Tuesday, March 31, 2009

a dated news flash from gumi

one day last semester, while craig (a.k.a. santa claus) and i were teaching at samsung in gumi, some folks with big cameras came into our classrooms for a few minutes and we made the nightly news! the sound is terrible, so you can't hear what is being said, but hopefully you'll enjoy watching anyway! after the clip of me sitting in a circle with my students, you will see professor chae being interviewed - he is the one i go on all of my adventures with in gumi. tomorrow we plan to head back to the movies...either "benjamin button" or "slumdog millionaire" with free popcorn in hand thanks to our samsung ID cards!

here we go stanford here we go!

rock on, STANFORD! the gals are headed to the NCAA final four!
jayne appel had outscored iowa state BY HERSELF at half time. the team brought home the win 74-53. jaynie walked away with 46 points at the final buzzer, her career high! amazing game!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES" in daegu, south korea!!

that's about as radical as it gets! it was an enormous honor to be part of this show. below, i have included some excerpts from the script. there is some intense material, so (grandma and grandpa in particular!!) read on with that in mind. for those of you who read this who are not familiar with "the vagina monologues," it is a play written by eve ensler, based on over 200 interviews with women around the world. the show consists of monologues, women telling stories in celebration of female sexuality as well as painful, heartbreaking stories of sexual violence and shame. this play is performed in over 75 countries now every year, usually in the spring, to raise awareness about the violence against women that is happening every day worldwide. here in korea, one would never say the korean word for "vagina" out loud in public. EVER. so, to debut a play with the word "vagina" in the title - wow! big, big stuff. both shows over the weekend were sold out to overflowing. we are talking about taking it on the road!

i'm still working on figuring out how to post the longer video clips that friends of mine captured during the show, including my part as vagina #3!! i was part of a group of 3 women who performed "if your vagina got dressed, what would it wear?" and "if your vagina could talk, what would it say?" let's just say, we provided the audience with a bit of comic relief! here we are, skot, chloe, and me: the women of "say and wear!"
i would have chosen a different image for the poster, below, as it does not even begin to capture the essence of what the show is about....alas, i was not in charge!!jo!
whitney and bin nary ready to ROCK!
mj and jinjeong - the two women who performed the comfort women monologue
chloe and emmamj and melast minute make-up!right before the show on the last night, we circled round and did the hokey pokey! "you put your vagina in, you put your vagina out, you put your vagina in and you shake it all about! you do the hokey pokey and you turn yourself around - that's what it's ALL about! YEAH!"
the intro to the show...with the entire cast
"i bet you're worried."
"we were worried."
"we were worried about vaginas."
"we were worried what we think about vaginas, and even more worried that we don't think about them."
"we were worried about our own vaginas. they needed a context of other vaginas, a community, a culture of vaginas."
"there's so much darkness and secrecy surrounding them, like the bermuda triangle. nobody ever reports back from there...."

kate performing "the flood."

intro to "the flood":"a group of women between the ages of 65 and 75 were interviewed. these interviews were the most poignant. possibly because many of these women had never had a vagina interview before. one woman who was 72 had never even seen her vagina. she washed herself in the shower and bath, but never with conscious intention. she had never had an orgasm. at 72 she went into therapy, as we do in new york, and with the help of her therapist, she went home one afternoon by herself, lit some candles, took a bath, played some music, and she got down with herself. she said it took her over an hour, because she was arthritic, but when she finally found her clitoris, she said, she cried. this monologue is for her."

"the vagina workshop" monologue

"my vagina is a shell, a round pink tender shell opening and closing, closing and opening. my vagina is a flower, an eccentric tulip, the center acute and deep, the scent delicate, the petals gentle but sturdy.
i didn't always know this. i learned this in the vagina workshop. i learned this from a woman who runs the vagina workshop, a woman who believes in vaginas, who really sees vaginas, who helps other women see their own vaginas..."

"little coochi snorcher" performed by louise hillsburg...with a deep, southern accent.

"memory: december 1965, five years old

my mama tells me in a scary, loud, life-threatening voice to stop scratching my coochi snorcher. i become terrified that i've scratched it off down there. i do not touch myself again, even in the bath. i am afraid of the water getting in and filling me up so i explode. i put band-aids over my coochi snorcher to cover the hole, but they fall off in the water. i imagine a stopper, a bathtub plug up there to prevent things from entering me. i sleep with three pairs of happy heart-patterned cotton underpants underneath my snap-up pajamas...

memory: seven years old

edgar montane, who is ten, gets angry at me and punches me with all his might between my legs. it feels like he breaks my entire self. i limp home. i can't pee. my mama asks me what's wrong with my coochi snorcher, and when i tell her what edgar did to me she yells at me and says never to let anyone touch me down there again. i try to explain that he didn't touch it, mama, he punched it.

memory: nine years old

i play on the bed, bouncing and falling, and impale my coochi snorcher on the bedpost. i make high-pitched screamy noises that come straight from my coochi snorcher's mouth. i get taken to the hospital and they sew it up down there from where it's been torn apart.

memory: ten years old

i'm at my father's house and he's having a party upstairs. everyone's drinking. i'm playing alone in the basement and i'm trying on my new cotton white bra and panties that my father's girlfriend gave me. suddenly my father's best friend, this big man alfred, comes up from behind and pulls my new underpants down and sticks his big hard penis into my coochi snorcher. i scream. i kick. i try to fight him off, but he already gets it in. my father's there then and he has a gun and there's a loud horrible noise and then there's blood all over alfred and me, lots of blood. i'm sure my coochi snorcher is finally falling out. alfred is paralyzed for life and my mama doesn't let me see my father for seven years.

memory: thirteen years old

my coochi snorcher is a very bad place, a place of pain, nastiness, punching, invasion and blood. it's a site for mishaps. it's a bad-luck-zone. i imagine a freeway between my legs and i am traveling, going far away from here.

memory: sixteen years old

there's this gorgeous 24-year-woman in our neighborhood and i stare at her all the time. one day she invites me into her car. she asks me if i like to kiss boys, and i tell her i do not like that. then she says she wants to show me something, and she leans over and kisses me so softly on the lips with her lips and then puts her tongue in my mouth. wow. she asks me if i want to come over to her house, and then she kisses me again and tells me to relax, to feel it, to let our tongues feel it. she asks my mama if I can spend the night and my mother's delighted that such a beautiful, successful woman has taken an interest in me. i'm scared and i can't wait. her apartment's fantastic. she's got it hooked up. it's the seventies, the beads, the fluffy pillows, the mood lights. i decide right there that i want to be a secretary like her when i grow up. she makes a vodka for herself and then she asks what i want to drink. i say the same as she's drinking and she says she doesn't think my mama would like me drinking vodka. i say she probably wouldn't like me kissing girls either, and the pretty lady makes me a drink. then she changes into this chocolate satin teddy. she's so beautiful. i always thought bulldaggers were ugly. i say "you look great," and she says "so do you." i say "but I only have this white cotton bra and underpants." then she dresses me, slowly, in another satin teddy. it's lavender like the first soft days of spring... there's a picture over her bed of a naked black woman with a huge afro. she gently and slowly lays me out on the bed... then she does everything to me and my coochi cnorcher that i always thought was nasty before, and wow. i'm so hot, so wild. she says, "your vagina, untouched by a man, smells so nice, so fresh, wish i could keep it that way forever." i get crazy wild and then the phone rings and of course it's my mama. i'm sure she knows; she catches me at everything. i'm breathing so heavy and i try to act normal when i get on the phone and she asks me, "what's wrong with you, have you been running?" i say "no, mama, exercising." then she tells the beautiful secretary to make sure i'm not around boys and the lady tells her, "trust me, there's no boys around here." afterwards the gorgeous lady teaches me everything about my coochi snorcher...she teaches me all the different ways to give myself pleasure. she's very thorough. she tells me to always know how to give myself pleasure so i'll never need to rely on a man. in the morning i am worried that i've become a butch because i'm so in love with her. she laughs, but i never see her again. i realize later she was my surprising, unexpected and politically-incorrect salvation. she transformed my sorry-ass coochi snorcher and raised it into some kind of heaven."

"memory of her face" monologue - spoken from the perspectives of an iraqi woman scarred from bombing, an abducted illegal immigrant, and a victim of domestic violence whose husband poured acid on her face. all three suffer survivor guilt and the constant reminder of that one moment each time they look into the mirror.

"my angry vagina" monologue

"my vagina's angry. it's pissed off. my vagina's furious and it needs to talk...all this sh*t they're constantly trying to shove up us, clean us up - stuff up us, make it go away. well, my vagina's not going anywhere. it's pissed off and it's staying right here. like tampons - what the hell is that? a wad of dry cotton stuffed up there. as soon as my vagina sees it, it goes into shock. it says forget it! it closes up. you need to work with the vagina, introduce it to things, prepare the way. you've got to convince my vagina, engage my vagina's trust. you can't do that with a wad of dry f*cking cotton."

kristin, the director of our show, performing the "reclaiming cunt" monologue

bae jinjeong and mj performing "say it" - the monologue about the korean comfort women and girls (some as young as 10 years old) who were forced into sexual slavery by the japanese government during WWII. some were forced to have sex with up to fifty men a day. it is estimated that 200,000-400,000 women were in the system and 80% of them were believed to have come from korea, which was a colony of japan from 1910-1945. it is estimated that only 25% of the women survived the ordeal. today there are less than 100 survivors who are still living in south korea. every wednesday since january 8, 1992, comfort women survivors have gathered to sit outside of the japanese embassy in seoul demanding acknowledgment for the suffering and injustice that the japanese inflicted upon them. they are still waiting. there is yet to be an apology.

the proceeds from our production are going to women in the congo who are still to this day forced to undergo genital mutilation. female genital mutilation has been inflicted upon approximately 130 MILLION girls and young women. it is practiced in 28 countries, mostly in africa.
the proceeds will also go to the korean comfort women. two weeks ago there was a ground breaking ceremony for the construction of the comfort women memorial museum in seoul that is being built as we speak to honor the stories and lives of those women who suffered immeasurably at the hand of the japanese soldiers.

the cast at the end of the show...
taeok, mr. lee and inhui with me. inhui has long been an activist on behalf of the comfort women. she is now writing her phd dissertation on that very topic. she brought information packets regarding the herstory of the comfort women and passed them out to everyone who attended the show. many thanks to inhui and her warrior spirit.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

life was the ocean

"Remember how we chased it like shadows
Life was the ocean; we wanted to swim
Looking back now, it’s just how the path goes
They tell you it’s over; you never begin

We don’t give ourselves time - the way that we used to
To watch it all happen, unfolding in sighs
You’d think we were blind, the things we can see through
The things we look past when emboldened inside

But it’s alright now, it’s alright
The ghosts of our glories are gray-bearded guides
The sound of our sorrows has stirred us inside
But I think maybe I’ve never felt more alive

I asked you just once if you thought we could be found
You never did tell me; but I think I know now
Whatever ship comes, by dark sea or gray cloud
As long as the well’s deep, we make it somehow

I don’t know how to make peace or find it
We’re most of us stories we’re scared to explain
But what if there’s sound, somewhere caught behind this
A song we can sing while we’re lying awake"

"It's Alright" - a beautiful song by Ellery

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

old partner

the gumi adventures have resumed, however, "the dream team" has been dismantled. it's just professor chae and i that remain. professor woo goes to gumi on a different day now and professor sahn is on sabbatical. it's sad but we live on and continue to seek adventure during our 7 hour break between classes. so, today with spring warmth and the fragrance of cherry blossoms wafting on the breeze, professor chae and i walked to the gumi cinema to see "old partner," a south korean documentary film about an elderly couple and their age-old cow. it's a raw and touching glimpse into very traditional korean life in the countryside. it's the first ever south korean film to compete at the sundance film festival.
the film moves at a snail's pace, but that is actually the whole point of the movie. when we walked out of the theater we both noted how incredibly slowed down we felt in our bodies and in our minds.

the husband and wife...both in their late seventies and still planting and harvesting rice by hand...with the help of the 40 year old cow who has been diagnosed with cancer and has one year to live.
carrying sticks home for the winter fires
plowing the rice field
heading home
here's choi alone...after the cow's death...in the background the rice field that he will never plow again with his old partner.
won-nang-so-ri (meaning: the sound of the cow's bell)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

dear ones

several of my sweet, sweet students from last semester came over for dinner last night. they walked in the door with gifts overflowing...wine, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, and "white day" candy! "white day" is like valentine's day here in korea. i bustled around in my apron making spaghetti, garlic toast and salad. they hung out in the kitchen taking pictures of me and catching me up on their lives while i cooked! it was so nice to have their joyful, bright energy in my home!

no bright orange body bag for me, thank you

junghwa, mijeong, myself and elena...waiting outside for the 4am bus to arrive to take us to the mountains for a sunday of skiing the slopes!

kate, elena and i...all dressed and ready to go!

kate and i...off to practice on the bump of a bunny hill while the others head off to snowboard down the mountain!
mijeong and kate

riding up the mountain

kate: master skier!
hey! elena's sweatshirt matches her kimchi chigae! that soup looks like it's on fire. i've stopped eating spicy korean food, so since there was nothing else available at the chalet i resorted to a snickers bar and some kimbap! it wasn't the most nutritious day, but at least my insides weren't up in flames with red hot pepper.

totally diggin' this dude's ski suit!

it was my first time skiing in korea and kate's first time skiing, period! korean skiing habits are much like korean driving habits. anything goes. it was more than a little hectic. being that i had very little control over my own speed and direction, i thought i could rely on the skills of others, but it soon became apparent that that wasn't going to be the case at all. i was almost run over about 50 times. and i myself took a little kid down. at least i was going at a snail's pace, but still...i felt terrible.
every 15 minutes or so, we saw an emergency ski patrol snowmobile bringing an injured body down the mountain. the scene was very dramatic, as the body was seated on a sled type thing on the back of the snowmobile, wrapped up in a bright orange body bag, with only the person's feet danging limp out the end. the first time i thought they were bringing a dead body down the hill. i stopped cold in my tracks, stunned. kate and i just looked at each other with wide eyes and jaws dropped to the icy ground.
after lunch and one more run down the mountain, i decided to call it a day. i had seen one too many of those bright orange body bags filled with injury, and there was no way i was going to end up in a korean hospital in the middle of god only knows where. so, kate and i both decided to just relax outside at a picnic table until the rest of the gals were finished. we boarded the bus at 4:30pm and began the four hour journey back to daegu. it was invigorating and wonderful to be out in nature breathing in the fresh air for a day. i can't say i'll go skiing again in korea though, unless it's a monday and i have the mountain to myself!