Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The final everything

Somehow I managed to do everything on today's to do list except for getting a gift for my dad. I hope that he doesn't take it personally.

I got up early, determined to hit the bath house, and made it there, naked and ready to go at 9:30am. What I didn't know was that the scrubbers don't start working until 10am! So I had to pace myself; I can't do hot tubs and saunas for too long w/o losing all energy entirely. I did the warm hot tub (as opposed to the hot hot one) for a while, then stayed for a while in the cold tub (and went back about 3x while alternating w/two saunas and two hot tubs). I did a lot of kicking exercises so my legs are exhausted.

Then I got a trim and blow dry by my mom's hairdresser in the salon connected to the bath house, where she fed me cherry tomatoes and a potato and then gave me cranberry ricola and hair essence as a gift along w/the essence and wax I was buying for my sister. I took a bus and two trains to the National Museum to visit this hanging scroll, used in Buddhist outdoor ceremonies when there are tons of people so they have something to look at and to mark the space as sacred. This is the one that a friend in Andong told me to view to get inspiration for my installation work, painted in 1693 for Cheoneunsa temple, almost 9 meters high.

It was nice to go to the museum to see ONE thing. Museums can be such lovely spaces, but people (including me) hardly ever visit. Today was particularly empty, which was both sad and wonderful for me. I was walking to it, thinking about all the things I've learned and in particular about how much had been taken away from Koreans and destroyed in terms of cultural property. Though I don't think it's a good way to continue, I can see why some Koreans still vehemently hate the Japanese. But on the ramp up to the museum, and through the entrance, I thought, "it's kind of a miracle that this much of Korea and its culture HAS survived." I'm so used to the scarcity mentality that I easily pooh-pooh the national treasures by thinking they aren't grand or big or impressive enough. But given the circumstances of Korean history, it's amazing that this much still survives.

I recommend a visit, even if for nothing but free admission to a lovely space where you can have a panini and iced green tea in a cafe with a view and internet. I sat there for a while and cooled off while journaling, and knowing that it was the last snippet of peace and alone time I'd get in Korea. I thought about what Michael had advised me to do, to take the time I needed at the end. Honestly, there is almost NO WAY to do that, but this was my little gift to myself. It was hilarious seeing the grandmother who was more into using the wired computer than watching her granddaughter eat strawberry gelato, and sweet to see the boy speaking good English in a VERY SHORT necktie (he was turned away from me most of the time since he had to explain that he wanted the chocolate gelato in the case behind him).

I also treated myself to a cab ride (though the driver was as bad as the herky-jerky bus driver earlier in the day) to calligraphy class. I got and made farewell calls before and during class, and was doing awful brush work b/c I was so stressed out. Calligraphy, like papermaking, always reveals your true mind in the moment you are making things. I couldn't do anything right b/c I was stressy, and tired from another nap-less day. This final practice piece says "traditional culture: our hanji."

Jeong-In convinced me to stay w/the group a little longer and have dinner at an AMAZING buckwheat restaurant. We had these rolls as well as buckwheat pancakes (w/veggies and such; savory) and super yummy noodles in water kimchee broth. Everything was soooo good. Plus the sweet liquor. It was an unexpected treat, but I'm glad I got to have amaza-Korean food before leaving. That neighborhood is particularly good; lots of small places that specialize in one dish and do it well.

I loved the wet naps the most: they come in a little dish looking like tablets, and then you pour a little water into them and they expand up and then you unroll them.

Then, in classic Aimee style, I proceeded to get on the wrong bus and go WAY out of the way to get to my farewell dinner. The restaurant was actually super close to the one I was going to, but I was my usual "road idiot" self and ended up taking three buses to go in a huge circle and get to dinner late. Thank goodness Esther and Kelsey weren't too annoyed with me. Nikki and Stephanie came w/five pieces of cake, and Julie came after class. I totally made the work's life hell by asking first to put tables together indoors (she said no), then outdoors, and then back indoors when other customers left. Plus, I tried to close the door (to avoid mosquitoes) when she wanted it open, etc. But everyone was very patient with me, even when I was taking phone calls and making them. Endless farewells to family, ALL of my teachers, and other friends today. It was sweet to get a text at 8am from someone, and another call while I was bathing (I missed that call obviously), and an "I love you!" from my mom's friend. I got calls from my hanji and weaving teachers, called my dyeing teacher, and said goodbye in person to my calligraphy teacher.

If I get a chance, I will make final calls tomorrow before Julie takes my phone and charger from me (which will be after I take the trinkets off of it) to mail back to my cousin, who lent it to me for the whole year. He came by with his wife to pick up final stuff that they let me use while in my apt. I loved saying goodbye to them b/c it was so drama-free and easy and fun. She gave me a book and he was like, "you must be so happy!" and advised me to drink Japanese beer and eat ramen at Narita during my layover so that I can sleep well on the 13-hour trip from Tokyo to NYC. I'm taking a crapload of melatonin in hopes that it will help me sleep as well, since I'm notoriously bad at doing that on planes.

I even have a big plan to change into nice clothes before landing so that my parents will feel good about me having been gone for so long in the country that they left so long ago. Though I doubt that my hair will look as good after 20+ hours of travel. Let's just hope customs lets me through. It will be hard to explain all the paper and other weirdness I'll be lugging around. Kelsey is sprawled out on my floor writing out my entire phonebook from my phone so that I have that info once I leave. Thank goodness for my friends!! I feel super lucky, always, but particularly in moments of need (and particularly when I don't realize I need them but they just step it up and show up and help me out).

I'm bad w/goodbyes and prefer to avoid any pretense of them, so I won't go on and on about how life changing and faboo this year was for me. All along people were saying that I had good fortune and luck on my side. I am utterly grateful. All I can ask for is that the heavy rain and thunderstorms forecasted for tomorrow will NOT destroy my itinerary.

In some ways, being in this packed-up room w/Kelsey on the floor feels just like home, like how home feels back home. I'm leaving it to return to it; who knows what comes next?

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