Archive for December, 2006

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merry christmassing~

December 24, 2006

Korean Nativity Scene

I’m not in Korea anymore, but Korea’s still in me, so when I saw this Korean-style nativity scene, I couldn’t help but use the occasion to offer my season’s greetings to all the readers of vagabondage.

For those wondering about Christmas in Korea. . . First and foremost, as the nativity scene indicates, the holiday is an reverent celebration for the millions of Korean Christians who have no trouble whatsoever making this “foreign” religion very much their own.

Then there is the secular holiday. . . which is the day to play. If you have are in a romance and fail to take out your sweetie on Christmas Eve, then you are sunk. So, this gives a hint as to what it is about Christmas that most adheres to the non-Christian – much the same East or West – a cozy, romantic, gift-giving time of mirth in the middle of a dark and cold end of the year time of reckoning. Bottom line – Christmas Eve is one of the most rockinist crowded evenings of the year, as captured on a subway platform below by a fellow Fulbrighter and now freelance photographer in Seoul:eve2.jpg

Also of interest is the inter-religious aspect of Christmas, given that Korea is indeed a majority non-Christian nation with Buddhism being the largest non-Christian relgion. Happily, there is a more-or-less peaceful co-existence, as the government has declared both Jesus’ and Buddha’s Birthdays ( 8th day of the 4th lunar month) as national holidays. Granted, the Catholics get along much better with the Buddhists than the Protestants, but these days things seem pretty copacetic. Some of the monks have even gotten into the Christmas spirit:

200512221135249076.jpg

And the head of Korean Buddhism’s largest sect, the Jogye Order, issued a Christmas message saying that:

“On behalf of 20 million Buddhists in Korea, I express heartfelt congratulations on the coming of Jesus into the world.  The birth of Jesus taught us love and peace. Following the teachings of Jesus and Buddha, we should make efforts that the warm and bright light of mercy and peace can shine upon this world, by conquering anger with patience, evil with good, and untruth with truth.”

Considering that Buddha and Jesus both led celibate lives teaching peace, love, humility and understanding, there is certainly no reason why we can’t all enjoy one another’s celebrations, no?

So, Christian or no, Peace and Love, y’all!

h1

merry christmassing~

December 24, 2006

Korean Nativity Scene

I’m not in Korea anymore, but Korea’s still in me, so when I saw this Korean-style nativity scene, I couldn’t help but use the occasion to offer my season’s greetings to all the readers of vagabondage.

For those wondering about Christmas in Korea. . . First and foremost, as the nativity scene indicates, the holiday is an reverent celebration for the millions of Korean Christians who have no trouble whatsoever making this “foreign” religion very much their own.

Then there is the secular holiday. . . which is the day to play. If you have are in a romance and fail to take out your sweetie on Christmas Eve, then you are sunk. So, this gives a hint as to what it is about Christmas that most adheres to the non-Christian – much the same East or West – a cozy, romantic, gift-giving time of mirth in the middle of a dark and cold end of the year time of reckoning. Bottom line – Christmas Eve is one of the most rockinist crowded evenings of the year, as captured on a subway platform below by a fellow Fulbrighter and now freelance photographer in Seoul:eve2.jpg

Also of interest is the inter-religious aspect of Christmas, given that Korea is indeed a majority non-Christian nation with Buddhism being the largest non-Christian relgion. Happily, there is a more-or-less peaceful co-existence, as the government has declared both Jesus’ and Buddha’s Birthdays ( 8th day of the 4th lunar month) as national holidays. Granted, the Catholics get along much better with the Buddhists than the Protestants, but these days things seem pretty copacetic. Some of the monks have even gotten into the Christmas spirit:

200512221135249076.jpg

And the head of Korean Buddhism’s largest sect, the Jogye Order, issued a Christmas message saying that:

“On behalf of 20 million Buddhists in Korea, I express heartfelt congratulations on the coming of Jesus into the world.  The birth of Jesus taught us love and peace. Following the teachings of Jesus and Buddha, we should make efforts that the warm and bright light of mercy and peace can shine upon this world, by conquering anger with patience, evil with good, and untruth with truth.”

Considering that Buddha and Jesus both led celibate lives teaching peace, love, humility and understanding, there is certainly no reason why we can’t all enjoy one another’s celebrations, no?

So, Christian or no, Peace and Love, y’all!

h1

the new world

December 12, 2006

When I first came to Korea in 1994, I was one of like 3 non-Koreans on a huge airliner. I arrived to a smallish international airport and proceeded to live with very little interaction with foreigners or friends and family back home. Now here I am 12 years later and there are foreigners everywhere. The airport is chock full. Moreover, i’m in direct contact with friends and family daily, not just emailing but talking with them (virtual) face to face. Back in ’94, we blew over 1000$ on phone charges trying to keep the ties of romance tight during our first long-term, long-distance separation. Now it’s more or less free.

And then there’s the fact of this blogpost. I’m sitting here at Incheon International using computers they provide in a free internet lounge.  Unreal.

And so, my last hours in Korea for a while. I’ll miss kimchi, and my new friends, and maybe most of all… speaking and hearing Korean. I’ve been working on this language for so dang long, and only now do I finally feel like I’m starting to get a grasp of it in situations that aren’t totally under my control. That is, I can be thrown into the midst of a crazy scene (like this past sunday when a drunken ajeossi came up and kicked the street cat i was petting… woah. goodbye buddhist calm, hello madmatty) and still talk (or shout) my way out. Whereas I used to have to bring friends along to get complicated things done, I do it on my own now. One other change, I can now actually discern a lot of the jabbering that goes on around me. What used to be a din is now separating out into distinct converstations about boyfriends, bosses, and bitchy next-door-neighbors who’d get a perm and lose 5 pounds if they knew what was good for them. Hmm… maybe the din was better?

In short, even as I’m overjoyed to be going home, I’m going to miss this place a lot, even for only three weeks. And reflecting on this fact, I think this is the best thing I could have possibly hoped for as I set out on this journey a few months back.

So far, so good. Korea Annyoung!

h1

the new world

December 12, 2006

When I first came to Korea in 1994, I was one of like 3 non-Koreans on a huge airliner. I arrived to a smallish international airport and proceeded to live with very little interaction with foreigners or friends and family back home. Now here I am 12 years later and there are foreigners everywhere. The airport is chock full. Moreover, i’m in direct contact with friends and family daily, not just emailing but talking with them (virtual) face to face. Back in ‘94, we blew over 1000$ on phone charges trying to keep the ties of romance tight during our first long-term, long-distance separation. Now it’s more or less free.

And then there’s the fact of this blogpost. I’m sitting here at Incheon International using computers they provide in a free internet lounge.  Unreal.

And so, my last hours in Korea for a while. I’ll miss kimchi, and my new friends, and maybe most of all… speaking and hearing Korean. I’ve been working on this language for so dang long, and only now do I finally feel like I’m starting to get a grasp of it in situations that aren’t totally under my control. That is, I can be thrown into the midst of a crazy scene (like this past sunday when a drunken ajeossi came up and kicked the street cat i was petting… woah. goodbye buddhist calm, hello madmatty) and still talk (or shout) my way out. Whereas I used to have to bring friends along to get complicated things done, I do it on my own now. One other change, I can now actually discern a lot of the jabbering that goes on around me. What used to be a din is now separating out into distinct converstations about boyfriends, bosses, and bitchy next-door-neighbors who’d get a perm and lose 5 pounds if they knew what was good for them. Hmm… maybe the din was better?

In short, even as I’m overjoyed to be going home, I’m going to miss this place a lot, even for only three weeks. And reflecting on this fact, I think this is the best thing I could have possibly hoped for as I set out on this journey a few months back.

So far, so good. Korea Annyoung!

h1

Going there and back

December 10, 2006

In Korean, it is common practice to be a bit more concise in describing your mobilization than in English. That is, while it is possible to simply say you are “going” somewhere, in certain cases, saying you are “going” somewhere means you aren’t coming back. So, to be clear, you say you are “going and coming back.” When you leave the house, for instance, you say, “I’m going and coming back” and people will say goodbye by saying, “Go and come back well!” (Such locutions have a special history in a country that has witnessed a few million deaths over the past century through war and colonialism).

So, when I tell my friends I’m going to the States for Christmas, I can’t say, “I’m going to the States,” lest they feel the need for a goodbye party. I have to say, “I’m going and coming back.” There’s no confusion… it’s just a short break. And what a welcome break it is.

img_5406.jpgGranted, in this time when many folks my age are away for the long haul in wartorn Iraq or Afghanistan, it seems a bit minor to get too worked up about being separated. Nevertheless, I can’t deny that the separation has been hard in its own way. Being separated from loved ones you’ve been building a life with for over a decade now is never, ever easy. How much more so when you are more or less alone in a foreign land, working hard, and trying to manage the ins and outs of the simplest tasks day in, day out. So, here I am after 3 1/2 months, only a few days from my return back to my beloved midwestern roots.

img_5409.jpgToday, I spent the whole day getting ready. Most of my time was devoted to getting presents ready for Christmas. Luckily, it went well. The only sticking point was the young boys. Korea is full of great trinkets for the wee-female ones, but the boys… much harder it seems. Nevertheless, the task is complete and now all that’s left is the ferrying and the wrapping.

Also key to my pre-trip preparations is getting the home cat-ready. I had to do a lot of shopping to find a litter box, litter, food, a bowl and some toys at a reasonable price. But that too is now complete. goodgirl.jpgI only hope that Ling can read the directions that the Japanese litter box folks have so politely provided for her.

So here I am, two and half days to go. I’m very excited to congratulate the Dr., to see my loved ones, and to snuggle with my kitties I’ve been missing so very much. But I’ve also realized something else. No matter how much I love going home, I’m really glad it is only a break. I’m not nearly ready to “go.” It is with a sense of relief that I can tell everyone, “Gattda wa-yo! Gattda wa-yo!” (gattda – I’m going, Gattda-wayo – going and coming back).

h1

Going there and back

December 10, 2006

—-as much as I hate to bump the biggest story in smelmoth’s history… here it goes —-

img_5406.jpgIn Korean, it is common practice to be a bit more concise in describing your mobilization than in English. That is, while it is possible to simply say you are “going” somewhere, in certain cases, saying you are “going” somewhere means you aren’t coming back. So, to be clear, you say you are “going and coming back.” When you leave the house, for instance, you say, “I’m going and coming back” and people will say goodbye by saying, “Go and come back well!” (Such locutions have a special history in a country that has witnessed a few million deaths over the past century through war and colonialism).

So, when I tell my friends I’m going to the States for Christmas, I can’t say, “I’m going to the States,” lest they feel the need for a goodbye party. I have to say, “I’m going and coming back.” There’s no confusion… it’s just a short break. And what a welcome break it is.

img_5409.jpgGranted, in this time when many folks my age are away for the long haul in wartorn Iraq or Afghanistan, it seems a bit minor to get too worked up about being separated. Nevertheless, I can’t deny that the separation has been hard in its own way. Being separated from loved ones you’ve been building a life with for over a decade now is never, ever easy. How much more so when you are more or less alone in a foreign land, working hard, and trying to manage the ins and outs of the simplest tasks day in, day out. So, here I am after 3 1/2 months, only a few days from my return back to my beloved midwestern roots.

Today, I spent the whole day getting ready. Most of my time was devoted to getting presents ready for Christmas. Luckily, it went well. The only sticking point was the young boys. Korea is full of great trinkets for the wee-female ones, but the boys… much harder it seems. Nevertheless, the task is complete and now all that’s left is the ferrying and the wrapping.

goodgirl.jpgAlso key to my pre-trip preparations is getting the home cat-ready. I had to do a lot of shopping to find a litter box, litter, food, a bowl and some toys at a reasonable price. But that too is now complete. I only hope that Ling can read the directions that the Japanese litter box folks have so politely provided for her.

So here I am, two and half days to go. I’m very excited to congratulate the Dr., to see my loved ones, and to snuggle with my kitties I’ve been missing so very much. But I’ve also realized something else. No matter how much I love going home, I’m really glad it is only a break. I’m not nearly ready to “go.” It is with a sense of relief that I can tell everyone, “Gattda wa-yo! Gattda wa-yo!” (gattda – I’m going, Gattda-wayo – going and coming back).

h1

Meet the new BAKSA

December 9, 2006

The Korean word for Doctor, as in one who has achieved a doctorate, is BAKSA, derived from the Chinese characters:

bak.jpgBAK and sa.jpgSA

BAK – means “to be complete and far-reaching” (the cross on the left means complete, or, to extend in all four directions; the stuff on the right… far reaching, trust me).

SA – composed of a cross (the character for ten) upon a stand (the character for one) means, “one who knows everything, from one to ten.”

So, a BAKSA, is one whose knowledge of everything, from one to ten, is complete and far-reaching.

I’m not sure if that’s the case with our superstar, Dominica, but she is without a doubt, the proud new Doctor of Philosphy in French Language and Literature. I’ve never personally seen a scholar work harder, go through more pain and suffering, deal with more obstacles, and overcome everything to persevere – and that was just in me helping her! KIDDING – good gravy.

Seriously, the tale is storybook. Her parents gave up so very much – her father – an executive position with a major, now world-famous, Korean conglomerate, her mother – a comfortable life as housewife of the executive salaryman – to make sure their children would have more opportunity specifically to study what and how they saw fit. In the past, she’s confessed that as a student in her very first years of French, she had dreams both minor, of one day proctoring her own French language exams, and grand, to craft and lead her own course on the literature of 19th c. France that intrigued her so much. She’s already accomplished both of these, and has now reached the summit of her student path. There is no further for the student to go.

So, what next?

You know…why don’t we get to that later, hey? If I’ve learned anything in either my youthful upbringin in the midwest or my adult upbringing in the far east, it’s that you should never, ever, ever make haste to rush beyond the glorious and fleeting moments of triumph that life so rarely offers.

So, for now, let’s just simply bask in the glow of someone we all respect and love so very, very much – to cherish and honor the incredible accomplishment of someone who has worked so hard, for so long, with so little to go on but her own drive to reach that goal she set for herself and that her parents dreamed of her achieving when they left Korea some 30 odd years ago.

Brava! and Man-se!

to~~

-my beloved –

Dr. Dominica Sung-hee Chang, Ph.D.