Monday, June 20, 2011

Pohang, Kyungpoo and a song fest

We drove to Geongju yesterday and briefly toured the museum here: Jim and I plan to return; so I’ll cover it later. Having not eaten breakfast, and with the ride I was rather dehydrated and car sick, unable to access my meds since we rode with Younguk who’d left to deliver the art to the gallery. I got some juice and rallied, but still feel somewhat off the next day. We ate at a tourists’ buffet in Gyeongju with this classical Joseon roof (coated in neon for night no doubt). This included vegetables, algae, red rice (like brown) and fruit, for It is beautiful and cooler here than in Daegu; rain is expected later in the week. We were also surprised to find spaghetti and marinara sauce, as well as Chinese and Japanese dishes.

I’m learning a bit about driving behaviors: people talk about crazy drivers here, but I think these may manifest in large cities such as Seoul and Busan: while there are some aggressive or quirky drivers, it is nothing compared to the ineptness of those on the East US coast, nor the hostility and speeding aggression of San Francisco Bay Area drivers. There is a kind of flow, and people assert themselves or wait. U turns are essential because of road layout and have their own rules (don’t do them in the middle of the intersection but before). Sometimes there are horns, but not with the frequency of NYC. Sometimes there is a lot of traffic, especially at rush hour. However, this must come in waves, since many people work long hours and appear to be done at different times. We saw auto repair shops open at 10 pm at night. Daegu definitely does not roll up the sidewalks early. Highways have tolls and frontage areas to access gas and snacks, light shopping. Ok, it's not UK, with everything tightly orderly. However, Korean roads and cars are the same orientation as in US. We'll see how I do when I drive.

The nav system in Yeonguk’s car has, like everything we’ve encountered in Korea, elegant and very understandable design. I hope versions for rental cars come in English because the one she had is both sophisticated and easy to understand. I would be hard pressed to get through her destination menu in Korean: there were many menus and choices. Jim says the voice of the narrator sounds almost conspiratorial, so smooth, almost a whisper, but very clear enunciation.

Although we stayed at the University guest house at in Daegu, there is another here on the coast where many of the women in Dr. Park’s circle had stayed during their student days. It is surrounded by small fields tended by hand, and the farmers were coming to work before 6am this morning. Most appear to be elders. They are growing a variety of sweet corn, not available as street food (which we were informed is usually from China), but is very specially appealing to people here. Also appearing is a range of vegetables such as lettuce, onions, peppers (long and not hot), eggplant and of course tomatoes which grow well in this hot, moist climate. Tomatoes appear to be very popular: cherry tomatoes appear at every table, and at our favorite student cafe near the gallery, a blend of ice and fruit choices is banana or tomato. These tomatoes are flavorful without being sweet and are vine ripened without being watery. The produce we’ve had here has been consistently high quality and extremely fresh. Here’s a small dog we encountered: this kind of little white dog seems popular, our having seen several specimens in these suburban settings, and in dramas.

We stopped at Homigot, on the "East Sea", between Korea and Japan, where these large hand sculptures (about 10 years old) and some tourist activities such as the lighthouse museum draw weekend crowds with music and children’s activities. There are numerous lighthouses along this coast, not massive, but maintained, not seeming in use at present. In contrast to the muddy, shallow waters on the west side of Korea, the water here is deep--the Pacific Ocean. A large shipping channel was apparent from the large number of cargo ships passing by, and fishing boats, small jetties in every town, showed .

Pohang is an industrial city, famous to us before we came here because of the major iron and steel factories, seen here along the river. Younguk was a little cynical at the the new coat of green paint on a prominent part of the Posco factory asserting its commitment to the environment. Posco dominates the city, making it almost a company town. However, our dinner included locally caught octopus (muno) provided by Dr. Park’s friends who are managers of the industry here. We enjoyed Korean berry wine and Russian vodka (seemingly omnipresent as the Russian women are not charged for baggage weight nor size) as well as beer, and we're getting the hang of pouring for others (two handed is the polite way), instead of just passing the liquor. We traded songs, and Dr. Park’s student, Mr. Park, included a protest song, very beautifully sung. Dr. Park and Younguk have lovely voices and sang a couple of pop songs with gestural routines as well. Jim wouldn’t sing his own song, despite enthusiastic calls when it was evident we could sing. (“Where have all the flowers gone” and “Over the Rainbow”--were we too sad?) Dr. Park queried about our groups meeting again: we agreed to try in three years, all three groups, and the Russian women promised to respond within the month about whether they would be able to host such a gathering in Moscow. I wish we had resources for this in Seattle.

Here's a view of a street we could take to the beach from Kyungpook University's Learning Center where we stayed.

In the morning, we stopped at an educational enhancement training center where young teens come to learn traditional character building and team building activities. I think some of the reasons Dr. Park is so effective an organizer include her strong community contacts and her approach to team building as an educator. We got to shoot arrows, and after a couple of quivers, I hit the target! Here's Jim at it.

Today we saw the Tomb of the Heavenly Horse in Gyeongju and understood better because we'd seen the artifacts the previous day in the National Museum in the city. The tombs are park-like and the area is filled with trees. Maintenance crews were cutting the grasses on the tumulae. It was really quite pleasant. Some good information can be found on

We also visited Gallery ROW, where the second exhibition is taking place. Unfortunately, we had little time to examine it, but I have a great card from the exhibition, featuring my work, and my favorite work in the gallery storage was the owner's--without me knowing until I was ready to leave. There were numerous art supply and framing shops as well as galleries in this area: we hope to return this weekend and explore more.

Our hosts are feeding us well and we are enjoying such thoughtful and considerate care. Everyone we have met attempts to help or offer advice and we are getting amazing support from frequent fruit access to hotel bargaining on our behalf. We truly feel special.

1 comment:

Alice Dubiel said...

Just saw a KBS tv news item about young people walking along the coast and going through Homigot. I saw the hands. The weather looked great!