17 February 2009

FIN, or "My Butt's Asleep."

The French film festival at the Cinematheque Pusan concluded this weekend and Yujin and I made a marathon of it Sunday to catch the few that she had missed. We saw Stormy Waters (tr.), a movie made in 1940 that had some rather unsubtle symbolism regarding the international situation at the time (one ship, that cheated, was Russian, and the competitor of the French ship was called the Dutchman.) It was notable for some remarkable special effects. Although to our eyes it looked like a couple of model boats in a bathtub, I am sure that in 1940 it was possible to effectively suspend disbelief. The plot was thin but the lead actress and actor were superb. And any movie that closes with the words "Forward at 60 revs" is OK in my book. All of these movies had English subtitles and Korean subtitles were shot along side the film from a laptop with a LCD projector.

Ordinary Lovers (tr.) was about the Paris "Revolution" of 1968. I loved The Unbearable Lightness of Being (both the movie and the novel [Milan Kundera] ) and this movie covered the same time period but in Paris not Prague and with the communists on the opposite side. It had sex, drugs, more drugs, throwing cobblestones, more drugs, and a main character (a poet...wait for it...) who ends up killing himself (with drugs) when his girlfriend moves to New York with the painter for whom she has been modeling. If it sounds predictable it wasn't and mostly because the plot, what little there was of it, was lost in the brilliant photography (B+W in 2005) and the long uncut shots. I believe the director intended this and succeeded as I was good and fecking depressed when it was over (179 minutes).

We concluded the evening with a movie of conventional length and format. A young girl is tired of being a girlfriend and a mistress and decides she is going to get married. The subtle way in which she fails even though the object of her pursuit is genuinely attracted to her was intriguing. The language of the climactic scene, in which the inexplicable behavior of both parties was explained was transfixing in its psychological depth. Unfortunately, the film had dragged up to that point and then it was over. And it was shot in 1986. In France. You can imagine what the clothes and music looked and sounded like. Torture. I have fortunately forgotten what it was called.

While we were waiting for the second movie to start I saw an expat reading a book in the corner and I went over and asked him what he was reading. He showed me an old translation of Dostoyevsky's "The Idiot." Odd. I had a copy of a newer translation in my bag. I pulled it out and we had a laugh. This young man was tall and shy (think Luke Turasky) and I asked him where from, etc., etc. Turns out he was born in the US but moved to France when he was five and grew up there. He still visits frequently (parents live/work there) but try as he might he could not achieve citizenship, something for which he was still a bit miffed. We watched the last couple of films together and exchanged digits for more hang out.

Next week (February 26 to March 1), by the way, they are showing a series of Sergio Leoni films, including my favorite film of all time: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. If you have not seen a spaghetti western you should get out there next weekend for some of that. The casting, the photography, the music, the plotting... all of it is exceptional. If you want more info email me but the theatre is adjacent the yachting center in Haeundae. Take bus 1003 from Suyeong or get off line 2 at Dongbaek and walk back up the river to toward Centum. Call PIFF for schedule as the paper I have is in Korean and I can't figger it out damnit.

Afterwards we cabbed it to what has become my favorite restaurant. It is a dwedgi-guk-bab place near my school. Huge steaming cauldrons of pork soup bubble on the porch of these places and the soup comes with a whole bunch of stuff to throw in there, customizing it to your taste. There are tiny shrimp to throw in (makes it salty), the best kimchi I have ever had, big bowls of gakdugi (radishes in spicy red sauce), guksu (noodles), veggies, red bean sauce, and, of course, rice. It is filling and wholesome and when I finish eating there I feel good all over.

The weather has turned back to the cold side but winter is set to come to a close. I am really looking forward to springtime here. I have been told that people come from all over to see the cherry blossoms in the trees along the rivers. It is supposed to be quite a sight. I got into the ocean and it didn't seem too much colder than it was in the summer, when it was freezing. If I had some warm sand to dry off on I would probably take a dip now. It only hurts till you go numb.

The school year is about over as well. We will be having our graduation for the AM classes on February 25th. After that a new crop of kiddoes will join us from downstairs. All three of my morning classes are second year so I will have all new classes. Although saying goodbye to some of these kids is going to kill me I am looking forward to the new classes.

That about sums it up. In regards to the blog, I will be writing more in the near future as there are some travel plans in the works. Unfortunately, I have nearly reached the storage limit on my online photo journal. I am looking into other options but the simplest thing seems to maintain a hard copy and delete old albums as new ones are posted. So if you have a favorite picture or haven't looked at all of them and want to, you had better get on it. Their days are numbered.

"Forward at 60 revs."


04 February 2009

Talk About the Weather

As the Midwestern U.S. remains in deep freeze and London digs out of the biggest snow in memory I thought it would be timely to describe the winter weather here in Busan. One of the wiser things that I investigated prior to selecting my Korean destination was the climate and Busan was described as having "mild winters and hot, wet summers." This is an apt description. This winter has only had a few brief stretches of really cold weather and these were due primarily to wind chill. I have been told that it is rare for there to be prolonged stretches of sub-freezing weather because of the proximity of the ocean, but I am not sure of this. When the wind blows hard from the north, across frozen Russia and over the Gobi, I doubt the ocean has much to say about it. I did a little research and found an archive of last February's weather data.This reveals an average high of 47 and an average low of 32, with a high monthly temperature of 57 and a low of 21. These are significantly warmer conditions than I am used to at this time of year. Temperatures in my hometown can reach down into the negative numbers in February.

I took a walk today at lunch time and sat outside reading on a sunny park bench. I smell now the odors I associate with Spring: dead grass and decomposition, warm earth and pine needles. The bamboo grove that backs the bus stop is abuzz with a flock of chickadees. The days are growing noticeably longer now. I leave school at 6:30 and there is now still a little light. A small temple sits halfway up the mountain across the valley from the school and as I was walking down to the bus last week they were ringing the huge bell: long, deep tolls, the call for sunset prayers.

There is a series of French films with English subtitles at the art film theater in Busan for the next three weeks, so Yujin will be staying with me a lot more, which is nice. I will be attending them with her. I have been trying out some more public baths but I haven't found any that I like as much as the one near my house, which is clean, and nice, and large enough that you don't feel claustrophobic. There is a necessary attention to personal space in a place like that and when there is a crowd that becomes a bit of a problem. I made a new friend through my blog (Hi, Wendy!) and she and her friends are jimjilbang enthusiasts as well and told me of some I will definitely try soon. One has tubs of "doctor fish". I gather that the little fellers exfoliate your feet while they soak. Not exactly what I would call appetizing but it beats being a blue-fly in a hog shed I guess.

On Sunday it was a breezy 56 and we got up early and went to our favorite Sunday brunch spot, the G Terrace on Gwangan Beach. This cavernous place has outdoor seating and indoor balconies and on Sundays they put out a simple brunch with fruit and cereal and salad, make-it-yerself French bread pizza, scrambled and boiled eggs, toast and soup. (I like to use the pizza fixings to make an omelet). It is only W6000 for the lunch and it includes all the coffee and tea you want so it is a real bargain. For W4000 more you can get one of four entrees. We usually split one. Add in the front row view of the ocean and the bridge and it is hard to beat. The street side tables are very comfortable and the tables inside are fronted by couches with huge fluffy cushions. We like to take a book and hang out for a bit. The owner is nice to a fault, so if you go "take what you want and eat what you take."

Afterwords, we went for a walk on the beach and saw an amazing sight. A man was in the process of launching hundreds of kites on a single line. I have never seen anything like it. They stretched up into the sun. And he just kept pulling them out of the box. Long after we had stopped and gawked and went on I looked far back down the beach and he was still pulling them out. We stopped at a small amusement park and rode the "Viking (somethingorother)" which was far more terrifying that it looked. I screamed until the tears ran down my face and Yujin laughed so hard she begged me to stop it but I was only partly faking. She has come to the point where she will walk blocks out of her way to avoid passing a public bath with me because I want to try them all and this time she was trying to get me to look the other way but I smelled one (the steam rooms have huge bags of medicinal herbs in them and the ventilation has a rather distinctive odor). I really liked that bathhouse. It was packed but the co-ed nappy room (you sleep on heated stone floors with a block of cedar wood for a pillow and you would be surprised at how comfy it is) had a huge tub of hot clay balls about the size of marbles and we nestled down in there and stared out the huge windows at the sailboats on the ocean. Very nice.