Sunday, September 30, 2007


"joy drinks pure water. she has sat with the dying and attended many births. she denies nothing. she is in love with life, all of it, the sun and the rain and the rainbow. she rides horses at half moon bay under the october moon. she climbs mountains. she sings in the hills. she jumps from the hot spring to the cold stream without hesitation. although joy is spontaneous, she is immensely patient. she does not need to rush. she knows that there are obstacles on every path and that every moment is the perfect moment. she is not concerned with success or failure or how to make things permanent. at times joy is elusive – she seems to disappear even as we approach her. i see her standing on a ridge covered with oak trees, and suddenly the distance between us feels enormous. i am overwhelmed and wonder if the effort to reach her is worth it. yet she waits for us. her desire to walk with us is as great as our longing to accompany her."

-j. ruth gendler - "the book of qualities"

print: "buddha's manifestation of joyfulness"
zhang daqian (chinese, 1899–1983)
hanging scroll; ink and color on bark paper

shakin' it to the goodbye song in goryeong

this is a quick clip of the second grade class i have been granted the opportunity to teach in goryeong once a week as part of my charity work at the university. woopi (my co-teacher) is leading the children in the goodbye song (best part of the day!!). oops...did i say that!?!? well, as i have said before, it is painstakingly clear that i am not cut out for teaching children....some people are, some people aren't. this people's not! little ones can be very cute, yes, but absolutely exhausting. it is a welcome relief to return to my university students! anyway, notice the little boy in the back of the classroom by the door, shaking his booty to the music. this is nothing out of the fact, this was a very mild day with the children in goryeong.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

prajnaparamita: mother of all buddhas

a woman well set free

"at last free,
at last I am a woman free!
no more tied to the kitchen,
stained amid the stained pots,
no more bound to the husband
who thought me less
than the shade he wove with his hands.
no more anger, no more hunger,
i sit now in the shade of my own tree.
meditating thus, i am happy, serene."

by: sumangalamata - 6th century b.c.

(she was a member of the earliest community of buddha's followers. many of these women left accounts of their practice in poems, which were then collected in a volume known as "therigatha: verses of the nuns." these songs of the sisters have served over the centuries as a powerful correction to any mistaken notion that the buddha's teachings were/are somehow only effective for men.)

sunshine on a cloudy day

i can hardly believe what just happened! i was powerwalking along the busiest street in my neighborhood (because there is a sidewalk, which grants me a certain amount of safety from getting plowed over by a taxi or motorbike), when suddenly i caught a glimpse of a hundred sunflowers smiling at me from behind a chainlink fence. i did a serious double-take to make certain i was not hallucinating. i contemplated jumping the fence but decided to walk a few more yards when lo and behold - a gate....a wide open gate! as i made my way into this beautiful surprise, i was transported light years away from traffic smog and city noise....i found myself deep in a sanctuary of stillness and sunshine.
it just so happens that this sunflower field is full of winding trails that lead to other trails that lead into endless forest.....i hiked for over two hours in complete astonishment and delight at this remarkable discovery. i felt so i had stumbled into narnia or some enchanted wonderland....there are so many reasons to be happy.

"come with me
into the field of sunflowers.
their faces are burnished disks,
their dry spines

creak like ship masts,
their green leaves,
so heavy and many,
fill all day with the sticky

sugars of the sun.
come with me
to visit the sunflowers,
they are shy

but want to be friends;
they have wonderful stories
of when they were young -
the important weather,

the wandering crows.
don't be afraid
to ask them questions!
their bright faces,

which follow the sun,
will listen, and all
those rows of seeds -
each one a new life

hope for a deeper acquaintance;
each of them, though it stands
in a crowd of many,
like a separate universe,

is lonely, the long work
of turning their lives
into a celebration
is not easy. come

and let us talk with those modest faces,
the simple garments of leaves,
the coarse roots in the earth
so uprightly burning."

-mary oliver

Friday, September 28, 2007

spring, summer, fall, winter.....and spring

the south korean flag has intrigued me since the moment i laid eyes on it. the circle filled with equal parts of red and blue symbolizes the origin and constant movement/flux of all things in the universe. it represents the positive and the negative being held together in perfect balance. the four "trigrams" symbolize: spring/east/virtue, summer/west/justice, fall/south/courtesy, and winter/north/wisdom.

if you have not yet seen it, there is a beautiful korean film that came out in 2004 entitled "spring, summer, fall, winter....and spring." it tells the story of a buddhist monk as he passes through the different seasons of his life.....the setting of the film is a tiny floating monastery on a pristine lake in south korea.....absolutely breathtaking.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

for jen

Claude Monet (1840–1926). Houses of Parliament, Effect of Sunlight, 1903.

Monet Refuses The Operation

By: Lisel Mueller

"Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don't see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolves
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don't know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end."

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

wild body

 cream bars.....and you'll notice they are on sale. it turns out they have been on sale since i moved here. i didn't know this until a couple of weeks into my obsession. the first time i realized these dangerous treats were 50% off, i went straight back to the freezer and bought 10 more. then i got so worried that the sale would end that i ran down to the store the very next day and bought another 10 more.....just to have the freezer stocked to feel safe and secure. (this is very important for us who were born with the sun in cancer, our bodies are eternally ruled by our bellies) well, i went through all 20 of those bars in probably a week's time. mind you, this was the hottest, most humid week of the summer.....but despite that, i began to notice this could become a serious health issue. so, i only bought 7 ice cream bars the next week. i figured it would be virtually harmless to let myself have one per day. well, on one of those lazy summer days i decided to look at the wrapper. to my horror there were about 300 ingredients listed, all in korean, of course, so i could not decipher a single one. that was when i realized this really could turn into a serious health issue. so i quit, then and there, cold turkey. i gave my last two ice cream bars away to friends which sealed the deal. believe me, it was and is not easy. and the one that still gets me is the "wild body." coffee ice cream with dark chocolate rippling through it. aaahhh, it's almost too good to be true. but, when the craving hits, i just remember brown dye #10 and high fructose corn syrup.....that pretty much takes care of it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007



by: naomi shihab nye

"before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
what you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the lanscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
how you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the indian in the white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
you must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing,
you must wake up with sorrow.
you must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is i you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend."

"my religion is kindness."
-dalai lama

Sunday, September 23, 2007

chusoek weekend getaway

three of us gals decided to head out to gyeongju for the weekend. gyeongju is the town we visited on our faculty retreat back in august. it's a gorgeous area, only a 50 minute busride away and most importantly, we just couldn't get enough of the kings' tombs, so we went back for more! but this time, in looking more closely at these burial mounds, i came to the conclusion that they are a complete scandal....these aren't dead men's tombs, these are korea's own paps of anu!! my dear friend, nicole, who just returned from a nine month pilgrimage to ireland will surely agree!

once we made it to gyeongju, we met up with three more of sarah's friends from canada who just arrived to korea two weeks ago and are teaching in busan. here we all are by a sweet lotus pond....

we walked by this tourist stand near the scandalous kings''ve gotta love the sign: "everything is not expensive!" (just a reminder: you can double click on any picture to make it larger)

we visited the gyeongju market....every town has it's own and they are each a wonder for all of the senses to behold.
you can buy octopus on a string! these creatures look so otherworldly....

kimbap! (means: rice wrapped in seaweed filled with all kinds of yummies!!) great fast food!

a lovely array of beans and grain for sale

this tuesday is the korean thanksgiving holiday known as "chusoek." this celebration entails traveling to one's hometown (if you are married, the wife travels to the husband's hometown) to gather and pay homage to the family ancestors, exchange gifts and eat piles of food. the director of our department at the university gave each of us a HUGE box filled with traditional korean rice cookies (we are talking about 60 cookies!). if you walk into any grocery store right now there are GIANT gift boxes on display to be purchased and given as chusoek gifts. the hottest sale item right now is a SPAM gift box - filled with 10 cans of SPAM! also everywhere you look there are platters and platters of traditional korean rice cakes for sale (see below).

after the market, we took a cab out to the folkcraft village in the mountains which is the best place to buy traditional korean pottery. as soon as we got there i felt like i'd landed myself in the heavenly realm! it was all i could do not to drool all over the tea sets, the little cups, the gorgeously crafted pots....the beautiful celadon (cracked glaze)'s going to be harder than i thought to save money!
we made a unanimous decision that pizza and beer was a must for the drizzly night before us. it was delicious, although you have to get used to the fact that all tomato sauce in korea is heavily sweetened. sarah, being the eldest of the group, poured the beer (as is korean tradition) and we respectfully held our glasses with two hands and bowed upon receiving our libation. this is important etiquette to know! and when you drink your beer, you must turn AWAY from the elder at the table!

last, but not least, our of the most rustic accommodations i have had in quite awhile. it was 13,000 won for the night (about $14). the sleeping was traditional korean style, so no beds. we slept on a padding of two blankets on the floor and had one blanket to cover up with. there were a couple of memory foam pillows, bolsters and little square throw pillows to choose from. i managed to scrounge a memory foam pillow which felt like luxury on that rock hard floor. after having a korean stout on the roof of the hostel with about 30 other foreigners (averaging around the age of 19), most of whom were getting sloshed on soju, a couple of us moseyed on back to our room. before crawling into my blankets on the floor, i turned off the lights and then, in the pitch black dark, went to close the door (which i had forgotten was only 3 feet tall)....and slammed my face (and my new glasses) into the solid wall, taking a patch of skin off the bridge of my nose. i thought i had surely broken my entire face and my glasses, but luckily, the damage was minimal. my glasses survived, as did most of my face. i went to bed feeling like a bit of a fool, but mostly just relieved that i didn't have to make a trip to the gyeongju emergency room that night to get a nose splint. however, i did have to roll over from side to side every half hour or so throughout the night because my bones were digging into the floor. i woke up feeling rather bruised and battered and my nose a mite bit tender.

Friday, September 21, 2007


"under the harvest moon,
when the soft silver
drips shimmering
over the garden nights,
death, the gray mocker,
comes and whispers to you
as a beautiful friend
who remembers."

-carl sandburg

painting by: robin street-morris

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

meet me at the door laughing

"there are two kinds of suffering. the first is the suffering that causes more suffering, that we repeat over and over. the second is the suffering that comes when we stop running. the second kind of suffering can lead you to freedom."
- jack kornfield (based on the teachings of ajahn chah - thai forest monk)

"this being human is a guest house.
every morning a new arrival.
a joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
welcome and entertain them all!
even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
he or she might be clearing you out
for some new delight.
the dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond."

- rumi

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

sunny, woopi, and me

sunny and woopi are my goryeong peeps! sunny is the principal of the elementary school and woopi is my co-teacher. today, the grace of goryeong was with us! our first class consisted of 3 second grade boys who were as well behaved and sweet as i only thought possible in my dreams. mid-way through class sunny popped his head in and informed us that the rest of our classes would not be able to meet today because all of the kids are rehearsing for "sports day." what a blessed miracle. so, sunny, woopi, and i sat outside under the soccer net for awhile and watched the children relay race, compete in a massive tug-o-war and do their class dance routines. afterward, since we still had well over and hour to kill, woopi took me to meet her mother-in-law. we went to her shop where she sells rice and beans....she enthusiastically invited us in, sat us down and made us coffee and fried leek pancakes. i am beginning to get used to drinking coffee that has at least half a cup of sugar in it! it isn't the most pleasant experience, but i am able to drink it with a smile now! the leek pancakes were to die for! i think i surprised mrs. shin at how quickly i gobbled them up! as we were leaving, she gave me a big squeeze and patted me all over my back side very firmly!! i had a momentary flashback of my massage a couple of weeks ago!! the older women here are so strong! and did i mention incredibly sweet? :)
our next stop was the goryeong museum. woopi was very excited to take me there and gave me a very well guided tour. i engaged her in a conversation about her thoughts on how women were treated in korea back when the wives were buried ALIVE with their dead king husbands. she shared my sentiments and said she is very glad that times have changed. and times have indeed changed, but there is still alot of mistreatment of women going on here, as there is all over the world. prostitution makes up 4% of the korean GNP. wherever you see two spinning barbarshop poles - that is a place where men pay to have sex with prostitutes. basically, anywhere i stand, at any moment, on any city street, i will most likely be able to see two barbarshop poles spinning round and round.

beauty yet to behold

chungju lake - south korea

"ten years later.....

when the mind is clear
and the surface of the now is still,
now swaying water
slaps against
the rolling kayak,
i find myself near darkness
paddling again to yellow island.
every spring wildflowers
cover the grey rocks.
every year the sea breeze
ruffles the cold and lovely pearls
hidden in the center of the flowers
as if remembering them by touch alone.
a calm and lovely, trembling beauty
that frightened me in youth.
now their loneliness
feels familiar, one small thing
i've learned these years,
how to be alone,
and at the edge of aloneness
how to be found by the world.
innocence is what we allow
to be gifted back to us
once we've given ourselves away.
there is one world only,
the one to which we gave ourselves
utterly, and to which one day
we are blessed to return."

by: david whyte

gyeongpo lake in autumn - south korea

Sunday, September 16, 2007

bigger is not better

typhoon nari has been hitting jeju island today (an island right off the southern coast of korea), so here in daegu we are witnessing torrential rain and very strong winds. the quickly moving, low level clouds look like they are coming down to scoop us up and whisk us away, but thankfully the surrounding mountains protect us here. this afternoon it seemed as though the rain had let up, so sarah, chris and i went to the gyeongsan outdoor market that is held daily in the center of town. it's a perfect-sized market where you can get housewares, linens, fish, produce, herbs, seeds, plants, fresh sesame oil, clothing, shoes, etc....all for very good prices. i felt a bit foolish taking pictures because i stand out so much anyway, but it's my first time to a market like this with my camera, so i set aside my embarrassment and snapped a few photos for the archives!


on the right is lotus root, on the left: burdock root

KIMCHI!!!! the red color is HOT, HOT, HOT red pepper, so the darker red the kimchi, the more it will burn the inside of your mouth and body!!! this is very important to know before ingesting!

sarah, trying some acorn jelly on a stick, dipped in a delicious sesame oil/soy sauce with red pepper, ginger and garlic

we stopped for lunch in a tiny restaurant whose specialty happens to be noodle soup. the restaurant consisted of two women cooking fast and furiously in the kitchen right beside us and three small tables in the dining room. very intimate! by then it was raining again, so it was a relief to find refuge from the cold, damp weather that we have come to know so well here in post-summer, not-yet-autumn korea. sarah, who knows a great deal of korean, ordered for us. while waiting for our meal to arrive, we watched a hilarious comedy on television. a person was dressed up, wig and all, like elvis - or so we thought. and he was on rollerskates, performing in the center of a rollerrink! we suddenly became confused when he started to moonwalk, then we realized we had been sorely mistaken. "that's not elvis, that's michael jackson!!!" we exclaimed. it was so funny!
when we were midway through our meal, an older woman sat down at the table right next to us. she began talking to me immediately and pointing at her eyes and then my eyes. i thought for a second i was going to be reliving the "big eyes" experience that i had with THE CHILDREN in goryeong. i felt a little bit of panic rise in my body and i started to sweat, even more than i was already from the spicy kimchi! THE CHILDREN have obviously done a number on me that i will feel the after shocks of for quite some time. well, this sweet woman didn't call me "big eyes." she proceeded (translation by sarah) to tell me that my eyes were very beautiful and that she didn't have eyelids like mine. i had sarah tell her that she was gorgeous....absolutely gorgeous. she pointed to herself and said in korean, "me?" and then, "aniyo, aniyo" (no, no). in korea, many women are getting cosmetic surgery (blepharoplasty) to add an upper eyelid crease, making their eyes look bigger and in mass media opinion, "more beautiful." it makes me so angry how the media influences public opinion thereby negatively effecting the self-image of so many girls and women. the day i stopped watching television and reading fashion magazines, was the day i slowly began to scrape together a sense of my body being enough and okay just the way it is. in her teachings, joanna macy talks about the cycle of dissatisfaction that our modern society/media breeds. we are conditioned to think that we are not enough, that we should not be satisfied with what we have, what we look like or who we are, that we need this, that, and the other thing in order to be okay. of course, as we all know, it is an endless cycle....nothing is ever enough as long as we are caught in it. after one surgery, we find we need another one to make something else bigger...then one to make something else a bit smaller....and then....
we found out through our conversation with the beautiful older korean woman that she is 78 years old! she has four daughters and a son....and grandchildren.....she was so funny! she teased us and laughed at us and wanted so much to connect. it was wonderful to be relating with her - thank goodness sarah was there to carry on the verbal piece of the conversation for all of us!

Friday, September 14, 2007

sassy specs

some people collect stamps or seashells or shot glasses from everywhere they vacation.....well, i now collect eyeglasses. last night i was strolling around my neighborhood and came across "olive optical." i went in on a whim and ended up playing with glasses for well over an hour. i bought two pair! one is your basic, professoresque, black-rimmed specs - classic....professional.....sophisticated.....scholarly. had to have them! they were $35. i wanted to buy five pair just because they were so cheap!! i stopped myself. then i communicated to the man who was helping me, with very dramatic gestures, that i wanted "wild." he started giving me outrageous choices (red-rimmed glasses with black and white checkered sides - all i could see was NASCAR and i felt sick to my stomach, he also handed me a pair with bright pink rims and space-agey, swirly designs on the sides)! yikes. i had to tell him to tone it down. maybe in a few months....but for now, i'm not quite there yet! i come from the midwest. it's still in me. anyway, my second pair was top of the line at $100. (i shudder to think what i would pay for these in the u.s.) they have very sleek and sexy, dark, dusty green lines with a small, linear splash of lime green on each front side. i fell in love instantly and the sweet man helping me actually jumped up and down, nodding emphatically that "yes, yes, yes - these are the ones!"

Thursday, September 13, 2007

yengnam dahakyo (university)

here are some visuals of the largest university campus in all of korea (we have about 25,000 students):

talk about standing at a crossroads! the 20-story library is looming in the distance.

above is the foreign language institute - where my office is located as well as all of my classes (a 20 minute walk, one way, from my apartment, which is on the edge of campus). there are days i walk 80-120 minutes with two or three trips to and from school! on hot and humid days i arrive to school drenched in sweat and mad at the world....but on days where there is a cool breeze, i love the walking because it slows me down and i start to notice the sky....tonight as i was walking in the cool, quiet evening, i looked up at the sky and i was completely taken aback at how big it is! it's huge! and it's everywhere! and on this particular evening it was the most beautiful powder blue with wavy clouds rippling out across the wide expanse.....and suddenly i couldn't imagine ever being lonely again.....

the lotus pond....surrounded by benches....when the day cools off, students gather on park benches to talk and hang out late into the night.

the main administration building

5. techno park!

tiger rain

"her umbrella was filled with rain she collected on her travels & on hot summer days she would open it up & it would smell of places we had never seen like nairobi & tasmania & we would sit on the porch till dusk & watch for tigers in the bushes."

by: brian andreas - "storypeople"

colorful, eco-conscious daegu

remember all of those garbage bins outside of my apartment building that i wrote about a few days ago? one for compost, one for cans, one for glass, one for plastic, one for donations (the blue bin), one for burnable garbage that you put in a very specific hot pink garbage bag that you have to buy at the grocery store, etc.... well, here they are in all of their colorful glory! when you enter daegu, you actually drive under a huge archway that says, "welcome to colorful daegu!" they aren't kidding!

the type of car that i am seeing alot of around these parts is a tiny, little smart car. these vehicles must get 80 miles to the gallon! they are amazing and surprise, surprise - very colorful!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

how much is that doggie in the window....

tonight after our korean language class (which is going great, by the way! we are learning to write the alphabet! i feel like i'm in kindergarten again!), i piped up that i wanted to try some korean BBQ! soon i had four others on board and we took off in search of a restaurant with a charcoal grill in the center of each table! we found one that was packed, so we decided that was a good sign and went on in! we took our shoes off and sat down on the floor at a table. within a couple of minutes we had many little bowls brought to us, all filled with various veggies (burdock root, soybean sprouts, eggplant) and kimchi (김치), which is usually made of cabbage, white radish or cucumber that has been fermented in a brine of ginger, garlic, green onion and chili pepper. we also received two sidedishes of kimchi jjigae (김치찌개), which is a soup made with kimchi, pork and tofu. it is served in a stone pot, still boiling and steaming when it arrives to the table. it is wonderful to put a couple of spoonfuls on rice and eat it that way. it is very spicy (along with everything else in korea). on tuesday i offered my assistant teacher in goryeong some chocolate. she said, "oh, no thank you, i like spicy food!" i have not come to the right place to satisfy my nagging sweet tooth, although the ice cream bars are keeping me pretty happy, but don't even begin to ask me what's in them....i can't read the ingredients yet!!
anyway our main course this evening was samgyeopsal (삼겹살), which consists of thin slices of pork belly meat, similar to uncured bacon. the meat is flavored with garlic, salt and sesame oil. we cooked it ourselves on the grill at our table. after the meat is cooked, you take a piece, dip it in the delicious sauce and wrap it in a sesame leaf or piece of lettuce along with half a clove of grilled garlic, some grilled mushrooms, onion and rice if you so choose. then you stuff it in your mouth! it is TO DIE FOR. i couldn't believe the state of bliss i was in midway through that meal!

on our walk home, which was all of 100 yards, we saw some doggies in the window.....a couple of us went inside and i fell instantly in love. chris got out her electronic dictionary and asked the pet shop owner how much the puppies cost. 200,000 won. a little over $200. i might cave in....these dogs are so unbelievably cute! the ones i got a picture of are not the ones who stole my heart....yes, they are cute too, but the little, tiny, itty bitty, fluffy ones.....aaahhh, they are the ones i want to take home with me.....

kate and chris acting like melon-heads! :)