This is the room I've been staying in for the most part while at Omija Village. If I had to estimate, I'd say it is about 8'x8' and though that sounds small it fits me and my traveling lifestyle just fine. I have room to lay the yo, as well as plenty of extra room for clothes, bags, shoes.. etc. I even practiced yoga in here one day, just moved the yo to the side. It has the ondol style floors, though electric not oven heated. I generally leave the windows open to so as to feel more on display as well as to let all this natural beauty around me in. The dogs sleep right outside as well so I get to wake up to two cute dogs barking for me to play with and feed them. I really like living in this room/house. My apt in SF wasn't huge and I always kept it very minimal (what with not knowing if I'd just get up and travel one day). I think when I come back I'll try to take comfort in knowing I don't need a lot of space or possessions to live happy and comfortably. Just room to sleep, practice yoga, and cook...
Here now and now here or nowhere
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Last week one of the workers here took me to the Andong to go to the Hahoe Folk Village. Here is what wikipedia has to say about the village.
"The Hahoe Folk Village in Andong, Gyeongsangbuk-do Province is listed by the South Korean government with UNESCO as a World Heritage site. The village is a valuable part of Korean culture because it preserves Joseon-style architecture, folk traditions, valuable books, and old tradition of clan-based villages.
The village is located on the Hwachon Stream which is a tributary of the Nakdong River. To the north of the village is Buyongdae Cliff while Mt. Namsan lies to the south. The village is organized around the geomantic guidelines of pungsu and so the village has the shape of a lotus flower or two interlocking comma shapes." more info here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hahoe_Folk_Village
It was really interesting to see the older style thatched roofs still being used and to see them next to the more modern tiled roofs.
And these pictures are from Park's blog. he liked taking pictures of me, i think it's somewhat exciting for koreans to talk with americans/foreigners as not so many come here, especially outside of Seoul and Busan.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The biggest mountaintop in the area and it's right behind this farm. I hope to climb it one day while here.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Phantogram and the xx both started getting buzz around the same time a year or two back. Both somewhat similar, boy/girl duo's writing electronic tinged music heavy on a lead guitar. For some reason the xx really started to blow up and Phantogram's name hasn't caught the same type of attention.
This somewhat puzzles me as I find Phantogram more enjoyable to listen to and IMO they are much more talented songwriters. Their sound is more polished and the lyrics they write have more texture and depth to them. After repetitive plays to Phantogram's full length "Eyelid Movies," I find that I can keep returning to it and still find it enjoyable. Each song has a slightly different feel and sound to it. the xx's self titled debut however I played solidly for about a week straight and started to hear too many similar themes and sounds. Oddly, though I was sick of and bored with the album, I still kept listening to it. So maybe there is something more to the xx. Maybe.
But for now, I'd rather listen to Phantogram, and I highly recommend them for you too. The song in this post is the first track on their full length (and I believe it may be first on the EP as well). It's a well written song about a relationship on end because her partner is a drug addict and has made too many promises of getting clean but never follows through with said promises. She knows it isn't his fault but the addictions and she just can't waste her own life on it anymore so it's time to move on.
"because the patterns they control your mind
those patterns take away my time
I've been a big fan of track 7 on the album as well, "You Are The Ocean." There is a line of the lyric that reads "Cause you are the ocean, and I'm good at drowning." Maybe it's just the ethereal tone of the song mixed with these words, but for some reason I find great poetic beauty in this song. Or maybe it's just because I love the ocean and am a sucker for sad love song. Either way, do yourself a favor and check out phantogram's work.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
I'm not sure if i mentioned it in the last post, but this place is beautiful. I'm surrounded by luscious tree filled mountains. Streams and brooks running around us. Tons of omija trees all around. And clean crisp fresh air.
This morning I woke up a bit early (the smoke alarms low battery alert may have aided in this a little) and decided to check out this hoodoo I could see in the distance.
Every morning I use my japa mala, given to me by Sharon just before my cross country leg of this journey, and say my mantra 108 times (twice around the bijas). Since being in korea I've been using Patanjali's Sutra 1-33, it holds relevance to me both for it's meaning and something I need to work more with as well as it being the sutra I had to discuss during yoga school. Usually I recite it while laying or sitting in bed, but today I did it while walking around the hoodoo grounds. It had a nicer feeling to it. As the birds chirped and squeaked and the other animals rustled and made noise, I felt more connected to myself and the earth.
When I finished Mr Kim, my "big brother" here, (I think he's technically the groundskeeper or something like that) was waiting and we were off to make breakfast. I made kimchi chigae for the crew today.
So, today started out just so wonderfully, and it has continued to stay that way.
Here are two more pics of me on my first nights meeting the guests.
I'll end this pic with two of three cute little fellas who love to be pet here (the jindo is not kept near these guys but i'll snap a pic of him soon for y'all).
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Using an online bus or rail scheduler is really easy in Korea, that is to say it's easy if you read and speak korean. I, unfortunately, am not able to do either of those things. I left Seoul with much help from Eunhye on how I should get to my next farm in Hongsung-Gun. Luckily for my sake it was an easy train 3 hour train ride. Below is a picture of my travelmate, the lady sitting next to me.
She seemed rather perturbed that I was sitting next to her, but that's what my ticket had for it's seat number. I sort of wonder if seat numbers actually matter in Korea, as half the train car was empty. After a little bit she warmed up to me and even offered me some of her cake/cookie things she was eating. I wish I had something to share back with her. I think what won her over was that I was watching "Oldboy" on my iphone. Oldboy is a korean movie that came out in the early 2000's. It did pretty well in the US (I remember when it came to the NYC theaters and Chester really wanted me to see it with him. I never did, and I apologize to you now Matthew). If you haven't seen it and you enjoy great plots with lots of action, suspense, torture, blood, sex, and one of those endings that really makes you go "hmmmm" then definitely see this film.
I love train rides. Bus rides are ok, but train rides have this sort of draw for me. The rural countryside and the sound of the train on the rail, it just has something for me.
I got off at my station, Mr Kim arrived shortly and we were off to my next farm experience. I think I could tell before I even arrived how my stay here was going to be. There was maybe something in the air, besides that lovely korea farm smell that has a mixture of cabbage and manure.
The farm was bigger than others I had previously worked on and there
was a little compound of sorts for the other farm workers there. There were small mini houses which each had two single room units in them. The room was the floor, a sink, small fridge, and then the bathroom. (picture below). The heated floors make sleeping on the floor really nice (as mentioned in previous posts) but I sort of felt like I was at methadone or other withdrawal clinic. Having small bugs in the room crawling on my yo (traditional korean mattress like pad you sleep on top of the heated floors with) didn't help add to the picture at all. :)
But beggars can't be choosers, and this was essentially free housing with free food. Though food may be an overstatement. Those who know me, know I LOVE kimchi. I've never met a kimchi I didn't like... until now. Almost all the ferments here had this similar taste and it was a taste I couldn't quite grasp the love of. They did have a great rice though. no joke. it had what i think were red beans and soy beans in it. Very tasty. Also, the good thing about kimchi, is it still usually makes a good kimchi chigae. Also, the good thing about not tasty food is that I won't really eat it. And that means my stomach could take a break after the good over eating in Seoul.
There was NO english spoken here. Occasionally a word was fumbled around with and we could sort of make out what was happening, but usually it was grunting, pointing, and odd hand gestures that never really made out what was trying to be conveyed.
The people were nice but what a rag-tag crew. There were two old men (one of whom had his 76th birthday while I was there. Soju and eating cake with chopsticks... count me in!) There were two blind guys. There was the guy with odd eyes (cataracts maybe?) who also was missing the top of one of his middle fingers and the sewing together chop was sorta narly. (luckily I sat across from him every meal so got to see it NUMEROUS times.) There was another older man who was also a hunchback with his back in basically a permanent half moon shape. Then there was Mr Kim, his wife, his daughter and a few other people. All very nice, in as much as pointing and grunting can prove for niceness sakes. But the lack of communication and lack of internet for me to communicate to others proved to be a very hard week for me. also, I ended up doing a lot of rock moving. Load big rocks into a wheelbarrow and wheel that to a tractor to unload them there. Repeat till the tractor is full. Have tractor driven to a different spot, empty tractor load. Move rocks from dropped spot to a spot around there. Repeat. I seem to scream heavy manual labor to these farmers here, maybe it's because I'm like frankenstein to them. Or Frankenstock, maybe? I did get to do a little farming one day, where I pulled a bunch of scallions up that were ready to be picked and sold at the market. woohoo.
This farm also had some other different, to me, aspects.
Being out in farmsville it was quite removed from city life which meant incredibly gorgeous skies.
It's hard to see as it was shot from my iphone, but this is a star and the line to the right is a sliver of the moon. It really looked beautiful in person.
Sort of a bummer to me was that I picked this farm because they made soy sauce and gochujang (think korean chili sauce but a little more sweet) from their own home grown products. However, I guess they only do it in autumn, so I missed out on learning how to make these both, which is something I was very interested in. :(
After about a week I left this farm to go to another. I wanted to head back northernly as I plan to go back to Seoul to make that DMZ tour. So with the help from Jade, the WWOOF Korea manager, I was able to get on at a farm in Mungyeong. I just got here tonight but I have good feelings about the place. It appears to be part farm, part resort of sorts. There is a pool, a restaurant, little cottages (of which i am staying in one and it's pretty sweet) and two cute little friendly dogs. There were guests tonight in the restaurant so I was asked to help and be one of the waiters for the evening. Below is a picture of just part of the crew of people I helped wait on.
They seemed really excited to have me wait on them. At one point one of the gentleman had me sit down, made me take shots of Makoli (a korean rice alcohol. like soju but not distilled) while his wife force fed fresh cooked meat down my throat. I wasn't complaining, it just seemed a bit odd. Alas, they had fun, I had fun so everyone's a winner.
There is internet in the guest offices so expect me somewhat online this week. Last week being offline was really refreshing and I'll try to be more like that. But having nearly completed season 4 of The Wire I now need to download season 5, so will have to have some online time. Plus I love your emails (like anyone reads this...) and I owe a bunch of people phone calls (thanks skype). Most importantly, I hope to have an overdue video chat with a special talented cat and her more special owner/caretaker.
night night folks
Friday, April 16, 2010
Well, Seoul is behind me again and I'm now in Chungcheongnam-Do at a farm where I hope to be working with chili and soy products. But this post isn't about that, this is about my time in Seoul and how people never cease to amaze me.
I found Eunhye on couchsurfing.com. She was one of many people I contacted for a couch to crash on for my stay in Seoul, and more importantly she was one of the few who returned my message. I contacted her because she lived with her family and I really like the concept of living with other families in other countries to learn more culturally and see the dynamics in how the family acts. I was only supposed to stay with the family for Thursday night, but when my Friday and Saturday host cancelled, Eunhye told me it was ok for me to stay friday as well.
I met up with Eunhye at her subway stop and we went back to her parents place to drop off my bags and then go grocery shopping for dinner. We bought a random assortment of food and made a fun little dinner of crab with broccoli in a garlic cream sauce and korean noodle seafood stew. All very tasty. During dinner her parents came home from their day at a local mountain for a hike. Her parents were so friendly and welcoming, something some people might not be upon meeting a 6'4" big red bearded American in your kitchen who was going to be staying with you randomly for a few days. But they welcome me ever so kindly. Though I was supposed to sleep on the couch, Eunhye gave me her bed to sleep on and she took the couch. I kept trying to insist that I take the couch but she had decided so that was that. Actually, she didn't just give me her bed, but the whole room. We went for a little walk around the area that night, but there wasn't too much going on in the area and it was near 11pm so we went in and called it a night.
The next day was a long one. We went all around the city with sightseeing, tons of eating, and meeting some of her friends. The first stop was for her to show me her university. It was breathtaking, and not just because it was an all girls school. Situated in somewhat close proximity to one of the many beautiful surrounding mountains and very open with lots of green courtyards. We met up with a friend of hers who just got off to class and were off to go to another part of town.
We ended up walking around a nice sort of artsy part of town that was near Gyeongbokgung, the temple I visited on my previous stay in Seoul. We walked all around the little streets and got lunch at a dukkbokki spot for possible the best dukkbokki I've ever had.
After we walked some more, got coffee (something koreans seem to love to do) and then did a giant loop around Gyeongbokgung, including seeing the presidents house (aka the blue roof house)
We departed from her friend and headed to see the old downtown and then another section of town popular for backpackers. We were supposed to meet another friend but she was running late so after more coffee and a walk around the man made stream that runs through Seoul we decided to get dinner. Eunhye wanted me to try dak galbi as it was on my list of foods to try. Dinner was great, but a cold that was forming from the last trip took a turn for the worse and at dinner I lost my voice. We met up with her friend and got some type of local drink, however I had no voice and the friend could barely speak english as it was so understanding me was even harder than it usually is. So we headed back to Eunhye's place and called it a night.
We now come to saturday, the day I have no place to stay. Eunhye helped me find a hostel that actually had a privtate room available and I packed up to go. She suggested for safety that I leave my things in her room and come back tomorrow to get them. As I was about to leave, her mom suggested that I stay that night as well since she didn't know how safe and clean the hostel would be. Really? I mean I was just blown away at this kindness. They had a family event that night though so I had to be gone till 10pm, to which they kept apologizing. For the record, they're apologizing for not letting me be around the place I'm staying at for no charge. They are apologizing for me putting them out... but i digress.
I left the house and decided to head to Sinchon station area. I then spent the day around there and then at the jjimjilbang, but that is all in a previous post so i shall not repeat myself here.
Sunday I had plans in the evening to couchsurf at another persons place but Eunhye and I were going to go for a hike or something during the day. We started off with church, yes.. church. But I wasn't forced to go, or even really asked. But I figured if I was staying with these nice people the least I could do was go to their church. It's not like I'd understand anything, and I sure as hell wasn't going to start believing in christ now, so what's an hour out of my day?
After church we decided to walk around another part of the city. We got lunch at a korean hot pot place. It was eh,sort of bland but the kimchi there was pretty frickin amazing. Also, when the hot pot neared empty of all but broth they emptied most of the broth and added rice, seaweed and a raw egg. This made a jook of sorts, which I actually liked more than then hotpot.
After lunch we headed over to Changgyeonggung, another palace / park of sorts. This place was beautiful and HUGE!!! We walked a bit and then sat down on one of the many pagoda like entrance steps and relaxed for a while. It was starting to rain and get late so we got ready to head back home.
you can't see it here, but we saw this squirrel like animal that had sort of rabbit ears. Can rabbits and squirrels mate?
On the way home we hit the grocery market to buy food to make dinner. Both being sort of full (as we were always eating or drinking coffee) we decided to just make salads. I told Eunhye I'd make a standard california type salad with what I could find at the market. Shopping in foreign markets is definitely a little difficult. Bleu cheese, for example, is not so easy to find. I bought some ingredients (having to settle with cheese cubes with a bleu flavoring) and we headed back to cook a bit.
my "california" salad of chopped lettuce, sliced grapes, chopped almonds, raisons, and bleu cheese flavored cheese cubes. I made a balsamic dressing as well and ended up adding corn and white onion to add a bit more flavor.
Maybe I should re-mention that I was supposed to be staying with a different host this night. It's now past 8pm and I got sucked into this all. The Lee's planned on having me over for one last night and I didn't know how to say "No thanks for putting me up for 2 extra nights but i really need to go somewhere else to a stranger now.. bye" So i emailed the other host, apologizing for my flakiness and I stayed over with the Lee's one last night.
I've been saying this to my friends a lot, but I am constantly blown away by peoples generosity, if they want to share it. There was no reason for the Lee's to host me for a night, let alone 4. But they did. They fed me (I forgot to mention that the first morning when i woke up ahma, Eunhye's mom, made bulgogi just for me so i could have real homemade korean bulgogi) they sheltered me and they showed me around. And I didn't do a darn thing besides soak it up. Sure, I'll host Eunhye if she comes to SF, or others for that matter but that isn't what is being asked for in return. Nothing is being asked for. It's sharing because we can and we should as human beings. And it's beautiful.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
So, today my couchsurf host fell through. Eunhye, the girl that I've spent the last two nights with (not like that) helped me find a hostel but then her mom (she lives at her parents.. very common in seoul) said I should stay the night with them again as she didn't know the quality of the hostel. however, they had family plans that day so I had to be gone till 10pm. I decided to go to Sinchon station and walk around that district. I couldn't decide on what to do for lunch. korean fried chicken is beyond delicious, but we ate so unhealthily yesterday so I decided I wanted something else.. but what? Then I stumbled upon a spot that serves kkori gomtang, aka bone marrow oxtail soup. it isn't just bone marrow. they simmer the whole bone down. till it is no more. your soup is mad from bone. it's delicious (well it is with kimchi and salt). My friend anna turned me onto it in nyc (thanks anna!) I even made it once, it did not come out as good as the one today. This one had ginseng and chinese red date in it. never had it like that before. Being sort of sick and rundown (and a lack of voice from sore throat) this soup HIT THE SPOT. of course most lunches cost like $3-5 and this was around $11. but you know what, I'm worth it. well somedays I am.
I decided after the gomtang to try out a jjimjilbang, or a korean bath house. I've been to russian/turkish style bath houses. let me tell you this, they have nothing on the jjimjilbang. The one that I went to had shared sex kiln rooms, each room a different "theme." There was the yellow mud room, the salt room, the traditional style room (incredibly hot), the ice room (incredibly cold, but awesome after the traditional room), the charcoal room, the silver room, and many more. They were usually brick or cement almost igloo shaped kilns, heated to 66 ºC (150.8 ºF) on par. I was curious what the traditional one was heated to, because it blew the others away. There was also a restaurant, snack bars, juice bars, game rooms, playstation rooms, computer rooms, meeting rooms, sleeping rooms, cave rooms.... well you get the point. down stairs were separate men and women bathrooms. besides a changing area the rooms also had shower/pool areas. there was three different heated jacuzzis, one was near skin peeling off boiling. there were a few different cold pools, one so cold I could barely walk in as my body froze and I feared shock was near. There was also a slanted water massage pool that had metal bars to separate spots. you'd hold on to the bars and adjust your body to the water massage and work your body out. Of course I didn't know this, or even that is was slanted. So when I walked in, I fell and nailed my ass on a metal bar. awesomeness. There are also saunas and steam rooms there. and then tons of showers, standing or sitting ones. you get all this for about the $6 entry fee (food and drinks and computer use cost additional.
I decided to give myself a treat and get a massage. My back has been killing me from the farming and lugging my heavy backpack around. also, I'm so much taller that everything is lower and I strain my back a lot from the bending. It was a very enjoyable deep tissue style sports massage, and I felt like jelly afterwards. so what next? well, in the pool rooms there are also these tables where you can get scrubs. I had read about them so decided to get one as they are supposedly great at removing layers of dead skin. This is no rumor, it's the truth. for about $17 I had someone go through the following procedure. They start by washing you off with water. Then scrub you with louvre. Scrub all over. ALL OVER. I didn't have an inch left untouched (for you curious ones, they barely touch there, but they do a bit). You're also put into some angles and moved to your sides to allow them to get everywhere. There is a washing off with water in between body sections. I've never seen so much dead skin come off me. In between there is massaging of pressure points. Next they wash you down in soap. After your body is clean they'll massage the face with a menthol cream. Then hot towel on face. Then cold cucumber mask. Then cover that with a hot towel. Wash and scrub your hair. Some muscle adjustments here and there and you're good to go. The scrubbing itself was sort of painful, and sort of enjoyable. It's rough to say the least, I expected to be red all over from the scrubber but I wasn't.
It's hours later and I still feel so relaxed. And honestly, my skin has never felt so soft or so fresh and clean. it could give a baby a run for it.
Before heading back to my hosts house I had to get some dinner. What better way to top the night off than with some mandoo (korean dumplings). I got half kimchi ones, half meat.
I'm now ready to go to bed a happy, happy boy. I've asked Eunhye to maybe go hiking with me tomorrow. For those not in the know, Seoul is surrounded by some beautiful mountains, some just subway rides away.
I'll leave you with food porn of my meals today.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
May it be that we don't always want"
The opening track off of the new Hot Chip album, "Thieves In the Night" took a little time to grow on me. Actually, the album did as a whole but it's slowly growing on me. Opening tracks are generally supposed to be the starting bang, with a track somewhere between 3 and 5 being a hook to reel you back into the album. This song definitely does just that. Lead single, "I Feel Better" does it's job at space 3, but that is a song for a different day.
I think the thing that got me hooked on this song is the lyrics. They aren't amazing, but sort of simple in a sweet way.
"A want is a lack but also desire
A need can be nothing but should be held higher
A need is a want wearing disguise
It can be confused if fuelled by desire"
Of course travel for extended periods of time brings up thoughts of want vs need. "I want that cool asian shirt for when i go home, but do i need it?" That is base level of want/need thoughts but you get the drift. It's confusing, especially when desire is added to the fire.
"My friend once told me something so right
he said to be careful of bugs that don't bite"
At first, I thought this was gibberish. But on further listens and thoughts it made more sense to me. a bug is still a pest regardless of if pain is caused.
But of course as the beginning of this blog shows, the chorus is what I really dig.
"Happiness is what we all want
May it be that we don't always want"
Having been discussing happiness, wants, needs, future plans.. etc with so many friends recently I know that pretty much everyone wants to be happy (masochists aside). So, may it be that we never want as we are always happy and our needs met.
Now, I'm off to go explore Seoul some more.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Today was not farm work, instead we tore up a driveway and relaid the bricks into it. Sorta fun, but tiring as shit. High point was when we broke for lunch. Not sure exactly what I ate, but it was good. I think Mr Keum said it was a ground fish stew. Having been coming down with a cold for the last few days at this farm, it was exactly what I needed. Also the nap after lunch was highly needed as well.