Wednesday, March 04, 2009

So much for free time

I had a grand fantasy of having the next two days free so that I could catch up on paper and Korean homework. I should know better! This is Korea. Today, I met Michael and his performing/visual artist friend, who took us to meet her natural dyeing teacher right in the heart of Seoul. I'm not sure why I always expect my teachers to be women, since they have all turned out to be men. We walked right into his studio and looked around until he showed up with another student. After introductions and talking for a while, they fed us lunch, all grown and made on site. This teacher is no joke: he's a Marxist dyeing pro! After hearing his political and philosophical stances, I told him about my great uncle and that made him happy since he was in the same camp. Who knew we'd get a crash course (more like scolding for being so ignorant) in eastern v western philosophy + the mythology of Lake Baikal when visiting an artisan.

Then, we all walked over to a traditional historical village, Bukchon, and had green tea served by a nurse who does hospice work and volunteers at the hanok. She just got married last month, and explained that we should know that she's married b/c of the color of the tie on her traditional dress: it's purple, which is the mixture of red and blue, which represent yin and yang. She also talked about how helpful it is to bring in wooden trays of tea in ceramic cups to hospice patients, since they are so used to metal trays of syringes and drugs and so on.

We then wandered over to an art opening (and I finally learned how one main road connects to another part of town! I had only known the road from one point before) of an artist who died over a decade ago. His friends created this show in his memory; he only painted stars, on blackened hanji. Michael then took me to a gorgeous store that makes amazing interior objects out of wood and hanji (the literal translation of the place's name is "paper wood"). Exquisite. Today was another huge opening, another successful dig, another enormous unearthing. It's amazing to know that there are all sorts of people scattered all over the place, deeply entrenched in Korean history and culture, just doing their thing. I go back tomorrow for my first session w/the dyeing teacher, and the next day I get to see Dohee on a brief visit she is making to Seoul, along w/another performance artist based in Korea.

I've thought for a long time that I would do this year here and then go back home and get back to my life and that would be it. But it's not like that at all. I know it's easy to say this b/c the weather is getting nice and the sun was out today and the food was good (though the box wine at the opening was frightful), but I can see now how people come here thinking they'll just stick around for a year, and then end up here for years. Or, in my case, most likely coming back for more. It goes deep.

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