Check Out The Hair
This is my nephew, Nathaniel. Nephew is said, “Choka” in Korean, but if you say it a little slower it sounds like the word for a man’s genitalia. One of my co-workers–yeah, it was Shawn–kept saying it too slowly a couple of weeks ago when teaching the “Family” Unit to his classes, and everyone was busting a gut as he said, “Penis! Penis!” to his class. But my students have seen a picture of this little guy, and so they know what I mean when I say nephew.
Check out the hair! I was under the mistaken impression that this standing-up-ness was a trait of what my friend Myoung Jae calls “Amazing Asian Hair”, but it’s obviously not. It’s Nathaniel’s Daddy’s birthday and they’ll be celebrating with my dad, who’ll be celebrating his birthday from a few weeks back. (He hasn’t had a chance, been too busy. Have I mentioned he volunteers at the Red Cross, now that he’s retired? I’m proud of him.) Sounds like fun. I’d love a chance to play with him on my birthday. Maybe someday. So many missed birthdays, and I’ve been out of my tree with stress and responsibilities that I haven’t called.
But if you want to see someone who’s really out of touch with everyone else…
I was beginning to wonder what had happened to Charlie in a more serious, vaguely worried kind of way. Maybe some weird Australian animal had eaten him, I thought. But it turns out he’s doing just fine on his mad cycling trek all the way along the outer coast of Australia. He sent me a few pictures and when I saw them, it hit me how much I miss chatting with him.
My Chuseok Lesson
When Lime and I went to Gosan Park for Chuseok, we ended up going on a walk out in nature. You know how it is in Korea, if you read this or any other site at all regularly: cars, noise, noise, cars, crowding… and we escaped all of that. It was quiet, calm, and mostly empty. At night, we could hear bugs and wind and even rain on the roof of the little cottage we rented, and in the day, during our wandering, Lime happened upon this little fellow perched quietly in a tree right beside the road:
(Sorry it’s not a popup link, but I don’t have any scripts for that sort of thing enabled, and I’m not quite so 1337 a h4x0r as to be able to code it myself. If you click on the picture, it’ll open in the current window and you’ll have have to go Back to reach this page again.)
Now, normally I hate bugs, but this little guy, he was so calm, so still on his leaf, so patient and unfraid as we took our pictures of him–and we took many. Finally, he decided it was time to move along, and hopped down and across the road, and I felt a little silly at our reaction: he sat so still for us as we poked lenses closer and closer to him, but when he decided to make his own move, we both jumped back, startled.
But anyway, back to what he makes me think of: look at him! He looked so much like the leaves he was perched among that often when we looked through our cameras’ viewfinders, we couldn’t even make him out at all. But there he was, perfectly camouflaged.
And looking at the picture now, it just kills me that anyone could deny evolution. I know what they’re thinking: that some god up in heaven must have directly formed the bug to look like the leaves, and that it could never have reached this form through evolution alone. You know what that is? It’s just a failure of the imagination; it’s a giving in to the death-fear so profoundly that one doesn’t even allow common sense to weigh in on the basics of the world.
For the profound truth is that evolution is the most elegant explanation available; even if one mixes with with some kind of sense that, say, a deity designated evolution as a process, which I suppose is as unobjectionable to me as it is unnecessary, it remains the most sensible, realistic, and mysterious solution. Yes, evolution is mysterious… not in the sense that it depends wholly on unseen or incomprehensible forces–for those forces are quite comprehensible and we’re getting a better handle on them all the time. But it is mysterious because it simply short-circuits the human mind to try imagine this process in motion, leading to the bug looking so much like a lead that you mistake it for one, and leading–just as mysteriously–to the form of your own body and mind.
No other explanation can compete in terms of sacral revelation, in terms of beauty, in terms of mysteriousness and wonder. And it makes me happy to be slapped in the face with that truth, once again, on the side of a country road in Jeolla-buk-do.
(By the way… that is a grasshopper, isn’t it? The thing is, I’ve seen ones that don’t look like leaves on a tree, before, so I’m not sure.)
I’ll post a big announcement here later this week, when I have finished with that.
(Edit: If I can find this picture, I’ll post them. Otherwise, use your imagination.)
He said he’s got about a dozen passports, all full of stamps from different places he’s traveled, and still he has yet to see a lovelier place. That sounds inviting, doesn’t it?
My last night in Iksan, I visited with a couple of old friends. First, I met with Woo Jin, as I mentioned before. I found we could actually be friends, which made me happy. She and I talked about some very important things and once again I learned from her, things I should have already known myself. I walked away feeling respected and cared about, and that was something maybe I needed, and certainly something that felt good. But it simply wasn’t in the character of the talk we had to take pictures, though, so there are none to post here. Maybe next time.
And then, fittingly, I met with another dear friend…
Hadden’s one of my favorite Iksan people, someone who’s absolutely unique and absolutely genuine. He’s leaving on Friday and I won’t see him before then. I was happy when we shared a bottle of Bok Bun Ja Ju (sweet raspberry wine) and talked over many things, including Dharamsala. It looks like the plan as it stands now is to meet up with him just before New Year’s Eve in the town, and spend a couple of days before he moves on and I take over residence of the house I’ll be renting there, and which he will have been renting previously. But happy as I am about this trip, the best part about that talk we had was just seeing his vivid facial expressions and beautiful gesticulations once more. Here are a few pictures that do him very little justice…
I was showering on the Saturday that I moved to Jeonju, and in fact thinking about how to entice a taxi to my apartment complex so that I could load it with my last boxes and with my swivel chair for the move, when my friend Young Suk called. She asked what I was doing, and when I told her she offered to help me move. So after lunch with Young Ja, then Young Suk and I met and hauled my crap to Jeonju. Then, I took her out for some tea. Later we went to a goodbye dinner for one of the foreigners well-known to Jeonju, a Scotswoman named Glenys. Young Suk hates these pictures but anyway I think she likes to know she is thought of, so here they are anyway… and I did delete the worst of them…
From The Backseat
After the party for Glenys people retreated to the popular “foreigner” bar in Jeonju, which is called the Deep-In. I was too busy talking to friends and having a couple of drinks to get any pictures, but I did have enough of my wits about me to snap a few from the back of the taxi home, and the effects of the lights blaring into a speeding taxi were astonishing. Looking at these pictures I marveled at how our brains manage to make a coherent picture of the world from the shaky, crazy input that these poor astonishing organs receive.
My New Place…
… is still somewhat of a ramshackle mess, needing a wardrobe and a bookcase and a screwdriver with which to assemble my desk. So there is only one silly shot of the interior; however, I will post a few nice shots of the view. The pinkish building in the foreground is a church where, if you listen closely at night, you can hear Korean worshipers speaking in tongues. Sometimes the night here in Korea is a landscape of red crosses, red being the color of choice for the illumination of crosses adorning the apex of church steeples. I can’t say I am used to the sight of blood-red crosses in the sky, not yet. But, anyway, I think the view is alright from my window, mountains off in the distance and all.
If my computer were in better shape I’d simply redo these shots and come up with a nice composite photo giving you the full veiw from my window, but for now this is the best I can do. Ah well!