January 5, 2015
I ended my day in Seorae Village with a jaunt in the Parc Montmartre and was greatly surprised to find a small herd of rabbits romping about- totally unperturbed by the passerby. Let’s back up- after a really tough week researching on-site at the Unification Church’s training center in Cheongpyeong, I spent the night relaxing at Seoul’s Siloam Sauna, a five story bathhouse (or jijimbang). There, I munched on a dozen (ugh, way too many) orange-red eggs baked in the the sauna’s blistering heat. When I peeled away the eggs’ shells, the inside had accrued a slightly tough brown skin, and took just a bit of tooth-and-nail to rip into. Jijimbangs also offer ice sikhye (a traditional, sweet Korean drink with floating ice) which comes in a big plastic cup, complete with fat straw. I couldn’t develop a taste for that particular drink, but it made a memory to be sipping from a straw and packing away a small mountain of sauna-baked eggs.
Soaking in herbal baths, cold baths, and sleeping in a red clay cave really helped relieve my body of the anxiety which it had accumulated under duress at the training center. (Mind you, I certainly didn’t train– rather I carried out the specific role of an arts-oriented investigative journalist-under-cover). It’s certainly not easy to revisit childhood memories of a crazy cult-like church, especially in person and in another country.
After the bathhouse, I got thoroughly lost in the subway system and finally made it to Seocho- where I went to a restaurant and pointed to a random thing on the menu- some delicious variation of fish soup. Then I met Jinah Park, a really sweet Korean lady who is renting part of her apartment to me. I settled in, and went off to explore Seocho- the Seoul Arts Center, an art archive, and ate some jajamyeon (noodles in black bean sauce) and gimpap (street food/Korean sushi). There are so many neon signs everywhere! It is a real pity I can’t read a single bit of Korean. I came home quite late and Jinah and her husband John sparked an hour long conversation with me. She told me that Koreans place great emphasis on grades and that only the #1 and #2 of each high school get (small) scholarships. This made me very grateful for the incredibly opportunity which Reed has given me. In our conversation, we came to the subject of working and living abroad. She said some Canadian companies sponsor Korean emigration but require them to chop chicken heads every day for 15 hours for 5 years. Jinah made this chopping motion with her hands and I couldn’t help but to imagine my mom under such working conditions. For some reason, I’ve really missed my mother every day while in Korea. I see parts of her face in every stranger- even though she is Japanese and not Korean.
I cannot wait to buckle down and create more sketches and add to the rubbings which I made while I was at the Church’s training center. Then, I’ll have pictures to show you!