Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Impending heatwave

News beat drew my attention to this at dinner yesterday, eleven degrees tomorrow! 
Crikey, I might not need my coat (well, outside anyway). 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

My body (is) your body.

Anish Kapoor's sculpture garden at the Leeum Museum

My dear friend Hopkins' introduced me to Kapoor a few years ago. So, when I noticed he had an exhibition in Seoul, and that it finished this weekend. I figured I should go and check it out... 
To Reflect an Intimate Part of the Red

When Sirena and I, first entered the exhibition hall we likened it to being in space. The pieces initially had quite and unearthly extraterrestrial feel. 
Next, we noticed that people were queuing to see this one particular piece 'untitled'. As I read the description to Sirena, "It's concave, dome-like structure is a potent metaphor: as a space of creation and birth, it suggests both the female womb and the curvature of maternal breasts in negative. The surface is covered with a dark blue powdered pigment that absorbs light, creating a deep blue abyss whose depth is impossible to gauge. As the sculptural recess expands visually, transcending the limitations of the space's physical depth and giving the illusion of infinite space, the viewer experiences a profound sense of awe in the face of the sublime". She decided that we simply had to queue to see what all the fuss was about. When we approached the sculptures, I could see how it was difficult to judge the depth. It looked like the surface was in front of us and coming towards us at the same time, I swished my hands around trying to make sense of this optical illusion. Sirena was playfully trying to get me to experiment with the acoustics of this piece as well, but the Koreans were pretty quiet, and serious. So, I was hesitant to start shouting 'hello' and childishly checking out the sounds. I decided that I didn't really like this piece, it made me feel a little motion sick, again. Consequently, I didn't take a picture.
Laboratory for a New Model of the Universe
 Shortly afterwards we wandered into a theatre area which was showing the 'A year with Anish Kapoor' BBC documentary that I'd already seen. We watched the last quarter, before it looped round to the beginning  'Shall we go and look at the rest of the exhibit?' Sirena asked. 
 'I'm actually enjoying listening to the British accents, and seeing bits of England'. I replied sheepishly and laughed. I proceeded to explain that I've never felt particularly strongly patriotic, then I told her about another silly emotional experience, which she laughed at (I might share the details in another post). Sirena empathised, and told me that during her time visiting various countries  she's similarly found herself becoming increasingly defensive, and proud of her home. 
My Red Homeland
We didn't watch it all, we watched the introductory quarter to where Alan Yentob states that when thinking about Kapoor's work many different words come to mind, such as beguiling, puzzling, arresting, and blatantly sexual. 'Blatantly sexual' was of course the one that stayed with us, and we parroted amusedly as we proceeded around the rest of the exhibit. 'Blatantly sexual?'

My Body Your Body
Memories of the future
Finally, we visited the Sculpture garden, where I immediately noticed the building in the background had a sign with 'memories of the future'.
'That's the name of my blog!', I exclaimed.
Sirena, was like, 'ha, really?!'
Yeah I replied, 'it's the name of a song I like'.
One of those strangely, coincidental, funny moments that was pretty in keeping with most of the day.
We had a little fun with the mirror distortions, but as usual it was too cold to be outside for too long.  
Tall Tree and the Eye
 After the exhibit, we wandered into Noksapyeong in search of a makgeolli (makkoli) bar that Sirena had read about called 'Damatori'. Makkoli is Korean Rice wine, and this particular bar serves samples of various different rice wines from all over South Korea. Thankfully, we didn't have too much trouble finding the place.

 We arrived early, which meant initially we got some quite informed service. They served us with 5 different samples at a time, in little pottery cup bowls. 
 We tried as many as possible which meant five different lots of samplers. We drank King Sejong's favourite makkoli, makkoli from various different regions, organic makkoli, makkoli made with sweetcorn, makkoli made with honey, and makkoli made with tomatoes. The food was quite delicious, and the company entertaining. We discussed Korea, teaching, travelling, relationships, stalkers, siblings, art, the future, our love for drinking, sharks, and other various watery related topics.
Visiting Damatori had been on Sirena's Korean Bucket list. All in all a pretty fun, and culturally productive day.  

Friday, January 25, 2013

And we've crossed the finish line

Winter camp is finally over! I think I'd rather have been desk warming... Seriously, it was three weeks of hard work.  However, I'm not sure how much of that was my own doing. I need to reflect, so I can try to plan less for my lessons and try to reduce my stress level during Summer camp. It was a lot of fun too, and in time I'll probably only remember the fonder moments...

A little gift from one of my students.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cardiac arrest

Lady PP and I, went to see Beach House at the Interpark Art Center in Seoul. (See Chincha?! for a more comprehensive review). We arrived early because we didn't know where the venue was, knew we had to collect our tickets, and we wanted to grab a spot of dinner before the show. On arrival, we went to the box office to collect our tickets. Then, we were directed to collect our ticket numbers. We didn't think too much about this, and wandered off into the shopping centre in search of food. I had my first ever Philly cheeseburger and chips. (When I this disclosed this information to News beat the following day, she told me that I'm now truly an honorary American). However, Lady PP said it wasn't quite as good as the ones from back home. I have no other point of reference, but I thought it was quite tasty.

When we returned to the venue, we found a long winding queue had formed outside the building. We sighed and began to make our way towards the end of the line. One of the staff remembered us and asked to see our ticket numbers. She then instructed us to follow her, until she found our spot in the line and directed us to stand there. We were practically inside the building again, and a lot nearer the front of the queue. Bonus! This also meant we ended up very near the stage. We figured we'd just have to go the the back, but apparently it doesn't work like that in Korea. 

The venue was very plush, we felt like we should have dressed more formally and be sipping sparkling wine or champagne. Which brings me to the one thing I really hadn't considered, there was no bar! (The next day, Shannon told me this is quite normal). I really had expected to get a little merry, and sway around dreamily to the music. Some people near us clearly knew this would be the case, and had bought some bottles of makkoli with them (jealous). Still, I thoroughly enjoyed the Beach house, they were very pleasantly relaxing and mesmerising. The support act were erm interesting as well, despite their seemingly serious approach, I'm sure if I understood Korean I'd have found them even more amusing. Lady PP likened the female singer's dancing to a cardiac arrest. I'm afraid you needed to have seen it to fully appreciate this comment.  

Afterwards, I let Lady PP encouraged me to get caught up in purchasing memorabilia. I now have a poster, and some very brightly coloured socks. So bright, the following day when I wore them to school, every time I looked down, they almost blinded me. I kept wondering 'what was I thinking?' then laughing and cringing to myself. Also, I haven't had posters on my wall since I was at University. The regression continues....       

Sunday, January 20, 2013

'Make tiny changes to earth'

One of my new friends posted this video link on Facebook, it's about writing love letters to strangers all over the world. When I was a teenager, I lived in a world without instant communication via status updates, tweets and text messages. My friends and I, actually used to write encouraging and supportive love letters, pictures and notes to each other, our boyfriends, and even our parents. I still have many of these stored in shoe boxes at my mum's house. I believe there is something a lot more touching and thoughtful about things that have been handwritten or drawn. Don't get me wrong, I don't know how I'd presently manage if I couldn't speak to my mum regularly on Skype (I'm sorry I lost track of time the other day ~ I love you). 

The video sparked my interest because I love little acts of kindness. I subscribed to to discover how I could become more involved. The 'More love letters' mission is to change the world one love letter at a time, by encouraging people to leave random love notes for others to find, this is called 'love letter your world'. Every month, they also send out a 'call for love letters', this is for 'unsuspecting recipients who are in need of a little handwritten goodness'. I received my first 'call for love letters' earlier this month. The requests are written by their friends or family, some of them are quite moving and emotive. As fate would have it, there was story about someone lacking the confidence to pursue their dream of becoming a teacher. So, this weekend I wrote my first love letter to a complete stranger. I do hope all the love letters they receive help them find the confidence to follow their dreams. 
♥'ing Korean stationery
I'm also contemplating incorporating the monthly the 'call for love letters' into my after-school classes. I'm hoping these stories will help encourage them by giving their writing meaning and purpose, whilst improving their confidence and skills.  

♥ 'make tiny changes to earth' 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

'You once said you loved me, and now hysteria?'

I don't know about love, but there was definitely some hysteria this evening. I went to see a Korean indie movie with my friends, Lady PP, Suspenders and Class rep (I'm calling her Class rep because I haven't actually seen her since orientation, and simply that's what she was at the time).

I hope a can formulate some sense during this blog post. There was definitely a lot of sense lacking this evening, there were couple seats, free calendars, convection ovens, opening/ending credits three quarters through the film, David Lynch like character switching, followed by a rather high-brow director's question and answers session.

Firstly, I want to explain the convection oven. Who brings an oven to the cinema? Lady PP of course! I'm not quite sure how the self-professed events organiser, who has a serious penchant for writing lengthy aims and objectives for her personal goals, and recording extremely comprehensive travel inventories, manages to be late for a film screening. My only explanation is that she got so caught up in planning the planning, she lost track of time. I did wonder why she was messaging me from the north side of the river, when I was actually travelling to our meeting point on the south side. I figured she had it in hand, it's usually me who's late right. Finally, she messaged me and admitted she was going have to get a taxi, would be late, and would be bringing the oven she'd gone to collect with her. The oven being a quintessential part of her new year's plan to bake more, so quintessential it spent the majority of the evening being her foot rest in the aisle. Joking aside, I did feel a sense of affinity for her efforts. See my previous post about my personal bonding session with my own microwave oven.

When we arrived we picked up our tickets from the box office, and left Lady PP's for her to collect. We were given complimentary calendars which I got extremely over enthusiastic about, and then gushed how wonderful the free gifts were to the strangers behind us in the queue. Suspenders and I were assigned a couples seat, my first couple seat experience. This wasn't all that pleasurable, as we aren't officially a couple I felt like my personal space was encroached upon more than usual. Also, when either of us moved, the whole seat moved, we had no choice about the matter. Although we giggled about it, I made a concerted effort to sit stiller than usual. I was rather mindful of the motion sickness sensation I'd experience whilst watching the Life of Pi in 3D last Friday. I didn't want to re-visit, or inflict this sensation on another person. Lady PP finally arrived with her convection oven, her expression was a combination of defeat and triumph, we chuckled at that, too.    

We got free tickets to view this independent Korean film (with English subtitles), the synopsis read like this:

"Title : Stateless Things (Korean title : 줄탁동시)
Director : Kim Kyung mook
Synopsis : Hyun is a gay prostitute. He gets to know Seong-hoonwho is a separated fund manager. They begin to live together. But, they collapse after Seong-hoon's wife visits their place. Joon wanders about the downtown streets of Seoul and works for a gas station. Calling to claim his overdue wages, he fights against the gas station manager. He runs away with Soon-hee, an ethnic Korean. The two boys strive hard to survive, but circumstances drives them to despair. They decide to commit suicide. One faces death, through which the other meets new life."

So, I was expecting a gay love tragedy, yet initially I found myself watching a north Korean defector striking up a relationship with another down-trodden foreigner. The formation of their friendship was quite moving, and there were actually some quite nice arty shots of Seoul. I felt for this character's life struggles. His story portrayed a darker, estranged and grittier side of Korea than usually shown at the cinema or on TV screens.

The second main character I felt less of an affiliation for, he was a foppish, sullen 'kept' young man living in a glitzy apartment paid for by his lover. He said very little, and brooded a lot. There were some quite graphic scenes with his lover, which lingered on a bit too long. In fact, there were several parts of the film that were unnecessarily slow and drawn out, perhaps it was to add to the overall uncomfortable nature of being a 'stateless thing'.

How did we cope with this sense of awkwardness? Well, we whispered and giggled about our shock and confusion like little school children, I also found myself checking my watch a few times. This makes the film sound less than intriguing, it really wasn't. It was more too confusing, particularly the ending. I thought these two young men had perhaps been the same person, with some form of personality disorder. If it wasn't for the question and answer session with the director afterwards, I'd probably still be under this impression now. I still don't understand the ending. To quote Suspenders "Seriously, what just happened?" I have a feeling I missed a significant part of the plot, but I doubt I'll get chance to watch it again. This was a very special uncut viewing, the film struggled to get a rating to be shown in Korean theatres due to the explicit content.

I've never experienced a question and answer session with a director before. He wore a baseball cap throughout, so we couldn't see his eyes, just the shadow from the peak of his cap. There was an interpretor, and a girl with a microphone who ran dutifully around the audience taking their questions. I felt quite nervous, knowing the director was watching our reactions. Especially, since I was struggling to stifle my confused hysteria. I smiled and glanced at Lady PP, she gave me a knowing look before quickly averting her gaze. I found the audience asked very long and complicated questions, but I have to admit that it did help clarify some things for me. Overall, it was a rather strange, confusing, and yet a highly entertaining evening.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Slow, sneaking unquenchable thirst

Well, I've nearly finished the first week of winter camp, feeling a slightly exhausted already, but there are still two weeks to go. Amidst all the power points, singing, games, and craft activities, I've suddenly developed a longing for Squash. Oh, how I miss thee. Perhaps I'm I'm slightly dehydrated or something, from being rather busy and constantly munching on the run. I never considered that Squash would be something I'd miss... Ah, diluted thirst drenching drinks with no added sugar....on the rocks!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Dead amusing, like it's 1999

I came across a photo tour on Facebook, and Lady PP agreed to check it out with me. This free photowalk was organised by IMAAG Studios and Expedition Korea to explore Yongma land (an abandoned amusement park) on the outskirts of Seoul. 
The event said the photowalk would be a short trip for people passionate about photography, to get together and snap away until our batteries died. The event was open to everyone, it said we didn't need a special camera, any camera would do.

Lady PP and I were both late, we nervously joked about staying in the warm and getting lunch instead (I'm so glad we didn't, I had the best afternoon). We apprehensively approached the meeting point and saw a group of 15 or so people. Everyone was extremely friendly, and we were soon bundled into taxi's and signposted to our destination.

I usually think that abandoned places have a general air of eerily ghostly sadness. However, one of the Korean's in our group had bought a sound system with him. He also generously went to fetch coffee, and alcoholic beverages for everyone. So today we were actually going to party, like it's 1999. 

However, I still feel intergalactic rabid bunnies are definitely something that should be feared.

 We had a good few hours of fun, exploring, climbing on, and into wrecks of the amusement park. Afterwards we went for a meal with some of the group, where we got to know some people better. We even began making acquaintances outside of the EPIK family, ok some of them were GEPIK which perhaps isn't all that different, but it still counts. 

Anyway here are a few other pictures I took on my compact. 

Who knows, I might even invest in one of those fancy camera's one day. 
Besides, I need a reason to visit Yongsan Electronics Market....

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A little slice of indie heaven

In December a couple of significant things happened. Firstly, I noticed a poster advertising that Beach House are playing in Seoul in January. My inner indie kid physically soared with delight in my chest. There was no doubt in my mind, I had to go, and tickets are now booked. 
By now I've been to various different bars and night-clubs, although I think some of them are pretty cool, none of them had truly been indie in a way that's familiar to me. Then in early December, I went to a place called Club FF. 
As soon as we began to descend the stairs my senses heightened. I immediately knew this place had potential from the dark grimy decor, and the posters on the walls. This is now my favourite place to drink and dance in the whole of Seoul. It's a little dark, dingy basement club in Hongdae which plays indie/alternative music, from late 90's through to the present day. I spent new year's eve here dancing to Blur, Strokes, Nirvana, Foster the people, which are just a few that I can recall. Apparently the DJ will play almost anything you request, something I've yet to try. This place feels very familiar and homely to me, there's a stage to stagger around on, search for friends, or strut your stuff. The dance floor is compact and cosy, there's plenty of people dancing, moshing, and participating in general tom-foolery. The bar serves various bottles and shots. And they definitely don't skimp. In fact, shots are more reminiscent of your friend's home measures that you almost dread because they are so easily drinkable, yet you know your recollection tomorrow will probably be sketchy at best...

From the Beach House poster, I also discovered Supercolorsuper who are actively promoting international indie music, and other projects. 

So now I'm going to watch Japandroids in February, too. 
Sometimes, I feel like I've been sucked into a strange 90's time-warp  in terms of some of the music, the fashion, and the heady sense of exuberance and naivety here. I love it, it's my era, my youth. I suspect one of my friends might teasingly tell me I'm too old to be liking Japandroids. But you know what I'll say to him, 'go to hell'. I'll be going down the front for this one.
2013 is shaping up to be an exciting year already...