Caveat: Some pictures from Ulleungdo

Here are some still pictures.    I didn't actually take that many, because I was too busy playing with my video camera.  Not sure how to balance that out, yet.

The first is from Cheonbu harbor (center of the north coast) looking west toward the Chusan outcropping.   Straight west past that is South Korea.  Northwest, to the rightish, is North Korea.  Exactly north, to the right, is Vladivostok.  And behind is Japan.  All off across the sea, of course.
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The next is from the southeast coast, between Dodong and Jeodong on the walk to the Dodongdeungdae.
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These are some boats in Dodong harbor.
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This is the view of Dodong from the ferry terminal.  Cute town.
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This is the "no road existing" sign that made sure I didn't get lost.
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This is the island of Jukdo, off the northeast coast.  According to a guidebook, it is inhabited by 3 families and their cows (which have to journey to and from the island using slings into and out of boats to get up and down the cliffs all around it).  I want to visit this island.
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This next is from somewhere along the northeast stretch of highwayless coast.  I liked the tree very much.
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And here are a few from my cellphone camera (much lower resolution).

Here's a buddha next to a modernist cartoony statue of various sea-denizens that are part of Ulleungdo's identity.

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Here's a temple wall that has a very striking picture of a sea-dragon amid the waves.  It was a gorgeous painting but didn't come out so well on the cellphone camera due to the lighting and resolution.

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Here's the excursion ferry arriving at Dodong from Dokdo.  I nearly went to Dokdo myself, but the mobs of nationalistic Koreans rather put me off. 

200909_UlleungdoKR_ferryarrivesfromdokdop090914150310 

You see, Dokdo is a tiny outcropping of rock (less than 1 square kilometer) that juts out of the water about 90 km southeast of Ulleungdo.  It is claimed by both South Korea and Japan, though it's currently controlled by South Korea, and as far as I can tell, they have the most valid claim: since medieval times Dokdo has always been grouped with Ulleungdo administratively, so whoever "owned" Ulleungdo also was considered owner of Dokdo, regardless of whether the "owners" were ultimately the Japanese emperor or the Korean king, depending on epoch.

Right now, there is a huge nationalist fervor in Korea, provoked by recent ambiguous but typically in-denial-of-history mumblings by some Japanese ministry or another.  The government and the media powers-that-be are encouraging all Koreans to believe firmly that "Dokdo is ours!"  You can even get "Dokdo" t-shirts at Dunkin Donuts.  Nationalistic geo-fetishes always make me uncomfortable, as historically they often seem to lead to bad (read: violent) outcomes.

Caveat: I carry a flower carefully

I was walking around Fukuoka two days ago.  I saw the words "I carry a flower carefully" inscribed like a very short poem on the side of a big truck.  I wanted to write an ode to the side of that truck.  Or, maybe, I wanted to write an ode to postmodern commerce.   Or, maybe, I wanted to think about writing an ode, and then stop, before the ode appeared, all wilted and unloved, like an uncarefully-carried flower.

Instead, I wrote the following in my little librito para pensamientos aleatorios.

I imagine that in the back of that truck, there is a single flower.  It is a bit limp, in the dark 200909_FukuokaJP_flower_p090909081857 strangling air and the stiffling heat of the back of that truck.   It is a single flower, strapped down tightly and carefully so that won't slide around in its tiny flower pot.  It is alone in the otherwise empty cargo bay of that truck.

We all carry important things.  Life has so many details.

Too many choices amid too much freedom can create its own class of suffering?  I shake my head.  The September sun is hot in Fukuoka.  There are no clouds.

It seems like I have no goals.  Isn't life, and growing up, supposed to be about process?   Sometimes the lack of goals can create feelings of anxiety, but I then try to remind myself that goals are hazardous.  They are hazardous because… well, not precisely… but, they lead to disappointment.

I think sometimes that such a goallessness must seem odd, or even bewildering, to others who see it in me.   I frequently make up goals and tell them to people, but these made-up goals are often shifting around like sand under the waves creeping up a beach.  Sometimes I carry a goal that I have made up around with me, carefully, for a long time.  But I never forget that I made it up to please someone, during some conversation.  It's an illusion. 

People seem to find me difficult to understand.

Is it really suffering, having so much freedom?  No.  It's maybe an irrational fear of emptiness.  I carry a center of loneliness.  I don't comfort it.   I simply carry it, carefully, and some day, in some metaphysical market, maybe I can trade it to someone who needs it more than I do.   That person might give me some strong, desirable currency, or a kernel of enlightenment or understanding, in exchange.

The details in life matter, but they are so easy to neglect.  Other people matter.  I'm not always very good at connecting.

Caveat: Are you devil?

I use my cellphone as a stopwatch in class when students are giving speeches.  Further, I occasionally allow the students themselves to be "timekeeper" for a given other student's speech.  This means my students are often playing with my cellphone.  It doesn't really bother me, although more than once, I've gone back to it later and found its most recently used application was something under the "game" heading — I rarely play games myself on the cellphone because, since it's a Korean cellphone, it tries to help me play the game with instructions in Korean.  I did once manage to get a 37% score on a quiz game entirely in Korean, basically by viewing it as a linguistic abstraction game.

So… I was pulling photos off my cellphone last night, and found the following.  I have no recollection of when this photo might have been taken.   Is it flattering?  I've definitely been making a lot of use of my plastic black and red pitchfork (lower left of photo), lately.

200809_IlsanKR_areyoudevilp090820195502 I don't know how to put on the fancy frame, either.  But whoever did this picture of me apparently had no problem not only surreptitiously taking this snapshot but then managing to add the fancy frame without my having a clue.  I think it was a time when they were brandishing their own cellphones and I was hamming a little bit, so it's not like I wasn't aware of having my picture taken.  In today's modern (Korean) classroom, it's ubiquitous, and something I accept as a matter of course.   I suppose that technically, there are rules banning the use of cellphones in class, but I view such rules as both reactionary and irrelevant, and rarely enforce them except maybe during quizzes or when they're clearly proving too distracting.

"Are you devil?" Gina asks, every time.

 "Maybe," I hedge.  It's all part of the schtick, right? 

Every teacher needs a schtick.  Or a fork.  And a coupla alligators (made in China).

Caveat: 일산역에서

The brand new, shiny Ilsan Train Station.   When I got off at this station in 1991 (it was on the suburban route connecting my Army base with downtown Seoul) it was just a wide spot in the tracks and the town next to it couldn’t have been more than 50000.  Now Ilsan is half a million, and it just got its old center-of-town trainstation upgraded this summer.
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Caveat: MacArthur’s Landing

Yesterday I went to Incheon with a friend, Peter.  We took the subway, which is kind of an indirect way to go, since it's straight south from Ilsan, but via subway one has to go into downtown Seoul 200908_IncheonKR_memorial_P1010989 (southeast 25 km) and back out again.   But anyway.  It took about 2 hours.  We got off at the Incheon subway line station Dongchun, and walked west about 1.5 km to the Incheon landing war memorial.  It was an impressive piece of monumental architecture.   It was a very hot day.

 

We went into the Incheon city museum after that, as it was right next door, and saw some historical things related to Incheon, which was the first Korean port to be opened to western (and Chinese and  Japanese) powers in the 1800's, and therefore was the part of Korea to begin feeling the influence of the outside world after the 500 year-long "closure" that was the Joseon dynasty period.  

 

Then we took a random bus (#8) that ended up dumping us at Incheon City Hall, but that's not actually downtown, so then we took another bus (#41) to Juan Station on subway line #1 and then took the subway (which isn't actually subway but is elevated) to the end-of-the-line at downtown (old part) Incheon.  That's where the touristy chinatown is (arguably the only "authentic" chinatown in Korea, as it was actually a Chinese settlement in the 1800's, whereas all the other "chinatowns" in Korea are just gimicky tourist things constructed artificially in the most recent 30 years or so).   We walked up the Jayu (freedom) hill to hear some atrocious children's music at some outdoor concert and then we saw the old general himself (well, his statue) looking out over the old "red beach" that is now the highly landfilled and developed harbor at Incheon.

 

We walked around some more as the sun was setting, and the feel of the place was quite odd.  I remarked to Peter that it was the first time I'd been in a Korean city in the evening where things were genuinely "dead" — the way that small American cities inevitably are after dark.  "Man, this is like Long Beach," I said, bemused.

 

200908_IncheonKR_doug_P1020016 Anyway, we walked some more and found an urban space more typically Korean, all neon lights and evening shoppers and half-drunk men stumbling about.  Ah, the comforts of Korean civilization.   We went into a Hweh house (a sashimi joint, roughly, but a dining institution in Korea).  I ordered Hwehdapbap (bibimbap style mixed vegetables, but with fish roe and raw sliced seafood) and Peter ordered chobap (sushi).  We shared, and finished it off.  It was quite delicious.  

 

Then we came home on the subway, all the way, 2 hours.  It was a long day, with a lot of walking, but it was good.

 

I feel very proud of yesterday's blog post… I composed it in my own Korean, with only some minor assistance from my Korean tutor.  Really, the first true blog entry I've managed in Korean, I think.  I mean, that is at all substantial.  Yet, in fact, it's quite child-like and dull and repetitive and unnatural Korean, I'm sure.  But one has to start somewhere, right?

Caveat: 바쁜게 좋은 거예요

바쁜게 좋은 거예요 => busily good thing is => “it’s good to be busy.”  This is what it seems nearly every Korean says when one complains about being busy.  I don’t entirely disagree, either.

I saw my friend and former coworker Basil off at the airport today.  He’s returning to the U.S. with intentions of starting grad school in a few weeks.  I wish him best of luck, but I’ll miss being able to occasionally hang out with him and BS about various topics.

I’ve been working on mastering the distinction between Korean ㅅ/s/ and ㅆ/ss/, which are phonologically quite distinct but which sound essentially identical to English-trained ears.  The /ss/ (revised standard transliteration) is not just a geminate (double) /s/, but rather something quite different… it’s “tense” or “faucalized” featurally, and seems to involve something like a pharyngealization of the subsequent vowel.   So far the best pronunciation tip I’ve received is to try to remember holding my teeth together, touching, when making the /ss/, but letting them relax on the /s/.  This may be why some transcriptions render ㅆ  as /ts/ instead of /ss/.  Here’s a horrendous tongue-twister based on trying to practice the distinction:  싸서샀어요 /ssaseosasseoyo/ = (it) was cheap so (I) bought it.

Vocab Notes for Korean
외계인 = a space alien
주요 = main, essential, important
구하다 = search for, look for, demand, desire, buy, purchase
순수하다 = be pure, be genuine, be true
평범하다 = common, featureless, humdrum-looking
아담하다= elegant, graceful
일탈하다 = deviate from, depart from 일탈 deviation
행위 = act, work, conduct, behavior …so… “일탈행위” deviant behavior (?)
장 애자 = a handicapped person; a brain-damaged person (this is very important vocabulary for comprehending the joking around of 5th graders — see picture below for what is apparently an exemlar of a “jangaeja” — probably best not to ask about the plastic pitchfork)
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Caveat: Subwayification and weeds redeem bury the past

The intensive subwayification of the Seoul's infinite exurbs continues apace — recession? what recession?  The old, slightly decrepit-seeming Gyeongui Line (경의선) is being given some coats of new paint (along with massive infrastructure upgrades, etc.) and the first phase of its integration into the Seoul Metro System took effect on July 1st.  

The Gyeongui Line is interesting for both historical and personal reasons.  Historically, the current Gyeongui Line is the rump end of the old Seoul-to-Pyongyang line that was the first railroad to open in Korea, in around 1906.   With the closed border since 1950 or so, it ends a few kilometers south of Panmunjeom and the DMZ at Imjingang.  Since then, it has functioned as the northwest suburban commuter rail line, but it's name still implies it makes it to the Chinese border (Gyeong is "capital," as in Seoul, and ui is short for Sinuiju – by the wacky rules for Korean acronyms – hence Gyeongui means "Capital and Chinese Border City Railroad").  I wrote about taking it out to Imjingang in October, 2007.   

It's interesting to me for personal reasons, because when I was in the US Army and stationed at Camp Edwards, whenever I wanted to go into Seoul during a day-long liberty, I would take a taxi to Munsan station and take the Gyeongui line into the city.   That's why I can actually say that I had been in Ilsan way back in 1991, which always brings Ooo's and Ahh's of amazement when I report this to the kids.  It's definitely a changed place.  In 1991, Ilsan was a village of maybe 5000 surrounded by hills and rice paddies, a whistle stop on the commuter railroad, still beyond the edge of the megalopolis.  Now it's been reengineered as a "New City," and the districts that are refered to colloquially as "Ilsan" include more than 500,000 residents, almost half of the Goyang municipality. 

Anyway, starting July 1st, the Gyeongui Line between "Digital Media City Station" (on Line 6 near the World Cup stadium) and Munsan has now been fully integrated to the Seoul subway.  Rather than sporadic-seeming once-hourly service, the trains zip by 4-8 times an hour, and you can pay with the same "t-money" card that you use for the rest of the subway system, with barrier-free, clearly marked transfers to the other lines at Daegok and Digital Media City.   For a subwayophile like myself, that's cool, and it's cool to see an old line "grandfathered in" that way.

To celebrate, today I took the orange line (line 3) that goes by my house a few stops down to Daegok, and changed to the Gyeongui line.  I took it out to Geumchon.  It was a hot, humid day, with occasional strong winds that smelled like the ripe standing water of all the rice paddies to the north and west, and had just the hint of 10000 pots of kimchi fermenting on rooftops or apartment balconies, as well.  The "smell of Korea."

Now, in the fall of 2007 I wrote about taking the Gyeongui line out to Imjingang and trying to find my old Army base.  I thought maybe I'd located it.  But I wasn't certain… the pace of urbanization has been so fast in this region, and I knew it had been closed.  Maybe it had been turned into a mini mall.

But I have subsequently spent some time studying the increasingly clear images of the area on Google Earth, and I had become conviced that my old base lay just north of the limit of old Geumchon (which doesn't jive with my memories, because no one ever mentioned Geumchon to 200907_GeumchonKR_edwardsfrontgate2_P1010883 my recollection… we always went to Paju or Munsan… it's possible Geumchon was basically a nothing-village at that point, though).  Anyway, I took the train to Geumchon, got off, and started walking north.

Sure enough.  There it was.  My old base, Camp Edwards, all shuttered up, overgrown with weeds, with a lone watchman at the main gate.   Here's a picture of the main gate.  Note that the old Gyeongui line tracks ran right in front of the gate… basically, the railroad crossing gate and the gate manned by the Korean policemen at the base entrance were one and the same.  In the picture, you don't see the railroad tracks, because they've been elevated.  They were right above me, where I stood.  That was different.

But the "tank traps" on the MSR were the same.  It's not called "the MSR" anymore — that stands for 200907_GeumchonKR_hiwaytanktrap_P1010880 "Military Supply Route" and was US Army lingo for Highway 1, which was the fourlane boulevard that parallels the Gyeongui line all the way from Seoul to Imjingang (where the DMZ puts an end to civilian traffic).    I don't know what exactly the right term for those tank traps is, but the idea is that they're filled with rubble and dynamite, and if the North Koreans come charging down the MSR, all the tank traps (strategically positioned every few kilometers over all highways) get blown, preventing easy access to all those North Korean tanks.  Looking the other way from the tank traps over the highway, you see the concrete obstacles planted like gravestones in the fields to the side of the highway.  The whole infrastructure is no longer well maintained as far as I can figure out … there are many places where there are modern bridges over these old tank barriers, etc.   Then again, maybe all the modern bridges are embedded with dynamite, too, as the old urban myth alleges is the case for all the 200907_GeumchonKR_fieldtanktrap_P1010882 bridges across the Han River.  

I walked past my old base, feeling a bit of nostalgia, but a sense of closure, too.  Nice to see the crappy old place overgrown with weeds.  I've outlasted it!   Below, there's a picture I took looking west from a pile of railroad ties under the now-elevated Gyeongui tracks.   You can just make out the brownish structure in the center, which was the old Bravo Company 296th Support Battalion motor pool, where I labored under the despotic and corrupt Sgt Wise for almost a year.  And in the foreground, but behind the concertina fencing, you can see a bit of the "track."  That was where we did our two-mile runs… a little half mile loop on fair level ground, in circles around the warehouse (which appeared to be missing, now).    I have vivid memories of that incredibly boring run.  It was only on rare occasions that we got to do 200907_GeumchonKR_edwardsback40_P1010885 company runs off-post, up down and around the countryside. 

I kept walking north along the MSR (er.. Highway 1).  The first left turn off the highway, going north, used to have a little ramen joint on the corner right across the railroad tracks.  I think that's where I was first introduced to that Korean-military delicacy:  spicy ramen with cheez-whiz.   Now, as you can see, it appears that they've built an office park 200907_GeumchonKR_officepark_P1010890 there.  Finally, I reached a place called Wollongyeok (Wollong Station).  I'm confident that this station on the Gyeongui line didn't exist, before.  It's an addition, part of the densification of the commuter line as part of integrating it to a subway system.   But it was convenient to find it.  I took this picture from the little hill walking down toward it, because I like that you can see the huge highway sign with an arrow pointing the way to Panmunjeom. 

200907_GeumchonKR_wollongyeok1_P1010896 Panmunjeom is a tiny village.  Technically speaking, since 1950, it has zero actual civilian residents — it's where the North and South face each other, and they have little meetings if things are too tense to actually allow each other to cross.   And since nothing in South Korean signage admits the existence of an actual border, the only way to know when you're getting close is when you start seeing signs for Panmunjeom.   So I like the sign because you see that here you are, at a nice modern-looking suburban railway station, within a few kilometers of North Korea. 

And that brings me to….  So, life so close to North Korea, what's that like?  As a bird flies, my apartment in Manhattanny Ilsan lies about 10 km from the North Korean border.  It's more like 25 if you drive, because of the twists of the Imjin river and of the line itself.  But it's weird sometimes to think how close it is, and how much the people here seem to be either ignorant or in denial — or some weird symbiosis of those two mental states. 

Actually, despite all the sabre rattling (and missle-launching and nuke-testing) to the north, no one in the circle of people I interact with seems in the least concerned.  This is just the way it always has been, with the north.  Weird, scary, unstable… but not, in the end, something that is likely ever to change.   Those giant armies facing each other — the high-tech-and-armed-to-the-teeth South and the 2-million-cannon-fodder-plus-a-coupla-handy-WMD-(but-nevertheless-noticeably-incompetent) North — they've been glaring at each other for almost 60 years now.   It feels very much like "status quo forever."

And frankly, if it's nukes you're worried about, Ilsan is THE safest place outside of North Korea to be, if you think about it.  Kim Jong-il may be a wack job, but he's not gonna nuke the one spot in South Korea that's practically within walking-distance of a major North Korean city (namely, Kaeseong).   As a point of fact, I very much doubt there's any tactical or strategic scenario in which the North would nuke the South.  The nukes are for those "damned foreigners" — i.e. Japan and the US, largely.  The South is not foreign, just misguided.   It doesn't need nuking… just reeducation.  If things got really, really bad, and the North launched some kind of preemptive invasion of the South, Ilsan would definitely be overrun.  But from a tactical standpoint, it seems to me that it is literally so close to the 200907_GeumchonKR_P1010910 line that it would be behind the line before anyone knew what was happening (and despite those decrepit tank traps).

How things would play from there, who knows?  It could end up very grim… I imagine the ways in which seemingly well-developed and relatively westernized Yugoslavia decayed into chaos and civil war in the 1990's.  It's not impossible, here.  But… well, it's not something worth worrying about.  Terrible disasters are possible, whether human or natural, no matter where one chooses to live.  In any event, consumer culture is so deeply rooted in the South Korean psyche, now, that I wouldn't envy any effort on the part of the North to absorb or reeducate the South.  It would end up a kind of pyrrhic victory, perhaps.  Nor should we underestimate the strength of the South's military and of its no doubt innumerable contingency plans.

Caveat: 63

200906_SeoulKR_northfrom63_P1010852 I finally went to visit the "63 building" over the weekend, on Sunday.  It's the tallest skyscraper in Seoul.  It has 60 floors.  The name "63" is because it has three levels of basement, too, making a total of 63 levels.  It's a shiny coppery-colored building right on the Han River.  Here is a picture I took looking straight north from the building toward the old part of the city, in the distance in the notch between the mountains.  Yongsan is in the right center, and the Mapo area is in the left center.  And in the foreground is the wide Hangang. 

Caveat: The Space Emperor, Drawn to the Dark Side

Our future Space Emperor, BHO, is clearly not afraid to disappoint his fans.  Whether this represents cynicism or realpolitik, I find hard to judge.  I really, really enjoyed Maureen Dowd's recent mocking of the situation vis-a-vis Cheney:  "Dick twinkles.  'Yes, we can.'"

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In other news, I collected all my retired (read, broken) plastic alligators and brought them to class today, because this is the last week of the Spring term.  Here is a picture after the Eldorado2 kids had arranged them.

Notes for Korean

야경= night view
-스럽다 = to seem like
사랑스러운 = love-like ~ "lovely"
올리다=raise up, [and many other meanings, maybe "begin"?]

 

Caveat: Scooter

It seems I see more and more of these tricked out scooters.  Scooters are everywhere, and always have been.  But lately, there seems to be this influx of some kind of European or Japanese style high-end scooters.  I saw a "Hello Kitty" themed pink scooter with a trendy-looking woman riding it, walking home from work the other night.  And this thing was in the parking lot a block away, the other day.200905_IlsanKR_scooter_p090522121924

Caveat: 장수에 주말 여행했어요

On Saturday at 12 o’clock my friend Curt called me and asked if I wanted to accompany him to his home town, Jangsu, for a quick overnight trip.  He had to go down for a “family meeting” and many relatives would be there.   “It will be an adventure for you,” he commented.

I felt spontaneous, and said, “sure!”  I met him at his hagwon at around 5:30, but at the last minute his daughter (who is 8) decided she wanted to come along, so we had to go collect her, and then he forgot to take a computer that he was going to give to his sister, so we had to drive back to the hagwon and get that.  The result was that we didn’t get on the road until around 7:30.

The traffic wasn’t too bad driving down — most people who flee Seoul on the weekends do so earlier on Saturday, is my guess.   We arrived at his home village at around 1 AM.  The moon was full and the air was already summery, although fairly dry.

Koreans like to sleep in hot, stuffy homes, as far as I can determine, and Curt’s family homestead was no exception.  But I was tired and slept soundly, and was awoken at 6AM sharp by the rapid, nonstop Korean of Curt’s mother’s voice.   She is in her 70’s, but seems quite healthy and strong-spirited, like any good Korean matron.  She kept a running commentary the entire day.  Curt, at one point, observed with a wry deference that his mother “loves to talk.”  I was enjoying the language input, without understanding more than a small amount.  I perhaps would have tired of it, had I understood more, but as it was, it was just like being tuned to a Korean talk-radio station, but with all sorts of contextual clues to make it on the edge-of-comprehensible.

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We did a small sightseeing drive at around 7 AM, to see the new dam that rose above his old village.  Here is a picture I took looking down from the dam into the valley — the village proper is in the foreground, and the family compound is just out of sight among the alfalfa fields behind the trees in the lower left.

We walked around and I took some pictures of the family using both their camera and mine. Keep in mind, this is not the whole clan — just those who happened to come along on the sightseeing drive: Curt, his older sister, his daughter, his niece, and his mother.

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After that, we drank some coffee back at the house, as more people showed up. Then at around nine, everyone went down to the restaurant that’s along the stream at the village turnoff at the main highway (highway 19). There were some 50 relatives there, quickly and systematically eating a typical Korean breakfast: rice, several kimchis (including a delicious and memorable cucumber kimchi I’d never tasted before), fish, other vegetable side-dishes, and a thin broth-type soup with some slices of what I thought was potato in it. After the breakfast there was to be the “family meeting.”

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Curt snuck away to smoke a cigarette beforehand, and hinted that I might want to go do something else (which was a polite way of saying I wasn’t invited, I suppose — I wasn’t offended). Here is a picture of the spot behind the restaurant by the stream and the highway across the stream, where we talked.

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So I walked back across the fields to the house.   The house was swarming with children, who had no interest in practicing English with me (and who can blame them?), but they also seemed befuddled and frustrated by my poor Korean.  I felt like I was embedded in a Kafka novel, for a while:  lots of talking, but no communication whatsoever.   One of the girls took my camera, and this is a picture I found in it later.

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Eventually, feeling exhausted by the language-overload, I went on a walk.  I went into the village and looked at the Buddhist temple complex there — apparently Curt’s father, who passed away in 2007, had been a major philanthropist in the restoration and expansion of the temple.   Here is a view approaching the temple, and another showing the intricate woodwork and painting on one of the buildings.

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Finally, the family meeting down at the restaurant was over, and Curt came and found me strolling around the village, along the river below the dam behind the temple complex.  “Do you want to come while I pay my respects to my father?”  “Sure,” I agreed, amenably.  I didn’t want to intrude or be the uncomfortable foreigner in what was no doubt an intimate and personal thing, but I was dreading spending the next several hours waiting for him with nothing structured to do.

The drive to his father’s grave was quite long, unexpectedly.  Almost an hour, as he is interred at a veterans cemetary southwest of Imsil, which is some ways west of Jangsu.  We passed over a winding mountain road and into a much wider, more populated valley to get there.  Curt placed a lighted cigarrette on his father’s grave.  “He loved to smoke,” he said.  He poured a bit of Soju onto the grass, and his sister placed a plate with some fruit on the grave stone.  Curt and his sister bowed deeply to the grave, and then his mother also bowed to her late husband.

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After the ceremony, and after making sure it was OK, I took a picture of Curt standing by his father’s grave.  He was teary and emotional.  I felt awkward, and stayed mostly quiet, during the first part of the drive back to the house at Jangsu.  We went back a different way, through Namwon and along a bit of the “88 Olympic Expressway” which reminded me in terms of feel and scenery of those odd, depression-era, two-lane tollways that snake around parts of Appalachia in Kentucky or West Virginia.

Returned to the house, we had a very quick but homemade lunch.  I especially liked the fried dubu (tofu) and kimchi — much better than restaurant varieties.   And then it was suddenly over.  After some lounging around watching Korean music videos and listening to the grandmother lecture the granddaughters about who-knows-what, Curt, his daughter and I said our goodbyes and were back on the road at around 3 PM — although I embarrassed myself with some incorrect Korean in trying to say “nice to have met you.”  I think I may have said something like, “That [romantic] date went well,” if it meant anything at all.   But it wasn’t a date, was it?