Saturday, May 30, 2009

"I didn't know if you'd make it"

Friday after the funeral, I napped and then left home again for a girls' night out - Sarah and two of her friends. Yesterday, I had lunch with my mom's friend (who then bought me enormous amounts of seaweed), came home to nap, and later Sarah came over. After Sarah and I had eaten, she went across the hall (to a friend's apt) to study while I wove. Once I finished my necklace, I went over and we talked for a long time before I came back and then talked to Ben for a long time. I'm on a dreadful 3am - 9/10am sleep schedule. This has been going on for a week straight and I'm slightly horrified, yet it continues. Ben is amused by how much time I am spending with Sarah, whom I only met just less than two weeks ago, and made a comment about how quickly I fall in love with people. But when you know, you know.

I find that near the ends of things, people appear. Sarah leaves Korea in two weeks. I leave in about a month and change. I keep meeting people lately that make me wonder why I haven't met them earlier. But I guess it's just like how it took me so long to find my hanji teacher; this is how the journey goes. I watched a Carl Honore talk about slowness (of course, while frantically spinning hanji) and was reminded by what my hanji teacher said last week: "it's a good thing we didn't meet right away." Because there was merit in my stumbling all over the country to find a teacher, in being rejected and denied, in learning all the other things you get to learn on the rocky road. He might have turned me away; I might not have been ready to be his student.

Yesterday, my mom's friend said that she was impressed by how many friends I've made here and how well I've done - she had met me when I first arrived last summer and had wondered to herself if I'd survive Korea. When I was near the end of my three years in Chicago, Breda wrote me to say, "you did it! You moved to a new city and are a total success!" [my paraphrase], which gave me major pause at the time, b/c I had been so busy just plowing through that I never noticed. But last night, Sarah and I talked about how thankful we are that we are flexible and adaptable enough to travel like this and get an experience of Korea that isn't the watered-down tourist version.

I am also thankful to have a friend that I can eat a lot with and loves seaweed as much as I do.

Friday, May 29, 2009


Yesterday was weaving, ALL day. I never left home and now my hands are numb, but I got all my homework done, plus a bunch of extra things I had had on my mind. I was sad about this little cup b/c I had inadvertently added ONE extra cord, which threw the whole thing off. A shame.

Today I left early for dyeing in case traffic would be bad b/c of funeral day for former prez Roh Moo-Hyun. It was actually quite light, but the scene on the way to class was stunning. HUGE crowds, and then about 3-4x that amount of police. That quantity of men in uniform is nothing short of beautiful, no matter the meanings and connotations. We didn't do anything in class but watch TV and cry. This single event and its repercussions have taught me again how different this culture and the one I am going back to are. I had the same reaction as my parents, who have shifted to a very American viewpoint after living there for so long. But it's been incredible and enlightening to see how reactions here have unfolded here. Granted, there is a history that I am well unaware of. But attitudes towards suicide, dignity, responsibility of heads of state, gender roles, and mourning are obvious. And compelling.

One thing I love about Korea, which sometimes can seem over the top or incomprehensible to outsiders, is collective, public suffering. The grieving today, and prior, has been impressive not just in its intensity, but in its shared size - seas of people standing in the heat and sun, weeping and wailing and singing and yelling. The funeral today involved rites of three religions and afterwards continued in more traditional and shamanistic rites. Traditional funeral culture here has nearly died, but isn't entirely gone b/c it serves such an important role in the grieving process. I love that it's perfectly okay to sit in a room watching TV with people, at one moment cracking jokes and at the next crying audibly with tears running down our faces. No judgment, no weirdness about true expression of the immediate emotion. I love that grieving has not been completely contained here.

Everyone else ran off to Seoul Station to join the crowds, but I just couldn't do it. I stayed and dyed a couple of onion skin scarves, wove until I couldn't keep my eyes open or hands moving, and then headed home on quieter-than-usual roads.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Getting there

I spoke too soon! But for sure, next week, I will be done with this lamp. Today was a fun lesson b/c I had worked on a necklace that I had designed myself and my teacher was happy w/me b/c it was good! He kept saying, "I didn't teach this to you; how did you figure it out??" I wanted him to feel like I get it well enough to be on my own once I leave Korea, so that he knew I learned well and can apply these skills. So I'm psyched about that. Plus I got to show it off to everyone tonight for a girls' night in; approval all around.

Yesterday was hilarity: I asked Sarah for help getting my 20 kilo box from my home on top of the hill to the nearest post office in the scorching afternoon. She's a total trooper. So the box is on its way home by sea. We ended up hanging out on campus (at Ewha Women's University where she takes Korean classes) after that, marveling at the way that the recent suicide has been taken by the public at large, sitting outside with good cheap dinner, eating all her snacks, and staying up way too late. I got home at 2am. I think I have been getting to bed past 2 and sometimes even past 3 for the last four nights in a row. So I'm bordering on crazy BUT I have completed at least one major thing on the to do list! Now I just need to confirm my flight home and then I'll have a real end date.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Starting the great pack

I went to bed WAY too late last night (after 3am), so this morning was a struggle, mostly b/c of allergies, but I managed to run my errands and then meet Frank, Arlene, and David for fun adventures. We picked up hanji and wood gifts in Insadong and had lunch. I had big plans for the rest of the day but the heat has set in so I ran home instead to clean, do laundry, and then run to the post office for the second time today (a different location) to buy a box and get a shipping label.

Because the inevitable has arrived: I have to ship stuff back home. The biggest box allowed to the US is not very big, but thank goodness, b/c if it was any bigger I might throw out my back trying to get it out of here. I packed up my books and some of my winter clothing and was horrified, as always, by how much crap I own. It's nice to have it all in a box now, but it worries me about when I have to really pack. That doesn't even take into account the scads of paper and pieces like this huge lamp that I need to get back home. I'll try one attempt at shipping and if I am not traumatized, I'll try another. If I am, I'll deal with it later.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The down draft

Today was a much needed day at home to get my shit done. My hands are barely functional after weaving eight rounds on my lamp, but that means I am almost all set for my lesson this week, leaving tomorrow and Tuesday for other things, like the mighty goal of figuring out how and when to ship crap home. I keep adding and subtracting to my "final to do" list, and realized yesterday that I am going to have to do at least ONE item on the list every day, or it isn't going to get finished. Thank goodness I got a family visit in last night and just found out that early July is a family gathering that I usually am never in Korea for, so that will be the perfect time to see all and say my final farewells.

I've nixed any overseas travel plans. That horse is good and beaten; hopefully no Lazarus effect there. But tonight, after getting my lamp woven before sundown, I went into super ADHD mode, with things sprawled all over my desk and floor, trying to work on at least three different projects at once while also trying to do at least that many things online. Luckily, the glue on my fingers kept me away from my computer for a while. I have been frustrated by my process during my entire stay here: I have a backlog of ideas, but instead of making them, I come up with new ones and make those. But I keep feeling like I'm "behind" b/c the backlog hasn't come to life. Actually, the new work isn't that far along either - just in the itty bitty seedling phase. Nothing seems to move past that stage. Everyone tells me that this year will bear fruit 20 years later, but I'm impatient for a solid BIG project instead of the incessant little ones that feel like noise to me.

Yesterday, I waited for a few hours to get a free cleaning at the dentist's office, and had to hear the news over and over about former prez Roh Moo-hyun's suicide. It took that long for me to fully understand it since news vocab flies right over my head, but I knew it had to be serious to be repeated with no other news being given air time. Mostly, it made me angry, and then sent me into the Korean reflex of feeling embarrassed. Of course I shouldn't judge situations like these, but I get tired of high-ranking men thinking it's okay to off themselves when the going gets tough. Hello, your family! My family has been directly affected by both suicide and related-to-the-prez corruption. It sucks ass and I believe that there could have been better solutions to both, so it's sad to see it playing out this way right now.

But if anyone asks, "where were you when you heard...", I was spinning hanji.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Another reason the forums are fun

I met Chris, an Obie, and he told me about the new hanji credit cards coming onto the market here.

Go, Katherine!

Tonight was Katherine's Fulbright Forum, which she rocked, of course. I got to run her video camera! Thank goodness she just needs it as documentation, b/c I was fooling around WAY too much. Zoom, zoom, whoops! there goes the camera! and so on. I'm used to a tripod with less range of motion, so hopefully she doesn't get motion sick watching it. It was especially fun to have headphones and be able to change sound levels. But there's really only so much you can do visually in a fixed spot at the back of a room. It was nice afterwards to catch up w/friends and also see Kath's friends again, too. Being part of a fan club is always fun.

I was thankful to be of some use since the entire rest of the day before that was spent recovering from my research trip. Let's hope the weekend is more productive!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"You will look back later and see this as a joyous day"

That was an intense trip to Wonju. I could barely get myself out of bed b/c I am now officially on the late-to-bed schedule, but ended up 30 min early at the bus terminal. Then my two teachers and I proceeded to miss two buses for stupid reasons, and finally got on the road at 10:30am. I slept a bit on the way there, which was key to being able to survive the day ahead. My dyeing teacher's friends picked us up at the terminal in Wonju, and we drove out to meet a couple who does paper weaving and lacquer.

We saw some amazing pieces, which included a 1.2 x 2 meter double-sided mat that took a year to weave. They make Korean percussion instruments out of paper! Since it was a rainy day, we had the traditional fare: veggie pancakes and home-brewed makgeolli poured out of a lacquered woven jug. I was given a lacquered woven cup to drink out of, too, since I was the hanji student. That's when it went into chatty overload: drunk men. This used to be the scene I'd witness as a child, the one that convinced me that I never wanted to be involved with Korean men, but today I was at the center of it and had to humor everyone while trying not to fall over from all the alcohol.

We then all drove over to a big market (in Korea, the markets rotate days and travels to different cities, so one day it will be in X town, and the next in Y town, and eventually by the next Monday it will be back in X town). There were big umbrellas and plastic tarps rigged everywhere for the rain, and all sorts of crazy things that I was too tipsy to photograph: roasted whole sparrows that looked like tiny rubber duckies only they were real roasted birds sitting on the grill, all sorts of sea life being hacked to bits, roasted seaweed, toe socks, herbs, and the worst: eggs that were filled with dead chicks. The ones that didn't hatch. You eat them, baby fluff and all. We went for a noodle dish traditional to that province, but were sorely disappointed - they were so bad that NO one finished their servings, and everyone said it was no good.

We then headed over to the home of the other couple: he is a musician, and she makes ceramic dolls clothed in hanji. It was in the mountains, and they farm some, in a rustic home - super country style. The lacquer guy went out back and hacked apart lacquer trees to cook with a chicken. I was a little freaked out about this b/c I still wasn't sure if I am allergic to lacquer or not. But we all ate a ton and it was super good and I'm okay (so far).

But the true adventure was after we arrived and before dinner: the one single guy there (the whole time I thought he was married to someone else but I had the couples mixed up), who had fallen for me from the first hour there, drove me and the musician out to the back field to harvest some herbs. Actually, he was trying to show off and we didn't do any work - I just moved the plastic bag and followed the musician as HE hacked everything down w/his folding sickle. When we were leaving, the first guy didn't take the musician's advice to turn around or back up at the right place, and ended up backing into a huge ditch and getting his SUV stuck b/c the front wheels were no longer on the ground. It wasn't moving in either direction. There was a whole lot of putting rocks in front and back of the tires, pushing (I got to get behind the wheel at this point), and yelling in the rain. Finally, calls were made to a neighbor and to the lacquer guy, who came w/a van and a shovel respectively. The van was then replaced w/a tractor and a "wire" to tow the car out. I was kind of horrified and bemused all at once at the stupidity of men, and ran into the house when we got back.

Dinner was fantastic, but I got all stressy b/c we were getting close to the time of the last bus back to Seoul, and they kept pressuring us to stay overnight, but I was NOT interested in that AT ALL. They managed to force me to play their son's 3/4-size violin as entertainment, and then we just barely made the last bus home. I then fell victim to drunk dialing (I can't disclose who b/c it's a professional relationship), and somehow the phone was handed over to an American ceramicist, who marveled at my English abilities. I didn't get to sleep the whole ride home b/c my weaving teacher went on and on about how drinking makes good men do stupid things, and so on. It was another 45 minutes to get home from THAT terminal.

I swear - the adventures only get more ridiculous as I near the finish line. And the closer I get, the more people I meet who insist that I see them again. On Ben's advice, I did a "final" to do list, and I'm in that phase where I wonder what I can get away w/o doing. Unfortunately, the list is not getting much shorter.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

End in sight

If I can spin and undo about 50 more cords, then do 10 more rounds on my lamp, I may be able to finish it at my lesson next week!!!! I would have gotten more done today at my lesson if I had sufficient cordage, but I ran out. But the timing worked out, b/c Sarah texted right at the end of my lesson, so we had a fun and yummy dinner date in the hood (since we are neighbors! Everyone I met last night lives in the same vicinity). Though I totally got off at the wrong stop and had to hike through hazy humidity and the unleashing of this season's mosquitoes. EW.

Tomorrow's trip to Wonju will be in the rain, but I am praying for sleep time on the bus. I can't believe it's been so long since my last bus trip - over two months! Time to try and squeeze out the spinning right now before I lose all steam.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

When did I get so crotchety?

Going to bed late is not very good for me but I keep doing it. I realized today that I was waaaay too cranky about yesterday and that I will turn small and shriveled and bitter if I keep acting like that - not accepting opportunities with open arms, being suspicious and paranoid, and forgetting that there are ways to learn from everything. I had only gotten a few tiny clips from Bill's speech last night b/c I wasn't sure if I was allowed to be shooting, and also b/c when I started recording the talk would get boring and when I stopped he would say the most perfect things. Ben shared his theory about how it's good to do these things b/c I'd probably be procrastinating anyhow. So I need to enjoy things in the moment instead of stressing over what ELSE I could be doing w/that time. Esp since no one understands if you say, "I need to finish weaving this lamp!!" and try to prioritize it over everything, yet procrastinate simultaneously.

I had to do a translation this morning that I had sent to my dad for a first round, and it was kind of hellish, and all I could think was, "I feel Katherine's pain." I complained to my dad about how Koreans are so bad with English, and he said, of course they are! And you can't change it! So after that task, I did laundry and other bits of work and then finally buckled down to some weaving. Esther called at about five and gave me info on tonight's date, which was a bday dinner. It was SO lovely; she has great girlfriends and a bunch of Fulbright people came out and I really loved the woman next to me and across from her is a woman who is my across-the-hall neighbor. We've never met save running into each other a few days ago.

And now it is late again and I am behind again in my weaving homework but this is my life. Nothing is ever enough in the face of incredible surplus. Like last night, when Bill talked about how a country in Africa (I already forget which) had famine during a bumper crop year simply b/c there were no modes of storage, transit, delivery, and distribution, so the food in one part of the country went bad as the people in another part of the country went hungry. These are problems that can be solved, that must be solved. I am given so much but can't see it! I need to solve this blindness.

p.s. - I noticed last night that Bill had this handmade-looking bracelet on his right wrist. A guy I met last night said it was from South America. Inga had noticed it, too, and we both thought the same thing: wouldn't it be great to for him to have a hanji one? In that spirit, Esther got one tonight (see right wrist above).

Monday, May 18, 2009

The final class

I had my last Korean tutoring session today. I was freaked out about telling my teacher that I was quitting and felt guilty when she seemed a little sad about it. She has been a driving force behind my research year - tonight I talked about the "behind every great man is a great woman" line to new friends, and she is like that great woman (not just for me, but many of her students). She has a phenomenal talent with teaching language, and uses her power wisely. Today we talked about how my time here has been such a ride - there's a whole history that we can look back upon and even divide up into sections, like the eras of "meeting suspect book artists" or "struggling to find a hanji teacher" or "fighting with my family about being single." I came here terrified of making phone calls and having conversations with people, and even for a moment considered hiring someone to do it for me (she of course told me not to). I went from thinking I'd never be able to read and write well enough to communicate to zipping off texts and exchanging emails with family, friends, and research informants. Just today I met a design professor who marveled at my ability to mix English and Korean without a hitch, as if it was all one language.

Katherine had said long ago that I just needed to meet ONE person who would then connect me to the next, and so on. That was in my desperate fall phase, and I thought that later that my hanji teacher was the one. But all along, my Korean tutor had my back. She's heard EVERY story from September, knows all the major players in my life, can refer to my family by name, and has never given up on me. She's one of the smartest people I've ever met, and the best teacher I could have asked for. I knew this from the moment I met her.

There is nothing I feel I can adequately do to thank her, but I gave her a painting on hanji I made and joomchi-ed (aka wrinkled) and a scarf I dyed tied with a cord I spun. I want to make her something more substantial before I leave. I felt like I was leaving my therapist, and got all emotional when writing my last composition for class, which was a letter to her with the same title as this post. Last week, I had turned in a composition that was a horrid mess, so I worked really hard on getting this right. I only made three minor mistakes! Thank goodness. It would have been embarrassing for both of us to part on a piece of paper completely marked up in red.

Helena and I had talked about the huge reverence for teachers in Korean culture, which she experiences directly as one. I don't know where exactly my sense of it comes from, since my sister isn't like me in this regard, but I certainly do revere my teachers. I know it can be excessive, but I can't help it: I have such deep respect for their work and commitment, and outrageous gratitude for their service towards the goal of my learning. I love them to the point of bursting. I just do. There's no changing the way that I appreciate them, as ridiculous as it might seem. Maybe the only thing that would change it is if I ever entered the profession.

After class, I tried to take a different bus, waited half an hour for it to never arrive, and then walked to the one I usually take, getting me home an hour later than usual. In my crankiness, I got ice cream, and in gluttony I got it all over me. I scored a tiny nap before suiting up and heading back to the Hyatt for what ended up being a lot of waiting around, hearing Bill Clinton's speech at a financial conference, meeting him and getting pictures taken, hanging out with cool people from Nashville (families from Korea and Iran), and doing a big hanji pitch. I even made a bracelet for Inga, the Korean guy from TN, who was super supportive and excited about my research and future plans. I was not that engaged during Bill's speech, but it was b/c he looked SO tired and I have a sympathy problem where I feel how other people look. The colors were very blue there; I kept remembering how red the colors were when Hillary came to speak in February. But it was good, just so far removed from my life right now - dealing w/the current global financial crisis.

I did some phone jockeying in the afternoon between my weaving and dyeing teacher: turns out we will ALL take the bus to Wonju on Thursday to meet another weaving person and also a lacquer person. I think. My dyeing teacher set up the appt; it should be very interesting. In the meantime, I am waaaay behind on weaving (the whole reason I quit language classes). This is it; my time is almost up!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Panties on the rice cooker

It's chilly and my laundry is not drying so I'm putting my underwear on top of my rice cooker one by one to dry faster. This is how I get my kicks when I near the end of real productivity for the night. I went to the Hyatt today to meet Amy for brunch and chill in her suite for a while before they headed over to the Shilla for more meetings. The weather was all over the place, but once I got home it was nice again, so I was motivated to get groceries, clean, shower, do laundry, cook, do dishes, and have a good sketchbook session.

NOW I finally understand the calligrapher I met in the fall last year: he said that to really understand hanji, you have to learn calligraphy. At the time, I thought, that's a great idea, but I want to learn how to make hanji first. But today I took up a brush and ink and almost passed out while doing some work in my sketchbook (the big one is all hanji that I made in the winter, and it's actually my "worst" batch, but it still felt amazing). I have to say that ink on hanji ranks up there with shooting with an SLR and great sex.

Most western paper is NOT right for eastern ink/brush work b/c there's no relationship: the paper repels the ink. The ink just sits on TOP of the paper. But ink on hanji is incredible. Go and get the supplies to do it at home b/c it is insanely gratifying. I wonder if there would be less war if more people did this.

I had intended today to do a post inspired by Frank's post yesterday, but I'm too tired from battling some demons and working to tackle it. But I think it's an important and deceptively simple question to consider: why we do what we do.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I can't get myself motivated to sit for long periods with this wretched lamp, which is hands down the bane of my existence right now. So I took a break in the morning and cut up a shirt that my shoulder girdle finally ripped through. That was satisfying, and now I have a match for the shirt piece I made last year. I've been cleaning out photo files and it's pretty amazing. I feel like I've lived so many lives already, and am reassured by the amount of work that I've done that I have simply forgotten about.

The rain makes me want to stay in bed all day.

Friday, May 15, 2009


I spent the afternoon with Helena, a FB senior researcher, which was quite wonderful. We went to my dyeing lesson and tea at the bird cafe. She had insights that were just what I needed to hear right now. I thought I was going to come home and weave, but now it's six hours later, and I'm still cleaning out my HD. Ben told me to just burn to DVD, but I am overdue for purging.

[Cranky edit:]
She confirmed my recent frustration: we are here in Korea, working. But I fear that many think I am in Korea, on vacation. As my teachers say, this is "gold time." My time is precious. I need to protect it, to shore up boundaries, to step up and try to be like the people I admire so much. People who are killer smart and super good at what they do (like teachers, not ax murderers). So I'm starting the sacrifices: I am going to quit Korean classes, and stop taking requests from friends who are asking for favors like buying fake designer bags. If I ask you if you want anything from Korea, remind me to stop being such a people-pleasing doormat. It's not my job to gift my entire rolodex with tokens of my research year.

[Rosy edit:]
I was so inspired today that I got on the wrong bus home. I take the 272 but saw "-72," got on the 172, and didn't realize for a while that I was not on the right bus, so it took a while to get home. This is the story of my life. I am learning a lot about who I am now, who I was, and how much things have changed. Helena made a funny comment (funny to me b/c I hear it over and over but still am trapped in the trap) about how I keep saying I never do enough, but that the reality is the opposite. We talked art, media, the web, the future, love, war, peace, teaching, and the beautiful boy waiting for me back home. It was a good day.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Always time for bed

Today was rough b/c I had gotten to bed so late, but I managed to type up labels, get dressed, get out the door to print the labels down the hill, and then do the long commute to COEX to meet Hyejin at the Seoul Int'l Book Fair. I never knew that the fair is dominated by commercial bookstores and publishers, with a portion of book arts booths.

I had completely forgotten about it even though I had it written into my book, but Hyejin and I had made a date to go together, and then she asked why none of my books were at the Columbia booth. Alumni hadn't been notified, but I threw in two today and we took care of some missing labels and dangerous placement of books (as well as moving a table so people could actually get to the books and not trip over cords). I was shocked at how thrown together it was; if I had known, I could have helped out. Then again, I would have been cranky b/c I am overloaded, so it likely would have been another thing to do. But it's good to finally have a sense of how this event runs. I ran into a bunch of people I met early in my grant period, all in the Korean book arts circles, as well as some new people. I may have roped myself into English editing after giving someone a big lecture about how Korean book arts publications need to get their English translations straightened out. Me and my big mouth.

Columbia peeps swept prizes again this year, which in some ways looks sketchy and in others makes sense: there are very few programs that make students consider every aspect of the book and then how to integrate them. As cranky as I was in the program, it turns out solid work. Though I have NO idea what it has morphed into lately, it helped get me this far. I was on the warpath today, ready to find a book arts association in Europe that has not returned a piece to me and has ignored my requests to do so, but I don't think they showed up. So I caught up w/the curator at Gallery Andante for a while, ran thru (it was too much stuff; I couldn't take it in), and then we lunched before I headed home for a serious nap.

I found out today that my HD only has about 11 gigs left of space. WTF. I started to clean things out and I suspect that my sudden launch into using iMovie is one culprit. Then I got tired at about May 2006 and give up for now. My aunt is back home from the hospital and recovery seems to be going well. So I might take an early night.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Breathe in breathe out

I feel creeping resentment about various things lately but am hoping it will all pass and that not everyone is out to use me. I am just worn out today; my vacation is over! The vacation being my week away from weaving. Today I was woken up at 7am by a text from my cousin's wife about how my aunt (the one who took me in for my first 3.5 mos here) was in the hospital and if I had time, to visit. Of course I freaked out; turns out she had thyroid cancer and it was removed yesterday in surgery. So I got myself together and ran down the street, back to the hospital I went to yesterday, and hung out for a little while. She was doing great, though we were all horrified when the surgeon came in and asked how she was and then proceeded to touch her neck all over her wound. OW.

She and my cousin's wife insisted on me leaving w/a big mandarin orange, a bottle of grape juice, and a pastry (all after already eating a chocolate ice cream bar) since it was near lunchtime but not quite and they wanted me to be able to eat on the go. I told them how taboo that was in Korea, but they said it's all changing and now people eat burgers on the train. I was like, NO, they don't, but sure enough, I get on the subway and three buddies in a row right next to me were all eating burgers (I think they were chicken rather than beef but I basically lost the argument hands down).

My weaving lesson kicked my ass and my piece is SO MUCH BIGGER than I ever wanted it to be. I'm horrified. It's probably about 400 cords around, not the 200 that my teacher initially said. Which means it will take 2x as long to get around. AGH. I don't really see an end in sight. It's also too big to carry around and was nearly killed in rush hour traffic. My teacher keeps saying things like, "don't move it around when you weave! Think of it like a baby!" and then I say, "but teacher, I've never had a baby so I can't relate." But I felt super protective after the first teenybopper ran into it and smashed the handle in.

Then I ran to meet Hae-Seon for dinner. I don't think I've seen her since...last year!!! She has a new job and soon a new home. It was super great to catch up but of course not enough time - we were both fried and have lots of work tomorrow so we couldn't stay out too late. Then I came home to blue toilet water. We'll see how this latest attack on the mildew goes. And how well I weather the next few overbooked days!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Metal v plastic

I woke up at 7am to pouring rain, and since I had finished my app last night, I gave myself an extra hour to sleep. I was going to hit the international clinic at the major hospital down the road right when they opened (since I couldn't get through via phone to make an appt) but ended up catching up w/Terttu first. I wanted an annual, and freaked out when I walked into the room with a male doctor, but it turned out he was just conducting the interview in English (a semi-weird one, where he took my blood pressure by NOT releasing pressure on my arm forEVER. In the end, he laughed at me b/c of my hypochondria and then ran away). The female doctor came in after that and did the pap, all in Korean. That was ALL that happened. No pelvic, no breast, no lectures, nothing.

The chair was great, though. No stirrups, just partial cylinders to hold your thighs, which I liked a lot better (though this would NEVER fly back home b/c there's no "one size fits all" that works back home). Then it was all remote controlled and moved so that there was minimal scooching around. I also loved that she said, "it'll be cold, b/c this is going in!" as she waved the speculum in the air so I could see it. It was metal! Which I loved. It probably means it's reused, which doesn't gross me out - actually, I like that I don't have to feel guilty as a species thinking about bagfuls of plastic disposables going into landfills. Or wherever medical waste goes.

That, and making 57 copies while the copy shop guy asked about how I eat on my own (suggesting barley and special greens if I cook at home) and mailing my app, was enough for me in the muggy weather. So I treated myself to a mega nap and started a dummy for a possible new project after unwinding hundreds of cords. Terttu thinks that I'll soon snap out of my slacker phase, realize how much work I have to do in how little time, and then just do it. I fear that my sister's diagnosis is more accurate: senioritis.

Monday, May 11, 2009

I'd rather be eating pomegranates

[Silk in pomegranate dye.] I chatted with Ellen today, and she reminded me that I have to schedule down time and then protect it w/my life, for the sake of my life. I've been in this malaise for a while, walking through the days, not wanting to do anything except escape my mildew-y home (which disgusts me to NO end; I have no tolerance for anything but asses smelling like ass, and have gone from attack #1 with bleach [failed] to attack #2 with essential oils [nausea inducing]). But there is no escape since it has been pouring ALL day. I admit that after reading her last post, I was tempted to call Katherine and beg her to go drinking with me, but that would be inappropriate since she has a lecture to prep and works really hard.

This rain is impressive in its relentlessness. After errands and Korean class (where my tutor bemoaned my backwards motion towards true Korean idiocy; I blame the craft work but really it's because I don't study at all and make up my own grammar and spelling rules), I lapsed into a nap, and then a whole lot of laying in bed, cleaning out email folders, and doing my best to avoid all work whatsoever.

I had this fantasy of reading brilliant things online but only got this far before making fried rice wrapped in perilla leaves. I have the easiest grant app in the world sitting on my desk that I keep pushing around in circles, and want nothing more than to hang out in bed with chocolate and ice cream and red wine close enough so that I don't have to reach.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

That old line on abundance

I'm in a lurch now where I want to slack off, just when I need to stay on task to the end. Today I hung out w/Julie, which was great. After lunch and a ridiculous dessert (scroll down), we went over to the bell tower to see puppets by Eom Jung-ae of Chuncheon Puppet Theater, hosted by Truth and Reconciliation for the Adoption Community of Korea to recognize Adoption Day weekend.

Then we took a walk to a lovely tea place and passed what Tam said looked like a massive TP-ing of the city. I think the overall response was, "someone worked really hard but the results are not so hot."

We had no idea what this was, either. By then, we had made pathetic attempts at shopping but at least had completed the mission of getting a new pair of glasses for me. I wanted a conservative look and was delighted when the dude said he'd take the prescription down a notch. Next time, we'll look for cheaper contacts, too.

We also got yummy dumplings from my favorite stand in one of the department stores. It was a junk food day, but that's what we needed. I am on the verge of flipping out about how little time I have left - the closer I get to departure, the more people and opportunities arise since I'm finally in a place where enough people know me and want to help me out. It's a nice contrast from my arrival here. Though Julie reminded me that I am still a magnet for crazies.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

I will not be had!

Today I did a bad job dyeing, got footage from JL that I possibly might not be able to work w/on my Mac, had horrible service from KTF (telecom co), and was the target of con artists. I had forgotten a scarf at the studio and was going back for it, when a woman and her "daughter" stopped me for directions, and then next thing you know I'm getting a lecture from "Buddhists" about how I need to take care of my unfulfilled ancestors who rely on me like a son and and and ... how I need to give these women money. I said no, and when they kept pressing for it, I said, "But I CAN make you bracelets out of paper!" They were like, "uh, no you can't. That would take too long." I said, "oh, no, they're right here in my bag!" and I pulled out two cords and tied together two bracelets.

The "mom" was rude enough AFTER that to still ask for money. I should have taken the bracelets back. Once I got to the studio and told my teacher about it, he warned me about the scammers out there and how I am too easy of a target. Then we went w/his daughter and new student to the neighborhood chicken place and drank. I was satisfied.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Work / play / chocolate

I've been forced into bed early for at least 3 nights in the last week - more than usual for a 2-month span! But the weird pain belt has passed, and today was my "fun" day: my dyeing teacher and his wife went to the mountains to pick greens so their oldest daughter, another student, Hyunmi, and I all just hung out at the studio. I did some quickie indigo and cochineal dyeing b/c I realized after seeing Hyunmi's cochineal samples yesterday that mine turned out totally RED, rather than magenta. I wanted to also see how the indigo and cochineal would combine since they did well on hanji yesterday. I even tie died, which looked horrific when wet but dried beautifully. I also made a scarf for my grandmother, whom I'll visit before I leave. I haven't seen for nine years or more.

I had prepped a TON of strips last night from dyed hanji, and brought it all over to teach Hyunmi some jiseung. In the process, I made more bracelets, and three more of these pendants. After holding off my chocolate craving all day, I finally gave in at about 6:30pm. This morning, I had packaged the penultimate piece in my subscription series, and found out that the stationery from Frank is B5 paper. B5 is such a lovely size! I wish we used that back home.

I also found a receipt that is from February for over a million won. Oops. And I'm late on my phone bill. AND I had a nightmare last night about going back to my alma mater to teach undergrads but they turned out to all be 10 year olds. I must be psychic, b/c apparently a bunch of young students will descend at the dyeing studio tomorrow for a session. I am ready for the worst. Time for another line of chocolate.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Nix that plan

I was a wreck today from lack of sleep and spent the good part of the day at my dyeing teacher's studio. It was fun. I did pomegranate dyeing! And started tests of already spun hanji. Since I have a brand new idea for my upcoming shows.

While talking w/another student, I realized that I am not interested in traveling abroad while I'm here right now. I feel like this is funded time for me to be HERE, learning, and I am happy to do that. I can and will travel when I am NOT funded, and would rather do it with people than just do it for the sake of doing it. But I still like the idea of the Phil in June if I can finish up my work by then. No, not finish, but get to a good closing point.

I'd work more tonight b/c I am way behind on admin, but I have to sleep. Plus I have a weird back-of-the-lungs/ribs pain belt that makes it hard to function normally. I'm hoping it's just from being seated too far forward while reading subtitles on left and right at last night's show that strained my upper back. It feels like a random allergic reaction happening inside of me but I have no idea what it really is. I have a hard time getting food down b/c of it, but was still able to have a lunch full of wild greens that my teacher had harvested from the mountains. I LOVE eating seasonally here. It's such a treat.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Hello from the nutso gallery

I know. It's 1am and I should have been sleeping for a couple hours already but I. Just. Can't. Control. Myself. I got home after a huge day, completely spent, but insisted on cleaning out the inbox. Which is still not done. This was the sticker on my award box. Frank and I were psyched to be considered 님 (an honorific ending) for the purposes of labeling. Wohooo!

Today was a get ready in a frenzy and run out the door kind of morning, since it started with an award ceremony. The awards are REALLY HEAVY. Mine is no longer in my possession; my jiseung teacher and his wife are holding onto it b/c they said, "there is no way you are going to run around town with this! It must be at least 3 kilos!" Thank goodness, b/c it hurt my arm even while hanging out w/Frank.

We went for strawberry smoothies afterwards, which is probably the first time since we met in September at the intro Fulbright dinner that we've had more than 5 minutes to catch up. We've been in email conversation since then, but it's much more fun in person. He makes me think a LOT, in super healthy and brain-stimulating ways. We discussed teaching and how I am still scared shitless to even go near thinking about applying for those jobs. It might be a situation where you avoid most the thing that you want the most. Or, I'm just a coward. His wife Arlene and son David met us later and we walked to lunch, where Arlene proceeded to plant a new seed of desire inside of me. This morning I had a letter in my mailbox from a Japanese papermaker living in the Philippines - he still remembers that I am in Korea and invited me to come in June since an Indian artist will be visiting his papermaking village then. I had really wanted to go in the winter, but got caught up in research and life, and then wrote it off b/c I had heard some rumors...anyhow, I just figured it wasn't going to happen. But now! I have this fantasy of running off to NZ in May and then the Phil in June.

[Thank goodness today was my lesson day so that I happened to have a great visual for the ceremony.]

Of course, even with this desire, I ended up handing over my entire scholarship check today to my jiseung teacher as 1/3 of my tuition, which I'm supposed to pay all at the end. My logic was that if I hand it over now, I won't spend it. It also spared me a trip to the bank. Afterwards, I felt like, omg! What did I just do?! but I know it was the right thing to do. It proves that I really AM using this extra boost to further my studies instead of jet to island nations.

I think it also helped my teacher come to the conclusion that since I was doing so miserably on my homework (he is constantly disappointed with my progress. I find this stressful since I hate being a disappointment, but now come to see that there is really no point in even trying to overachieve, b/c he has such impossible standards. Wait, he might just be the male version of ME...), he is going to hold onto my lamp and all my cords and work on it until next week to fix it up. GLORY BE!!! I walked out of my lesson w/nary a jiseung product, no money, and no award, and I felt free. It makes me realize how incredibly stressful it is to be his student. I love that for a week, I can be in Korea and NOT feel like I am behind in my homework, and even better: that it is getting done w/o me lifting a finger!

I left early to catch a gorgeous production of a classic Korean folk tale at the National Theater of Korea, and even got to walk through some park area and see Little League ball, men playing badminton, and other charming sights like a girl dolled up in a floral dress with yellow pumps. It was long but stunning. The lighting, especially. They used this fantastic effect with the floor of the stage being metallic and then people's shadows being reflected onto the back scrim. I'm really thankful that Michael had his team get tix for me as well; it was a lovely way to cap a full, full day.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

And we're back

[Mary and Young Hee after my lecture - they were both incredibly helpful and generous during the rough parts of my grant in the fall, and continue to be super supportive.] Tylenol didn't cross mind until after I laid in bed shivering for an hour last night. Then I realized that it could take care of all of my symptoms. I thought I only had one pill left, so I took it in the dark, praying that it would be enough. In about an hour or so, everything let up and I got up again to work until about midnight. I'm a workaholic that refuses to work - the important things I avoid, and everything else I do in a frenzy.

I woke up feeling waaaay better and have been weaving on and off all day so that my teacher doesn't whip me tomorrow in my lesson. I also pretty much booked myself for the rest of the week/end. Last night, I got a new idea for work to show, but felt all crazy b/c my hands are literally tied right now and I can't full out DO that work now. But it's a relief, since I've been paranoid about not being able to make work anymore. Like, I should go into accounting or something (except that I'd suck at accounting. But I can't think of any other morbid examples). What I'd love is to just have free rein w/inventory like this, at my teacher's papermill.

Monday, May 04, 2009

The shoe dropped

My body is in full riot gear - this morning I did my last two loads of laundry but felt awful - a raging headache, fever/chill precursors, and aches. My cure was to leave early for class so I didn't end up laying in my room all day. I got through my 2 hours of Korean instruction and met Kelsey for lunch (where they greeted us by warning us about the step down at all the tables and then I promptly walked right into the booth and nearly fell down b/c I was too tired to heed the warning). I got home and then collapsed into a heap and slept for likely over 3 hours. Total fever. Kelsey had me hydrate for my headache but I woke up wanting to find an acupuncturist for my jaw. Ben had warned me this weekend about running myself ragged and I thought I had escaped punishment but I guess it was all just a matter of time.

So it's time for soup.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Fourth load

This is my 3rd day of laundry. I have maybe two more left. No, two more loads. I got an email from Barbara, whom I had met last year at a paper workshop. She had been at WSW for a book arts residency, and made this GORGEOUS book. I love her printmaking: her line, her playfulness, her ability to layer and also have a lot going on at once but in a way that isn't overwhelming. I love seeing the work of mature artists who are really solid in their voice.

I had a hard night and needed a spot of talking down at 3-4am, but I woke up to a sunny day, did a little yoga and meditation, and am hoping to seize what good energy I have for the tasks at hand. I realize now that I am missing uninterrupted studio time - that is what I really need right now. I won't get it until August, but at least I can put a finger on the unsettledness.

Not myself

[From yesterday; today was a rainy Buddha's bday.] We went up to Bongwonsa today, the huge temple complex very close to where I live, looked around, and had a free lunch. After a short walk in the drizzle, we headed to the airport, which made me never want to travel again. It's so freaking far via train transport, which intensifies when tired out of my mind from being ON 24/7. I wasn't willing to let go entirely of my workload, so we'd come home nights and I'd stay up in catch up mode (but never catching up), and start the next day early all over again. So what started as massive allergies every day has now morphed into what might be a cold. I'll know for sure tomorrow.

I still can't rest. I took some melatonin and am waiting for it to kick in, but I need to not do it so much b/c it makes me dizzy some mornings. The constant low-grade anxiety ('I'm always behind' feeling) has taken over. Coupled with the 'as hard as I work, I might never catch up' feeling. Which feels awful. Instead of coming home and napping, I came home today and did a full-home scrub down and two loads of laundry. I also cooked and treated myself to guilty pleasures TV, but that just stressed me out even more b/c of the content. CLEARLY, I need to re-invest in better stress and time management efforts. I haven't processed my lecture, and feel so far away from being an artist that it makes me fret. Oh, wait. Everything makes me fret.

But tomorrow is a new day, where I don't have to worry about stepping on someone on the way to the bathroom. I love my friends, but I love my solo time / space, too.

Friday, May 01, 2009

We ate a lot (but did other things, too!)

Tam's almost veggie lunch today (LOVE the kool-aid).

The start of kimchi fried rice (the rice being underneath all the goodies). I was bummed that we had snacked so hardcore right before dinner b/c I couldn't eat as much as I usually would.


Noodles in soybean milk of sorts.

Dessert! Though it was a little cold for shaved ice tonight. My cousin went and complained b/c the rice cake was no good - it crumbled and fell apart in our mouths so they brought us more that was more like what it should have been.

Not quite sure why the city was totally covered in riot police today.

Tam had the brillz idea of getting this toy for my cousin's wife. She loved it. It's from the fruit line, but it's the secret one! A seedling.

Tam loves this section of Olive Young. The massagers actually work.

Tomorrow is the big day! Lanterns and festivities ALL over town. We hit two temples today and will likely hit the one right next to my home tomorrow. Go Buddha!

The colored ones are all over the place but I also like the white ones.

Today was crazy packed, as usual. It was the day of spending as much of Tam's wad as possible. We started with a skull & crossbones scarf right off the bus on the street and ended with sweet treats to bring back to her coworkers. In between was Olive Young, lunch, finding an amazing woodcarver and getting ducks and a mask, a bag for me, more green tea ice cream, visiting my hanji teacher's wife and buying paper, a natural dyeing exhibit at a temple where we got free lotus flower paper lanterns, a palace quickie, final shopping at Kyobo that included a bag for Tam, iced tea at a hot dog place, Jogyesa, a yarn shop, and overeating sweets. Then my my cousin, his wife, and their friend picked us up and took us to dinner, and then to a trendy hood for dessert. We got home early-ish and accomplished important but not always fun missions: Tam packed, I showered, and I did laundry. All with just minor sunburn.