Making my way through Asia (and grad school) one adventurous step at a time.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

So, more about Kyoungju. For those interested in a speck of Asian history, I present the following snippet:

HISTORY BIT: A long long time ago, (about 100 BC) on a Continent far far away, (Asia) three l'il 'ol city-state type areas bickered, fought, and sought alliances with China. The runt of the litter (the Shilla kingdom) was seen to be the least interested in wealth or war. However, as the stories of Clifford the Big Red Dog will tell you, the runt of the litter sometimes turns out to be big stuff. It was the little Shilla kingdom that eventually united the three feuding Kingdoms and created the first unified Korea. Kyoungju was the Capital for 1,000 years during the Shilla period. That's a lot of history packed into one little city. It is often called "The Museum Without Walls" becuase you can't take 10 steps without tripping over a piece of history. (Well, in my case, I can't take 10 steps without tripping over my own two feet...but tripping over history is better).

'WHAT I DID THERE' BIT: I've been to Kyoungju before, so a few of the things I saw were repeats...but worth it. It was also great this time because it was Chuseok, or Korean Thankgiving. Everyone was at their family homes, so there weren't many tourists. We went to Sokuram, which is considered to be one of Asia's finest examples of Buddha. It's way up on top of a mountain, and he's got a big jewel in his forhead, so when the sun was rising or setting, you would be able to see it for miles around. The next stop was Bulguksa, a temple, which (like Sokuram) was built around 500 A.D. It's gorgeous, and has what is considered to be "The most beautiful wall in the world". It was pretty. It's contructed with large, smooth rocks and no mortar.

THEN - the bonus of the trip... we were walking around the lake after a rotating Italian dinner. (Rotating because the three of us couldn't decide what to order, so at 5 minute intervals, we'de pass our plates clockwise and enjoy 3 dishes instead of just one.) Anyway, we were stuffed and needed to walk it off. We came across an outdoor amphitheatre (is that redundant?) and sat down. As we looked around, it looked like the stage was being set up for a show! About 20 minutes later, a show of Korean folk and court dances started. It lasted an hour, was incredibly professional, and was FREE!! I assure you that my mouth was gaping through most of the performance... I looked just like a slack jawed yokel. The best of the best was "The Dance of the Three Drums". It's difficult to explain, so when Eva gets her pictures downloaded, I'll post one here. (Silly me thought "I don't need my camera, we're just going for dinner".)

And that was my weekend.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

We spent a great weekend in Korea's historic city of KyoungJu. To keep me happy, we trolled through the museum (where this happy little buddha "with lively eyebrows" lives). We also saw some of the most incredible examples of Korean music and dance. It truly was one of those "wow, I can't believe I'm here" weekends. I'll tell you more about it when it's not past my bedtime. Posted by Hello

Monday, September 27, 2004

My Vacation, Part II
(Since Ben threatened me with Internet Extinction if I didn't write more soon)

On the other side of Canada, one will find a large forest called "the Maritimes". Etymologists tell me that that means it has something to do with water and oceans. My eyes tell me that it means it's full of trees and people I love.

In the few days I was there, I was blessed with the hospitality of Jen&Norm&Noah, and Mitch&Mel&Maren&Malcolm. I got to do (almost) all the things I liked to do in Moncton... Saturday morning at the market, Chapters with Sara, church service at the Pool, breakfast at Dora's with Jen and Jill, and Curry with the Marshalls, and the Superstore with Mel. It almost made me wonder why I ever left...

At the very very end of my summer I found myself in Ontari-ari-ari-o. There was much to be done in that particular province. First and foremost, I got to see my precious l'il niece and nephew. Infact, I didn't just get to see them, I also got to talk to them, and hug them and read them stories. I found out that the kid's show "Blues Clues" has a new (and more handsome) host, and that it is possible to memorize Dr.Seuss's "Bartholomew and the Ooblek" in only 127 readings. I found out that
walking to the mailbox can take a really long time when it's important to discover, pick up, examine, play with and carry home all the leaves, rocks, flowers and bugs along the way, and that goodnight kisses from little lips can make me want to cry.

I also found out that while eating sushi rolls in Korea is a pleasant experience, eating sushi rolls in Ontario will land you in the hospital for a day with a number of painful and unpleasant symptoms. Only, I forgot that I'd eaten the sushi until AFTER I got home from the hospital...where the doctor had told me, "It's either gas or appendicitis. Go home. If it gets worse, it's your appendix. If it gets better, it's gas". After 2 days of it not getting better, but not getting worse, we figured it was the sushi.

While in Ontario, I also went on a little road trip. I drove down to Brockville (city of my youth) and Kingston. In Brockville, I got to visit my wonder-friend Jay. He taught me how to spit when I was in highschool. Neither one of us have honed our skills lately. I guess we're growin' up. Still, it was fabulous to see him, and to finally meet his girlfriend. In Kingston, I saw Gord. We used to spend all day every day together when I was in highschool, but I haven't seen him in nearly 10 years. We went to the pond and caught frogs, then rode the ferry back and forth across the bay. It was just like old times.

I also had the joy of going with my sister and her kids to "The Farm". You know how there's always one place that you think of when you think of your childhood? A place where you can close your eyes and picture it so clearly that you can almost smell it? Eddie and Eleanor's farm is that place for me. Eleanor even spent the day before we got their baking loaves of fresh bread because "Janice liked my bread when she was little." And let me tell you, I still do! We had such a good day. We all climbed into the back of the truck and drove out to the bush to feed apples to the cows, and pet the new calf 'Silas'. We climbed hay bales with the kids, and ate pickled carrots with lunch (how I'd missed them).
And all the while, we got to visit with Eddie and Eleanor. I don't know how they've managed to stay the same, even though I've added 23 years since I lived there...

It was such a strange summer holiday. It was full of so many things I could never do if I still lived in Canada, and may never to again. It was peppered with so many hugs of greeting, only to be salted with so many tears of goodbyes.

Sorry, I'm getting a little sentimental. I think it's Diana Krall singing in the background and my cat sleeping on my lap that's making me too mellow to write anything perky. Anyway, that was my summer, and I loved it. Thanks to all who made it so wonderful.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Hi! I know I haven't finished my vacation details yet, but I thought I'd add a few words about how my new semester is shaping up. First, as you can see, I have a new friend. Her name is "Catticus". Apart from that, I had my 1st pottery class of the semester, and have chosen to teach an overtime writing class (8am every day). It's nice to be back, and I'm enjoying all my classes (I have a lot of repeat students from last semester), and I love my new apartment. ... oh, and we've had tons of rain from the typhoon that hit Japan, but no high winds. That's all for now. Posted by Hello

Sunday, September 05, 2004

My Summer Holidays. Part One..... by Janice Hillmer.
(Please note: This essay is not in chronological order. Infact, it's not in any logical order at all)

This Summer, I went to Canada. Canada is a very cold country - even in the summer, because all the parents have control over the air conditioners. If you ever go to Canada, and there are any parents there at the time, bring a sweater. Canada is a lovely country which seperates the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. (If it didn't, the oceans would fight). The Pacific Ocean, being more agressive, requires huge mountain ranges to keep it from trying to attack the Atlantic.

It was nestled into a spot of land in the middle of these mountains that my relatives on my Mom's side decided to throw a family reunion. It was a terrific spot right on the banks of a little itty bitty , but clear as crystal river. There were about 60 of us enjoying a weekend of eating and talking and eating and visiting and eating and socializing... and nobody worried about that ol' Ocean trying to make its way across the continent. Although, if it had tried to make a move, that might have been okay - it would have doused the terrible fires raging through BC this summer. The fires didn't affect our reunion, but we could see the smoke sometimes while we were driving.

A couple of times, I dared to venture closer to the Ocean. Once, to visit Jodi and her new husband. We had a great time eating and visiting, and eating and going to see MacBeth. Nothing like a little bit of murder and mayhem to brighten up a Sunday afternoon. It was a good visit.

The next time I approached the Pacific was with my parents to visit Uncle Ken & Aunt Luella. Uncle Bert came over too, because we buried Grandma's ashes that week. It was hard because I miss her so much, but I was glad I could be there. The visit wasn't all sadness though (it just doesn't seem possible to stay sad for long with the family I've got!) We all went to see Gilbert & Sullivan's "Pirates of Penzance" ... and laughed so hard I thought my face was going to get stuck in a permanent toothy grin.

In the great battle between the Ocean's, there is also a vast bit of neutral territory called the "Prairies" . Infact, I think the prairies are themselves a big oceanic wannabe. They are flat lands covered with 'amber waves of grain'. I know the americans used the phrase in a song of theirs, but it must have been after seeing Canada's grain ocean. I loved driving through this part of Canada. You could see anything coming near the road for miles and miles. Not like the mountains where you never knew what was ready to pounce into your lane around the next corner.

Some of my relatives have chosen to live in this part of the country. These must be the relatives who hate to play 'hide and seek'. (an entirely useless enterprise in a place where there is nowhere to hide. As I said, you can see everything and anything for miles around). I was so happy to be able to spend a few days with my cousin's in Calgary. Calgary is much easier to get to than Bolivia, where they were living before. As always, it was great to see them and laugh a whole lot. Again, I was worried about the face-sticking problem. Fortunately, I'm still able to manage a scowl when necessary.

I also got to spend a whirlwind "Hi Mom! I'm home to do my laundry" visit in Regina where my folks have moved (Dad retired) to be closer to my mom's mom (in English, we call such a relation 'Gramma'). The stay in Regina was a flurry of activity as we all prepared to embark on the above mentioned travels and visits. I was really glad that in the midst of the activity, we were able to make a trip to Semens. My Grampa is buried there, and that trip made me cry too, since I still really miss my Grampa. We also went 'visiting' in the Semens cemetary ~ since the town is so small, Gramma knew lots of stories about the other folks buried there. On the way out, I also got to hear tons of stories about Gramma growing up in the Prairies. I loved it.

Okay, I've been at this for an hour, and if you're still reading it, you might want to make sure you haven't suffered eye strain. I've covered about 1/2 my vacation, and will finish up soon.