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Archive for September 9th, 2009

New friends

Gyeongju, South Korea

Korean dinner with Japan friend

Kanae and I enjoying a 30+ course (sides) dinner

“You speak very beautiful English”, “It is my hobby” said the women outside the oldest astrological observatory in all of Asia. I have found that this simple compliment often instills a sense of pride and accomplishment in non-English speakers and as a result they will often talk to you more freely. Like all people and dogs, we like to be encouraged and praised rather than criticized and disciplined. This case was no different as I got a complete overview of Gyeongju including the best times of day to see sights, and what bus to take because the “taxi to much WON”.I also learned about this womens children and how she had been to the Grand Canyon- “Such big hole”.

The batteries on my laptop SUCK. The HP mini is proving to be a fantastic little machine but 3 hour advertised battery life is code for just over an hour.

Walking up the sublime path to Seokguram Grotto a young women asked me in non-Korean English “Where are you from?”. I have discovered that California always gets a bigger smile than the United States or America so I always introduce myself that way. Besides, I do think of myself as a Californian. Not that I am not pure American as John would say, but the idea of someone thinking I am from Eastern Kentucky just scares me. Now before you start thinking I am down on people from Kentucky you should know one of my dearest friends is from there; and she was smart enough to move to California. Anyway, on this path I met Kanae, a graduating senior from Osaka, Japan who had taken a 2 month English class in Canada and was eager to practice. I guessed her being from Japan as they are the dominant tourists here even though the sites are all but empty as the global economy continues to curb travel (good for me). We had a great afternoon together and we discovered that some of the translations at the monuments were better in Japanese and some were better in English. So we would each read them in our native language and then translate for each other. At the grotto we collectively figured out that this, take you breath away, statue of the Buddha was over 12,00 years old. I could have sat at the base and looked at this Unesco World Heritage site for hours; so perfect so peaceful in that Mona Lisa sorta way. After a bit, Kanae and I needed to go our separate ways and each respectfully bowed to the other and said goodbye.

My earlier docent friend had told me to come back and see the observatory at night and this was a great suggestion as the evening mood was cool, the cicadas were chirping, and the entire place had a certain sense of mystery to it. Just as I was leaving, Kanae walked through the gates as she had taken my second hand advice and had also come back to see it at night. We took some photos and then after an awkward translation, Kanae, asked me if I wanted to have diner and then go see the pagodas together. At first I was somewhat unsure and then I remembered my new rule that when asked I would try to accept or “just show up” as my friend Dana frequently reminds me. After securing a recommendation for dinner we, according to my count, had something like a 33 course (sides in Korea) meal. The food can be categorized into three simple groups.. 1. Wow, that is pretty good, (little fried fish, rice balls with honey and sesame seeds) 2. Humm, not my favorite but….( anchovies in spiced sauce, pancake thing with seaweed 3. Uggg! I would not eat another bite of that if I was on the Donner party (the raw oysters in some of nastiness-gooey stuff ). Kanae had a similar response but she like a few more things then me as they transferred more readily cross cultures.. She warned my about the oysters…but I naturally did not listen. I then warned her about one dish that was “way beyond Kimshi hot”. She did not listen and boy did she pay for that.

After dinner we went to see the pond and the pagodas. It was a great evening. We caught a cab back to town and once again bowed our goodbyes and went our separate ways. My buddy Larry, had mentioned that it is much easier meeting people when you travel alone. He would know as he spent 16 months on the Asia road. I just did not figure it would happen to me. Wonder why that is? Perceptually unique I guess; Not a virtue I would add. Traveling alone is very different for me. I like it a good deal and yet there is a certain loneliness to it. But for me I am pretty certain that I have carried that loneliness for quite some time now. The difference is that at home I can easily mask it by driving hard into my work or some other project; always failing to look at what is the fuel behind that drive.

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