Saturday, June 20, 2009

Antidote

For all the crankiness of getting up early and having a rainy, rainy day all day, today's trip to Andong was faboo.

It is always SO nice to get out of Seoul, and the rain only made the green things greener. We hiked a bunch more than expected but that reminded me of hiking the volcanic mounds in Jeju, so it was nice. Plus the company was amazing! I rode from Seoul to Andong with this year's American International Education Administrators grantees. Five were selected from US universities to travel and learn about aspects of Korean culture and education for two weeks. I'm totally jealous of their itinerary but was glad to get to tag along for part of the trip.

[Bird's eye view of the traditional village that we visited - it's situated in an ideal location in terms of geomancy, tucked into the bend of a river. It was so well protected by mountains that it was untouched by the Japanese.] My job was to translate for the group when we visited Andong Hanji, the biggest papermill (handmade paper) in Korea. Though I had taken such bad pictures when I had made my site visit there last winter, I didn't take any more today since I was so wrapped up translating. It was actually a very good gauge of how freaking amazing my Korean tutor is, considering that I came to Korea w/o much confidence in my language skills, and now can do on-the-spot gigs (albeit not perfectly) and have both parties be happy w/the results.

[The cliff we were on while viewing the village from afar.] I got to then go along for lunch, a tour of the village, and a visit to a Confucian study center before getting a ride w/an Andong native and expert on the traditional village, who dropped me off on the side of the road only to realize that I was meeting someone that she knew! I had tea at Younghee's home and then we had to have a hasty dinner b/c I didn't want to miss the last bus home. I had hung out w/her at her home last winter, but so much has happened since then. She told me amazing stories, esp about how her mom used a paper chamber pot when traveling to get married! And why paper is ideal for those purposes.

[Prayers tied around a 600+-year-old tree that guards the village. It was very satisfying to take a china marker to thin, waxy paper and write my prayer in Korean and tie it onto the sopping ropes.] It's late, and I have to travel in less than 12 hours to another papermill to lacquer my chamber pot and its other woven friends. But today was a great way to get the bigger picture of my year and all the possibilities for the future.

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