Friday, August 31, 2007

the long boat

"when her boat snapped loose
from its mooring, under
the screaking of the gulls,
she tried at first to wave
to her dear ones on shore,
but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.
too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling,
somehow she felt absolved and free
of her burdens, those mottoes
stamped on her name-tag:
conscience, ambition, and all
that caring.
she was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the slop of her cradle,
buffeted by the storm,
endlessly drifting.
peace! peace!
to be rocked by the infinite!
as if it didn't matter
which way was home;
as if she didn't know
she loved the earth so much
she wanted to stay forever."

by: stanley kunitz
adapted by: jessa walters
(you know, the usual: "she" replacing "he")

home sweet home

definitely a room with a view!
i'm on the 10th floor of a hi-rise.
i love my apartment - it exceeded my hopes/expectations for what my accommodation would be.

gampo beach

it was a nice beach, but it was so humid and hot outside that i could barely breathe.....and the busride had made me so motion-sick i was having trouble seeing straight, let alone keeping my breakfast down. so i can't say that this experience was a ball of fun for me. i found a spot under a vendor's tarp and sat there in the 120 degree shade wishing i was in siberia.

the food experience in korea

we went to this sashimi restaurant right on the coast
for our final retreat meal. we entered and walked
downstairs into basically a huge aquarium. we sat on
the floor at long, low banquet-style tables and as we dined on
plates and plates of raw fish, we saw the fishies
swimming by us and looking out at us with their sweet
little fish eyes. it was too much for me. i had one
piece of sashimi and that was it. i ate my rice...and
pumpkin... and felt somewhat disturbed by the whole
situation. to top it off, the restaurant was
decorated with blinking xmas lights, garlands, fake
evergreen branches and big xmas bells hanging from the
florescent lights. i felt like i was in the strangest
see barbara below, ready to embark on the gigantic, steaming hot bowl of fish soup resting on the propane burner!! (the red stuff on top is red pepper paste - VERY, VERY spicy)
check out the little dishes of nibbles that were brought to the table right off the bat and continue to be refilled throughout the meal. one cannot go hungry in korea!
during our weekend retreat, we were taken out for very
high end, gourmet korean meals...all of these meals involved sitting cross-legged on the floor at a long, low tables with hundreds of tiny bowls and dishes of food! everyone shares
everything. no germ-phobia here. i have
yet to try the whole, crispy anchovies...or
the whole, giant sardine-like fishies in hot red
pepper paste. don't know if i'll ever get to those.
as far as traditional korean meals, i'm sticking to
the sesame leaves, bok choy, kim chi, pumpkin,
chicken, broccoli, mushrooms, whole raw garlic cloves,
noodles, and RICE. and as far as street food, i'm
loving the kimbap - which is basically a vegi sushi
roll....and dol sot bibimbap - which is a big HOT bowl of
veggies, rice and a raw egg cracked on top which as it
is stirred in it fully cooks (thank god, those of you
who know me, know how i feel about RUNNY egg!).
and there is no dessert to speak of here after meals.
one is served a plate of fruit or a sweet chilled
cinnamon, brown sugar drink with floating pinenuts that aids digestion. it is actually quite
good, but needless to say i had to run down to the
family mart and pick up a pint of haagen daas for $8.
i was desperate.


the inner sanctuary of bulguksa temple
the characters read: "siddhartha"
i was told that the two pagodas represent "yin" and "yang." can you guess which one is which?!?! hmmmmm....
i loved this huge drum on the back of a tortoise

honoring the ancestors....praying for the living

looking down on seokguram grotto and out at the east sea. there were hundreds of lanterns waving in the breeze....the white lanterns are for the honor the ancestors....the colorful ones are prayers for the living.

seokguram grotto - a hermitage and part of bulguksa buddhist temple complex on mount tohamsan - UNESCO world heritage site. we were not allowed to take pictures of this buddha, so i have found an image online and pasted it here.
inside the gyeongju national museum, there was an entire hall of
ancient buddha and bodhisattva statues/carvings.
i couldn't use a flash, so it's a little dark...
a field of headless buddhas in lotus position

buddha of healing the diseased

my new friends! left to right: dr. lee, me, ja-ock, haejin, and dr. yun
(the director and staff in my department at the university)
they treated all of the foreign teachers to a weekend "getaway" to see some of the famous sites in southeastern korea.


this is one of the many kings' tombs from the silla dynasty
(57 B.C. - 935 A.D.)
when the tour guide announced that the kings' wives were often buried ALIVE with their dead husbands, i gasped in horror and left the tomb immediately in search of some fresh air.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

the white house MOTEL


"listen, my friend, this road is the heart opening,
kissing his feet, resistance broken, tears all night.
if we could reach the lord through immersion in water,
i would have asked to be born a fish in this life.
if we could reach him through nothing but berries and wild nuts,
then surely the saints would have been monkeys when they came from the womb!
if we could reach him by munching lettuce and dry leaves then the
goats would surely get to the holy one before us!
if the worship of stone statues could bring us all the way,
i would have adored a granite mountain years ago.
mirabai says, "the heat of midnight tears will bring you to god."

by: mirabai
(mirabai was born in rajasthan, india in 1498. she left her royal family in her thirties and became a wandering mendicant. she was a devotee of the hindu god krishna and dedicated all of her poems to him.)

my hairy arrival into south korea

my journey to korea was smooth until i got to seoul airport
and another new-hire teacher who was supposed to meet
there was nowhere to be found. i had four suitcases,
two of which were ENORMOUS and HEAVY, which kept
falling off of my push-cart into the sea of rushing
people. i finally got myself and my belongings to a
payphone and tried to call my contact at the
university - but it was to no avail. with all the
traveling i have done, i was humbled to not be able to
figure out how to use the phone! SO, i made my way
outside into the 100 degree humid summer heat to the
bus terminal. i had to cross the street and of course
in the middle of the intersection, my bags went
flying. i was dripping sweat and cursing every ounce
of me that had decided to come on this journey. after
getting my cart loaded up again and after much
confusion i finally purchased the correct bus ticket
to daegu. at this point i realized i had to go to the
bathroom possibly worse than i have ever had to before but
there was NO way i was going to haul my luggage back
into the airport. so i found a nice looking woman and
got out my lonely planet korea book and pointed to "i
have to go to the bathroom" in korean. then i asked
if she would watch my bags. she started waving her
hands in the air and saying very loudly, "no, no, no, no - bus
is coming." my eyes were wide as saucers, i imagine,
and my heart sank. the bus was not scheduled to come
for 20 minutes! no way could i get on a bus that was
going to travel for 5 hours without going to the
bathroom first! i stood there frozen for a couple of minutes
trying to figure out to do. finally i turned to the woman again and
started rubbing my stomach and making faces and
repeated what i'd said before. then, before she could
wave her arms again, i RAN! i ran to the airport and
found the bathroom. i was back in 3 minutes flat and
she was looking very disgruntled but relieved that i
was back to claim my mound of baggage! i felt worlds
better, even though i was on my way to somewhere i've
never been, with no one knowing i'm coming on this particular bus
and no one at the other end to meet me at what would
be 1 o'clock in the morning.
after we all got off the bus (by the way the buses in
korea are immaculate. so clean and beautiful!), i was
left standing alone in the middle of a bus parking lot
with 4 bags and not a clue as to where to go or what to do.
but not for long! suddenly i was surrounded by 7 taxi
drivers, none of whom spoke ANY english (except to
say, "nice to meet you!"). in any other situation i
may have felt scared for my life, but i felt pretty
safe in this case. there is a respect built into this
culture that is a deep relief for me. after having a
confusing and rather hideous mime conversation, i got
into one of the taxis and was taken to a motel.
ironically, "the white house" motel.
(i later found out from a korean friend that MOTELS are places
to meet up with sexual partners!!! oh dear.) as soon as i got
into my room, i collaped into tears in a heap on the
shiniest linoleum floor i have ever seen. i cried
until 4am - sure that this was the biggest mistake
i'd ever made. no one on earth knew where i was in
that moment. the phone in my hotel room would not let
me use my phonecard, so i could reach no one. i was
all by myself in a strange place with a rock-hard bed
and heat that i was sure would kill me.
i woke up every half hour in tears and panic
feeling anxious and afraid. when the morning light
finally came in my window i got up, showered and felt
alot better. i got ahold of the university and the
coordinator of the department picked me up and
took me to my new apartment. from that point on it has
been nothing but kindness and connection and wonderful
treatment. i no longer feel that i made the biggest
mistake of my life!

waiting until the last possible moment to go through security at the SF airport......way too hard to say goodbye