Thursday, April 30, 2009

a trip to the big city for my first haircut in korea!

it's taken me over a year and a half to take the plunge of getting my hair chopped in korea! i always get it cut the day before leaving california, from octavia, the hairdresser extraordinaire, and then i end up back in california 4 months later looking like a yellow-haired raggedy ann. well, this semester i reached the point where i didn't want to start looking like a scruff ball, so i embarked upon a daring mission to seoul. i spent the day in itaewon, which is a neighborhood that caters to foreigners...a variety of international restaurants and grocery markets, english bookstores, english speaking hairdressers, etc... i had lunch with a friend at "chakra," a delicious indian restaurant situated down a cozy little alleyway. then we went to "what the book," a fantastic resource for those of us who are limited to reading books written in english. i could bask in that shop for days. k and i perused for a couple of hours, then moseyed on to an indian food market, which was a little slice of heaven for someone who lives in country-bumpkin gyeongsan, where a packet of instant, korean-style indian curry is the best one can find in any of the supermarkets. and let me just say, it's a far cry from authentic indian food. so i filled my backpack full of tasty spices, papadi, lentils, chickpeas, dried apricots, raisins...! k and i said our goodbyes and i headed up to michel's hair shop, which k highly recommended. turns out the shop was closed because it was monday. UGH! i'd been gearing myself up ALL day! alas. so, i found a coffee shop instead and relaxed with a piece of biscotti, a latte and read my newly purchased book.

that evening i met my dear friend, jungmyung, for dinner and tea at a traditional teahouse. i originally met jungmyung several years ago while living in california. she was in the process of attaining her phd. she helped me to find a job in korea, and now she has moved back to seoul in hopes of opening a women's wellness center. she's doing radical work in a very conservative, resistant culture.
we both ordered the steaming hot jujube tea...very medicinal on a cold, rainy korean night.after an evening of catching up, we hopped into a taxi and went to jungmyung's house up in the hills of seoul. this is a view of her living room and front window, looking out onto beautiful trees and the city off in the distance. our beautiful breakfast that she prepared ready and waiting on the table... her home is a sanctuary. i feel so lucky to be able to go and visit her often.
i returned to michel's the next day before heading back home. here we are, post-haircut!
michel was an absolute hoot. he spent several years doing hair in vancouver, but said there were way too many white people, so he came back to korea and set up a salon in itaewon where foreigners frequent but many koreans come as well. i could understand where he was coming from. he gave me a quick shampoo and then sat me down in the chair. my heart was pounding, as the point of no return had arrived. i explained what i wanted him to do and he seemed to approve. after cutting some of the length off, he proceeded to twirl chunks of my hair and then vigorously cut at each twisted up chunk, up and down in sporadic, sawing motions with one of those scissors that looks like it's going to cut all the way through but only cuts partially to give the hair texture. before i realized it was a partially cutting pair of scissors, i exclaimed, "what are you doing, michel?!" he casually said, "oh, this is just a little technique a created! it will keep you from getting split ends." "right." after that, i decided i just had to surrender to the experience. he was moving way to fast and furiously for me to have any foresight or control over what he was going to do next. and it all turned out ok in the end.
now that i've had a few days to absorb my first haircut experience in korea, i think i'd do it again! it took me a few days to figure out exactly what he'd done to my hair and how to style it, but i think i've got it now. and he gave me some pretty wicked korean hair wax that works like aveda could only dream of.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Saturday, April 25, 2009


"i don't know if you can see
the changes that have come over me
in these last few days I've been afraid
that i might drift away
so i've been telling old stories, singing songs
that make me think about where i came from
and that's the reason why i seem
so far away today..."

-dougie maclean

Thursday, April 23, 2009

a pasture for gazelles

"my heart holds within it every form,
it contains a pasture for gazelles,
a monastery for christian monks,
there's a temple for idol-worshippers,
a holy shrine for pilgrims;
there is the table of torah,
and the book of the koran.
i follow the religion of love
and go whichever way its camel leads me.
this is the true faith,
this is the true religion."

-ibn arabi (sufi mystic and philosopher, born july 28, 1165)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

pain in the heart

"our grief shows us how we are 'attached.' but it also shows us the glorious part of our attachment - that we are woven into the fabric of the world, that we are linked to everything that is."
-anne cushman
"whenever suffering comes, i will find a form to meet it.
how can i not be there?
pain will always open your eyes to see me."

-suzanne ironbiter, "the goddess's promise"

Sunday, April 19, 2009

coming back to our senses

from the temple grounds, overlooking a sea of kate's words, "it's just so wrong." i find myself becoming a bit desensitized as the weeks go by, which comes with living in that sea of concrete, 10 floors above the earth. thank goodness, as soon as i step foot on the mountainside, i return to my senses. i return to my bones and flesh, earth and trees, to temples and soft breezes, pine needles and clouds. i fall madly in love all over again with nature, with what is real; it all comes flooding back into my body, into my heart.
when i leave korea, i think one monumental thing this experience of living in a concrete jungle with forever flashing neon lights and the constant sound of music blaring, announcements over a loud speaker or south korean fighter jets flying overhead, is that a simple, quiet life lived near the earth is one of immeasurable value. and that it is one i want to live.resting from the humid heati seldom see bugs or insects of any kind in korea, but here is a whoppin' hornets' nest. i guess they feel safe at the temple...kate trying to get the best possible angle on that wickedly huge nestbeautiful...kateonly in korea would there be a near-full length mirror half way up the mountain hanging from a log! you must remember, it is commonplace to see women hiking these mountains in heels, dressed in their sunday's best. men too! well, not heels, they wear their business suits with shiny loafers. i can barely make it up there in my hiking boots. there's something i must be missing.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

shine on

my dear friends, nicole and quang, made vows of partnership this weekend.
i wish so much i could have been there as i have been witness to their lives over the last almost 7 years...
a few months ago, they asked me to write a union blessing for their ceremony.
so, from my heart to deepest wishes for their partnership:

in the words of the vietnamese buddhist monk, thich nhat hanh:
"the flower, the sky, and your loved one -- you can only meet in the present moment."

dearest nicole and quang:

may your bond of love be rooted in true presence.
every moment seeing each other anew.
creating space for the river of change that naturally flows through all of life.
may a vast, open heart of understanding and compassion flower at the center of your beings.
may you hold one another gently, with a fierce grace and ease.
by cultivating well being and peace inside of yourselves, may you love in such a way that both of you feel a deep sense of freedom in your hearts.
the dance of playfulness and pure joy that you have been perfecting over the years together, may it shine on like a sparkling jewel, spreading delight, as ripples across the water, to all whose lives you touch.
and may the beauty you create as partners in your daily life fill your hearts with wonderment and gratitude for the experience of being alive.
may your devotion to truth and reverence of the great mystery guide your moments from a deep, centered place within.
and may you always, always know how deeply you are loved.

the sufi poet, hafiz, writes:

"even after all this time
the sun never says to the earth,
'you owe me'
look what happens with a love like that,
it lights the whole sky."

MWAH!! i send you both so much love...a candle has been burning brightly in korea in honor of you on this day.

sometimes, this is all we need...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

this my excavation...

"this my excavation and today is qumran

everything that happens is from now on...

there's a black crow sitting across from me; his wiry legs are crossed

and he's dangling my keys, he even fakes a toss

whatever could it be

that has brought me to this loss?

...this is not the sound of a new (wo)man or crispy realization

it's the sound of the unlocking and the lift away

your love will be safe with me."

-excerpts from the song "re: stacks" by bon iver
-(wo) = my addition!

have a listen:
Bon Iver - -
Found at bee mp3 search engine

i read an interview with the lead singer of bon iver, justin vernon, and he talked about how this song hints at a slow shedding of skin, rather than a complete catharsis. "it is not about getting over things and moving forward, it is about going through the sadness, taking some of it with you and being made whole because of it."

qumran is the site where the dead sea scrolls were found in 1947. vernon speaks to his use of this metaphor by saying, "when they found them it changed the whole course of christianity, whether people wanted to know it or not. a lot of people chose to ignore it, a lot of people decided to run with it, and for many people it destroyed their faith. i think i was just looking at it as a metaphor for whatever happens after that is new shit."

"new shit!" eloquently said, eh!? but, i get it. i really get it. there seem to be times in life that are clearly marked and everything that follows that point is "from now on."

when vernon wrote this song and all of the other songs on the album "for emma, forever ago," he had taken himself on solitary retreat for three months to his father's log cabin in the middle of the woods in wisconsin. he chopped wood, wrote music and faced demons. he was at a place in his life where he needed to "clear the cobwebs." vernon says, “i think the biggest thing that happened out there was i managed to make peace with a lot of dark circles that had started to pool in different areas of my life. you know oftentimes you don’t have the time or the strength to really deal with those issues. it’s a bizarre feeling because for the six, seven years prior to that a lot of these demons had started to creep up and take hold of my life in a secretive way, so to actually face up to them was bold and kinda scary.""on your back with your racks as the stacks as your load

in the back and the racks and the stacks are your load

in the back with your racks and you're un-stacking your load"

-chorus lyrics from "re: stacks"
-acrylic painting, "rust," by marc winters

Monday, April 13, 2009

a wily subterfuge

"...only love is all maroon

gluey feathers on a flume

sky is womb and she's the moon...

only love is all maroon

lapping lakes like leary loons

leaving rope burns --

reddish ruse..."

-lyrics from "flume" by bon iver

have a listen:
Bon Iver - Flume
Found at bee mp3 search engine

photo: loon lake, mn

Sunday, April 12, 2009

for women everywhere...

on the 36th anniversary of roe vs. wade, obama made this statement:
"on this anniversary, we must also recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights and opportunities as our sons: the chance to attain a world-class education; to have fulfilling careers in any industry; to be treated fairly and paid equally for their work and to have no limits on their dreams. that is what i want for women everywhere."

yes, the sun is comin' out

the sun is comin' out, the sun is comin''s gonna be a lovely day
jason mraz in paris, france

woodsmoke and northern lights

"We bid our friends goodbye
We promised we would write them
And headed north up 95
Into the great unknown
We turned up our stereo
And felt so reckless and alive
We didn't know who we would be
We didn't know where we would end up
When we headed down that road
A little food and our guitars
In the backseat and that old cello
The one that would get stolen
In a town in Idaho

And it's a long way to Michigan and back
And it's a long way
Cause it's a long way, the clouds upon our backs
And it's a long, long, long, long way

And I have never seen
Reflections of the cleanest
Of blue as the Minnesota lakes
Those were the longest nights
Of wood smoke and Northern Lights
As we talked until the morning came
The light of glowing embers
As sweet as I remember
Among the rustling of the trees
The legend of the harvest moon
And sweet ballad of the loon
I felt as ancient as I was meant to be

And it's a long way to Tennessee and back
And it's a long way
Cause it's a long way, the clouds upon our backs
And it's a long, long, long, long way

I called you from a payphone
In windy, cold Missoula
And then from Midland in the rain
A place as proud and sad as
The South Dakota badlands
It touched me more than I could explain
The dirt poor reservation
Where the Avala nation
Tries to hang on to its ways
Feather and Peyote pipe and
A six pack of Miller Light
Sits on the dashboard of a beat up Chevrolet

And it's a long way to Washington and back
And it's a long way
Cause it's a long way on the worn out heels of Kerouac
And it's a long, long, long, long way

Out in California
We touched the other ocean
And I still have that jar of sand
In the Arizona desert
The sky goes on forever
You've never seen a thing as grand
And North Montana was cold
She keeps her secrets frozen
Under glaciers way up north
And people have got lost up there
In the home of the grizzly bear
And you can ask the mountain
But the mountain doesn't care

And it's a long way to Delaware and back
And it's a long way
Cause it's a long way, the clouds up on our backs
And it's a long, long, long, long way
Cause it's a long way on the worn out heels of Kerouac
And it's a long, long, long, long way"

-antje duvekot

Saturday, April 11, 2009

tipsy temple day

today taeok and i left mid-morning for a day at unmunsa, the nuns temple in nearby cheong-do. we stopped off for lunch at a traditional korean restaurant in the countryside. the rustic, log cabin ambiance was very cozy. the fluorescent lights were shaded by lanterns...blessed relief! we ordered pa-chan, which is a leek pancake with squid and oysters; kalguksu, which is a mild noodle soup with seaweed and sesame seeds; acorn jelly salad, and dong dong ju. i can't say i've ever downed dong dong ju in the middle of the day before! this particular rice wine has about a 20% alcohol content and it is served in a BIG bowl, filled to the brim. we drank it all. it goes without saying, my trip to unmunsa was quite a unique experience, like no other i've ever had at a temple!! i felt like i was floating along on a soft cloud...more giggly and enchanted by everything than usual! it was nice... on the car ride home i fell into a deep sleep! poor taeok, i think she wanted to have more riveting conversation...alas, i was out like a light.
taeok and a whoppin' serving of acorn jelly saladunmunsa
scoopin' up some holy waterembrace

the land of not quite right dining experiences

yesterday chris and i met for lunch at a fabulous oasis in this concrete jungle we call home. cafe myunga. there's even an outdoor patio that seems a world away from city streets and noise....surrounded with REAL plants and open to the took me a little while to wrap my mind around the fact that i was still in korea.
we split a bagel sandwich for lunch and cheesecake for dessert along with superb iced coffees. it's so funny because i've come to know that at every "western" meal there will be SOMETHING that is not quite right! for example - the cheesecake had the texture and flavor of vanilla mousse, not at all what we expected. and the bagel sandwich, which was on its way to being as gourmet as a bagel sandwich can possibly be, with thinly sliced apple, muenster cheese, and various veggies, had SPAM on it. yeah, they put two slices of SPAM on there. nasty. anyway, we just roll with the punches over here and feel grateful for the things that do go right! like my iced about a divine taste of heaven.
chris stopped to give this giant teddy bear a hug before leaving.later yesterday evening, a bunch of us met up at a mexican restaurant in siji (a nearby yuppi suburb of daegu) to celebrate jen's birthday. it was so good to catch up with everyone and relax with good company, tacos, and beer. i won't go into the "not quite right" aspects of that meal! it was good enough, considering mexican food is almost impossible to come by in these parts.


michelle obama has planted an organic veggie and herb garden, along with a bunch of local elementary school kids who came out to help. it's the first vegetable garden at the white house since eleanor roosevelt planted a "victory garden" during WWII. if this isn't true progress, i don't know what is... every day i say a prayer of thanks that the obamas are in the white house...every day, no matter how i'm feeling, i do a dance of joy.