sarah's beaver blogging, dinner at Hello, Thai (an AWESOME restaurant), and a sprint to catch the train because we arrived at the station five minutes before departure, the day was very memorable.

After this, I met Leah for swing dancing and good times, ended up losing my cell phone and generally feeling a bit crazy, but it was lots of fun.

The next day I was meeting Se Jin to go on a road trip in lieu of our failed plans. We ended up driving out to Yeongcheon to her parents' farm for lunch and then to Pohang, a city on the east coast, to sit on the beach. Then we were so tired we had to go home. But again, the day was lovely for photography, at least in Yeoungcheon. Pohang was a little industrial and polluted for my taste.

Summer blooms

Drying peppers

I didn't want to go out to swing because I was so tired, but I had to find my phone, so I figured I'd head there first. Good idea because my friend Hayoung knew where it was--at Sugar Joe's. I retrieved it quickly, painlessly, and with plenty of time for the last Lindy Hop class Ben was teaching. There were lots of folks out that night, and I wanted to hang out with everyone after dancing, but I was just too damned tired. So I went home.

Sunday morning I cleaned my house--fantastic. Much needed.

Sunday afternoon was the beginner jitterbug class taught by Joe and Lena that I had been massively recruiting for, so I came out to support and offer what help was needed. Min Gi came out--he's going to learn to swing dance. I like this boy more each day! The class went out for dinner afterwards and were caught in the most amazing thunderstorm. So beautiful...

Check out my other pictures from Busan and Yeongcheon:

Busan and Yeongcheon

Overall, a fantastic weekend. More blogging to come. Sarah arrives Thursday--I'm so excited to see my sister!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Don't get sick / 축하축하!

Taekwondo training has calmed down a bit since we got the news of our black belts. It's not as stressful and has gone back to being silly and fun. We play with the nun chucks and jump ropes and stuff a lot more. We goof around with jumping and running. Again, it feels like I'm playing rather than exercising. I love this.

However, physically it seems to have gotten a bit more demanding. We're doing a lot more kick combinations that involve this fast spinning motion which hurts a bit when you don't land it just right. We've been doing more kicks with running starts and more repetitions before landing. We did some practice with using a kick to turn midair and push off the person/body-bag you just kicked. It's fun and looks all spiffy cool when you do it right, but it's tough.

Samantha's had a minor injury since just before belt testing, but it seems to get worse and better depending on the day. And with my encounters with allergies and sunburn, we've been trading off sick moments occasionally. Sa Beom Nim has taken to adding the admonition "아프지마! Don't get sick!" along with his regular (and ritualized) closings to our practice. It's a little silly.


Last week I was walking out of the restaurant where I'd been eating dinner when an adorable, familiar-looking boy shouts, "Oh Diana! 안녕하세요? Hello."

Used to kids I don't teach from Oedae shouting their greetings to me all the time, I responded in English, "Hello. How are you?"

He looks really confused. And a little hurt. "저를 기억해요? Do you remember me?" It's then I notice the An Il t-shirt (same one I wore to the Lantern Festival) and realize he's one of the boys who tested with me, and that I spoke Korean with him, which is why he's now nattering on in Korean with me.

"물론--안일 태권도! 어떻게 지내세요? Of course--An Il Taekwondo! How have you been?"

"잘! Well!"

"나도. Me, too."

"검은띠 땄어요? Did you get your black belt?"

"네! Yes!"

"축하축하! Congrats!" He offers up his fist for a punching high five, which I happily give.

"3품 땄어요? Did you get your third poom [poom is a red/black belt they give to students under age 14, as opposed to dan which is for adults--I'm now first dan.]?"

Again he looks insulted. "저는 지금 이에요! I'm a dan now!"

"그래? 미안해. 축하축하! Really? Sorry. Congrats!" He beams.

"잘 가요! Goodbye!"

"네, 잘가! 화이팅! Goodbye! Fighting [a usual greeting/cheer/etc. in taekwondo here]!"

A short conversation, but I felt so happy to be able to have it with him. I'll keep working on this language. One day I'll be able to communicate well in it. One day...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

I don't think that word means what you think it means...

Min Ki introduced me to a friend a little while ago. The first time I met this guy--a musician and a student who used to bar tend on occasion--he shook my hand and said, "Wow, your hands are so soft." Then he had to go home because he, like most other adult Korean males who are not married, lives with his mom, and Mom wanted him home by 2:30 a.m.

The next time I saw him, he was playing guitar and singing. He's good. After he finished he came over to say hello.

"Wow! Beautiful Diana! How are you?"

"I'm great. You play very well."

He puts his hand to his chest and gets a look on his face like I just told him he won an Oscar. After prematurely congratulating me on my relationship with Min Ki (we've been dating a bit, but nothing definite) and then wishing us many future babies, he proceeds to spend about 20 minutes elaborating on Min Ki's good qualities: "He's so strong! When we arm-wrestle I can do nothing!" "He has... how do I say this?... a moustache on his chest." (chest hair--rare in Koreans) He also mentioned that Min Ki is a "virgin" with a "pure heart."

"Really?" I ask.

"Yes, me too."

"You're a virgin with a pure heart?" Eyebrow raised.

"Of course." A few minutes later. "How did Min Ki get so lucky to win the heart of such a beautiful woman? Did he tell you that you must be tired?"

"Why am I tired?"

"Because you have been in my dreams. Running all night."

"Oh my god. Seriously? You studied English pick up lines?"

"Not at all. This is how I really feel. Do you have a phone? I need to call my mom and tell her I just met the woman I love."

I'm laughing too hard to respond, at which point Min Ki comes over. I try to explain to him what a "pick-up line" is and how his friend has studied them. I am not exactly successful, so when he walks away the musician says, "See? He is a virgin. He has a pure heart."

"And you, too, right?"

"But of course! Wow! Your hair is so beautiful. Golden hair! I would give you $1,000,000 for two centimeters of your hair. But I think Min Ki would kill me if I did."

"You are the most 바람둥이 man I've ever met." (Korean word literally means "wind person" but it means a kind of player, so maybe as easy as the wind)

"No, no. Not at all. I am a virgin. I have a pure heart!"

"I think someone might have given you a bad translation of that word..."


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