The power of beauty
At some point over the last several weeks the increasingly strong, warm spring air triumphed over the last remnants of the cold winter, giving my students something other than homework or my appearance to complain about : the humid weather. The complaints may go from annoying to intolerable as we make our way into the summer heat. I’ll keep you posted. I welcome the high temperatures because I’m not much for wool socks, dry hands and chapped lips. Plus, the cherry blossoms are nice on the eyes, especially when the cherry trees are closely clustered together. Apparently, the Japanese introduced Korea to cherry blossom festivals during their rule over the peninsula. While cherry blossom festivals are popular in Korea today, after Japan surrendered in WWII many cherry trees were destroyed because they reminded some of the Japanese occupation. Whether most know the origins of the tradition or not, everyone I’ve spoken to in Daegu about cherry blossoms only mention their beauty.
Rebirth of the perfectionist
I’m taking a painting class in Lotte Department store with a Korean friend Mijin. You might be wondering why I am taking an art class in a department store, something I’ve asked myself. Lotte is like Macy’s on steroids, featuring a nice food court and grocery store and offering all kinds of classes, like dance, piano, yoga, etc. The class meets every Sunday. I find myself looking forward to going every week even though it has triggered some of my obsessive, self-critical qualities. As a kid I had a knack for drawing and I would spend hours on a single sketch, trying to make every line, every mark perfect. Typically, it would end in me throwing away my work out of frustration. I have made it over a month without snapping a single paint brush, tearing apart a canvass, or unleashing any real emotional outbursts. Can you say growth? Though sometimes it feels like the instructor and I are speaking two totally different languages (hint: we are). According to Mijin, my defacto interpreter, the teacher has concern that I am devoting too much attention and detail to the background. I think she applies to much makeup to her eyebrows. Mijin deserves an award for being the middle(wo)man and bearing the brunt of my neuroticism.
With six months of experience living in Korean under my belt my perspective of the country is starting to take form, rounding like an inflating beach ball. I am proud to say that the unfamiliarity and separation from my culture and traditions has not led to me becoming a xenophobe. Contrarily, the wider the difference, only the more interesting. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite and least favorite things about Korea (so far). In my opinion, the pros substantially outweigh the cons.
1. Friendly people – most people I meet are nice and welcoming. Unfortunately the men are much quicker to strike up conversation with me than the women, which usually entails them saying something like, “Hi! You’re handsome! Where are you from?” Whatever confidence I collect from these kinds of exchanges evaporates when my students begin critiquing every asymmetry on my face.
2. Mountainous region – no shortage of beautiful mountains
3. BBQ restaurants – they supply you with a plate full of raw meat, as well as an array of side dishes, and you cook the meat on a grill at your table.
4. Noraebangs – karaoke room with friends are everywhere. Apparently some places offer “service” something that is missing from my Korean experience.
5. Public transport – the subway and bus systems are top-notch and don’t get me started on the high-speed rail system … the KTX, which spans the entire country from top to bottom goes up to 190 mph (305 kmh). Enough said.
6. Women – I was never a guy with an ‘Asian fetish’ per se (like my good friend Mike professed that he had back in 7th grade), but with every day that I am here I am finding Korean women increasingly more attractive.
1. Lack of cheese
2. Lack of public garbage cans
3. Lack of respect for personal space-I’ve become accustomed to getting bumped, skipped, and on one occasion, massaged.
In the news…
I don’t know what was more shocking Osama bin Laden’s death or the Lakers getting swept.
Miami Heat win NBA title