28 September 2008

They Take a Pair of Scissors...

It has been a quiet week for the most part. I had the end of the month paperwork to do at work, which filled the few minutes around classes and the week seemed to go quickly. I went out with friends a couple of nights and Yu Jin came to visit on Saturday. That really about covers it.

I guess I have to admit that the trip to Japan affected my view of Korea more than I thought. It would have been easy enough to begin to look at things differently, but seeing firsthand an Asian culture with a little more (ok, a lot more) affluence really knocked the shine off of things around here. I still don't really understand a lot of things about Korea and going to Japan made me ask a lot more questions. This is an old culture, far older than the one I come from, so it is difficult for me to find perspective. And at the bottom of it all this is still a very beautiful country with incredibly warm people. The city can be shabby and in places dirty but it also has its little gem neighborhoods and a stunning natural setting. And to be fair, my tour of Japan was far from comprehensive. I will keep trying to figure out what I mean and try to say it at some point without sounding superior (which I really don't feel anywhere here in Asia).

I spent about four hours today sitting at the cafe Yu Jin and I have made a habit of take brunch at on Sundays. It is right on the beach (Gwangali) and looks straight out at the bridge. I like to read and sip tea. She did homework today and drinks coffee. It is a lovely setting. The days have become a bit cool now, and I broke out my fleece for the first time today. It was nice to sit on the terrace and read. Sailboats were out in the bay and further out the big freighters were loping by either toward the port or away. Above the seacoast cliffs off to the west a group of para gliders were looping through the updrafts in slow turns. I counted nine at one time.

The brunch is simple. In addition to the tea and coffee there is toast and scrambled eggs, soup, tater tots, vegetables, and mini-make-em-yerself pizzas on garlic toast. I use the pizza fixings to make melty omelets. The little salad bar is highlighted by honest to god tomatoes. Pastries and cookies and tofu-rice pockets (what are they called?) are also available. And at 6600W I think it is a great deal, especially since they don't care if you sit there for three hours and drink four cups of tea.

Saturday we went to a Giants game. Before that we went to the gymnasium across the street from the stadium to see what the TreX Games were about. It was billed as a gathering of traditional sports from all over the world. At the gymnasium there was a Thai boxing competition underway, and the field was indeed international. I saw flags from countries I didn't recognize, as well as Mexico, Iran, USA, France, Russia, and Serbia. The Iranian team fielded a female boxer who came into the ring wearing (I am not making this up) a BURKA under her boxing outfit. She then proceeded to beat the crap out of some girl with a blond ponytail. I took the opportunity to enlighten Yu Jin about female circumcision and she agreed that this could account for the girl's hostility.

Next weekend is a three-dayer and I am going to Gyeongju, the ancient capital of the Silla monarchy and home to several UNESCO world heritage sights. Next weekend is also the opening of PIFF, the Busan International Film Festival so we are going to try to catch a few films as well. Should be a busy weekend.