Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What we did today

After sleeping warmly (my cousin and his wife loaned us a comforter and comfy pillow so Tam didn't have to sleep on the straw pillow we got at the dollar store), we somehow got ourselves together enough to head out and grab noodles for lunch. Then, off to my jiseung lesson!

We had a fabulous time. My teacher and his wife loved Tam, and he had already made a gorgeous bracelet for her as a gift, and made her another one on the spot! She made them a knitted bracelet and washcloth, and gave them bamboo yarn (he hadn't believed me when I told him that it existed). She even took measurements of his feet for socks later.

It was SO touching to see how well they treated her. His wife made a huge, yummy, amazing spread of all veggie food to eat and Tam got the recipe for her onions. They were worried about us getting touristy things done tonight, so they pushed us out the door w/an itinerary (find yarn, shop, walk the stream running thru northern Seoul) after giving Tam a final gift of a gorgeous scarf/shawl. They said that she should stay and live w/them and learn how to cook and do jiseung. It was really special, all around: to have her witness my lesson, to have them meet her, and for us all to do lots of handwork (paper, knitting, cooking).

We only ended up walking the stream, which was MORE than enough, and quite lovely, actually. After grabbing some more strawberries and pastries for tomorrow morning's munchies, we finally got home and collapsed in a heap.

I have been feeling like hell and was scared it was a sickness but it's just allergies. Thank goodness that Tam has them, too, so that she could explain to me that my killer sore throat is likely from draining and not from virus/bacteria. Tomorrow might be a big day, so I should go to bed...but my inbox is so bloated!

What we did on Tuesday but were too tired to share

Good lord. This trip has been intense, packed, but great. Tam and I tried to take the morning early on Tuesday, then went for a sub-par buffet lunch at an "Italian" place. Then we took a bus and climbed to the cable car to get to Namsan Tower.

We waited for the martial arts performance to begin, and then scrammed once the storm clouds got closer and closer. We scampered down the mountain and got ourselves out to the city, just in time to hit a bank and have Tam charm the dude who exchanged her dollars before closing.

[These are lanterns, not men.] After kind of killing time at Seoul Station and then in Myeong-dong (a crazy shopping area), we rode south of the river to kill more time at a cafe and then meet my cousin and his wife for dinner at a Japanese restaurant.

You know how they say that you learn things about friends while travel that you'd otherwise never know? Tam learned about my proclivity towards eating ginormous amounts of food quickly. But it was so good! [We forgot our cameras; that above is NOT dinner. Just Tam's shot of "meat on a stick" in a Family Mart.]

We went back to their place after dinner so that they could help find things online re: veggie places to eat, touristy / pretty / close places to visit outside of Seoul, and products I needed to get online (like a new external HD and a ceramic knife). They are awesome. I love them so much and am so happy to be related to them and to have had this time in Korea to get to know them better. The baby is due this summer, which I'll miss, but hopefully I'll get back to be able to see them more often in the future.

Monday, April 27, 2009

When lost, get loster

Tam and I had a BIG day today. Whew! I can barely remember it all. I think this bench was called 'eating a biscuit together.'

We walked around the traditional Korean house district, poked into stores and galleries, and shopped at Olive Young before going for pizza. While waiting for a seat, we got a call from my dyeing teacher's place, so we went and did turmeric dyeing. I looove how the iron mordant came out.

After a chance encounter at the crosswalk w/Han-Song (the percussionist/researcher from Germany I met doing a NZ translation gig early this month), we did the requisite Insadong jaunt and drooled over things in Ssamzie Market (I have my eye on an eel skin bag) and came out into a heavy shower. We waited it out w/green tea ice cream and then went to Caffe Themselves for gorgeous cake.

Then we had bibimbap for dinner where a bunch of young teens tried to chat Tam up in English ("where are you from?" "how old are you?" "is it delicious?").

We walked it off by going to Kyobo where I got a book on Chinese characters and Tam browsed all the knitting books (she is eyeing two bags there). The day was packed, I am beat to hell, but it was great to catch up.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Two peas in a pod

Well. Saturday after the forum was PURE recovery day for me. I stayed home all day and was in bed for MOST of it. After getting up at 8:30am after only 5 hours of sleep and doing laundry, I took a 2-3 hour afternoon nap and then went to bed at about 6pm, got up for a little bit at midnight, and was down again until 7:30am today. I still felt like I could sleep a LOT more but instead, I ran errands, cleaned house, went to the bathhouse for a hot soak and sauna and scrub down (I REALLY NEEDED THAT). After a few hours skyping Ben, I ran out the door to the airport to pick up Tam.

And she's here!! So I will stop b/c we need to sleep.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Hooray! [for lack of words]

The lecture went really well. Great turnout despite the rain. My mom's hairdresser did my hair/makeup - the most made-up I've been since I was a punk rocker for Halloween in my pre-teens. All my teachers showed up and were totally proud of me, which was SO amazing. My friends and colleagues came out to support and I felt like they all had my back - Frank had emailed me with fantastic advice, reminding me that it was going to a be a friendly audience and not one out to attack me. All sorts of interesting people showed up and the installation held; nothing fell down! There was a child crying briefly in the middle, and I felt kind of like a jerk for just plowing on thru the talk. I also felt like a jerk for talking for an HOUR instead of the 40-45 minutes I was supposed to do, but there was just so much to say ... and I didn't even get to all of it in the end!

But. It was fantabulous. And, to top it off, right before the lecture, I found out that Frank and I have been selected to receive additional scholarships from the Korea Fulbright Foundation!!! Michael and I were chatting when I found out; the perfect person to hear the news first, as he's seen the road I've been walking and how hard I've been working. I am beyond honored. Happily drowning in abundance and fully immersed in the "fruits of labor" while being out-of-my-mind grateful.

Oh, and I forgot my camera. Classic. But JL ran up and got hers and shot the whole thing as soon as she found out. It was all in all an amazing experience. She and Katherine helped me deinstall (Katherine was SO on task, which was great, since I was at about 5% functional capacity by then), and Linda and her friend gave me a ride home. I've been up for hours now cleaning up all my stuff and putting it away. Today really hammered home the "it takes a village" truth for me. I am so gleeful about how I can breathe easy now, and watch GA guilt free.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Connect the dots

[My jiseung teacher, dyeing teacher - his wife in between.] Today was full, intense, sucked it all out of me. But gave back a lot, too. Yesterday, I had had a good jiseung lesson. I learn so much more than just that, b/c we spend about 7 hours together at a stretch. I had a breakthrough, which rocked. I've been having a hard time making my pieces nice and strong - they're tight but weak. My teacher had kept telling me that I needed to press really hard w/my left thumb, but I never knew HOW hard he meant until yesterday he finally pressed w/his thumb onto mine and it nearly fell off. OH. THAT hard!! Then it all came together! Amazing how such a simple act of twisting one cord over another can be so complex. Each time I learn a new facet of it - very much like yoga. How it takes like 13 years to really get down dog, and how complicated it is in its simplicity. I told my teacher, if you had just done that long ago, I would have understood. He said that's why it's hard teaching a woman: you have to be cautious w/how you touch female students.

Last night, I was up LATE sorting and packing my suitcase that Pauly had lent me (she calls it her "Coming to America" suitcase b/c it fits so much) so that I would be ready to jump out of bed and run out the door this morning to go and set up for my lecture. I of course got a rude cabbie who first insisted on criticizing my Korean b/c he had no idea where I needed to go, but then wanted me to teach him English! I got to the office early and spent about three hours there. It's not perfect, but this is a rough sketch of how it will look. Except tomorrow night the lovely sunlight won't be backlighting the hanji against the window.

I was climbing all over the room setting up. Thank goodness for Nikki and Vinnie, who were super helpful and fun at the same time so it wasn't as stressful as it could have been. It's nice to have all that stuff out of my tiny room, though. I got sick last night on almonds (random, I know. But clearly, after months of not having nuts in my diet, they don't work anymore) so I didn't sleep well, and felt like I was in a sea of hanji. But I had this dream where I was freaked out and Frank comforted me. I'll take that as a good sign, since he was the first junior researcher to lecture this year and did a fabulous job. After setting up, I ran errands and then rushed off to dyeing class.

It was a special session b/c my jiseung teacher told me he wanted to meet my dyeing teacher and dye some clothes so that he has something to wear to my lecture. They totally hit it off! It was so lovely to see them all having a good time and seeing the clothes come out beautifully. We all had lunch together, which included fresh wild greens that my dyeing teacher and his family had harvested from the mountains yesterday. It's really interesting to see men working in these crafts, and so rewarding to be able to bring people together. I know that all of my teachers are making sacrifices to have me as a student, and I feel sooo lucky that they spend so much energy teaching me.

After a quick rush back home, I went out to meet Melissa, which did WONDERS for me. I've lately been feeling incredibly insecure about being an artist in this world, in this society, and in these times. So it was necessary to have dinner and wine with another artist who gets it. It was also great to get time/head space away from my prep. I started to come up w/new ideas and got lots of inspiration from spending time with her. So today's cup ran over again. It's time for sleep before my last-minute prep tomorrow. 70 RSVPs and counting! I'm overwhelmed by the number and variety of people signed up to come to the forum: the beauty of a small country that has a disproportionately large capital city is that most people I have met are in or near Seoul, so they can all come. It's rare to get the chance to have so many people who have helped me in one way or another all show up in one place. For that, too, I am crazy thankful.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I like strawberries

Yet I haven't been eating any lately. This contributes to my recent stress: I know what I need but I don't take any steps towards getting what I need. I had this strawberry drink while waiting for Dongjae last weekend in the basement of a fancy department store where there are tons of enticing food stands. I LOVE that I had the option to have them open it for me and replace the regular cap w/one w/a hole in it for a straw. I recognize how wasteful this is but I still love the ingenuity.

I just did some killer yoga hip openers, ones I've never done before, that woke me up to the fact that I HAVE a body, which needs to get some positive attention. Going to the island knocked me out of my routine (if you could even call it that). So I just did 20 pushups and am about to do 20 more for my triceps. This bench press was in a park in the "new" part of Jeju City. When I get back home, Ben plans to train me - cardio and resistance at the very least. So hopefully in the future when I happen upon equipment like this I can bench w/no fear.

I've been in a doom and gloom mood all afternoon after dyeing class (cloves! That smelled SO good), but then I got a surprise call from Texas essentially telling me to snap out of it. So I'll start prepping my lecture after pushups instead of procrastinating by looking into travel to Mongolia, Nepal, Cambodia, and the Phil. Thank goodness for a bf who keeps me in line.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Suddenly bereft

Ah, this old feeling. It started raining today. Really hard. Plus wind. I was soaked for most of the evening. I realized while watching all these performances that it must be b/c Korea knew Michael was leaving today. So we're all in mourning.

He had told me last night that Kim Baek-ki had broken his leg and hip and had surgery on his spine after an injury sustained while performing at the cherry blossom festival a week and a half ago. I was shocked and planned to visit him at the hospital today, but when I called, he said he was leaving (against doctor's orders) and would be at his performance group's fundraising party tonight for their upcoming European tour. He's a big fan of Estonia, which is one of their performance sites, and thinks that it is where performance is at right now.

At that point, I couldn't say no. I mean, I was just tired and cranky from the rain. But this man is broken in several places (and still danced like a crazy person)!! So I went for a bit. I slipped out during the break where they provided free smokes. I got to see a mime, two belly dancers, Dulsori, a modern dancer w/Father Time of sorts, a singer, and a guitarist. It made me think a LOT about performance, and its role, and how/if I fit into it. And how it changes in relation to other history, and how it changes as the performer ages.

I had one of those Korean tutoring sessions where I forced my teacher to be my therapist by not bringing any homework at all or even a textbook. I did talk about all the fun things I learned from the exam I took yesterday (that was more interesting than trying to get the answers right), like how to treat dry cleaned clothing, why tap water smells weird, and how you will always love your hometown. She said I needed to focus myself for my last two months and asked, "are you an artist or are you a professor?" Sharp! We talked about how research can be endless if you don't set parameters, about what I can gain inspiration from, and how to seek those things.

But for right now, I am just sad. I miss the two men I met and came to love who are now on different continents. So I think I will treat myself to sleeping in tomorrow morning instead of trying to squeeze in a dental appointment.

Suddenly lighter

[The way to the testing site, on the way out.] The dreaded, awful test is OVER!!! I think I semi-bombed it, which is a shame b/c so many people sent sweet messages and called right before I took it to wish me luck, but I don't care. I hope never to take another standardized test again in my life. I had said the same thing after the SATs and had stuck to it for over 15 years; I'm not sure what made me slip up this time. But no more scantrons! NO MORE!

After grabbing ice cream afterwards, I rushed off to meet Michael and his team for farewell coffee/tea, dinner, and drinks. I had put together his box of goodies to gift tonight and everyone gave him such lovely things. It's amazing what he's been able to get done during his short stay. I am so proud of him!

I think our story is definitely one of instant love. He made the last few months here so much better for me, and reminded me tonight to take care of myself and stop researching at some point. I realized on the bus ride him that he is right: part of my Fulbright proposal was to make art and have a studio practice. I keep just forcing myself to do research that is, in many ways, redundant. He warned me to set deadlines and not work myself into the ground until the moment that I leave. Since I keep pushing my deadline to stop research and start making art. Suddenly, the idea of letting go of my unreasonable expectations and letting myself breathe by giving myself time to make work (or just breathe!) completely relaxed me. For a moment tonight, walking home in the dark in nearly deserted streets, I felt totally okay with the world, this world that I usually consider as one going to hell. Humans do what they can, and what they can do is usually messy and hurtful, but there are also beautiful and wondrous things that are possible. Michael proves this to be so.

Pictures from tonight. Tomorrow, I report to my Korean tutor in shame, since she has been the one training me from the start. I hate to disappoint her. But at least I have good stories to tell her from the last two weeks!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Abort Mission Test Cram

I'm a little taken aback by how completely I am not studying for tomorrow's exam. I don't even know if I need a #2 pencil or something like that. As long as I remember my passport (unlike my trip to Jeju: totally had to run back and thought I was going to be late to the airport).

But I figured, better to spend my time doing research than cramming for a test. I went out to Gwangju, in the same province that Seoul is in, but further out in weekend traffic, to see an exhibit that was opening at the Youngeun Museum. They have an artist residency program there, w/lovely facilities, and great gallery spaces. This particular show was a mix of "old" and "new" media, specifically hanji. So I saw a big range of what Korean artists are doing with hanji, and ignored the new media stuff. I am a little worried about how the work I have been exposed to in Korea is affecting me, and how similar all the hanji work is: labor intensive. I'm wondering if this is the only way people can use hanji. I'm not sure it's necessary, seeing that the process of making hanji is so freaking labor intensive. It starts to feel like overkill. Then again, I am at that point in the night where I am panicking about being behind on my work, yet unable to see from exhaustion. Which means I'm not thinking straight.

We had great home cooking at this place WAY back on back roads. It was like just walking into someone's home, past their kitchen, to sit down for really good chicken stew and then rice porridge. Along w/a bunch of Korean pancake appetizers (one potato, one seafood). I'm super thankful to Myung Hee Oh, the professor I met before I left for Jeju with Michael and his team. She does great work with hanji, treating it like a tapestry material. She had invited us to the opening and let us tag along w/her students. Dongjae and Jimin and I debriefed over shakes and coffee and a gargantuan cheese-on-bread concoction.

Oh, right: here are the photos from today's trip.

After a hint from the North Country


Fulbright presentation intro from Aimee Lee.

Velma asked if I was going to videotape my upcoming lecture. I've thought about it but it's been not very high up on the priority list of things to think about. But Esther captured the first bit of my presentation from Monday at the conference. It's a short intro on how I ended up here in Korea, researching hanji.

Friday, April 17, 2009

What I did on the island

I am back in Seoul. Coming back to the city always kind of sucks, but at least it was sunny and I treated myself to a cab ride home so that I'd have the energy to do my laundry, run tons of errands, and deal with the aftermath of a week away.

I had a pretty laid-back trip. Even though I was on an island, I touched NO sea water. Usually, this would upset me. But this was a work / research / seeing everyday life trip. Work: the conference. I was locked in a hotel and so busy that I didn't even get to shoot the gorgeous scenery from a window. But everyone did a great job presenting. Esther helped me realize that buffets are truly evil inventions. There were lots of babies and small children. I got no sleep b/c our hotel room was inexplicably HEATED. Actually, now that I think about this, my other hotel room also felt heated.

Research: I met Kim Hae Gon, who is working on making hanji mixed with different plants of Jeju. We had met in Seoul a while back but I wanted to see his studio. He referred me to Park Hyun-Young, an artist and professor at Cheju University, and Yang Soon Ja, a designer, master persimmon dyer, and founder of Mongsengee.

This was the highlight of the trip. Soon Ja is AMAZING. She is now in her early 60s, and one of the few older Korean women I have met who does not dye or perm her hair. I went to her on Monday night, and she dropped me off at an animal care store on Wednesday afternoon. In between, she took me under her wing, housed me, fed me, told me stories, and gave me free rein in her studio. I even modeled for her latest dress design. She bought a local school that had shut down due to a lack of students, and is located on the west end of the island, way north, where she grew up. She studied fashion design at FIT in NYC and stayed for years, working and running her own business in the garment district. When she hit 40, she recognized that she was living a crazy life, and in her mid-40s decided to return to the island to give back. She feels now that it's time for her to pass on her "know how" before she passes away, which is why she feels so rushed.

She has a life philosophy and views quite different from people I've met. I find this to be the case for many people who spend significant periods of time abroad, or shorter periods of time abroad but during formative years of their lives. She told me to write to my bf immediately to tell him that I love him and that we need to make babies b/c women need to have children, though marriage is unnecessary. For the two mornings when I woke up in her home studio (she lives in the Jeoji Artist Village in a home she designed, right near the contemporary art museum, which we visited), she took me at 7am to hike an oreum. They're volcanic cones and they cover the island. The first day was misty, so I couldn't see any views. It was like hiking in a dream, in a beautiful forest. The next day was gorgeous, and I saw everything that was hidden from view the day before. Once we began our descent, I realized that nature was keeping me from seeing things, just as my own nature keeps me from seeing things. It's all the same.

The second day, a father and son who run a business in Japan involved with persimmon dyeing came to visit with their dyestuff, and we went to dinner together at an amazing local place right on the water. All seafood, raw and cooked. Yu-um. With a view of the water. I realized the first morning waking up that there were no car sounds. All I heard were birds, mostly pheasants. It was all green, all lush, everywhere. Made my heart ache, the time out there in the countryside. The place is bursting with fertility and the air is sweet. The second night was clear, and I could see stars. It's sad that seeing stars is such a rare occurrence in my life.

The third day with Soon Ja was her teaching day. B/c it was so sunny, she took everyone from the local library to her studio to dye (persimmon dye requires abundant sunlight). A local TV crew was there as well as a French team shooting a documentary on Jeju culture. Their translator, An HyeKyoung, was from Art Space C, a local arts organization. I realized that in Korea, I have an irresistible urge whenever seeing English-speaking foreigners to make sure they know that I speak English. For someone who has dealt with being the "other" forever, it's like I can't handle NOT being something other. Or maybe it's the other way around. Or maybe I have to be a certain kind of other. The director asked me to do a short interview (while apron-clad, my hands covered in dyestuff). He asked about the uncanny strength of women in Jeju, which was echoed everywhere I went, learning about how this island is plentiful in three things: wind, women, and rocks.

Two of the Mongsongee employees sew. The main tailor, Mr. Park, was hilarious and made wood fires to keep us warm, and Mrs. Kang was super sweet and knows the ins and outs of that place really well. She noticed me using a tiny scrap of hanji as a bookmark, so she quickly assembled a persimmon-dyed bookmark as a gift. It's ridiculous how lucky I've been in meeting such kind, generous strangers everywhere I go.

I rode a TON of cabs for long distances through windy roads. One let me sleep. Another was chatty and tour-guide-y (he even took me to a "mysterious road" where cars roll uphill instead of down), telling me that either you love the mountains or the shore. Another treated the ride like a video game and went as fast as possible in the wrong lanes in the dark. This is when I curse the Korean cabs b/c too often the buckle slots for the seat belts are taken out of the car. So you just brace yrself and pray. He could have used new brake pads, too.

Seeing everyday life: My dad's friend's friends helped me find a hotel for my last two nights, and they run a shop for animal-related things, so I got to hang out with two 1-month-old puppies. Simple pleasures! Like having a creature completely absorbed with my finger. We went to have another amazing Jeju dinner, and then I watched "Spiderman 3" while sprawled out on the hotel bed.

My last full day was gloomy, so I talked to Ben for four hours and then got myself together to meet the professor and then Boram, which was SO nice. She's at a year-long residency on the island and arrived at the bus stop to pick me up on a scooter!! It was such a surprise, but a wonderful one, to see her in her helmet and then to get her instructions on how to ride in back ("don't move!"). We had dinner and then walked down to the water for tea. She amazes me by how much she thinks and considers things. I'm also struck by how similar our struggles are, though Soon Ja said the same thing - that our obstacles are nearly identical.

I am back to my workaholic ways, but started bleeding right after landing in Seoul, so I've been home the rest of the day. I have to take that Korean language exam on Sunday and have not studied at all for the last two weeks. It's a shame, b/c if I was at my test-taking prime just a couple weeks ago. I have no intention of studying any more. Even if I wanted to cram, I have too much research to continue tomorrow on another site visit. I was observing a lot how close I am to scaling this wall I've run up against, language-wise. I'm right on that edge of more meaningful understanding, being able to piece together words, proverbs, sayings, cultural keys, but knowing that this is fleeting, too, and that it will disappear again. I think this is what I need to understand: it's all fleeting.

I forgot about self-aggrandizement

Clearly, I am so out of it that I completely forgot to promote my own lecture scheduled for next Friday. I must be operating on Korean time, where notice comes last minute. So, I am actually early in making this invite public! If you are in Seoul next Friday, swing by (the RSVPs are for a head count for the food. There is always lots of food. I won't be insulted if you come more for the food than for me. If I wasn't giving the lecture, I'd be glued to the food stations). If you are shy about the RSVP, just let me know and I'll put you on my guest list. Also, you aren't supposed to be late, but please don't NOT come if you happen to arrive at 7:06pm, okay? In the lecture I gave in the above picture, I think at least three people walked in late and I had NO IDEA. Even though they walked right past me. If they hadn't apologized to me afterwards for being late, I never would have known.

Fulbright Forum
7:00 P.M. on Friday, April 24, 2009
R.S.V.P. by Tuesday, April 21

The Korean-American Educational Commission warmly welcomes you our fourth Fulbright Forum of the 2008-2009 program year with Fulbright Junior Researcher Aimee Lee.

"Spider Paths on the Paper Trail: Contemporary Possibilities for Hanji"

Open to all, the Fulbright Forum serves as a periodic gathering for the Fulbright Family at large, including past and present grantees and friends of Fulbright. Please reply to Nikki Guarino (executive.assistant@fulbright.or.kr) by Tuesday, April 21 to confirm your attendance. Regrets do not need to RSVP. This month's Forum will be held at 7:00 PM sharp on Friday, April 24 in the 6th floor conference room at the KAEC Building in Mapo-gu, Seoul, with a snack reception to follow in the 3rd floor administrative offices. Please visit the KAEC website at www.fulbright.or.kr for maps and directions.

To respect both the audience and presenters, late arrivals will not be allowed to enter after 7:05 PM.

Summary:

Hanji, Korean handmade paper, has a history on the peninsula that reaches back over one thousand years. With origins in China, papermaking spread to east to Korea and then Japan, speeding the use of written materials, contributing to literate and artistic cultures, nurturing religious traditions, and becoming part of daily life. Each culture developed similar but distinct methods of making long-fibered, strong paper from the mulberry tree. Through travel to various papermills, interviews with scholars, and study with artisans, Aimee has gained greater insight into the history of hanji, its glory days as the preferred paper in East Asia, and its demise with the rise of industrialization. She now seeks glimpses of its future: its role in conservation, the arts, and everyday life. Aimee will give a brief history of the craft, show photographs and videos of how hanji is made, as well as its presence in the contemporary art world, and use material demonstrations to exhibit related crafts, such as textured paper, twisting and weaving, and natural dyeing.

Biography:

Aimee Lee is a Junior Fulbright Researcher in Design and an interdisciplinary artist researching the current state of hanji, Korean handmade paper. As a papermaker, she has learned to make hanji from scratch at Jang Ji Bang, a 3rd- and 4th-generation family papermill in Gapyeong, and is currently studying with teachers of natural dyeing and paper weaving. She is affiliated FIDES International, where she is advised by B.K. Kim. She earned her MFA in Interdisciplinary Book and Paper Arts from Columbia College Chicago and her BA in Visual Arts from Oberlin College. She has performed extensively in the United States, exhibited internationally, and is now preparing two bodies of work for three solo exhibits in the fall of 2009. For more information, please visit http://aimeelee.net.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Bugging out

I can barely keep my eyes on this flickering screen but HAD to hijack it for a moment b/c I have been having serious internet withdrawal despite how gorgeous it is here. Just to say that I am still alive and well, just w/o internet access. This one is from the office of a master persimmon dyer, who has been taking care of me for the past two days. Pretty amazing stuff. Will update fully later...conference was great! Meeting all sorts of people from all over. Weather is now gorgeous after rain. I hiked a mountain this morning AND yesterday morning. I miss my loved ones and now realize I am a disaster w/o this access! But I'll be up and running like normal for sure on Friday when I'm back in Seoul.

Big up from a lush, lush land!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Going steady

My day turned out completely different from the plan. Which is actually great, since I needed all the extra time that I got. I skipped my dyeing lesson to buy more time for conference prep. I leave really early tomorrow morning. I am SO taking a cab.

My cousin and his wife dropped off a foam mattress so that I'll be ready for when Tam visits. But in the meantime, I'm leaving it on my bed (there's no room for it anywhere else), which makes me very, very happy b/c it makes me feel like a princess. I got the update on the pregnancy: 5 months, a boy! She looks fabulous and is starting to show. They had Mozart on in the car and we went to see flowers at the university down the road (his alma mater) - all considered pre-natal care. Love it.

They took me to dinner in the next neighborhood over, where there's tons of good food. Yu-um.

I miss seeing them more often, but so often the family stuff gets sacrificed first. I'll miss my aunt's bday lunch next weekend b/c of the national language exam.

I'm officially leashed now; the first bf of this decade! It's kind of hilarious b/c in so many ways, this relationship was never supposed to happen. But despite all the logistical issues, I am glad that it did. This has been a cup-overfloweth week for all (birthdays, grad school admissions, job offers, rescuing women in Starbucks from violent crackheads, and delicious lunches filled with smoked duck).

Friday, April 10, 2009

Reaffirmed, told backwards

While waiting with Bo Kyung for Hiromi and Joe, I jumped into this gallery to check out a Michael Scoggins show.

The space was gorgeous.

This was the cafe where we got coffee while waiting for Hiromi and Joe. I had been so sleepy that I got a mocha and downed it.

I went back to the mill today! [go to the latest pics in this set, starting near the end w/the pic of my hanji teacher behind a row of mulberry shoots. It was a gorgeous day.] And finally got some decent pics of me making hanji. Wohoo!

[My hanji teacher, his parents, Hiromi, me, and Bo Kyung.] I'd tell the long version of how awesome today but I am wiped out. Bo Kyung from FIDES Int'l invited me to come to the mill as she escorted Hiromi and her husband Joe (they're only in Seoul for 2 days) there to see Korean papermaking for the first time, since I would be a useful translator. Hiromi has been operating a paper shop in Santa Monica, Hiromi Paper Int'l, for 20 years. She is full of energy, super smart, no nonsense, and truly loves paper and papermakers. It was fantastic to spend the day with her since she is so deeply involved in the paper community internationally and so open to and excited by new experiences. It made me feel like I'm still on the right path, doing the right thing, energized by like-minded individuals.

I got an email recently saying, "YOU'RE THE BIGGEST DORK!!" I'm happy to confirm that statement.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

I am a pro

Today was kind of funky, again. I started the morning super motivated, but then quickly fell into a long, hilarious convo w/my sis and her husband in NYC. Then I ran out the door w/my computer and three packages in an effort to run errands and hit a cafe. But once I got to the bottom of the hill in this suddenly hot weather, I got all cranky about the length of my hair. So I RAN across the street and hopped on a bus, which took me to the wrong place, and then took two more subways to my mom's hairdresser.

She was impressed by my jiseung work, chopped off a load of hair, and fed me lunch. I ran errands and then figured since I was in the neighborhood, I should stop by the Fulbright office to check the dimensions of the lecture hall and figure out how to rig props for my lecture in two weeks. I saw a barricade in front of the elevator and assumed it was out of order (I didn't bother reading the sign), which meant that poor Nikki walked up with me to the 6th floor, then back down and up again with keys that didn't work. We ended up just walking down to the 5th floor and taking the perfectly-functioning elevator back up to the 6th floor.

She let me stay for as long as I needed, which was great. It was nice to have a place to catch my breath and cool down. Since I didn't know until 5 minutes before that I was going to check the specs on this room, I didn't have any measuring tools. Instead, I did things like measure the height of the ceiling as the height of me on half tiptoe + the length of my forearm + a pen. That converts to about 7 feet. My methods are deceptively ridiculous, but they work!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Slowly

The weather has been warm and sunny, which makes me want to throw all my work out the window and lay in the grass. Instead, I paid my phone bill, bought gifts for Terttu, who has a birthday this week and got into Yale for grad school (b/c she is a most amazing picture maker and human being), ran errands, and sat in a sweet cafe for hours just weaving, eating cheesecake, and writing a long email response to Frank b/c I'd much rather engage in the musings of my mind rather than do "official" work. I was motivated enough to get groceries and cook a grand dinner, did some mail art, and talked to Katherine, which further reaffirmed my desire to not do work.

It's all overrated, anyway. Maybe I need to switch my goals for my life and just work on being a nicer person. I'd like for that process to include sangria during lazy afternoons. If that is guaranteed, where do I sign up?!