Monday, March 16, 2009

Art, Korean culture, family and friends

DalKong dropped us safely off at an art village just in time for her to meet her "boyfriend" (She saw another dog on the opposite side of a glass wall and they raced back and forth trying every way possible to reach each other... ahh, the frustrations of love are not limited to humans!) We however enjoyed exploring various exhibits and artistic displays including this building that was constructed around a tree. There were also bountiful expressions of child-created art which often centered around bodily functions...

The art village was nice except for the fact that every single building had a separate admission fee and so we ended up just walking around and talking without going into many places. That was fine with me though as I was enjoying the family time as much as possible since that was our main reason for this Korean trip. :)
Back at the apartment, we had a nice party with lots of fresh fruit; one of the rare times on the trip when all the family was gathered together in the same place at the same time.

As we only had access to our camera for a couple days of this trip, I unfortunately didn't snap many pictures covering the culture, but here are a couple crucial items. One thing I specifically like about Korean culture is their wide array of healthy things to drink. From a wide array of exotic fruit juices to hundreds of teas to mashed roots and leaves and even some that I still have absolutely no idea what is in them... they often come either in a tiny glass bottle or a foil pack kind of like a CapriSun
Another thing I like are ways in which they've held their own in the face of Westernization. For instance, the concept of blood flow and temperature of the body are extremely important to the point where many foods are considered "hot" or "cold" (and it has nothing to do with their physical temperature but how they make your body energy hotter or colder). Another way to shift blood flow is through acupuncture, blood-pumping machines that give huge hickeys, or deum (pictured below). To use a deum, you place them on certain key points on your body depending on how your energy balance is off and then you light them on fire. As it slowly and slightly painfully burns down to near your skin, the blood is brought to that area which theoretically helps the overall flow throughout your body.
And of course, no Korean apartment would be complete without a kim-chi refrigerator or a rice cooker. The rice cooker makes the rice and then keeps it warm to be eaten at virtually every meal on every day. In fact, when Koreans refer to food, they simply use the word for rice. "Have you eaten rice yet?" "Shall we go eat some rice?" etc.
I had never enjoyed wearing glasses, but I had a new pair made cheaply in Korea and they turned out to be particularly comfortable...

A second major reason for our trip to Korea was a battery of health tests/exams (since we don't have insurance in America). Joo hadn't had a dental checkup in years and I won't mention the number of cavities plaguing her but it was in the double digits. Thankfully, Jusu's good friend from university Ji Won is married to a dentist, Park Jeong Min, so Joo felt safe with him (dentists have a reputation here kind of like car salesmen in the U.S.- you have to get one you trust). After an hour or more of reconstruction which could have been very expensive, we were gratefully shocked when Jeong Min gave us a 50% discount off of his already low prices. We then went out for coffee and a meal with Ji Won and their daughter Rachel.
Now when it comes to Korean children, I have mixed memories. I have some memories of how dealing with 20 screaming children and seemingly undisciplinable kids drained me quite low after two and a half years of teaching. But I also have loads of beautiful memories of how their energy can be channeled in constructive and creative ways that blew me away. Their innocence, excitement to learn English, cute ways of expressing themselves with the little vocabulary they knew, blatantly honest way of describing they way they perceived differences between America and Korea, etc. Rachel brought out all of the positive memories as I spent three hours conversing with her in English about a very wide range of topics considering that she was only 7 (6 in American age). She also emerged victorious over JooYeon, Jusu, and Kiwi in an intense game of Simon Says.

And on my last day in Korea, I finally ate the last item on my list of Korean foods I had been craving- dolsot bibimpap (a mixture of hot pepper paste, rice, egg and vegetables served in a smoking hot stone pot- it's exquisite how the rice on the bottom of the pot gets crispy by the end).

Kiwi and I spent our final brother time in a short "family love meditation" where we focused on each of our family members one at a time and on their healing/peace involving any current struggles or stress. Joo's best friend Siwon came over to spend the night in a little final slumber party.

And so tomorrow morning, we leave early for the airport and our 20 hours of flights/layovers on the way back to Ohio... anyunghi gyeseyo Hankuk! (stay in peace, South Korea!)

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