BLY

Every once in a while, something comes along that hits that nerve between pure envy and churning missed opportunity, that idea you almost had, should have had but…let’s face it, didn’t. At least, not in time to beat the launch of Bly, a brilliant site that allows you to travel and shop some of the world’s best bazaars and flea markets. Bly will visit a new city every two months, offering over 200 one-of-a-kind home goods and accessories along with profiles of various local artisans, insightful stories and street photography. Yep, that’s the kicker. They offer prints for sale, too. Seriously, why didn’t I think of this!? This month features Mumbai, India, and next up on the list are Kumasi, Ghana and Bukhara, and Uzbekistan. In the meantime, I’ll be busy shopping for looking at and imagining how little these vintage saris, antique brass objects, and handpainted trunks actually cost in the markets . . .and wishing I was there.

{images via Bly}

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Where have I been?

3eb41d60f0ddbccc76660c20f79949e8Well since you asked, I’ve been taking a winter-long hiatus from the blogosphere in order to focus on travel, photography, and my current work in cross-cultural communication. As this is not a travel blog, I decided not to post stories from my adventures throughout the winter. To sum it up, they involved immersion into the European psy trance scene, homestays in a rural Turkish village with poke-down (not flush, not outdoor!) toilets, seaside villas, and much communication through charades in various awkward and fantastic situations.

I am back in the soon-to-be-greener state of Vermont, so you can expect my usual transmissions of somewhat useless information, photography, and craft projects.

I am currently in the process of editing a massive stack of new images for my photography site, so stay tuned!

Russian Street Artist Turns Derelict Buildings Into Whimsical Creatures

‘the keeper of the keys’ by nomerz

‘glutton’, st. petersburg

a detail showing ‘glutton’s’ teeth made from trash

Russian street artist Nikita Nomerz uses graffiti to repurpose abandoned buildings, trees, and debris in various cities including his home town of Nizhniy Novgorod. Nomerz’s project involves traveling around Russia on a quest to find and transform these unwanted structures into strange, quirky characters.

A video showing the making of the ‘keeper of the keys’

via {designboom}

Indie Shopping San Francisco: A Guide

photo copyright {Serenity Bolt Photography}

I wander around with my camera hunting for the most interesting shops I can find, occasionally looking at art along the way and sampling cheap food. The best small shops are usually near a lot of art, so I let the shopping lead me to more intellectual pursuits that I can be proud of. This is either very zen-like or extremely shallow and embarrassing. I’ve never figured out which it is, but it’s how I get around.

As some of you may know, I’ve spent the last month in the beautiful, inspiring, and wonderfully chilly city of San Francisco. While I miss it already, I’m excited to share some of my favorite discoveries with you.

This is definitely a day guide to San Francisco, because I was fairly preoccupied with my job keeping track of an unruly flock of Chinese and French teenagers (but that’s another story). I plan on returning someday to paint the town although as you can see above, it hardly needs it!

Iain Baxter (now IAIN BAXTER&), Golden Gate Bridge, from the series Reflected San Francisco Beauty Spots, 1979; photo-etching and aquatint; Collection SFMOMA © Iain Baxter&

I’ve left out the obvious things, like “walk across the Golden Gate Bridge..you’ll never forget it!” and probably missed quite a few of the less obvious as well. For instance, I never made it to Japantown! There’s always next time….

Getting Around 

Yeah, this is normally the boring part. Well, not here! One word: trolleys. Also, the BART is your friend! It is by far the easiest subway system I’ve ever used, but that’s because it’s so limited. You can use it to go long distances through the main artery of the city, and across the bay, but otherwise you need to use the MUNI busses and trams. Do you have a smartphone? Good, because it will tell you exactly which bus to take. Most of you probably already know that. I just got an iphone last year and am still wowed by this mindblowing new technology! I grew up with a landline (but only after the age of 8) and no tv so I am floored by our modern world on a regular basis.

I absolutely love the streetcars in SF; they’re one of my favorite things about the city. They are collected from all over the world, and most of them have little plaques inside that tell you all about the history of each car.

image copyright Serenity Bolt Photography

If you really, really love the SF transportation authority, pick up a handmade silkscreened shirt from local artist Marlon Beaver at the Ferry Plaza Craft Market. His stand is right near the Embarcadero BART stop (He has other non bus-themed designs too).

You can walk from the Ferry Plaza to Pier 39, but don’t expect to fall in love with the wharf or get notions of what life must have been like once upon a time down on the docks, though. It is a study in bland tourism, with boring shops and bad food as far as the eye can see.

However, it does happen to be home to the only In N Out Burger in SF (if you’ve never been to California, you just have to try it. I was skeptical because I don’t eat fast food, ever,  but I’ve got to say, I’m a convert. It’s cheap, there are only about 5 things on the menu, and the employees wear 50’s paper hats! Oh, and it’s got a secret menu.)

If you happen to be there on the first Saturday of the month and you do want to get a taste of life on the old docks and high seas, you can attend a nighttime chantey sing aboard one of the two old sailing ships that’s anchored there, listening to songs about the wild Barbary Coast as the wind creaks about the old ships. It happens 8pm to Midnight. Reservations required, call 415-561-7171.

It’s also best to take one of the famed trolleys from Fisherman’s Wharf up the hill through North Beach and on to Market St. because the line is waaaay shorter. If you try to get on at Market/Powell St. (which is where it starts near the big mall downtown) you’ll be in line for at least 45 mins. Take it from one who knows. And who spend that 45 minutes with 50 annoyed Chinese kids, one of whom jumped on a trolley by himself and had to be rescued from parts unknown. But I digress.

There are two ways to go about this: you can either ride the trolley all the way to Powell St. and then walk to North Beach via Chinatown (a long walk, but fun) or get off in North Beach and walk through Chinatown on your way back to the main BART stop.

North Beach/Telegraph Hill

Go back in time at Vesuvios
{image copyright Serenity Bolt Photography}

So, then you can head up the hill to one of my favorite neighborhoods, North Beach. It took me a little while to warm up to North Beach. You have to look past what is being shoved in your face to find the real soul of North Beach, which can still be found beside the garish Italian restaurants and bad cannolis, in the still-shabby little places where voices call out “bongiorno!” and “bella, bella!” as you walk by and eyes twinkle over worn countertops. I didn’t eat in any “real” restaurants there so I can’t recommend any, but I did find what is, in my humble opinion, the best Italian bakery and what most certainly had to be the best gelato in the city at Mara’s Italian Bakery (503 Columbus Avenue).

Stop by Cafe Trieste, famous Beat hangout and rumored to be the first real espresso coffeeshop on the West Coast. If you’re there on a Saturday around 1 pm, try to catch the Saturday Concert, the longest running show in the City of San Francisco (since 1971). It only happens once a month so check the schedule. I was also told by the Italian man who made my coffee that their cookies would make me feel something special, something “morrrrre (long pause) than cooooookie.” It may have been just a cookie placebo, but I did feel pretty satisfied as I walked out of that place with a smile on my face and a cookie in my hand.

From there, head up Grant Ave. toward Telegraph Hill and stop into the many shops along the way. I won’t list them all, just zigzag back and forth across the street like I did and you’ll hit ’em all. Don’t miss:

  • the Chinese antique shop- I couldn’t afford anything in the place but it was all quite beautiful to look at (sorry, can’t remember the name but you’ll have to hunt for it which is more fun anyway, right? Hint: It’s on the left-hand side of the street).
  • The infinitely one-of-a-kind Aria Antiques (1522 Grant Avenue) shouldn’t be missed (nor should this article about it). Hopefully you can catch it at a time when the owner, Bill, hasn’t hung his hand-scrawled sign stating that he’s off on one of his buying trips/adventures.
  • Pop into tiny little record store 101 Music (1414 Grant Avenue). It’s crammed to the ceiling with old records and musical instruments and just makes me happy to be inside.
  • Therapy (1445 Grant Ave) has some novelty home stuff and a good clothing/accessory selection. It didn’t blow me away with its uniqueness but it was a pretty solid find. Fun to poke around in, and full of clothing brands that are pretty standard to the small mid-priced boutique, like Alternative Apparel, Tulle, Hobo Int’l and the like.

From there, head up the hill to Coit Tower, which is well worth the climb just for the WPA murals inside. Also, venture into the woods and visit the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill. They may be hard to spot at first but if you’re patient you’ll see them. Look at the top of this site, two of them are actually sitting on my banner!

After your trip to the tower, stop by City Lights Bookshop and try to catch a glimpse of owner and last living Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti. He’s 93 and still quite prolific. I did indeed manage to see him while I was there but decided not to add to the steady stream of acolytes who’ve no doubt been hounding him since 1953. Instead, I stood by and listened to the heartbreakingly sincere cries of a middle-aged woman who called after him “Mr. Ferlinghetti, Mr. Ferlinghetti….please…I’ve been waiting since I was a teenager to tell you how your writing changed my life” as he wearily trekked through the store, his back turned to her. In his defense, however, I later observed him exchanging pleasantries with a couple of bums outside that he’s probably been saying a genial hello to since, well, 1953.

Next door is Vesuvios, where I was instantly transported back in time to the days when Jack Kerouac got thrown out nightly only to puke in the alley next door that now bears his name and head back in to drink himself toward the oblivion that later claimed him. Just ignore the newspaper articles about Kerouac that are now displayed on the walls, and soak up the jazz-filled ambience of the place. It really is a great bar, and probably has been since well before Kerouac began to haunt it. I came out utterly relaxed and happy. Of course, I was there in the middle of the day so it wasn’t very crowded. I was drinking coffee, I swear…

Chinatown

image copyright Serenity Bolt Photography

Not much to say here. Wander around, eat some Dim Sum, buy some cheap crap, and marvel at the weird roots for sale in the grocery stores. Stop in for a mooncake at Eastern Bakery (720 Grant Avenue) which claims to be “the oldest bakery in Chinatown. The buns and egg rolls were very good, but skip the dumplings because I assume you’re going to a real dim sum place for dinner at least once while you’re in San Francisco.

Haight Ashbury

image copyright Serenity Bolt Photography


 Haight St. is crammed with vintage shops, and while some may say that this is the last place to find a deal on vintage clothing, it’s still one of the best places to browse. A few standouts for me were:

  • Wasteland (the most wearable stuff, a mix of new, vintage and used designer labels)
  • Decades of Fashion (the best collection of vintage and meticulously curated) at 1653 Haight St
  • Static (1764 Haight St) which was small but impressive and had actual vintage sunglasses, which seem to be difficult to find in shops for some reason.
  • I am also a big fan of euro brand Skunkfunk (1475 Haight Street) and local label RVCA (1485 Haight) which is sort of a mix of skate/surf wear and sophistication, if that makes sense. It’s housed in a big, cavernous, artsy space.

  • Aptly-named curiosity shop Loved To Death (1681 Haight St) shouldn’t be missed, if only for the chance to peer into the velvet-lined coffin for sale upstairs although they won’t let you climb in!
this stuffed-mouse diorama is just one of the many delightfully creepy wares on display at Loved To Death
  • Kid Robot ( 1512 Haight St) Independent and Japanese toy makers. Who is Gloomy Bear? What is a Dunny? Now you know. Amazing pieces by Japanese wunderkinds Nara and Murikami.

In the mid-’60s, the Grateful Dead lived together (with many other transients) in a purple 1890’s house at 710 Ashbury St. You can also traipse past Hunter S. Thompson’s still bullet-ridden house at 318 Parnassus St. Or, you can just follow this map of famous addresses in the Haight, if you’re so inclined.

Another one of my favorite little shops is in the lower Haight.

I fell in love, in lerrrrrrve, with Xapno (678 Haight St.) the “Brick and Mortar Treasure Garden Emporium” where I bought a pair of watch-part earrings from local designer Brown Banana and wanted to buy typewriter key bracelets and some of the coolest wrapping paper I’ve ever seen, as well as lots of botanical/medically-themed items and pretty jewelry.

Prairie Collective (262 Divisadero St.) Sorta near Haight. A group of local designers that share a space. This location is half floral shop (arrangements are made to look like they’re just been plucked from a garden) and half vintage items, handmade jewelry and accessories. The Cloak and Cabinet Society provides beautiful paper.

The Mission

image copyright Serenity Bolt Photography

I could go on about the Mission district for pages, but here’s a  list of few of my favorite places that I discovered there.

One of the standout places to eat in the Mission that I found was Gracias Madre (2211 Mission St
(between 19th St & 18th St). It’s a pretty nice sit-down place that’s vegan, but so delicious you won’t even realize it was vegan until later and commend them on their healthful trickery.

I’m also a fan of burrito shop El Farolito (2779 Mission St between 23rd St & 24th St). Not at all healthy. So very delicious.

Here’s my list of places to shop in the Mission, but honestly, just head to the heart of the Mission (16th-20th streets along Mission and Valencia Streets) for more vintage, thrift and indie finds than your bursting heart can handle.

the decor (including a wall of candy) is part of the attraction at Candystore Collective
  • Nooworks (395 Valencia Street) has some of my favorite t-shirts. Ever.
  • Ellie Olson 3266 21st St., 415-642-9453. Some dead stock items, a house-made line of hooded capes, and a good selection of mid-priced items.
  • Candystore Collective 3153 16th St., 415-863-8143, candystorecollective.com. A mix of local designers and girly labels from all over.
  • Paxton Gate (824 Valencia St). Not a clothing store but sort of an emporium of the natural and the bizarre. They do have some jewelry, like pendants cast from bird bones and the like.
  • Painted Bird (1360 Valencia Street). This place is good. So, so good.They have a blog, too! Buy, sell, or trade clothes.
  • Mira Mira (3292 22nd street) Neighborhood boutique offering “elusive, independent designers.” They also have monthly “girls nights” featuring trunk shows, clothing swaps, fashion shows, food & wine tastings, and movie nights.
  • Bell Jar (3187 16th Street) Great store. ‘Nuff said.
  • Wonderland Gallery and Boutique (2929 24th Street). Features local designers/artists and hosts events like this month’s upcoming Haute Pool Party at the Phoenix Hotel (shop over 30 local designers, listen to music, eat and lay by the pool).

Don’t miss Mission Indie Mart if you happen to be in town when the next one happens. Schedule seems to be sporadic though so check first.

There is so much more to do and see in the Mission, but this should get you started wandering around.

image copyright Serenity Bolt Photography

Make sure that you find the ever-changing street art canvas that is Clarion Alley while you’re in the Mission.

A mish-mash of other places I discovered around town:

Fillmore St. is a great neighborhood to walk around in. I definitely recommend checking it out. From there, you can walk to Lombard St. (the famous “crookedest street”) and stop by the San Francisco Art Institute to see the Diego Rivera mural The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City,” one of four murals in the Bay area painted by Rivera. To get to Fillmore St. (from Powell and Market, the big “downtown” area) walk to Geary Blvd. and Powell St and take the 38 bus toward 48th Ave.

  • Nest (2300 Fillmore Street) turns out this is “one of the 50 hottest interior design shops in the world” according to Living, etc. I can see why. Anthropologie dreams of this place at night. If I could have taken the entire store home with me, I would have.
  • Picnic (1808 Polk Street)
  • Past Perfect (2230 Union St bt Fillmore & Steiner Sts) Vintage consignment shop. Mid-century modern antiques, furniture, and more.
  • Mrs. Dewson’s Hats (2050 Fillmore) Whimsical hat shop. Unfortunately, you won’t run into the eccentric Mrs. Dewson herself, who was apparently suffering from dementia for many years. Her family now runs the shop and provides excellent, extremely knowledgable service. They are muuuuch friendlier than the original Mrs. Dewson, but according to Yelp reviews, shopping there in the past sounds like a hilarious (if somewhat off-putting) experience.
  • Hats of the Fillmore (1539 Fillmore St between Ofarrell St & Geary Blvd) Another little hat shop near the 38 bus stop. Carries both men’s and women’s hats. Porkpies, fedoras, bucket hats…they’ve got ’em all. They love it if you play dress-up. Closed Sundays.

There are a few other places on this street like John Fluevog shoes and Marc by Marc Jacobs, if you’ve got more cash to burn than I do.

Somehow I got on a hat shop kick. Seriously, I don’t even wear hats.

Castro:

Don’t be alarmed by the fact that no one here seems to wear pants. It’s ok, you can take yours off, too.

  • 5th Stitch Collective (2352 Market St (between Noe St & Castro St) ) Come here for local designers, inexpensive jewelry, and staff that are a hoot and a holler to chat with while you’re shopping. Surprisingly cheap! 

If you’re in the Castro, be sure to stop by Dolores Park for a great view of the city! Alas, the nudity seems to be confined to the Castro proper, so that’s about the only view you’re going to get.

The Castro also has a beautiful old art deco movie theater that’s worth checking out. It was built in 1922 and they mostly show classic films http://www.castrotheatre.com/

From the Castro, head down to Noe Valley and visit Curator (1767 Church Street). Home of one of my all-time favorite labels, She Bible. Closed Mon & Tues.

And One Last Best Thing…

SF seen from Treasure Island

If you happen to be in SF on the last weekend of the month then you absolutely, truly, completely must go to the Treasure Island Flea Market, hands down my favorite shopping experience in the city. The bus ride there alone (108 bus from the transit station, 10 minutes from downtown SF) will probably be one of the most beautiful public transit experiences of your life as it sails across the Bay Bridge and onto Treasure Island, where you will find views of the city skyline, delicious food trucks, and live music. The market itself is an array of local designers, thrift, antiques, handmade jewelry and home goods, books, prints….admission is $3. It’s not overwhelmingly huge, but it’s all quality. Open 9-4.

Also um, check out Oakland. It probably warrants its own guide. Especially on the first Friday of the month for the Art Murmur. It’s pretty crazy, and amazing. There are a ton of art galleries right near the 12th St. BART stop.

Well, that about does it for my SF guide. I couldn’t get everywhere (even in a month) so you fill in the gaps! I’d love to hear about your own experiences in this amazing city. What are some of your favorite spots?

If you liked this post, you may also be interested in the post

A Literary Map of San Francisco

Oh my darlin ‘

Sitting tonight in my favorite make-your-own bibimbap place on a rainy night. Rainy nights seem to be good for reflection. Maybe it’s the meditative rhythm of the raindrops, or maybe it’s the underlying metaphor of the world being washed. I think, for me, it has more to do with childhood walks in the rain, deep in the woods.  Rainy days used to be an event- rather than staying inside, I got to put on my rubber boots and coat and wander through a world made new by water, looking for bright orange salamanders.

So, I’ve never disliked rainy days like some people do. They’ve always seemed a little magical to me.

They play very interesting music in this bibimbap place.  When I walked in, the little old lady and her husband were listening to ragtime.  I picked a table right next to the toasty woodstove and stood with the old lady, who smiled with me as we rubbed our hands together over the stove. Soon, they started playing old American folk songs, starting with “Clementine.”

That got me thinking about being a little kid again.  Growing up in a succession of rambling old farmhouses around the country with no TV, I found a lot of other ways to amuse myself.  My father had this small paperback book called “The Backpacker’s Songbook” that I used to pore over as though it were a storybook.  I knew every one of those songs by heart.  My father would get out his guitar and we’d sing them, too, but I liked to just sit and read the lyrics. They always started off sort of sad and pretty, but by the third verse or so, some poor girl was getting dragged down to the river by her one true love.

As I sat there in front of my tray of neatly arranged Korean dishes, I began to wonder how much those tragic songs planted seeds of mistrust in my child’s brain. I sure didn’t want to end up like Clementine or Little Maggie. Even “Beautiful Brown Eyes” turns out to be a tale of woe. But on the other hand, I wondered what it felt like to “lay ’round the shack till the mail train comes back, a-rollin’ in my sweet baby’s arms.”

Those songs taught me a lot.

Willie, my darling, I love you,
Love you with all my heart.
Tomorrow we could have been married,
But liquor has kept us apart.

Chorus: Beautiful, beautiful brown eyes,
Beautiful, beautiful brown eyes,
Beautiful, beautiful brown eyes--
I'll never love blue eyes again.

Down through the barroom he staggered
And fell down by the door.
The very last words that he murmured:
"I'll never get drunk any more."

(Chorus)
Seven long years I've been married,
And I wish I was single again.
A woman never knows her troubles
Until she has married a man.
(Chorus)

Quick Update

I finished moving all the old entries from my mobileme site. They go back to last February, when I first came to Korea, but I couldn’t find a way to import the blog and keep it archived by month. So, all the posts are in “November.” You can go back to the beginning by clicking on “November” and then a list of entries should come up. I had fun reading through them and re-living the first couple of days on Jeju.

Side note: One of the little things that I really love about Korea is that you have the option of smoking in the bathroom.

By that I mean on the toilet.

Most bathrooms have a thoughtfully-placed ashtray (which is often a beer can with the top cut off) right there at seat-level. I don’t actually smoke (at least not anymore..not for five or six years) nor have I ever wished I could smoke while sitting on the toilet, but it’s so nice and accomodating.

That just kills me.

Untitled Update

Wednesday, April 20, 2010

After a brief hiatus, my Jeju blog is again up and running with a new web address. The only feature that has been lost is the ability to RSS subscribe, so for my loyal followers, I will send a quick email to let you know when I’ve posted a new entry.  

I’ve been pretty busy in the last two weeks or so since I last posted an entry. I’ve really missed writing, and I plan to write much more often than I used to.The weather is getting warmer and I’ve been to the beach and frolicked in fields of yellow rapeseed flowers. They grow and harvest them here as crops, so this time of year the island is awash in beauteous flora with a distinctly practical purpose.

  I also got a phone a couple of weeks ago, which was a huge step. After living without one for a month and a half, this newfangled communication technology aka “talky-box” was a bit overwhelming, but I soon embraced the convenience of being able to, you know…make contact when not near a computer.  

This weekend I am going to begin research on my first story as a reporter for Jeju Weekly, the island’s only English newspaper. I’ll be writing an in-depth article about the lava tubes, which have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. More on that later, as well as a web link so you can read my story when it comes out at the end of May. 

” Bad Teacher! “

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

All right, so I’ve been very lazy concerning my blog lately. I do remember making very strong promises to I would write every day, no matter how mundane my activities appear to be. I guess I’ve been sort of afraid that my daily life here won’t be interesting to anyone, so unless I do something special, I haven’t been writing. Then I remembered that the primary reader is most likely my mother, who is the only person in the world who wants to get daily updates about buying weird Korean toothpaste and daily escapades with Korean schoolchildren.

They are quick to notice when I do something wrong, and I am swiftly reprimanded with a chorus of “BAD TEACH-AH!” I usually beat them to it, pointing to myself and saying it in an exaggerated accent. Yesterday I scolded them for forgetting their books, took butterflies away from almost the entire class, and even had Agnes give them a stern talking to. After class, I saw the books neatly stacked on a table near my desk. Bad teacher!

My classes are falling more of a rhythm. Afternoons are easier because the kids are a year or two older and discipline is less of a problem. They stick to their workbooks, and I am basically there to explain how to get through the books. There isn’t enough time for me to present the information in a lesson; they barely have enough time to get through the units on the schedule. My morning reading classes revolve around a reader that is so easy, the kindergartners finish it in less than one class period. I’ve been having them read it over and over all week, working on pronunciation. I realized yesterday that there is room in that class for creativity and lessons that I can plan, so reading class might be my chance to be a real teacher and create some lessons of my own.

This week, I’ve done a few things that are completely uncharacteristic, like play soccer and join a volleyball team… I felt pretty out of place and useless on the soccer field, so I don’t think I’ll go back, but it was fun to check it out. There was only one other girl, so I was also afraid of the ball since most of the guys were very, um, enthusiastic kickers.

Those of you who have been reading my blog may also notice that there aren’t any pictures of Korean Finn. As most of you know, her owners came and found her at the shelter. I was disappointed all day, but then I realized the perfect circle of action that had occurred. It would have been very hard to have a dog here, but I wanted to rescue her. I saved her from certain death long enough for her real owners to find her since the shelter was keeping her alive until I could come get her. It was the best resolution for everyone. 

I stayed at the shelter and ended up helping to walk the dogs- it’s kind of like giving them their last meal. Sad, but they get one last walk or two with a nice human before they meet the end.

Afterward, I went out to lunch with some of the other volunteers at a small restaurant that serves temple food. It is near a Buddhist temple. The food was very light and delicious, and the restaurant itself was beautiful inside, with hand-carved wooden tables and handmade earthen dishes. It was a nice antidote to the sadness of the shelter.   All of the food in the picture, plus tangerine tea and fresh local oranges afterwards, cost about $6 a person. The plate in front is my lotus rice. It came in a bundle with the leaf tightly wrapped around it.   On a final note, I spoke to Agnes about my return flight and the train trip is on!

Monsoon Season Hath Begun

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

No. more. rain. I am melting into a sticky puddle. Only 3 more weeks of hot, humid rain. Side note: apparently I live next to a small pond full of insane frogs. It sounds like they live in my bathroom (all 500 of them). On a related note, anyone know how to bomb a frog pond?

Second Week On Jeju

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The rain continues this weekend as it has throughout the week. I honestly can’t believe I’ve only been here  for a week and a half- it feels like it’s been a month. I really got thrown into a whole new life here pretty quickly without much of an adjustment period, but I’m kind of glad that it worked out that way. I’m finally getting into a routine at work (or at least getting a sense of what my routine will by like. My kids are adorable and, for the most part, pretty well-behaved. And if they aren’t then well, I have to remind myself that they are only five years old.

There is a nice view of Mt. Halla from my classroom window. Going to stores and restaurants and finding what I need is getting a little easier. I discovered Kimbap (kind of like Korean sushi). I can get it at the corner store for about $.80! Teaching is so much easier than I expected- all I have to do is follow their workbooks and make sure they do their homework (that’s right…the kindergartners have homework! Their constant need for attention and sharpened pencils is the most demanding aspect of my job. I love the small classes, though. A lot of other teachers here have much bigger classes (my biggest class has 8 students).

 I realized this week that being here just doesn’t feel as strange as it should. Maybe it’s because I have access to almost all of the same things that I did at home. I even watch the Daily Show every night and listen to NPR. I’ve been thinking a lot about how the internet is changing our conception of home and making it more difficult to actually separate ourselves from it. If I cut the cord and really disconnected from my life in the US, I think I would be having a much different experience. In a way, part of me is a little disappointed that the culture shock has been so mild, but there’s also no way that I’ll fight the natural  impulse to make my life here as similar to my life in the US as possible. In a lot of ways, I’m better off here. I have healthcare, access to extremely low-cost dental care, and an easy job that pays well. I’m also a lot more active- I’ve been walking everywhere (except for when I take dirt-cheap cabs) and I climbed a volcanic peak yesterday to take a few photos despite the rain.  Oh, and it’s also beautiful here (as soon as you get out of Jeju City). I also have time to focus on photography and hopefully writing this year. So….mission: make life in Korea like life in Vermont. Step 1: while at home, subsist on a diet of yogurt, cereal, toast, egg whites, and coffee. Step 2: acquire Golden Retriever. Yes, you read that correctly. Following the spirit of quickly jumping into life here, I have decided to adopt Goldie, a poor lost Golden Retriever who happened to be at a local shelter. I still haven’t met her since the shelter is only staffed once a week for 2 hours, but she appears to be a Korean mini-Finn. I think she might still be a puppy. I’ll find out next Saturday! I think Finn will be psyched to meet the new addition to our golden retriever family (John, if you’re reading this, I hope you are, too!) She needed to be rescued quickly, as she only had a day left to live when I read about her and quickly emailed shelter volunteers. No time to consult! It just felt like the right thing to do, and I was happy that fate seemed to have tossed me a new dog. If I see any other Goldens at the shelter(which is unlikely) there’s nothing I can do. I’m not planning on starting my own chapter of Golden Retriever Rescue of Korea.  

Today, I’m off to the Five Day Market with one of my co-workers. It’s still drizzling, but I plan on taking some photos there and hopefully acquiring some cool stuff for my apartment. I’ll add photos to yesterday’s (March 6) album.   I’ve been listening to Johnny Cash American III: Solitary Man and IV: The Man Comes Around all morning, which I haven’t listened to in a long time. It’s hitting me in a whole new way. Somehow it all seems sad, tearfully beautiful, and yet not morose. I am oddly uplifted.  

Learning Korean and Avoiding Fan Death

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Today I made some extra money by appearing as Resident Native English Speaker (I actually did nothing except listen to kids stumble over books in English in front of a crowded room and stamp these little booklets) at another English school. At this particular school, teachers go tothe students' houses for lessons, so the annual Market Day gives them a chance for them to get together and pretend to buy things with fake $1 bills.

I was planning to head down to Seogwipo (“Soggy-po” as the locals pronounce it, which has a distinct flavor that suits its southerly locale) this afternoon for a vigil/information session about a proposed naval base on Jeju (bad for coral, bad for “peace island,” bad for lots of reasons), but I was too exhausted to make the trek down there and then get back in time to watch the World Cup game at 11. Korea has been doing well and it’s sort of an event to go watch the games, even though I am normally the world’s least enthusiastic sports fan.

Koreans are just so proud and excited, it warms the heart.Well, that and the free-flowing soju.

I’m making a lot of progress with Korean. I don’t think I’ll try and learn anything more than some basic vocabulary words while I’m here, just because I’m not sure that the time and effort is matched by its general usefulness outside of Korea. I have managed to learn how to read, though, which is helpful since I can at least pick out words that are English cognates. Ahh, and the other reason that I was so tired today….Jeju mosquitoes! They seem to have a magical and devious ability to invade my apartment en masse even though I have screens.

My fan is equipped with a 2-hour timer to prevent death.  There is a theory widely accepted as fact in Korea (and nowhere else in the world) that a fan, left running all night as they often are by reasonable people wanting to be nicely chilled or at the very least not stifling hot in a nearly-windowless room such as mine causes certain death by stealing all the oxygen from sleeping people. Here are just a few theories as to exactly HOW fans pose an imminent threat:

  • That an electric fan creates a vortex, which sucks the oxygen from the enclosed and sealed room and creates a partial vacuum inside. This explanation violates the principle of conservation of matter, as indoor fans are not nearly powerful enough to change the air pressure by any significant amount.

 

  • That an electric fan chops up all the oxygen particles in the air leaving none to breathe. This explanation violates mass conservation and well-known properties of molecules and gases, particularly that known breakdown energy of oxygen molecules lies in the ultraviolet range. It also ignores the nearly universal human tendency to wake up whilst being suffocated in a moment of sleep. Moreover, the theory makes no justifications for how and why a person will not suffocate whilst awake in a room which contains an operating fan.

 

  • The fan uses up the oxygen in the room and creates fatal levels of carbon dioxide. An electric motor does not function by combustion; unlike a candle, the electric motor consumes energy supplied by the electricity, not from a fuel. The fan motor's commutator does produce a small amount of ozone during normal operation, however most AC powered fans use induction motors, whose brushless design eliminates any possible ozone production. Ozone can be fatal in high concentrations, but any normal room would never allow the gas to build up to lethal levels.

 

  • That if the fan is put directly in front of the face of the sleeping person, it will suck all the air away, preventing one from breathing. This explanation ignores both the fact that a fan attracts as much air to a given spot as it is removing from it, and the fact that most people point a fan towards themselves when using one, which causes air to move past the face but does not change the amount of air present.

  I would like to report I remain very much alive after several nights with my new fan.