Monday, April 19, 2010

Cherry Blossom HIke; Save Michael

Michael Jackson, in many ways, is like a Korean Cherry Blossom. He is dead and was very pale when alive. And you really didn't see him very often.

Okay that's a bit tasteless but it's the only way to tie in a day of hiking with this picture.

At Geumsansa (Gold Mountain Temple--I could recognize all the Chinese on my own! Woot!) many of the blossoms had already fallen but in the flickr link please see those that hadn't. Most notable are a striking pink and white tree next to each other and a green tree. The subtle differences in color aren't noticed most of the time and the white/pink ones are beautiful but there's something about them together. There was also a cute

Then, walking around Jeonju, we had two women unfurl a Taegukgi with Michael on it. It read "Justice 4 Michael, Korea will always be with you." Cha Won, who is Korean and speaks Korean, translated. For some reason these women were collecting signatures to send this flag-thing to Los Angeles to get Justice for Michael. I get the feeling the fact that it seems to make no sense is not due to language barrier so much as sheer irrationality. So, while I normally ignore people who want me to sign something, I jumped on board with this one. They were kind enough to even email me the pic the next day.

Flickr Links:

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hit the Damn Target!

Twice in one set of five arrows.

Take that, chunk of wood!

There is no feeling like having old men who were entirely skeptical about your existence and asked "did he hit one?" be told, by other, more optimistic old men "he hit two" and thinking maybe you actually belong on the shooting line.

Poem (you can't use random words and horrid grammar in conversation, but there's one place it's welcome):

눈오전에맞 / 사대에서 봤지만 / 꽃샘 같이도
With cold spring winds I / from the shooting line saw hits / before the snow fell. (Lit: before the snow fell, hit / from the shooting line saw but / together with the cold wind also)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Shoes Make The Woman

Before coming to Korea I never would have considered some things "pluses."

Things like "she usually chews with mouth closed."

Or "she does not wear high heeled shoes to the park or hiking."

Or "she does not seriously expect me to believe she is a 32-year old virgin."

But after a year here, each of those are rare traits. And while I have met women who do not do those things (save one woman who was in her late 20s and may well actually have been a virgin) and they are generally my friends, these women, if looking around and talking to other friends is any indication, are finds.

For example, my coworker explained to me that it is important that his wife lie to him and he believe it. They married at 27. They *ahem* before they were wed. But he was the first man she ever kissed. Mmm hmm.

The shoes thing will never cease to amaze me. Six-inch stillettos? Perfect for a day at the mountain! Why? To look like you have longer legs! And men seriously go for this, I guess. I would slap anyone who did that.

Fortunately today, meeting a few friends from my yoga class I did not have to slap anyone. (Funny how "yogachingu" (yoga-friend) and "yojachingu" (girlfriend) are so similar, but I Freudianly digress.)

The cute nurse who speaks pretty good English wore converse-like shoes. The kicker? She had makeup on, which she usually doesn't at yoga. And even then, she didn't look that different.

I think I'm in love, which just goes to show how standards change (let's not say "are lowered") in a new culture.

To not push the envelope, I'm going to wait a while to ask the "ever kissed a man" question. And I'll try not to laugh nomatter what she says. I'll just hope she doesn't ask me back.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Jeonju Archery Part 2.

From part 1, back up a few weeks.

One of the kindest and eldest men in the club insisted I be given a name. Not just a Korean name (which I still lack but we won't get into) but a Korean archery club nickname, which everyone must have. Coincidentally he and I didn't meet again until my fateful return-to-the line day.

He began with "mi" (미), taken from miguk, "Beautiful Country," as America is known in Korea thanks to the Chinese thinking it was beautiful a really long time ago.

He then offered me the choice between five second characters, ranging from "peace" to "house/floor" to "instrument." The aforementioned bilingual explained that two or three were traditionally girls' names and suggested I go with ... the three I just managed to remember. I settled on "peace" because it wasn't "instrument." Music is a part of my soul but it ruled me too long. Also I had never heard that name before but I thought I'd heard "beautiful peace."

And now, I am mi-sung ( for mi, for peace (accomplishment)). Please refer to the Chinese characters for the true writing.

But I must say my peace is not beautiful.

I WANT TO HIT THE DAMN TARGET. Not the grass. Fortunately now they tell me my arrows must be too heavy ... that surely must be the problem.

Jeonju Archery Part 1.

Before I left Wonju, the archery Sabomnim (teacher) told me something. He said:

"In Jeonju, there is Ch'eongyeongchang, a very well-known archery club. Go there."

He also said:

"Practice before you go there, I don't want them saying I'm a bad teacher."

Well, it was cold when I left Wonju, so I did one of those two things. In my defense I did shoot at least once a month--snow or no--but that's not exactly regular upkeep, especially for someone who's just learning, who hit the shed and broke an arrow their 'jip kung' (first shooting ceremony).

But fast forward. Three or so weeks ago I found the CYC (I'm not typing all that again). I introduced myself, brought beer and my bow, and asked for--by name--the instructor.

Well, he retired. He was now making the bows, which I guess is what instructors do sometimes. After numerous broken conversations, he called my former instructor, and I was let in the club. I was told my bow had been poorly cared for (a month in storage unattended) and they tried to repair it. I shot from the line and hit ... the grass.

There is sand by the targets, if you're wondering.

Incidentally, at CYC they don't drink beer until they are done shooting. It is not a social club. It is an archery club, where the Chairman of the Korean Archery Association resides, where the instructor can hit 39/45 at 145m with an unbraced unsighted longbow, where nearly every shooting spot is full at 4 pm on a sunny ... weekday.

Not that Wonju's not cool, and that the sabomnim there can't hit over 30/45, just that, well, Wonju is a smaller and warmer town. If it rains you put your bow up and drink maggolli and if the rain stops ... you may as well keep drinking maggolli, so what it was a good day.

In any case, several of my most frustrating moments, days, weeks followed, mostly involving me snapping my left forearm with 44 pounds of pressure, repeatedly, leaving bruises that would take weeks to heal (and torn skin on top of those) as I demonstrated that I had forgotten my technique.

When I asked for help, I was told "change your shirt." I wore a dress shirt. I should've worn a polo. But in Korea they call polos "t-shirts" because ... I don't know. Unsurprisingly, being told to change my shirt did not prevent me from snapping my arm the next three out of three shots and, following suit, I nearly snapped at the instructor (who is the highest ranking one can achieve in a country that regularly produces Olympic gold medalists) but thankfully didn't.

So when I came back in a tee, I was told, by someone new (this time, the aforementioned Chairman), "change your shirt." By this time--two weeks later--my arm hurt less (a bilingual had corrected my technique, a subject the instructor steered clear of) and I was more willing to go shopping.

I returned today, having spent weeks shooting an arrow tied to a rope, determined not to waste time despite invitations from my seniors, with a cheap polo.

Because I was shooting off the line.

And I hit the grass three times and the sand twice, but my arm not at all. And my direction was good on all shots.