Saturday, January 27, 2007

'Tis Grand

Ach, 'tis truly great to be back. Weather was lovely - warm, then rainy. Loving it.
My new digs are light bright welcoming relaxing. The Manor is a happy place.
Had a swim yesterday, ate Chinese food today, have drunk a lot of coffee, bequeathed some well-received gifts, met another new blogger peep. Am suffering terrible hayfever.
Have lost conversation skilz. But not driving skilz.

Happy happy.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I Have One Question

At passport control on the way outta Korea, the immigration officer said to me 'I have one question'. Of course I'm feeling a little nervous, I want everything to go smoothly. It's all been going well so far - my bag was 6 kilos overweight but the check-in cutie didn't care.
Anyways, I said, 'Yes?', and he said 'Australia - that's a racist place, right?'.

Oh, my heart sank.

As I paused, he said 'White; black; yellow', indicating with his hand declining layers, then explained 'Classes, right? It's racist, Australia?'.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I'm Packing

If I had time I'd be blogging about this stuff ::
  • Another name change for Australia's Department of Immigration;
  • Nationalism in Australia and Serbia;
  • Democrats in the USA appear to have a (semi) Mexican, a female, and a black (is that racist?) in the Presidential nomination race;
  • My colour palette has changed with my K-time, as it did with my Euro-time, evidenced above;
  • I'm feeling calm.

Final 30 Hours

I've spent seven months living alone. I've finally experienced a bit of Asia. I've made more friends and taken more photos. I've bought possibly 8 pairs of shoes. I've flown a lover across the world to see me. I've become acutely hysterical once, maybe twice. I've missed out on big things at home. I'm still in debt. I've sent a lot of postcards. I've eaten breakfast nearly every day. I've fallen asleep and missed my stop.

I'm looking forward to the colours of home, the hugs, the river, the children, the bread, the deck, the walks. Looking forward to not driving to work, to waking up with Charlie, to being alive and inspired at work, to enlarging some photos, to mending some bridges, to supporting my brother.

I'm going to miss the food, the subway, the new friends. I'll miss cheap clothes, shoes and taxis. I'll miss the Han River at night, PC bangs, cute Korean boys and their effeminate fashions, rice cakes in the subway, not understanding a word, freebies everyday.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Saturday Night in Hyehwa

Said goodbye to the posse of K-girlfriends last night. Was typical of the fun silly lovely nights I've spent with them. We ate and ate a little traditional style place, then went to get star photos, then had a beer at a weird bar. Typical! Silly! Perfect! Getting star photos involves dressing up in the wacky costumes, falling about laughing, then eventually getting tiny photos taken in a booth. I had a tiara and angel wings... My friend Ahri went all out, as some kinda dilapidated geisha::

I will really miss these girls. Some of the best times I've had here were with them. I feel so lucky to have met some very genuine and generous people in Korea. Ahri and her friend Damon escorted me all the way home when it was clear I'd miss my last subway connection, which was great cos it meant I could give Ahri a bunch of household stuff I couldn't take home - she was especially delighted when I palmed off a 5 kilo bag of washing powder and a giant jar of honey.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

From 6 into 5 but really 4

Said some goodbyes today. Made and distributed farewell cards to my colleagues. Twas my last real day of work. Didn't cry, but surprised myself these past days with how moved I've been by it all. Even amidst the happiness of all the good stuff that's waiting at home.
Also had a little fight at dinner, with my friend from the hood, Tom, whom I've gotten along with famously til now. It kinda gave me a reminder of what it's like to be at home, where one has real conversations about 'issues' and suchlike, and where political debates take place between friends.
Ate a pile of duck, drank a lot of beers and sat looking out at the neon from the 11th floor bar, thinking about my world, Charlie, and the victims of cruise ships. I was thinking about International Cruise Victims Organization, which I've just discovered... An organisation less concerned with the misdeeds of Tom Cruise than those who've taken holidays on cruise ships and somehow suffered as a result. It's in the zeitgeist, people. Last night's CSI: Miami was all about this.

These are the birthday kids from yesterday. The one in the middle is my favourite, Branden::

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Day 6: An Australian Story

Last night I laughed and laughed.
Mum told me a great story about Burleigh Heads, where some friends of hers are living. The friends are a lovely couple, an Aussie woman, her Turkish husband and their two gorgeous poppets. After years of living in Istanbul, and months waiting for Mister's visa, they've moved to Australia. Mister is a textile machinist, I think he made suits in Turkey, and applied for a job at a place that made aprons and tea-towels. The previous worker had disappointed management by producing only ten pieces a day, so they were looking for someone new. Missus left him at the atelier for an hour-long tryout, feeling good about seeing him look so comfortable and professional at the machines. When she came back after an hour, the owner rushed at Missus and said 'gosh, he's fast!'... He'd made 45 pieces in the hour. They were rapt. They were also excited to be a part of his new life in Australia, showing him all aspects of the business, and looking forward to helping with his English learning.

Today is the monthly birthday party at work. My last birthday party here. The balloon swords are all made, the long birthday table is covered in coloured paper, the kids are running around wildly. In the classrooms, the kids who have their birthday this month are changing into traditional dress. Cute! Soon I'll be eating fried chicken and drinking pepsi...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Seven Daze

Got offered the 'Exhibit B' position today. Will think about my 'yes' answer and then tell them tomorrow. Means I'm heading straight back into the giant machine when I get back. But that is security, and bills paid. Ach, it's not bad at all, and it'll be working in a friendly familiar place with old mates all around.
Less than a week left here. I've taught my Wednesday afternoon boys for the last time. I entertained then by pretending to eat erasers, or pulling them out of my ear. Am I grandpa? Whatever, it was fun.

  • Saw The Departed, loved it;
  • Reading February's Vanity Fair (which has a huge article on the neocons who left Bush's side);
  • Reading the Melbourne Poet's Union best poem;
  • Listening to the old psychedelic mix CDs that LTR has tirelessly made for me;
  • Thinking about the lack of a successor at this school;
  • Drinking red wine for dinner.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Tenth Day

Credit where credit is due - my new profile photo was taken by Ethan. Nice, eh?

Sightseeing was scheduled for this Sunday - as is often the case - Ethan and I travel to some new place to see some random Korean highlight. I was really pleased that Ethan and Jen both were happy to do as I wanted and go to the War Memorial, for a Korean lunch and to Yongsan to buy DVDs. The sun was shining, it was cold, but bright and fine. Lovely winters' day.

The War Memorial is maaasssive, just like the National Museum. And the grounds are full of aeroplanes, tanks, submarines and howitzers. Yeah, and a little wedding palace, in case you wanna recall the war while you take your vows.

There was a great deal of acknowledgement of the UN forces who had fought in the Korean War - I saw monuments, plaques, uniforms and movies of the Australian involvement. The question arose of why the 38th parallel was chose for the division and I immediate thought was just cos the Americans picked it... Well, as Wikipedia says ::

On August 10, 1945 two young officers – Dean Rusk and Charles Bonesteel – were assigned the task of creating an American occupation zone. Working on extremely short notice and completely unprepared for the task, they used a National geographic map to decide on the 38th parallel; they chose it because it divided the country approximately in half but would leave the capital Seoul under American control. No experts on Korea were consulted and the two men were unaware that forty years previous, Japan and Russia had discussed sharing Korea along the same parallel; Rusk later said that had he known, he would have chosen a different line.

Gawd. It's just so sad and ridiculous. Rusk actually said: '[The] choice of the 38th Parallel, recommended by two tired colonels working late at night, proved fateful.'

Though today, I don't know why, I didn't instinctively mourn those lives lost... Through all those memorials, I wasn't moved. When in Minsk I remember been profoundly upset at a memorial to the Belorusian mothers of those who fought with the Soviets in the 9-year war in Afghanistan. Those lives were lost so needlessly, and the concept of a mother's grief was emotionally compelling. Not sure why I didn't get that today... Maybe because the memorial, many parts of it, are focused on the technicalities of the wars: equipment; tactics; dates and numbers. The idea/s of the war are so much more complex, intractable, intriguing, frustrating... Sad.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Last 12 Days

I've not long left in Korea, I have started to count down.

Yesterday was the twelfth day, and it was a regular school day. On the way to work in the morning I realised some kid was following me, imitating my strut for the amusement of his mate. Am I that ridiculous? Had dinner with a friend in my hood. I really wanted to eat galbi - barbequed meat - one more time before I left cos I love it and it's so Korean to me. So we overate, it was delicious. Talked about the history wars in Australia and Spain.

Today I cleaned, I talked to home, I read blogs and eventually went out, with the mission to find a French ghetto. Last year there was a sensation in Korea when two French expatriates were under suspicious for killing their babies and storing them in their home freezer in this hood. I'd heard there was a Montmartre street and all... Unfortunately, my directions were sketchy, so I ended up roaming around in the twilight (and increasing chill), looking for anything French. After walking by a huge suburb being built, another one a ghost town, I'd given up when I saw a sign in French. Oh my. Stopped a moment later and took this photo ::

I'd found the hood. And it was nice and curious to be in this sweet neighbourhood with French families talking and delicatessens and nice beauty salons and lots of manicured dogs and wine bars. But I was very cold and over it. I went to the giant Gangnam Underground Shopping Mall and bought jocks for my brother (I'm under instruction), a cute top for Z, a cute dress that may or may not be able to contain my boobs, and some hair ties cos my hair is finally growing.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Somewhere in Time

When I emailed some Korea alumni to ask what things I should make sure I did in Seoul before I left, one replied:: 'get to as many galleries as you can - you don't find that quality many places'.
It's true, the art here is so good, and there are many tiny contemporary art galleries with new different interesting beautiful work of a really high quality. Ethan and I went to the Artsonje Center and saw a show mixed media show called 'Somewhere in Time'. My favourite piece was by San Keum Koh, and was a big panel with pearl beads adhered to it. It was very very beautiful, graphic and peaceful. If it were nothing more, I could well appreciate it. Then we realised the beads were arranged in a deliberate manner; not to form an image, but to represent the characters and spaces taken from a text, that was sitting nearby on a plinth.
I read about the artist and his reasons for making this simple, graphic work here and saw some more of his work at the bottom of this page. What do you think?

Thursday, January 11, 2007


This and yesterday's green photo were taken on my holiday to Ethan's hood, Ansan, last weekend. We both live in satellite cities, so technically outside of Seoul. Ansan is a metropolis which seems as big as Melbourne, malls, neon, giant churches, above-ground train stations, big houses as well as apartments. It was great to go there last weekend, cos it was in my first coupla weeks in Korea that I went out there to meet Ethan, who was a blogger, barely yet an e-friend. Six months later we have a great friendship, which is one of the hardest things to leave here.

No school this morning as the lil kids are seeing Heidi: The Musical. They've been counting sleeps down, as if Heidi was as exciting as Santa.

Zen and Garbage

Been reading a terrific book, The Secret River. Not sure how much weight my literary opinion is worth after I loved Gorky Park so intensely. But The Secret River is a whole other wonderful. All about convict transportation and settlement near Sydney back in the day. Confrontations between whites and blacks. I understand a little of the terror of the frontier, but I never thought about the new hierarchies that the convicts were negotiating. I was pondering how their behaviour was shaped by fear and pride, and that their actions were thus in some way affected, unnatural.

Trekked across Seoul after work to go to a bookstore and sell some books to them. The guy asked me what I thought of Zen and... and I said 'absolute garbage, I wish I could get those hours of my life back'. Then he asked what I thought of Fury, by Rushdie, and I said 'absolute shite, I wish I could get those hours of my life back... so are you gonna give me a good price?'.

Watched a heap of filums of late: Babel; 16 Blocks; Lucky Number Slevin; Jarhead (again).
'Sbeen good. Also got back online and bought some CDs to augment my wacky collection. Great.

Word of interest:: Refoulement
Person of interest:: Anthony Swofford

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Maybe I've started to feel sad about leaving here.
Today I felt I understood why teachers teach for decades. It can be so fun, so rewarding. Lovely.

I hate that guilty feeling when you know you're leaving... Or is it just me?
I remember my boss in Melbourne sending me a bunch of white tulips to congratulate me on my graduation. It was maybe two weeks after I'd decided to leave, but hadn't told him. I felt terrible.

I got mail yesterday. And today. So wonderful. I know I have a blog and email accounts and a phone but it was still great to get snail mail. I got a card from my friend in Iceland, and a Christmassy card from Dear Charlie's family. Nice.

I think it's gonna snow this weekend. Gosh, soon I'll be home, and it'll be damn hot. I'm thinking about the river, getting a water massage in the rapids...

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Demons and Sages

I may have come down from my high. Yeah.

So last night, as all sorts of demons, new and old, invaded my mind while I tried to sleep, I was thinking of where I was this week last year. Then I thought about where I was the year before, the year before, and so on. Wow.

  • Last year at this time, I was facing a knife, then a fist, being thrown at me by my partner.
  • The previous year, I was coming back from my first visit to Byron Bay, seeing Garden State at the Nova, and hosting a party attended only by bogans, schizophrenics and alcoholics.
  • The year before I spent two days in London on my way back from Ireland, before heading on to the white-on-white freezing lonely landscape of Lithuania.

My horoscope for December, as told by the sage at Vanity Fair ::

The good news: at least you don't have to scrounge around for money and tear out your hair over the bills. Politically, though, it has been one hell of a hairy game over the last several months. Saturn's culmination in your solar midheaven can solidify your position, help you find your niche, and establish you as a powerful, credible pro. The aggravation that goes along with that is another story. Some people are so mean. They simply refuse to forget all the inappropriate things you did to get where you are.

And for January ::

With money no longer a source of agita, maybe you can stay focused on your career. If you've got the gift of gab, God bless you, because it's going to come in handy now that the ruler of your 10th house is in your solar 3rd. Not only can you express your views professionally and publicly, but you will also be able to talk your way out of all the sticky political situations you've gotten mixed up in over the past few months as you endeavored to climb to the pinnacle of success without stepping on too many heads along the way.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


I've realised I'm experiencing some side-effects of my imminent return home ::

1. Hair is growing
(It had stopped growing and started falling out the past 6 months in Korea.)
2. Hysterical optimism
(Love, reunions, new beginnings, freedom... I just keep feeling deliriously happy.)
3. Hayfeverish sneezes
(A constant the past decade, which stopped entirely the past 6 months in Korea.)

Oh, there's a great unbloggable rumour (good news, rather) that is just about to hit the airwaves... Oh the joy of love in the new year!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Exotic Rich Beautiful

Love is optimism.
2007 the year of my exotic rich and beautiful life.
Where ever I am now, it's better and more beautiful and happy than where I was last year. What a blessed life I have.

I received a happy new year greeting from a good friend who said ::
"I wish you really ALL the best for 2007... The best in love life work friendships food art music books outfits political engagement confessions movies bands concerts nature sun letters good talks health". I like that. I wish the same for all.

Was gonna stay in last night, then Ethan called me and said 'I'm playin' the card: you're leavin' soon: come on out.' Then he tells me where... Homo Hill. Great. The wrong side of town with a buncha sleezoids drunks hookers and scary army arseholes. So yeah, I went. Ethan is a doll and he was with his lovely friend Jen. We went to a bar called 'Queen'. Yeah. Drink specials and GIs at the bar. Wasted poofs kissing fat girls, army girls who look like LL Cool J. Cute Korean guys playing with silver balloons, dirty lesbians with their tops off. Funfunfun.
It was low-key, I didn't dance, had a couple of drinks (and a felafel), then left at 12.30. I stopped to sneeze as I walked down to get a taxi and a hooker came out of the brothel I was standing in front of. I walked on, through crowds of gangstas setting off fireworks, dodging guys trying for a New Year's embrace. It was less then a hour into the New Year but the queue at MacDonald's was out the door.

Nice taxi driver took me quickly and safely home.