Monday, April 27, 2009

Japanese Fusion with a Cajun Twist

I have to admit that I fell in love with the decor, and often the surroundings play into a mood, an emotion. This Japanese fusion restaurant seemed to have anything and everything on the menu...but little in the way of Japanese cuisine. However that didn't dissuade me as I started to drink in the environment. My experience, when I view art of other cultures, I am often drawn to the female form. The story it reveals, or doesn't. Why the Japanese artists often portray the geisha as the pinnacle of their value of beauty. The geisha was the secret keeper, an entertainment, yet, to serve, to be selfless to the point of abolishing personal desires, dreams and ambitions.
Every aspect of how these women were trained from all areas of art, culture, to be skilled in conversation, and more importantly...these women knew when to be silent and to have a still tongue. I sank into my chair...and ordered blueberry soju...finally deciding to partake (or if you will drink in) of this Korean cultural beverage...and of all things that I was surprised to see on the menu...Cajun chicken...and since I am partial to strongly flavored dishes...I was certain I would be pleased.
Yes, Foreign gal, once again made an amusing discovery...she did not know what she was ordering. I had the expectation of a small pitcher, however you see what was delivered to my table...accompanied with a small shot glass. Immediately, I could smell the blueberry and trouble. To justify my consumption...I thought of a quote by Henry Miller, "The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware." I poured my first shot and toasted to the thought of divine awareness.
As if on cue, the waiter hurriedly came with a bowl of soup. I almost burst into laughter. I sincerely doubted this was going to put the slightest dent into any absorption of alcohol. A half-grin/half-smirk crawled across my face. I poured myself another glass and began to wonder if I had been served kool-aid instead of soju...
However...my main course arrived...if you think this looks like Cajun chicken, you have never been to New Orleans. What was before me was what amounted to breaded chicken on a bed of salad, garnished with slices of hard boiled eggs and cherry tomatoes...covered with what appeared to be corn flakes (yes, corn flakes).

Again...I sat back...and this time I could not restrain the laughter...

I am in Korea...first thought. In a Japanese restaurant...second thought. Having a 'Cajun' meal...third thought. At least there wasn't anything on my plate that I couldn't identify properly.

ah...time to pour another glass of soju.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Fixation on detail

I tend to swim in thought when I go for my solitary walks. As I go along and shoot pictures, I find that what I see and take in are like little notes to myself. Perhaps, it is in part that my culture is so young and lacks a real identity that was a creation of wanting to shed the old have having something new. That sense of individual freedom that can tend to horrify cultures that are community based. However that sense of individual freedom does have social costs associated with it that I never seemed to grasp until I started looking outside of my American bubble. Yes, perhaps I think too much. Just how I can view this wall and not just see a wall, but how the bricks though oddly shaped all have a place to form a perfect wall...with the right patterns and values to keep your eyes moving. There is the deception of being random, but you see the patterns that gives it order and stability.
I could just cross this bridge and wish it was another one in another part of the world, but I managed to see the light and image of how it made me want to see more. There is something to be said for societies who manage to hold themselves together for thousands of years. The name of the country might change, the political views may swing, but the mystery of the east is lies within their endurance. They embrace a culture of society, not the individual desires. How does one balance the desires and dreams for the individual to make it fit like the oddly shaped rock in a wall? A part from the wall, it's just a rock. Perhaps instead of being a rock one could be like a lamp post. Standing alone it serves a purpose in the night. In sharp contrast to the lights over a highway, an autobahn, or an expressway where they are functional in appearance and purpose. A lamp post is unique.
They are more unique and don't throw off a lot of light, but people are still attracted to them. Compared to the uniform construction of functional buildings with little personality, they serve as a respite against the glaring concrete communities that have been erected in the urban areas of Korea.

Though, I will have to say that I had to curb an overwhelming desire to be able to clean them up a bit.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's a work out just to get to this gym!

It was indeed a beautiful weekend for a hike and I found another park across a bridge I wanted to walk across for months, but seemed to never have the time for. I happened to love how it was situated, close by a shopping district, and yet...here was this urban oasis with a trail that just begged to have me explore it.One you get up the semi-steep incline (just enough that you feel pins and needles in the back of your legs) I came to this walk way. The air was full of the smell of pine trees...just dripping with it that reminded me of my youth in the wooded areas of Minnesota (without the snow of winter or the mosquitoes during the warmer months). It perfumed the area.
And then, I stopped and stood in amazement. A weight bench? I wanted to blink. In the middle of the woods, in this clearing was a gym. I know it's not exactly Venice Beach in California, but here in the middle of the woods was a ready made gym with weatherized equipment.
It was too good to be true, all of the equipment used a person's own body weight to use for resistance. I admit, it got me motivated to at least try the equipment just to see if they were in working order (of course it was). What a great investment in the community...not to mention a great way to not only stay in shape, but to work out any stress as well.

I thought of the past health clubs and gyms I had belonged to in the past, and somehow they all paled in comparison...under the beauty of the surrounding trees, the sound of the birds, well there is no competition.

Though there is a bit of a hike to get here...I believe it was worth it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Crumbling Dreams and Dashed Hopes

Over the past few days I have looked at the news back in the States. Repossessed homes being sold for as little as a dollar in Detroit, the mass killings that are going on in workplaces, public sites, and now the advent of familicide. I can't remember a time, since the 1970s when the US became so violent. I ran across an article from the San Francisco Chronicle, published in 2007 about how rare 'familicide' was. The alarming sentence that caught my eye, 'familicides were most prevalent in rural areas during the Great Depression."
I decided I needed to take a walk.
During my walk, I of course encountered all kinds of steps. The nice polished ones, and others that were in need of repair. The choosing to take the stairs, not knowing where they would lead me, but I of course kept going. This was one of my random walks where I would tell myself, 'just go with the flow and see what you find.' I chose a new direction to walk today...just because.
When I walked under this tunnel, I thought about how dark it must be at night, with little to light the way. Yet, the tunnel wasn't long and I am still putting one foot in front of the other.
Further down the road I saw Korean lanterns tied to the trees and I decided to follow them.
And came to this building.

My point is...that sometimes things end for a reason and the hopelessness seems to wear everyone out. There are a lot of people who are desperately looking for a way to keep their dreams afloat. Sometimes, you have to build a new dream. Sometimes, you have to let everything go and start all over. It's how you react to this illusion called security.

The fact is, you don't know what the future will hold. You have to have the courage to turn the pages of life. If all you see is doom and gloom, you need to change the perspective. If you don't think I know what I am talking about or that I haven't been there...well, I have. Sometimes, you choose to let go because you know that by holding on to what you think is of value...in the end really isn't of value. People are of value. Your family is of value. They are not a burden. You don't know what they will be capable of in the future. No one is the center of anyone's life.

When you realize you don't own anything to begin with, and only a steward while you live and breathe...laugh. This is needless stress. Where will you live? What will you do? How will you survive? All of those questions have answers. You are not the sum of a credit score. Aren't you more than a three-digit number?

I know I am.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The captivity and beauty of nature

I can't help it. I just love parks. They simply are an oasis for me from all that is urban. A place where one can go and just realize there is more to life than work. Daiseong Park, in the heart of Deagu, South Korea. This is a special place for its citizens because it houses their only zoo, so as you can imagine, this place is heavily attended throughout the year by tribes of school children.Often there are many lessons you learn, and though many people go there for a bit of a respite, I found I learned something else that day.
More than seeing the carefully manicured grounds, or the ordered backpacks on park benches that were unmolested.
And more than these scenes of lions and tigers taking their morning naps in the shade of a beautiful day. Though there were many children screaming for these proud beasts to get up, their passive nature amused me. They ignored the chants of these demanding children and merely flicked their tails. The bravery of children to shout at a distance. So I thought about the captivity of these animals, for the purpose of having people look at animals they would see only in the wild. Captivity for the education of others. No matter how beautiful the setting, here these wild beasts were housed to listen to creatures that they would devour.It isn't an original thought. Most of my life I shunned zoos. I think it goes back to an experience where I looked into the eyes of these animals and I saw hopelessness. I saw misery. You can be given everything you need to sustain your existence, even a companion...but where is the joy in being housed, safe from the elements, only to realize you cannot go where you truly want.You may be cared for, or neglected...you are at the mercy of your keepers.However, this place had a place where the captives could fly and be free. To come and go if they choose. There was not a thing in place to keep them there...just water and food. They remain.They come and breed, eat, and drink; protected with the freedom to fly away. Which would you rather be?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lessons I learned from a clay pot

All I know, it was a Friday night, I was tired and I wanted to simply just go home. Sometimes, though, there is someone who wants to teach you something...and you stop being the teacher and become the student. It was more than just making a coil pot without the benefit of a potter's wheel, or the feeling of actually rendering something with my hands. It was seeing how much my life had changed. I let the moment hit me...let it sink in. Here I was sitting, pounding out the clay...trying to make it just perfect and my old life came rushing back.
I shot a few pictures and had to laugh, because we all were tired after a long week. We had taught for hours and hours...had gone out to dinner, had a few drinks and now we were sitting here on a Friday night trying to be creative, but the real goal was simply to have fun and to relax.

In my mind, I went back to the moment where I jumped off the cliff. The moment when I made a conscious effort to follow my dreams instead of building up a career I no longer felt any joy from. The moment when I realized I was a ghost in a machine, a part of something that seemed to destroy lives instead of helping them...and I no longer believed in the illusions.

In my neighborhood, there is an 'art gallery' for very young children. I smile every time I walk by the window at their renderings. I see the dreams planted here and it made me think of my own dreams. The ones that I chose to follow instead of let die like an unwatered plant. I also thought about what my life would have been like had I remained where I was. More complicated than it needed to be. To be at the pinnacle of an industry, which in retrospect, is much like a self-licking ice cream cone. It feeds to satisfy itself. It had grown proud and refused to change. It was a self-determined machine that didn't count the human cost.
However, when I stood looking at this display...the handiwork of children for the public to view...I smiled and realized it isn't a bad world after all. There are still dreamers that roam this earth who realize that it isn't about jumping off a cliff. It's seeing there is very little difference between illusion and reality.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

New life...spring is here in Daegu

This is Easter Sunday and bunnies are for sale in Home Plus...yes, tempted to buy the poor animal, but realized I just don't have the time to care for the creature. I am not home long enough...so my rational brain overtook the desire to possess the creature. The poor thing would die in my care.
Spring has certainly arrived, and the cafes and restaurants are expanding their real estate out into the sidewalks. For some reason, it reminded me of Paris, how they have catered to the smokers and have placed the plastic out to keep the smokers dry. Though, in Korea, there isn't the ban on smoking that Paris has endured for just over a year.
Already, the trees have come to life with new leaves...the world is green and alive. You can smell the blooms...fragrant and overwhelming is the heat of the day. It caught me off guard, this temperature change. I had just became accustomed to winter, the cold and infrequent snows....to now just beginning to feel the coming heat. As I walked around the stores today, I was amazed by the total lack of air conditioning. It is an odd thing for an American to say this, but I have always disliked air conditioning...and preferred the feeling of a fan. Perhaps it was because of how often they were used in Miami. You would just get used to the heat of the outdoors and walk into any building, and you were blasted with an arctic breeze.

At times, I felt many buildings were cold enough to put my body into shock. The irony was often I would have to wear a sweater indoors, even if it was 90 degrees outside.
There isn't that problem here. It is simply spring. I am sure the air conditioners will come out of their mothballs soon.
As I continued my walk today, I went down to a riverbed....well, what was once a river bed. All you see now are the various rocks and puddles of water that dot the path. During the winter, the children were able to skate on the ice...and looking at these remnants made me wonder where did all of that water go?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

It Pays to Read The Label...

I have to admit. It must appear odd to shop keepers when I wander into a store, go through their inventory, and they watch me pull out my camera just to take a picture of a t-shirt label. I don't care about the looks...I don't care that this appears extremely odd...matter of fact, I do hope they notice and go back to the item I photograph. I want them to ask why...I want them to wonder why a western person would photograph their labels. In short, they often read like something you would find on the "Tonight Show". You know, those poorly worded advertisements that somehow make it to print. Only, in this case, this label is on thousands of clothing items in South Korea.
I couldn't resist this impulse when I read the conflicting messages on the label...another jewel. Telling...funny...and another thing to bring a smile to my face...telling me to think for myself, yet to follow trends. Or...instead of Chevy Chase telling me to "be the ball.....na na na na na." I can be the brain (or more correctly...be your own brain) and dress trendy, wearing a pink t-shirt.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Unfinished/Finished Art of an Unknown Voice from South Korea

It's not often you see a work of a half-man/half-beast done vertically...or one that is left apparently unfinished. However, I found myself being drawn to this piece over and over again. I wanted to ask why...I wanted to visually complete it myself...and then I wanted to perhaps seek a deeper meaning than possibly the artist envisioned when he rendered this work.
The artist's information, which I credit him, as simply unknown to me due to my illiteracy of the Korean language and the lack of a translator. However, that didn't stop me from writing about this piece which I found intriguing.
This skeleton of a frame, that still clutches a hammer woven in to be both man and beast without flesh, without a head. I found this piece as I wandered through a gallery in Cheongdo, and though the other work was 'nice', but far from what I was looking for. This piece happened to be the only work I would classify as art, critically I looked at it and found myself wishing they had placed it in an area that you could walk around it. I felt like I was missing so much.

When you walk through these showings hoping to be surprised...even by one work....and you can usually tell right away if it is a piece you just simply can't stop looking at. I have to admit, I walked back to it three times. On the third time, I pulled out my camera for these single shots...the only pictures I felt was worth my effort to share with you.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Blooms of Cherry

Sometimes noticing things like the blooms of Cherry blossoms take you by surprise. It's cold one day, and the next thing you know, you are walking down the street and you look up and see cherry blossoms. Most people I know don't care for four seasons. They hate the bitter cold of winter and the blazing heat of summer, but I found that with living in Miami (in a past life), I missed the four seasons. The perpetual summers that spanned 7 years of my life make me appreciate the changes that come with each new season.
There were always blooms, but soon they were unnoticed in the state of constant green. Rarely was there an extreme change in temperature. For me, it seemed time stood still in the perpetual summer of Miami, Florida. Seems like such a silly thing to complain about, but in reality I had missed the bitter snows stinging my face...going out at night just to see the snow reflecting its perfect crystals from the street lights before the first cars would dirty the snow. Seeing the black branches bleached white and the world loose all of its color...just to know that one day spring would arrive and you could look up and appreciate the budding leaves again.

Summer will be here soon enough, but for now I can enjoy the earth coming alive again in the springtime of South Korea.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

In Times of Uncertainty...of Possible War

The image, by DigitalGlobe taken on 2 April 2009 of North Korea's launch pad is no longer the same...it just truly became the launch heard round the world...as it launched at 11:30 this morning and flew over Japan, landing in the Pacific Ocean.

For a long time, the stability of Kim Jong II, has been in question. Normally, I don't blog about politics, but since this act is past ignoring...having an impact all around the world, there is the global gasp that this launch was attempted. Whether it was out of egotistical pride, a show of force, or just another attempt to belly up to an overcrowded table of nuclear armed entities.

Diplomacy from China, Russia, the United States, Japan, and many others were totally ignored. So like the rest of the world, I too, hold my breath as I hear the patrols of the day suddenly go silent. It is different now. Now I am a civilian, with a forced invitation to watch from this front row seat to see first hand how this will all play out.

Am I leaving South Korea? No. Will there be war? This is something that remains to be seen. Will there be enough cool heads that prevail over this aggressive act? If all it took was the assassination of one man to start World War I in Sarajevo, what will the untimely launch of an ill-fated rocket cause? The world is watching.

All this, while you were sleeping...yes...we are still alive.

Friday, April 3, 2009

An echo to the past

It is not an everyday sight to see the traditional Korean dress worn. This trio was getting ready to take the stage during the Cheongdo Bull fighting festival.
Their uniform appearance took away from their individuality, with only the colors of their long billowing skirts giving them any hint of identity.
As they took the stage to entertain the crowd they did not have to compete for attention, with all eyes focused on them. The conservative dress that simply seemed to glorify all that is woman, retaining a mystery, showing a side that declares less is not always more.
As they began to sing with the unfamiliar music to my Western ears, I thought about how difficult it can be for cultural traditions to survive. Even now, as the world gets smaller and you see one culture bleed into another. Somehow it is comforting to see older arts survive outside influences .

video

Thursday, April 2, 2009

When was the last time you saw this?

I have to admit that I don't ever recall police officers sitting in a park...just relaxing on a couple of swings. I paused and watched them for a few minutes and took this single shot of their break. This was a first for me. It is kind of sad that this would even be classified as an odd scene from my life experience. In this simple scene I saw an innocence that is lost in the majority of the world. The absence of a gun belt is striking. The police were simply enjoying a break at a park on a beautiful day. They could have sat on a bench...but that would have been ordinary...adult.

It made me think about the very last time I even sat on a swing...perhaps as a young mother...but even then, I probably felt foolish. I think at times we do need to get a little foolish and find those things we no longer do...the simple things that gave us pleasure...and be children again, just being in a moment.

In this time of deep uncertainty, to see such a calm scene in early spring does give you hope. After all, there is no freedom when you walk around entrenched in fear.