exploring, things to do in korea

Calm and Healing Date in the Children’s Grand Park

A couple of weeks back, my boyfriend and I celebrated our 900 days together by spending it at what we first thought was a nearby children’s park, which ended up being an enormous area with a theme park and a zoo that surprisingly housed at least three animals I have never seen before (and I’ve lived in Zimbabwe and Australia). What we expected to be a good 2 hours turned into an entire day as we enjoyed the beautiful greenery to the unexpected surprise of our many animal friends. Located near Geonguk University (approximately 10 minutes away from Jamsil), the best part of all this was that it was completely and absolutely free.

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Right as you enter there is a large pond of lotus floors in full bloom. The leaves are several times bigger than my boyfriend’s hand and it was clear to see why these flowers are a favorite subject of East Asian artistry. The park also has remarkable speakers that play children’s songs throughout, but it just made the atmosphere more youthful and fun. IMG_7384.JPG

There were different attractions on the way such as a mini driving area for children, and this herb garden where we smelled everything from lemongrass to chocolatey herbs. IMG_7391.JPG

Furtherdown, we discovered a hidden nook where there was a mini library in the middle of the woods. IMG_7393.JPGIt must be incredible to spend a childhood in such a beautiful area. We passed the amusement parks which was mostly for the children but had two or three big rides that could accommodate the adults as well. Instead, we turned and rushed eagerly the other way–I just discovered the zoo sign and wanted to check it out immediately!

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These are just some of the beautiful little babies that we saw at the zoo today. There were three otters swimming around and teasing each other, lemurs playfully running about, desert foxes taking a nap (I don’t think I’ve ever seen one awake) and even had a large manatee splashing around. The big cat pictured above followed us and playfully teased us to scratch its belly. It was adorable and I walked away half dizzy from being stricken with love. We decided to grab an icecream and go in for the animal show they were having, which featured some cats working alongside penguins. While the story was centered mostly around children, it reminded us of the importance of not only loving nature, but protecting it as well. I thought it was a thoughtful touch to include cats into this play, as they are often the victims of abuse on the streets.

Making our way out, we walked by more private and lush areas until we arrived at the station. We had expected to spend our afternoon the average way, walking around the foodie streets and going to Common Ground shopping complex. I never expected to find such a rich and blessed place as this, and so close to home.

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adventure, exploring, personal, travels

Busan, Summer 2017

I hopped onto the earliest train headed to Busan, having bought the ticket just a few hours before. I was restless, and I was determined to get away from Seoul and clear my head. I had forgotten how to appreciate the still that comes with the holiday, and being comfortable with just being after being preoccupied for so long. Did it work? The clear skies, cooler weather, and just the experience of being somewhere new filled me with a renewed sense of wonder and optimism. Here is my week in Busan, Summer 2017.

Upon arrival, I realized that I was possibly the only person there not travelling with a lover, as they flooded the front with their tripods and selfie sticks, hopping around and daintily lifting their legs as they captured their first kiss in Busan. Hardly disgruntled, I heaved my big duffel bag and made my way out to the other side of the big street ahead of me, for my ritualistic Chinese noodles in the China Town across from there. Yet again, there are places with substantial lines, but I continue to walk down to the tried and tasted place. IMG_7529 (2).JPG

This is the Samcheon Jjajangmyeon, which you may know to be black and thick. This particular sauce is made of spicy seafood of the same paste-like consistency. Delish.

I arrived finally at my grandmother’s place wedged up in the hills. I’ve been coming here and is the place most strongly imbued with memories of a childhood spent in Korea before I left for Zimbabwe. Of course being the person that I am, I had forgotten to remind my grandmother that she should be expecting me down sometime. Upon arrival, I found that she was at the temple, and she did not walk around with trivial things like phones. So instead, I trailed my sister to the vet and ended the night with a stroll down Jagalchi market (the most popular and overpriced destination for Korea’s seafood) after a hearty meal. I was amused when my friends visited once and were shocked at the number of side dishes that the average Korean meal has, consisting of every type of vegetable from lotus roots to your average leek.

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My uncle tells me that there are two ways you can distinguish whether a person is from Busan or not– by the place he eats his seafood, and whether or not he swims in the sea.

We ended the night watching a small water fountain show held hourly at the Lotte Department store nearby. It was a disappointment compared to the one I saw a few years ago at Dadaepo Beach, and we left before it trickled down once more.

The Second Day

After visiting my grandfather in hospital (a trying and depressing ordeal of its own), I decided to head out to the popular ‘hip and happening’ place for young in’s. First stop? The bookstore.

 IMG_7585.JPG IMG_7586.JPG   – I was not heading to this bookstore in particular, but they made a huge sign leading here from the subway so I decided to go give it a shot. It was nice to see an independent bookstore that was not Kyobo, and had books wrapped and in stacks in the corridors.

Later on that day, we headed to Songdo beach which had recently been refurbished with a particularly snazzy cable car and a mountain walk trail. My friend messaged me to complain about ruined shoes due to Seoul’s downpour, but it was just breezy.IMG_7651.JPG IMG_7669.JPG

We walked from one end, past the camping vans and the water sports center before walking to the other end, crossing the “Cloud Bridge” where you are suspended above water. It was clear that they put a lot of effort into making this place more interesting for its visitors, with cultural motifs found around, and it was good to see that it was popular with tourists as well. The weather was just pleasant enough to walk across the bridge and back, just in time for the next cable car across the vast water we just saw.

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We decided to pay 5000 won more to take the cabin with a see through bottom, but hardly needed to look down when we were surrounded with a 360 panorama of the beach and the mountain trail that edged it. IMG_7765.JPG

Upon arrival, there was a photo taking zone, and a line of restaurants selling boonshik-or quick foods like tteokboggi and icecream. There was a garden still under renovation lined with cute, motivational messages. On another floor there was a deck overlooking the sea and the mountains, with cute photozones like the above where you could leave a message in a bottle and store it up here (forever?) There was an oyster bar that had 0 customers, guessing it’s overpriced. At the underground layer they had an exhibition on the history of cable cars, if that’s your thing.

Third Day

After visiting my grandmother who is also hospitalized, I headed to the Busan Museum of Art that is located nearby in Haeundae. Their on-going exhibition, “Vision & Perspective 1999-2017” told the stories and challenges of people, as humans and artists through the ages. They told stories that questioned the role of human aid to developing countries, the role of humans in developing cities and rapid urbanization, of our futile beliefs in capitalism and consumerism, of failed politics and the removal of our autonomous state as machines to the system. Most of all, it spoke of human loneliness, and as I left the museum I felt comforted and at peace. I got the sense that I was not alone in this strangeness I was feeling. I will perhaps write a more detailed blog post about this display as it warrants some more explanation.

 

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Final Day

On the last day I decided to discover some hip areas around Busan, namely Nampodong, Gugje Shijang (International Market) and Seomyeon, which I gather is the most popular area for college students

.IMG_7876.JPG “josh ur out of the band”

Walking around Nampodong, there was a strange mix of everything- from small independent boutiques to shops selling everything at 5000won (approx.  4USD), a temple and Busan Tower (to those familiar with the couple hotspot Namsan Tower in Seoul), a toy figurine shop to a sex shop, and many hole in the wall cafes and eateries to indulge in. I entered the famous Gugje Shijang but did not spend much time there as it was rows and rows of particular categories, for example I entered a row of curtains and curtain rods and by this time, I was too dizzy and full from eating too many tteoks and lattes.

I hopped onto the subway and headed to Seomyeon Station, not so far away, where I met with my uni friend with whom I only seem to be able to meet in Busan. We headed to the Coffee Street nearby, and it was interesting to see that within two years the street had multiplied into many other nooks and crannies. We headed into a cafe that had a cute upstairs section decked in fairy lights, and we finally caught up over everything that had happened in the past semester.IMG_7904.JPGIMG_7907.JPG

It was good to talk so honestly and openly about everything, without having to calculate the other person’s response or judgment. It was possibly exactly what I needed in that moment.

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Finally, it was time for dinner. We headed to a fancy Italian place called Cochelin because my dieting friend craved some heavy steak. Unfortunately, the heat stroke during the day caught up to me and I was too ill to eat my $20 pasta, but had its weight in water instead. The interior was really cute, but it was one of those … I don’t want to say pretentious, but small morcel-sized places that disappeared quickly and sadly. Can’t vouch for the taste, but it wasn’t enough to bring me out of my sickly state. ^_^

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My way home

From Seoul to Busan, I tried to save costs by taking the Mugunghwa train which was almost half the price of KTX. It also took almost three hours longer, had no foldable desk, and bumped in rhythm to every stone on the track. I refunded my ticket and changed it to SRT instead, which was just wonderful and incomparable to the horrors of Mugunghwa. Everything felt cleaner and smoother, with ample leg room and fast enough wifi to watch Youtube the whole way. You can also charge your electronics as well. I got home in a breeze.

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Even though Busan is my birthplace, every single time I go back I feel like I’ve experienced something new and refreshing. There are still so many places to go and things to discover, like the postcard here with the ever so popular Gamcheon village that I am still yet to go to. Most importantly, I slowly began to rebuild myself up again. The night before, over a drink with my friend, I confessed that I was becoming increasingly introverted to a fault. Ordering coffee or talking to a stranger was a burden that I tried to avoid fully, and the social anxiety was crippling. On this trip, bolstered with the need to do everything myself, as excitement overcame my fears, and encouraged by the idea that I will most likely never meet any of these people again, I slowly began to open up again and learn that it’s okay to just breathe, and just be. With everything that went down this summer, this trip was one of the most memorable things that I did because in little, unnoticeable ways, I did a lot of healing, and that’s the best thing anyone could ask for in a solo trip.

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Art and Culture, Blogging, college, exploring, Uncategorized

Where to draw the line between Hobby and Career

I’m in a rut. I’m at that stage in life where all the Ted Talks and inspirational speakers on Youtube are adamantly trying to convince me that I’m at the most exciting and wonderful period of my life, where anything is possible if I just believe. Unfortunately, I am having a really hard time believing them, let alone myself.

Last night, I finally met up with a childhood friend after an entire year has passed us by. In the small bossam stall in the crowded streets of Hongdae, the air saturated with noise, smoke, and heat, we spilled the messy happenings of our lives. During this time, she decided that she wanted to drop out of college, plastered her body with Harry Potter tattoos (which I am quite envious of) and learnt how to be a bartender. I, on the other hand, went on an exchange semester in Australia, and learnt more about myself than ever before in my life. All that travelling and relying on myself made me come to a conclusion that I definitely don’t want to be living a life in my major, because just thinking about my future in the field made me lose all motivation for living. I face entering my final year of college with so many decisions and plans of action that are eluding me every step of the way. Meanwhile, my boyfriend finally got his break after years of trying, and got the internship of his dreams, in one of the best motor companies. He says his experience has disillusioned him about the corporate life, seeing his coworkers’ faces sag in the myriad of cubicles surrounding him. In all these various facets of life, I believe we are faced with the same amount of uncertainty and angst, each a little envious and in awe with the life of the other. Increasingly, people are becoming more realistic and vulnerable on social media, in between the festival and foodie pics, they are professing deep anxiety and confusion over the futures.

Confession: I am contemplating a life in art. I know that nothing fascinates me more and gives me more joy than delving into the creative–reading, writing, watching, dancing, and feeling. Sadly, this big decision comes with a price; that while it has no price it furthermore has no monetary value. My dreams of becoming a curator/art historian/writer and editor all require that I pursue a Ph.D without the guarantee of any financial stability. It is a dream that makes loved ones frown and be concerned about the future, my future.  It concerns me because I don’t know if the money, time and effort that I am going to be pouring into this future will ultimately lead to my demise, especially when I could have done something else. But deep down, my heart tells me that anything else is not my authentic self, anything else would be any other life but mine.

I am so incredibly blessed that I can even consider this kind of alternative future, and that my parents are completely supportive. I imagine that it is incredibly rare to have parents that actually push you towards such an uncertain future, but this is because they hold me with high esteem. Mother believes that I have a sixth sense when it comes to art, and it is ridiculously hard not to take it to heart. Their level of pride and confidence when it comes to my capabilities is astounding, and I wonder if my worries are an unnecessary complexity where I am talking myself out of something that could potentially be, and ironically not by others.

Earlier this month, as I was projecting the boundless opportunities offered by summer break, I was genuinely excited to have a summer where I could be unapologetically myself and live a creative life. I feel that no matter how much you work, and no matter what kind of life you project unto others, it is just difficult to convince yourself that you are enough, and that you have done something of worth. This month, I dived into a mini exhibition held for my mom, which proved to be tough work but a lot of fun and insight. It allowed me to see the business aspect of the art world, as we were unexpectedly invited to see the behind the scenes of a modern gallery. The entrepreneur is also the one that convinced me that there is an opportunity in the arts, and surprisingly confirmed all my thoughts that I dismissed as just dreams. Since then, I’ve been reading and researching things about living this creative academia. It is both liberating and disheartening at the same time, but I guess these are the doubts that everyone is feeling at this point in our lives. Most of all, I don’t want to waste the opportunities I have, or riddle myself with doubts. I don’t want to be my own biggest enemy. Then again, I don’t want to be my own downfall either. Does anyone else have these doubts? I’ve been asking so many questions on online platforms and on quora, but in the end other people cannot make my decisions for me. Either way, life will go vehemently on without me. I just need to buckle down and decide.

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Art and Culture, Blogging, creatif, exploring, personal

What it’s like to hold an Exhibition at COEX as an artist/seller

For the past four days, I volunteered to help my mom take a shot at selling her Zimbabwean art collection at the annual Home and Lifestyle Exhibition held in unison with the Gyeongyang Housing Fair. This exhibition, alike many others, are hosted in key cities around the country such as Busan, Daegu, Gwangju, Jeju and others throughout the year. It hosts a variety of creative products, from traditional hand held mirrors embedded with mother of pearl to extravagant tech that guarantees turning all food waste into liquid form. I’ve attended many of these events, but got to understand the behind-the-scenes of running our own booth. I thought this would be interesting for anyone wondering whether this is the step to launch or propel their business in Korea to the next level.

With 30 years of experience, this event boasts an average attendance rate of 180,000 persons. There is an entrance fee of 10,000 won, but they have the option of reserving a ticket for free beforehand. The bigger firms use this as an opportunity to showcase their exhibition design with elaborate and flashy architecture, case in point:IMG_0341.jpg

 

 

 

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(This particular shop was all about the pictures and promotions of–can you guess what? Shampoo!)

However, there are still a good number of smaller shops that sell their products in a more straight forward and simplistic manner. There are shops selling handmade jewelry to cosmetics and chocolate. Even if you’re not particularly keen to sell, if you are familiar with the fleamarkets and open market styles, this may be an interesting event reminiscent of those days when you can just walk up to the different stalls, have a chat and be hopefully jostled from your everyday surroundings and gain some home decor tips. Speaking of which, they host different seminars and conferences during the course of four days, where you may listen in on talks of brand design, sustainable and eco-friendly living, and other seminars for free. Unfortunately, most of these talks are held in Korean, and have yet to provide English translations due to the fairly limited attendance of foreigners (or perhaps, vice versa).

Setting Up.

This particular event is held over four consecutive days, with 2 days extra before and after for setting and wrapping up. They give you the whole day before to construct either your own booth or hire another company to do it for you. Because of this, the day (and air) is filled with dust and people panting heavily as they carry furniture and other goods across the huge hall. The hosting company conveniently failed to provide air conditioning on that day, and we had to move, unpack and organize items in the middle of Korean summer. When you apply to be a participating company, they are literally providing you with a standard 3x3m stall, and come to install lights, plugs, and a white box that you can use for some displays. Luckily, the plastic walls dividing shops are pretty durable and you can mount things onto it with a drill. We ended up drilling a painting, a light and a huge mirror so I’m guessing most other things are good to go.

Most of the preparations must be done beforehand. Bring your own tools and posters and marketing strategies. However, COEX has a lot of handy shops nearby, and you can pick up last minute supplies like tape and plastic chairs from the Daiso on the B1 floor. They will require marketing material a week before the exhibition itself, which they will disperse (though unseen by myself still). Another pro tip is packing a large piece of fabric that you drape over your products once you’re done for the day. It indicates that you have closed, and gives you some privacy when you leave the building.

If you don’t manage to complete everything in the day, it’s okay to do so the following day. However, because you share a wall, drilling it on opening day may not be seen favorably. You may still reorganize and set up your goods as there are not that many customers on a Thursday morning.

Personal Experience/Verdict.

Our mini exhibition/shop was wedged between a sink company, a facial exfoliating device company and a handmade arts and crafts store. Overall the neighbors were amiable and you grow a little fond of them by the fourth day, buying each other’s products and breaking bread with one another. However, deciding to partake in this exhibition requires some critical contemplation, especially if you are a relatively small company. While I’ve heard that smaller businesses in the arts pair up to split the booth costs, I am skeptical that many of them were even able to break even during the four days. The bigger companies, like the one above have no problem in fronting ‘advertisements’ as their main priority, even without reaping in the money. On the other hand, many of the smaller shops that were selling towels can hardly sell enough to even fathom covering the 3000,000 won booth fee (very rough approximation of 3000 dollars). Even our booth, which had a higher average price could barely breakeven. On that note, this exhibition, while catering towards companies that offer products as big as beds and storage containers, many of the consumers are within a demographic that are more frugal with their money. This is not the exhibition for you if you are looking for people that are willing to part with their money, even if it is for high quality art. Many are there, including myself in previous occasions, to have a feast for the eyes and have a little chit chat rather than to make an investment. While there is a considerable peak time on Sunday with last minute customers, I just don’t know if there 5~6 days is worth the effort. Through this experience, I felt fully the hardships of entrepreneurs, even with products as brilliant and futuristic as sinks that dissolve food waste into liquid form. They’re just not there for it. On the other hand, we were lucky enough to invite a gallery owner to see our booth and negotiate some business, but this was due to a friend network rather than an amity birthed by the exhibition. It’s really your call, but I strongly recommend that you prioritize your market research and consider what the primary goal of your business/exhibition is. In our case, we definitely chose the wrong market.

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However, I had a good experience. I had my very first taste of a small exhibition beyond the confines of my home. I did not realize the time was passing as I shifted products, displayed and rearranged the sculptures here and there. While it was a strenuous process, especially since it was done by the three of us only, unwrapping each of these products and finding an aesthetically pleasing composition took up the whole evening. I felt all the better after it.IMG_0305.jpg

 

Wrapping Up.

While it is advertised that the wrap up time is till the Monday after, we were surprised to see that most of the shops were packed and ready to go by Sunday evening following the exhibition. It dissolves into more chaos than the original set up, with some hoarse screams here and there as peoples’ frustrations go through the roof. This is another frustration that I had with the exhibition hosts–they do not seem to care for the participating companies. I say this because they offered no airconditioning the entire set up day, and immediately switched it off at 6PM when everyone was packing up. Everything had to be done in the excruciating heat and humidity of the Korean summer. This struck me as a disgusting capitalistic ploy, where all the smaller companies paid high sums to participate, slave away for four days everyday as they try to break even (sometimes located in farway and unfortunate areas with little customers) and immediately discarded as soon as they are away from the lime light. This was particularly disheartening to see, as some shop owners looked like they were on the verge of tears by the end of the show.

This is my personal experience and view on the Living and Lifestyle Expo, which transformed into the Home and Lifestyle Expo held in COEX. I felt like this was an interesting insight to the shenanigans, and especially interesting for those who do not have access to such information in Korean. Atleast, you know a little more and can perhaps have a little more sympathy for the sullen faces you may see at one of these exhibitions.

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creatif, exploring

ArT? What’s that?

In 1997, art critic and philosopher Arthur Danto declared the ‘end of art’ upon seeing Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes. This inflammatory claim highlighted the concerns of modernism and the blurring between art and non-art. What Warhol demonstrated to Danto was a complete satisfaction between the two definitions. In fact, Warhol’s art was so inwardly directed and subjective that its definition had become philosophical.

Andy Warhol’s art thrived within the Artworld, as he highlighted motifs of high consumerism and mundane repetition in objects. He demonstrated ideas through transforming an ordinary, mass produced and neglected can into art. The decision to call Warhol’s product art was the end of art, because he believed that the Artworld determined the value of the product, through members knowledgeable on art’s historical context. With the multiple interpretations and emotions conveyed by the dichotomy of art and non-art, the significance and continuation of art and the job of the Artworld was halted. However, the Artworld is spontaneously distorted and recreated, and cannot be dissipated by the threat of multiple meanings. What Warhol demonstrates is not the limitations of value determined by the Artworld. Instead, he ushers in a new era of pluralism—of multiple meanings and open ended questions still formulating. The Artworld becomes a larger platform of creation and reception, and is fundamental to the recognition and preservation of the art piece.

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adventure, Blogging, college, exploring, personal, Poetry/Inspiratoin, travels, Writer

Ecclesiastical

I wrote a poem.  I’m at a crossroads in life, and no doubt overwhelmed. Enjoy.
Clearly, your feet have not dipped past the ivy crusted rims

Feeling the soft tickling of forgotten mosses,

They’ve meandered through the clattering shells clinging

To rounded flowers opening and closing before you.

They have not waded between the fluid roads revealed and at end

In the sky wandering round and straight in their wondrous Milky Way.

 

Where have you rested your head, those days you believed it was softened moss?

Whose breath did you let caress your face, what purple did you make your shade of nightingale?

 

They turn round eastward, towards instinctively home

The auburn sky is ablaze and you are there,

Feeling nothing

But still teeming, seething and afloat.

The chasms spread before, thinly sunk into worn crevices,

Peeling skins off of the age old trees and the heaven dense auras

The valleys and its hidden villages are to be pillaged

Only by those ravenous in the mouth.

A donkey bears the laden fruits of your search

And together you make it to the hole

Where you bury the hatchet, and leave the memories under

The skies fondle a home in the murky waters below.

Your sister is both there and already in the wind,

Faces sunken, but never lost.

Well done, the deed is done.

Whatever you have seen,

The losses you have carried,

The tragedies you have committed in both your name and others,

The slandered will rest easy tonight.

 

When the night falls, and you offer your soul to the pits,

You are free, and free of burden.

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exploring, personal, Uncategorized

why words matter

The older I get the more I realize how soft my mother is to words. The last time I met up with her in Korea, she was so furious with my dad, over something he said in passing, that she ignored him for months and was on the verge of getting a divorce, when I told her to confront him and deal with it once and for all. They talked about it, best part is he didn’t even know she was mad. He apologized and she was all good after that. I’ve come to realize that my mom is not that steel hard wonderwoman I always pictured her to be. I remind myself to be kind and send some words of affirmation to her now and then, especially since we now live apart. I’ve done it countless times for strangers in club bathrooms. Reminder to be kind to those who matter the most.

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