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Angkor Wat, June 2013 _ Maia Gillet

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Many of the people I follow on Instagram are in South Korea most of the time. I watch Korean TV more than I watch American TV.  And my heart is aching.  In these images amongst Seoul’s vastness, I can recognize so little.  But it is enough.  There is a line of trees outside of Gyeongbokgung, and the way the streets look with alley signs and many crosswalks. Or, the very worst, the stairs (with brick and trees and so very steep) that lead to the Hongdae playground.

I begin to worry that I’m going to lose all those little moments, those little things.  Like the Paris Baguette ajumma, who offered me her umbrella and refused to believe me when I said I didn’t mind the rain.  But the moments are already fading.  The bad ones are all gone. I know what idealizing is now.  It is something like the bakery store ajumma, and the guy in the back of the taxi, so shy he is almost afraid of me, refusing to speak English, and Ministop chicken and lemonade and walking back up hill for lunch.  Idealizing is wonderful.  It is what I have left of Korea.  It is what I can still hold in my hands.

SEOUL in black and white _ by maia gillet

Phimeanakas, the celestial temple
Angkor, Cambodia

Here are some photos from my last few weeks in Seoul:  Outside the Leeum museum of art (which I enjoyed but was sad to see the spider was gone), an especially nice sunset, an early Oriental Painting assignment, doctor fish eating my dead skin at the Co Ex aquarium, and the Banho bridge.

This is the last update for a while (and in a while) because I will be travelling to Vietnam, Cambodia and Japan for a three weeks and will be sans computer.  I PROMISE I’ll update soon after…

My stay in Korea is winding down, just as in the past few weeks it was really setting in that I was in Korea and I’m living here… and now I’m leaving.  I’m sad, but not so sad because I don’t feel like I’m leaving here forever.  I think it would be hard for anyone to stay in Seoul and not want to come back, and so I know I want to do that, and I will.

Still, I’m really excited to back to school next year and apply some of the things I’ve learned here (papermaking, ink painting) to my work —- and I’m really excited to have real studio space.  Ah, MICA, I will never complain about my studio space, I promise.

Today was actually a pretty great day.  I had a class in the morning, then went for Indian food for an all-you-can-eat buffet.

The food was fine. The nan (and the fresh pineapple) was delicious!  But I have unfair standards for Indian food and I wasn’t really blown away.  And it wasn’t spicy at all!!  Here I am, constantly blown away by the spiciness of Korean food and they can’t even make my Indian food a little spicy?  Je ne comprends pas!  on the plus side, the restaurant was really beautiful and it had a fountain and lots of fresh fruit.

Then I went to my oriental painting class, which was ok except we started to paint chrysanthemums and it was stupid and I wasn’t any good at it.  But then I showed my professor my website (here! here!) on someone’s phone and he made this for me:

to explain that he thought my paintings were were like Korean poetry, containing an incomplete beauty (in contrast to Chinese poetry which, he said, was about completeness, or Japanese poetry which is about details).  It was really, really sweet (even though I had to hear it second hand through my classmate, who was translating, and that made it a bit awkward).  He also said that I should have had a solo exhibition already :)

Also, as a side note, my friend told me that she was in trouble with her sunbaes for too much PDA with her boyfriend (also in our class) and that they told her if they want to hug and kiss they should go to a hotel.  And I really couldn’t stop myself from laughing. WHAT??? (I mentioned this to a korean friend later in the day and I was happy to hear that this was strange — along with a comment that it probably had to do with the size of the oriental painting department which is a bit small).

To round out my day, I went to go see Secretly, Greatly at the Lotte Cinema with Ji Yung.  At lunch she had asked if I had seen any movies here, and I said that I hadn’t but really wanted to, and that I wanted to see Kim Soo-hyun’s new movie.  She humored me and agreed to go tonight, after I convinced her I could manage without subtitles.

The movie was good… It’s based on a manhwa about three young North Korean spies trying to infiltrate South Korean civilian life and for the most part it is an action comedy (though the ending was WAY more of a bummer than I was prepared for, to be honest).  I couldn’t follow word for word, but I knew enough about the story to follow, and I’m so glad I went!  Besides, like most of the other girls in the theatre could attest to (with their collective sighs at ~handsome~ reveals), who needs words when you have swoons?  It’s like the little mermaid.

…do you get it?

the cast is so attractive

who cares about plot?

that’s it.  that’s the joke.

Not surprised the film is setting Korean box office records.

Here is a video of the waterbird I saw (I’m pretty sure it’s actually a heron, but not positive) chomping on and then swallowing a fish in the Cheonggyecheon stream near Gwanaksan.

I won’t fall behind on my study abroad blog, I said.  I won’t stop updating like everyone else does, I said.  Because I’m good at the internet, I said.  Ooops.  Talk about falling behind!  Months have passed… it feels like years.  Ah, well…  Here’s a post about some stuff I did last weekend!

The past month or so I have been doing a bit of solo hiking (first Bugaksan, then Bukhansan Dulegil and then Namsan).  I’ve really enjoyed it, as it’s sort of a novelty to me.  First, I don’t hang out in nature that often.  Also I am front the midwest — flatlandia, the great plains — so mountains are always a bit of a surprise, especially when they’re smack dab in the middle of the city like here in Seoul.

Last weekend I got a chance to go hiking with another exchange student.  I’d spent the first part of the day on a school trip to the Gansong art museum, which had involved a bit of walking, over an hour of standing in line (the museum is only open four weeks of the year, two of which are in May, the last day of which I went, hence a very long line), and also a tiring amount of communicating poorly through a language barrier. Then, I returned to the dorms and we set off for Gwanaksan.  Or, er —- we thought we did.

We got off at Seoul National University station and then could not for the life of us figure out how to get to the mountain.  By the time we had reached the gate of the University it was already 5 o’clock.  We wandered around trying to find a trail and finally did.

To be honest, I have no idea which mountain we climbed.  It was a shorter peak than most around it, but we weren’t really payed very close attention to names.

Anyways, we found the trail and before we even started walking uphill, I felt a sharp pain near my right heel and ankle.  I see bee, or perhaps a fly, and quickly push it off and the pain increases.  Emily (my hiking buddy) then tells me that the bee has flown into my backpack, and start limping over to the side of the trail to shake it out, and make sure I’m not having an allergic reaction (I’ve never been stung by a bee before!).  Everything seemed pretty much fine, but a korean man saw me rubbing my ankle and insisted on spraying what, I’m pretty sure, was muscle-soother.  It was a nice thought, but not really what I needed.

Not too much worse for wear, we trucked on.  Emily is significantly fitter than me, so I usually straggled behind a little, but it’s nice to have someone keeping the pace for you.  Around ten minutes later, my shoe lace got tangled in a tree root and I tumbled to the ground, scratching up my wrists pretty bad.  At this point in time I got caught up with a case of frustrated giggles.  Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong, I guess.

Eventually we pulled ourselves up about 10 minutes of steep rock and pine covered ground, and reached the peak.  Even after all that struggle, there’s something so immediately relaxing and free and wonderful about reaching the peak of a mountain.  When I first reaching the peak of the Bukhansan Dulegil, even though it’s not so high, I screamed as loud as I could and it was awesome.

After hanging out on the peak for a little while, and hanging out with a nice Korean guy (who I think was a professor at Seoul National University) who pointed out all the local peaks and talked about how he went to America once…. we headed down the mountain and went in search of the temples we’d seen signs for.  We found the first temple, which was really small but had a little farm next to it, and a monk who stared us off the grounds.  Then we found a shrine which was (to be frank) kind of boring.

At this point it was getting pretty dark I thought we should head back, but Emily wanted to see the final temple.  From a rock plateau we could look down and see the roofs of the temple complex, so she convinced me to follow her down the steep slope.  We reached the edge and couldn’t find our way down, but I found a river for us to follow along a barbed-wire fence, and then we found some stairs to the temple.  We walked around a little and then sat in the courtyard for a little while listening to the candlelit chanting.

Afterwards, we walked down to a street, followed it to the Chyeonggyecheon and then walked along the stream until we found a subway station.  In the meantime we watched people play basketball, and watched an egret eat a fish, and I was bitten by my first mosquito.  We had chimek at a place right to dorms and I nearly fell asleep at the table.

It was a real capital E day of experiences.