Monday, October 13, 2014


A LOT has happened and I am barely staying on top of it. If my life was only present and I didn't have to plan my trip to Japan and the next fiscal year (aka setting up workshops), if only! Here is Seoul before I enter the subway station closest to home, on my way to see a friend I haven't seen in five years. I was so happy to dine with her and her new beau and catch up. Before dinner, I went to church so that I could see more family and have a delicious lunch over very, very hot stone bowls full of rice and tofu soup. I got to see my dad's cousin, who was at my parents' wedding (at that time, not a lot of our family was in the U.S.). He went to Ohio State, so Cleveland isn't a mystery to him. I would have loved to nap afterwards, but needed to help my cousin's daughter's with English homework. After I got home, I got to see my cousin upon his return from a long weekend in Vietnam. That was Sunday, which was no big shakes compared to Saturday.
Oh, Saturday. Big Adventure. Just to get here, I had to take the subway to another subway, walk to my parents' friends' house (the most kind and generous couple, who has known me since I was a tiny one), get into their car so we could drive three hours (the last bit being worse than getting to Penland, endless switchbacks up to almost the very top of the mountain). We stopped at this place to eat, because there clearly was going to be nowhere else to eat, and because it was lunchtime (it is very important to eat at mealtimes here—no excuse is good enough to eat meals late). I was so happy to see the duck on our way in! Can you see it?
The specialty here was a kind of bibimbap with TONS of picked herbs from the mountains, served in a wooden bowl.
With even more herbs for the banchan (the small side dishes, which keep getting replenished if you like).
Each person also got a tiny bit of ginseng to start the meal! And the pot on the stove was hot medicinal water, yum. While we were starting to eat, we asked the cooks about my teacher and his address. They explained that the only way to get there was by boat. I was shocked, because my teacher did NOT talk about a boat when I said we were coming by car. Of course, being a space cadet, had left his phone number at home inside my computer. I have two phones: a U.S. phone that only works on wifi (so, useless at this point) and a Korean BlackBerry that only texts and calls (and useless because I had only used my U.S. phone to contact my teacher on a data service, so his number was not in the BlackBerry). I had to have the husband call his son, who knows English and computers really well, and then I talked to the son to ask him to log into my Skype account to find my teacher's number, and then he texted it back to his dad.
[Another duck on the way out!] By then, my teacher was like, WHERE are you and why aren't you answering your (dead, useless, non-data-connected American) phone? So I told him, and he told the wife how to get from where we were to the boat. That took us back down the mountain in some of the most outrageous switchbacks I have ever been on, down a hill, and onto a dirt road whose holes rivaled Cleveland's potholes. This road completely hugged the mountainside with very little margin for error, and was covered with mountain-climbing tourists.
Finally, we parked and saw a couple getting off of a motorboat and walking up the hill to greet us. I had no idea until that moment (though on the way up, seeing how remote this place is, I started to guess) that he had remarried. Thank goodness, because how one person could live so far out and survive is beyond me. Here, we've just gotten onto the boat, looking in the direction that his new home is.
The day was gorgeous, and the water was clean, and there's my teacher (his wife's hand is on a big lacquered pot that he made. He unloaded that, plus a huge bag of rice, from a parked SUV and made a joke about how if I want to eat any rice, I have to carry it back to the house).
The ride was beautiful, though we were staying on the same side of the water—the road being impassable, so requiring a boat. Even the mail comes via boat. After we disembarked, we had to climb straight up another mountain, passing a dry harvest of perilla seeds that smelled amazing, following my teacher as he drove a motorbike with the rice to the house. This is the view before the last climb to get there.
Can you see the house bits? They farm all along the steep slopes on the way up as well. We heard a dog, who was totally chill once we arrived, and there was a lone caged chicken that had to be removed from the group because the other chickens were bigger and were pecking it to death. Mountain water comes down and follows carefully laid pipes to a basin, the yard was impeccably mowed, and the house just right.
Arrived! The inside is super lovely, and full of my teacher's jiseung pieces. I took one look at his cords and realized I had been making mine WAY too thick for a good long time. Of course he gave me a hard time about that for a while.
Always drying food for storage and in preparation for harder times. And, the larger crops, to sell.
One view from the porch. It took a while for me to realize, but on top of the lamppost,
another duck! I showed my teacher the few pieces I had flown here with: my beaded necklace, shoe, and second duck. He said I was too advanced to study with his other students in Wonju (which is WAY closer to Seoul and very accessible), where he teaches every other Friday. So he said I had to come and live with them for two weeks, then go down to Wonju with him when he went to teach, take the bus to Seoul to do my business for two weeks, return to Wonju to meet him to go back up, spend two weeks there, and so on. I have to do this three times to total six weeks of study, though it will be a little less because I wasn't ready on Saturday to just STAY there (I had no idea that this would be the case!) and because of my trip to Japan next month.

But now I finally know how the rest of the year will look (unless heavy snow later in the coming months prevents me from going). I felt so guilty on the way there, as the drive got longer and more windy and bumpy, because how do you repay family friends who take SUCH good care of you? On the boat ride back, I felt so freed and exceptionally grateful for this life: I have been so richly blessed and it's hard to believe and accept, but my dad said something like, "Just know that you've met good people, and say thank you."


Velma Bolyard said...

your dad is so right, the right response is gratitude.

Anonymous said...

what an incredible journey you are on. the people helping you get to experience a bit of that journey with you.