Monday, November 1, 2004

Performance in November 2004

November (Thur) - Continental Greek Restaurant (Private party)
Between NE 45th and NE 47th on University Avenue
Seattle, WA
*Dancing Starts at 10pm

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Korea - Jeju

Jeju is a volcanic island located south of Korean peninsula. It only takes about 45-50 min plane ride from Seoul to get there...yet it is an entirely different world.
Somehow everything feels beautiful...and well, maybe it is. As I walked out of the plane, immediately I felt the atmosphere...the sunlight, not too strong nor too weak. We had decided to take a taxi tour that day, which means one taxi driver will be with us throughout the day to lead us to different monuments of Jeju.
Oedolgae Rock (Solitary Stone)
There's a legend about the Solitary stone. It is said that the solitary stone is the remnant of a wife of a husband who had gone to the sea and never come back. She had waited him so long that she had become a stone. To her left, you can see another set of rock, which is supposedly her husband. He had died in the sea, but had come back next to her afterward.
Near the Oedolgae Rock
It is strange how the whole entire continent of Korea is filled with such sad stories. I suppose we are incredibly sentimental people. I am not sure why else such sad love legends linger at so many different sites in Korea. As a nation in whole, Koreans had always suffered, perhaps due to lack of will to protect themselves...or perhaps because so many of Koreans are at their soul, artists. They talk of love, wistful breeze, the absolute right at wrong...they compose poetry, enjoy good food, gifted in art, and talk of the sadness.
Perhaps to some, Koreans are quite a sad bunch of people.
Near the Solitary stone
Near the solitary stone

Near the solitary stone
Now I look at this world with the eyes of a grown up person. I can still remember what I had felt when I was young. Everything was full of wonder then. I suppose it still is now since I don't know why I still seem to maintain such naivete amongst such sarcasm and cynicism. I suppose that is my dichotomous nature.More on Oedolgae Rock

There was supposedly storm on its way or on its way out. There is always storm nearby in Jeju, but never quite. We walked the paths to and from the solitary stone. I remembered being there as a young child...I believe six or seven is when I had really been able to last tour Jeju. I had once more been there, but mostly had stayed close to where we had stayed. It had been a trip of rest.
More on Jeongbang Falls
Jeongbang Falls
So much had changed since I last remembered. I hardly remembered this waterfall at all. I remember there were no wide path nor parking lot near this spot. Now it is very accessible and almost too commercialized. I once again feel that Jeju has changed so much. For better or for worse, I am not sure. I miss the flavor of provicial town. I remember the people of Jeju of old. People who had such different culture. Now it all seems they want to blend in with everyone else in Korea. I suppose I should expected such a thing. More development seem to lead to more loss of identity.

When one first set a foot on Jeju, it is almost impossible to believe Jeju is a volcanic island, but after a while, one can't help but notice so many streets and structures are made of the volcanic stone. It is less common now, but such stones were so common in olden days, that you could just randomly pick some up from different places. It used to be that sidewalks were paved with these stones...even this bridge for example have components of volcanic stone.
A bridge near Cheonjeyeon Falls
There are many waterfalls in Jeju, one of famous is this one. I guess because it is so pretty. Personally I preferred another one, but this one is quite exceptional as well. I wanted to find out exactly how many waterfalls there are in Jeju. I suppose one must only count the famous ones since waterfalls seem to just spontaneously appear after the rainfall.
More on Cheonjeyeon Falls

Cheonjeyeon Falls
Dol-Harubang is one of the very typical statue one finds in Jeju. It is said that rubbing the nose of this statue would result in conception. So it is very funny to note that so many noses of these statues are worn away. Koreans can be a superstitious lot...or should I say, they'll try any remedy?
Regardless, this statue is one of the symbols of Jeju. That and possibly volcanic stones and waterfalls.
Dol-Harubang (old stone man)
There are two sites where you can see the so called Dragon head rocks. They are called this because the rocks form what appears to be the shape of the head of the dragon. This one is the one that is going to the sea. There is another near the Jeju city that is going to the heavens.
Since I have the zodiac sign of Dragon, I am constantly fascinated by any dragon statues, natural or not.
Yong Du Am (Dragon head rock)
One can find a very strange rock formations around Jeju island, but this rocky coast is especially interesting since all the stones look like they were carefully arranged into certain shape and staked against each other. This seemingly hexagonal shaped rocks clustered together are certainly not man made.
Jungmun Daepo Coast
 I am still unsure what had turned this rocky beach into such strange formation. I suppose it is the volcano, but how is it possible? Despite my fear of height, I did try to do it justice by looking down over the edge. What a fright! But it was definitely worth it. I had no idea until then how blue the waters of Jeju was.
More on Jungmun Daepo Coast
Jungmun Daepo Coast
From here there is a path where one can walk around the rocks, hugging the coast. We had wanted to do this walk, but unfortunately no one was allowed to go near the beach due to the storm warning. I wish I could have done it. I might have felt dangerous, but imagine the exhilarating experience of the wind, the ocean, and the rocks themselves...
Rocky coastal area
It used to be that women were the ones who went to catch the daily livelihood. They dive sometimes up to 5 min and get fish, squid, octopus, clams, abalone...whatever they can for the food. It is a harsh profession. Sometimes they need to be out in the ocean for hours at the time. They also frequently get severe headaches due to the side effects of diving so much.
Hae Nyo (Water lady)
It is sad to note that there are not that many water ladies left. Most of them who are still doing it are quite old...all over 50 years old. They say no one else wants to follow their footsteps. It had been such a common occurrence to see the water ladies and eat their freshly catched seafood.
I am saddened by the loss of yet another culture.
Hae Nyo (Water lady)
In Jeju, atop a mountain, there is one of the biggest Buddhist temple in Asia. It is amazingly huge and incredibly well built. So many people make donations to this temple...many famous ones.
Yak Chun Sa (Buddhist temple)
Each of these figurines represent some type of virtue. There are hundreds of them, each with different posture. I am often amazed by the buddhist temples. They are equally awspiring as the sun streaming through the stained glass windows in the gothic churches.
Yak Chun Sa (Buddhist temple)
This temple had been built because one very rich old man said he'd donate all his wealth in order to erect this marvellous temple. So there it stands, in the mountains, surrounded by the trees, and the stream what is supposed to have curative components.
Yak Chun Sa (Buddhist temple)
One of the coolest thing about the cities near the ocean in Korea are their fish markets. This is probably Halibut...or some type of flat wish. They are waiting to be plucked out of their baskets to be eaten. Of course, all these are fresh. It would never do to sell old fishes. There is difference in taste between fishes that had stayed long in the aquarium and fishes that are freshly caught.
Flat fish, perhaps halibut
I'm not sure the direct translation of this octopus like creature. It is smaller than octopus, but definitely not a squid. I am sure there is a scientific name for it, but I have never bothered to look it up. All I know is that it is delicious when raw, especially right after it is sliced. It still likes to stick to your mouth...slimy but satisfying...not for faint hearts either.
raw cuttlefish (or octopus?)
Sea cucumbers, abalone, sea squirts, sea snails...all different in texture and when fresh, exceptional delicacies. I think the reason I studied these creatures is that I loved to eat them and wanted to know more about them...possibly to preserve them so that they would last...
Various raw invertebrates
Squids tend to die very easily in captivity, but since this is a fresh fish market, some still are alive. Squids are good cooked, but they are also eaten raw as sushi.
Live squids

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Korea - Folk Village

Korean folk village is located near the city called "Suwon" in Yongin. It is supposed to be one of the beautiful cities in Korea. Nowadays it is well developed, but it still retains the mountains full of trees and the smell of the old. I had not been to the folk village in ages...literally not since I was six or seven. I remembered almost nothing of this place other than few activities we did...the food and certain sounds.
Man and Women wooden posts
These wooden posts are male and female...they protect. Koreans believed in local gods...and was a very superstitious lot.
The grain mill is where people used to grind the rice, barley or other grains to make bread-like things...especially the rice cakes.
Grain Mill
There were very little number of people when we were at the folk village. Since we hardly saw people, it was almost like I was re-living the past...walking amongst the houses on the small streets. There were cicadas everywhere, cook breeze, the shadow from the trees...
Old Korean house
This is a traditional Korean folk dancing. Lots of playing of the gongs and drums while the men twirled the ribbon atop their head.
From the silk worms and other materials, women of old had to thread their own cloth. This is an actual demonstration of one such weaving machine.
Silk weaver
I've always been fascinated by the oriental medicine so I dragged my companion to the old pharmacy. In the backyard, I found these rows of actual ginseng farm. Who would have thought!
ginseng farm
The typical pharmacy of old would have these bags of labeled medicine hanging from the ceiling. Even from far away, one can smell that special fragrance emanating from the boiling herbs. I can still recall this small of my childhood with fondness.
old pharmacy
Perhaps many might not believe, herbal medicine is based on several thousand years of practice and recording. It is hard to understand why people mistrust it so. It is overall better for one's body. Who's to mistrust several thousand years of practice while modern medicine has been only around for few hundred years?
old pharmacy
I think this was a cherry tree, but it could be something else. I might have taken few and eaten them if it had not been so unripened.
cherry tree?
Only very few, perhaps only two people are able to perform this trick. This man is one of the living treasures of Korea. He performs on the rope all different types of tricks. It starts with simple walking from one end to the other.
rope performer
Then he cracks jokes on the other hand then the tricks become progressively harder. He jumps and sits on the rope, even kicks and turns. Needless to say my heart was somersaulting with his body.   
rope performer
One can watch the traditional nobleman's wedding ceremony here. Here are three traditional shoes to be worn by the bride and her two helpers.
Traditional wedding ceremony
Traditionally, (not in this ceremony since it is too hot and uncomfortable to do so) the bride wears about seven layers of skirts, not to mention all else she has on her. She is also not supposed to look up from her hidden position. It is absolutely necessary for her to have helpers since she is required to go down and bow as well as participate in the ceremony without looking up.
Traditional wedding ceremony
Normally, a table laden with food and other assortments are laid in between bride and groom. They bow and partake in drinks. The ceremony leader reads certain passages...all the while, these two people might not even have ever set eyes on each other. Sometimes we are told that during the ceremony, they surreptitiously check out one another.
Traditional wedding ceremony
Another one of the living treasures. This is one who makes paper using certain type of plant. It is told such hand made paper can last thousands of years. It is sad that there is no other to learn his trade. So many living treasures are now quite old and with no one else to carry on their skills. Are such traditions to be disappeared forever from Korea?  
traditional paper maker
At the end of wedding ceremony, groom rides donkey or horse and the bride rides her little carriage to bride's house. The couple are to stay there for a month or so then the real marriage at groom's house begins afterward.
end of wedding ceremony
This contraption uses water power to grind the grain. It was a fascinating device. When the water fills the wooden scoop, it is lowered then the end of the scoop hits the stone slab with grain with large thump. Water is emptied then cycle begins again.          

More information about Korean Folk village

Water mill

Saturday, May 29, 2004

Egypt - Abu Simbel

I got up frightfully early in the morning without a complaint. I was going to see Abu Simbel. How could I feel bad? It didn't matter that I was still sick, tired from heat and lack of sleep. How many times in life does one get to see such monumental structure?
The flight to Abu Simbel was a very short one. We landed, directly boarded bus, and was there. We approached the site from the back so it was impossible to see anything, but a glimpse of the Nasser lake...then I saw. The colossal statues. I had read and seen many pictures about Abu Simbel, but I was not prepared for the sight in front of me.

Side view of Abu Simbel
What was I expecting? I am not sure, but not this. This incredible structure that is supposedly cut into the mountain in olden days. Of course, this temple too had to be relocated due to the flooding by the construction of the dam. That is something I did not know. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to move this incredible place.
The front entance of Abu Simbel
If "awe-inspiring" is what it was trying to achieve, Abu Simbel did just that. I can clearly see Ramses II's personality. He wanted to inspire and he certainly achieved it. As we walked into the temple through the seemingly narrow entrance (compared to the whole structure I mean), we come face to face with the colossal columns. The colors of ceiling reliefs are still visible and each columns, 8 total leading to the inner chamber is decorated with hieroglyphs.
The columns of Abu Simbel
There are images of Ramses II everywhere. The columns themselves depicted him...His power. I am told that the commoners could enter this part of the temple. It would have been like the people of Medieval era entering the Cathedral. How they must have truly believed the god-Pharaoh Ramses II.  

The columns of Abu Simbel
Past the columns, one can see the numerous wall reliefs of Ramses II's deeds...his battles, his victories, his power. Each relief tells a story. I cannot be sure how many of such stories are actually true, but even if they told half the story, how grand his life must have been?

Wall reliefs at Abu Simbel
One famous battle Ramses II had was that at Kaddish with Hitites. It is told that he had won the battle with the help of God Ra. The battle had been almost lost. He had been outnumbered...but he rode through, to the enemies, his shields shining, his stance never faltering... 

Ramses II at Battle of Kaddish
Another story of Ramses II's battle with Nubians. He is the mighty king. Even I started to believe as I moved from one scene to another of his valor. It didn't help that he was looking down from each columns and each wall.
The battle with Nubians
It is told that only two days out of the whole year, the sun goes through the temple. It shines into this inner chamber where four figures reside. One, of course is Ramses...a deified version of himself. The most extraordinary fact about this inner chamber is that the sun's ray only touches three of the figures. The dark god Ptah is never touched. The temple had been set on exact location and height to be able to achieve this. Even modern science seem to have failed on this. When the temple was moved, because of the height difference and slight change of location, the day that sun shines through the temple is off by few days.   

Inner chamber of Abu Simbel
Ramses II had many wives and many sons and daughters, but his first wife, Nefertari had been the one he never forgot. It is perhaps she who had made him have so many wives. He could not forget her. She had been older than him, but that had not mattered. She is only one who in the history who had been deified by her husband.

I cannot imagine such love. There are remaining records of love letters between Ramses and Nefertari. Love letters! Can you imagine? This is from the Pharaoh...the almighty king of Egypt.

The outside wall relief of temple of Nefertari

Nefertari's temple was on a much smaller scale, but still exquisitely beautiful. If the theme of the Temple of Ramses had been that of valor and power, her temple was that of beauty, refinement, peace, love...

Entrance to the temple of Nefertari
 Entrance to the temple of Nefertari
Inside the temple. the columns are decorated with the goddess Hathor, of song, love...The temple reliefs do not speak of wars...but instead of peace, music, love and forgiveness.    

Inside the temple of Nefertari
After the tour of both temples, we sat in the shade in front of the large man-made lake Nasser. The dam had created this and I wondered what still lay below the depths of those tranquil waters.

View of Lake Nasser from the temple
Books related to Abu Simbel