Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day 13 - Chocolate & Cheese

A bright and early start with a goodbye pancake breakfast at the Cahurphy house in JinJu.

Then Ulrich and I took a 4-hour bus to Seoul and spent the night in an Insadong love motel. We strolled along the river, went up to the top of the Seoul Tower and ate some Korean (street) food. We were thrilled to find a bottle of Chocolate Sparkling Water and Ulrich bought some dried squid. Hmmmmmm. Strange indeed.

This makes me think of other weird food combinations, like Peanut Butter and Onions, Bacon and Icecream, or Chocolate and Cheese. This, of course, immediately makes me think of being 16 years-old listening to Ween CDs in Johannes' basement with Alyssa and Fraser. So here's a (pretty weird, especially if you don't know Ween) trip back down memory lane, The Roses Are Free, from Ween's Chocolate & Cheese album.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Day 12 - Carolina In My Mind

Another lazy day in JinJu under cloudy skies. A afternoon hike in the mountains with Ulrich. Rice pizza and nibbles with Kyeongmi, Bonnie and Christine in the evening. Not much else to report.

Today's song is Carolina In My Mind  because I just love this song lately! And come on, who doesn't love at least one James Taylor song? Right? This one song particularly helps me relax lately, reminding me that holidays are here and should be taken advantage of, each and every second.

How Sweet It Is!

Fire & Rain will forever remind me of listening to vinyl at 2 Pine Street in the 90's. James Taylor and Meatloaf, but hey, that's another post!

Earlier this year when my principal, Alan Dick, passed away unexpectedly, I made a personal tribute to him with my absolute all-time favorite James Taylor song Close Your Eyes.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Day 11 - Isn't This A Lovely Day?

A wonderfully lazy, cozy, rainy Monday in JinJu with the ones I love.... How about a love song for lovely day in the rain!
Isn't This A Lovely Day?  by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (1956)
The weather is fright'ning
The thunder and lightning
Seem to be having their way
But as far as I'm concerned, it's a lovely day
The turn in the weather
Will keep us together
So I can honestly say
That as far as I'm concerned, it's a lovely day
And everything's O.K.

Isn't this a lovely day
To be caught in the rain?
You were going on your way
Now you've got to remain

Just as you were going, leaving me all at sea
The clouds broke, they broke and oh!
What a break for me

I can see the sun up high
Tho' we're caught in the storm
I can see where you and I
Could be cozy and warm

Let the rain pitter patter
But it really doesn't matter
If the skies are gray
Long as I can be with you it's a lovely day

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Day 10 - The Wind

We woke up late and were pleasantly surprised to see the rain had tapered off, some bands of blue sky were thinning out the dark and heavy clouds which were still hanging low over the town on GyeongJu. After breakfast we walked to the grocery store and continued on the bus station to locate the bus that would take us up the mountain road for a hike. After an afternoon walk up to the big stone carved Buddha, the temple, the peak lookout and along the ridge, Ulrich and I ended up at a small park where we found a bus back to meet the others. We all managed to get ourselves organized and onto on the 5pm bus back to JinJu City.

Today made me think of Cat Stevens' song        The Wind. I've listened to Cat Stevens my entire life and always find that there's a song by him which fits with almost any occasion.  Just a week ago when we were in Seoul, I titled a blog entry with Where do the Children Play, which was one of my first Cat Stevens favorites when I was a kid. In my teenage years I couldn't get enough of Father & Son which connects me to fond memories of RKY camp and Moonshadow, which will always make me think of my dear friend Alyssa. As an adult I have had an awesome love affair with Oh Very Young and Peace Train. There are so many more too! Cat Stevens is just wonderful.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Day 9 - Caught in the Rain

After a full night of rain and very little sleep I pulled myself out of bed to make the descision about weekend plans. Rohanna had been suffering from a cough that seemed to be growing worse and the continually rainy 4-day forecast would be a damper on the plans to head to the mountains and explore the national parks around GyeongJu for Sat. & Sun. It was very warm despite the rain and with a spirit of adventure, to my delight, everyone agreed to head off anyways. I had to pick up Ulrich along the way at Gimhae airport so I headed off on my own to Masan City while the rest of the crew headed straight for GyeongJu to settle into a guesthouse Bonnie had reserved. My route ended up being traffic-heavy with multiple with accidents caused by people who don't drive/know how to drive properly in rain. I made it to Gimhae with a few minutes to spare and Ulrich and I made it to GyeongJu by dinner time.

We stayed in a very rustic, traditional guesthouse named  Sa Rang Chae with a garden common area and very friendly hosts. The rooms were small with beautiful handmade wallpaper and intricate woodworked doors and entranceways. We slept on a traditional Korean bed called a yo, which is basically a mat on the floor, which luckily for me I find really comfortable.

Today's song, Caught in the Rain by Martin Sexton is the only thing that came to mind to describe my day. Memories of falling in love with Martin Sexton's music are so various and fun to remember. I first heard of him in my last year of University because a dear friend and roommate, Toby, introduced me to Glory Bound after seeing him live at the River Run center in Guelph. Memories of that year include us listening to, among other things, his studio recorded stuff on week nights when we were studying, weekends when we were socializing or getting ready to go out and Sunday afternoons when we were recovering.

After graduation, I carried my adoration of Martin Sexton to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia in the summer of 2003 but couldn't get many people excited about it. I almost never took that CD out of the stereo and I would sing my heart out when nobody else was home. I shared my passion with a couple of people who appreciated it and even met the odd person here and there who had heard of him. That summer we went to the Stan Rogers Folk Festival in Canso and I learned that Martin Sexton had played there the year before. There were still people talking about the amazing performance he gave and someone even did a little tribute to him, singing Black Sheep which I watched in utter glee. I had never hear anyone else sing a Martin Sexton song live. Bonnie was visiting at the time and I remember after the festival, making her a recorded cassette of all the Martin Sexton music I had for her to take back to Colombia with her. Later on in Colombia she introduced it to Jonathan and Christine.

Jason and I moved to the Cayman Islands and Martin was lost in the transition. When we returned to Canada after hurricane Ivan, Jonathan sang Glory Bound one day while I was at their apartment in Toronto and I was again mesmerized to hear a live rendition of one of his songs. In the fall of 2004, Jason and I moved back to Nova Scotia and I rediscovered the songs that I had briefly forgotten about and began listening to the old CDs again.

When I moved to Colombia, early in 2005, I found the cassette tape at Bonnie's house and introduced Aaron to the wonder of Mr. Sexton's incredible talents. I knew instantly that I had found someone who would appreciate the music the same way that I did. The cassette tape didn't leave that stereo for months and months. We would listen to it while drinking wine and playing chess, cooking and hosting dinners and for lazy Sunday morning coffees on the porch. I remember our delight when we found this little gem, a dance medley set to the song Diner, when we were into watching the TV show Scrubs. Eventually, though, Martin was replaced by John and Jack and we listened to Martin less and less. In the summer of 2006, Bonnie and Christine were able to make it out to a small bar in Toronto to see Martin Sexton live. I was in Vancouver at the time, green with envy and I realized that it was starting to feel as though I'd never be so lucky as to catch a live show with my idol.

When we were getting ready to leave Colombia permanently in the summer or 2007, Aaron was compiling some music to share with me as we embarked on separate journeys and he downloaded multiple live show sets for my growing Martin Sexton collection. My enthusiasm was rekindled and further bolstered upon returning to Canada when I discovered that he was on the lineup for Hillside Music Festival and I already had weekend tickets! Finally, my time had come. I enjoyed his headlining act on the Saturday night with Rita and finally had my chance to admire his amazing vocal improvisation and singing ability from only few meters away.

Since then, Martin remains a predominant feature in almost all of my playlists and will always remain a favorite for almost any occasion. For a taste, a couple of great songs include, Angeline, Freedom of the Road, and Hallelujah, if you're interested it checking him out.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Day 7 & 8 - Lively Up Yourself

After spending the beginning of the week in JinJu City, Bonnie and I kidnapped Rohanna for an excursion to the beach. We hit the road on a bus for Nam Hae Island which is on the southern coast, just about an hour from JinJu. From here we took a taxi to the cute little community of SangJu Beach. This is the same place where we celebrated by birthday exactly 2 years ago. The whole Cahurphy clan had been there just a few weeks ago on a hot weekend in May.

We checked into a little motel room with a balcony that looked directly out over the pines that lined the beach. Within minutes of arriving we were beach-clad and scampering towards the surf. There weren't very many people around, just a handful of foreigners, a few other families and some teenagers playing soccer in the sand. Rohanna happily came quite far out into the water with me, to my utter delight. It had been such a long time since I had been swimming in the ocean (Hong Kong just doesn't seem to count!) and I was as happy as a fish. Anyone who knows me well, knows my favorite place on Earth is in the ocean. I still have such cherished memories of growing up in Jamaica and being an island kid. When summer begins, no matter where I am in the world, little things will often remind me of times spent playing on the golden beaches of MoBay, sailing and being out on the turquoise water listening to roots reggae like Bob Marley and the blazing Caribbean sunshine.

We played for a while in the evening sun until Rohanna's lips turned purple and then we lured her back to the hotel with promises of a bubble bath! Big bath tubs aren't very common in South Korea (in Asia, for that matter), so this really was a treat. So much so, that I didn't want to miss out on the fun as well.

After an exciting day we found a little restaurant to enjoy my absolute summer favorite, naengmyeon Korean cold buckwheat noodles served in a bowl of ice with slices of pear, cucumber, toasted sesame seeds, vinegar and hot mustard. Yummmmmy!

An early night to bed and and early morning to rise (5:30 for Rohanna and Abba!), but unfortunately the sun didn't rise to a clear sky as we had hoped. There were low clouds hanging heavy with potential rain and a cooler breeze along the beach. At 8 o'clock Rohanna and Abba forced me out of my slumber and we headed to the beach anyways. We played for a while, until we realized that the grey weather wasn't going to change, and then we packed up and headed home to JinJu.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 6 - Waka Waka: This Time For Africa

There is World Cup fever in South Korea and what an experience it is to see the excitement during a game! Last night I stayed awake until 3am, at which point I went to meet Kyeongmi, Jaehyeok, Yuseong and Woods to go out and watch the South Korea vs. Nigeria game which would determine who stays and who goes in the standings. The streets at 3am, even in sleepy 'ol JinJu, were full of people all dressed in red, adorning flashing devil horns, tattoos on their faces and draped in flags. 
The game was an exciting one, with Korea trailing by one goal for most of the 90 minutes of play time. Luckily the game ended with a score of 2:2, and because of Korea's previous win, this means that Korea advances and Nigeria doesn't. It was a happy ending as the bars let out to the streets filled with thousands of happy, drunk and tired people cheering and chanting in the dawn-lit streets of the University neighbourhood we were in.
South Koreans received world-wide recognition during the 2002 FIFA Wold Cup when Korea and Japan co-hosted the event and made it further in the standings than anyone expected. At this time the country went into full-fledged patriotic supportive celebration during each game. People created huge crowds throughout the country, watching games on big outdoor screens and having massive street parties. During that year's Wolrd Cup chants and shouts became the theme songs of the world cup enthusiasm and can now be heard everywhere here! People mostly chant Daehan-minguk!! (followed by a series of 5 claps) which translates to the traditional world for Korea.
Just before coming to South Korea while wrapping up the year at school, the students in the Eagle Nest would get excited about our days by beginning them with a little dance party. On many mornings we danced around the room to the FIFA World Cup theme song, Waka Waka (This Time For Africa). We all liked this song for numerous reasons - it's extremely catchy, it's fun to dance like Shakira (and they know I like her), there is an awesome video of African animals playing with a soccer ball and people doing the "soccer dance" which the kids go crazy over, and it's just a fun and happy way to spend 3:31.
After reading some fairly heavy criticism of the song, especially because it's not sung by a South African, I wanted to learn more about its roots. I should also point out that if you're into watching the videos and enjoying the song for yourself, the Spanish version is so much more beautiful than the English (and true for most of Shakira's songs). It is obvious that the song had African inspiration and quite possibly an interesting history, so I went about YouTube to learn what I could about this. I found out that Shakira did indeed collaborate with a current South African group called Freshly Ground to create this new hit single, but it's the Cameroonian roots of the song that I found much more interesting. The chorus of the song is borrowed from a huge 1986 hit called "Zangaléwa" by amakossa group called Golden Sounds. Apparently, this song was brought to Cartagena, Colombia by West African DJs between 1988 and 1989 and likewise became an instant hit along the Caribbean coast where Shakira was born and raised. In Colombia, the song was known as "The Military" due to the photograph on the cover of the album, where members of The Golden Sounds appeared dressed in military uniforms. 
Here is some additional information about the history of the song Zangaléwa, and its military influence taken from:
The original version was such a hit that the group, Golden Sounds, even changed their name to Zangaléwa. Golden Sounds was made up of members of the Presidential Guard: Emile Kojidie, Victor Dooh Belley and group leader Ze Bella. They wore funny costumes and make up - including pillows to accentuate their butts and bellies - which was apparently a stab at the army general "fat cats" who collaborated with the white colonialists to enrich themselves.
The band was well-known and produced army marching songs that became very popular. Zangaléwa, in particular, was their defining song. According to the Spanish wikipedia entry: "This song is a priori language interpreted Fang, corresponding to areas of Gabon, southern Cameroon in Equatorial Guinea and a little east of the Central Africa."
The argument goes that "Za engalomwa" in the Fang language means “Who sent you?” and this is the refrain of a Cameroonian soldier to his fellow troops. The term Zangaléwa has also come from an expression in Ewondo: "Loé wa za anga?" translated as “Who called you?” Since Cameroon is multilingual and not all the soldiers could speak Ewondo, it is likely that over time the term wa za anga Loé became the Zangaléwa that we know today in a form of pidgin language corruption.
According to a member of the band, when young recruits of the Republican Guard complained about the rigours of military life, their senior officers would ask: Loé wa za anga?, which would ask: "Who made you join the army?"

I find the valiant soldier fighting in a war metaphor quite interesting. Around the world it is used to represent passion, determination and endurance.  It can also be used more generally to symbolize hard work and dedication. We see in sports, religion, music and movies. To me it seems like such a poor choice of symbolism, one which distorts and glorifies perceptions of military and war. Isn't it time to create a new vision of the honourable fighter?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Day 5 - I'm Yours

When I hear this song, I know that I love it. It makes me feel good, in the same way that all reggae beats so perfectly mimic the complimentary mother/baby heartbeat rhythms that soothe our souls and calm our minds.

When I first listened carefully to the lyrics, however, I thought they were lame. I wanted them to somehow be more meaningful and more artistically chosen/written. I wanted to love the significance of the song as much as I loved the sound of it. I didn't know anything about Jason Mraz, besides the assumption that he was a commercially driven, superficial American surfer dude whose catchy one-hit-wonder could be heard everywhere, from drifting across cottage country patios in Canadian summer to beachside backpacker huts year-round in Thailand, above the partying crowds of LKF in Hong Kong on a Friday night to the sterile daytime shopping malls of the world.

About as often as I think about what clothes I am wearing, I am reminded that my assumptions are rarely accurate. Today I learned that there is much more substance to the musician and to the song than I had previously realized. Turns out that Jason Mraz is real, self-actualized and intentional in his lifestyle. He spends his time on interesting and important projects like Free the Children, working with child slaves in Ghana, inspiring kids to appreciate the outdoors on Sesame St., eating raw food, gardening, raising cats (?) and taking care of his avocado farm in San Diego. He also devotes his time to raising musical awareness and preservation. All of this among many other things, I am sure, make Jason Mraz interesting.

Seeing the video for "I'm Yours" and absorbing the words in a different way, struck so many chords with me about my life right now. Setting out. Taking off. Believing that everything is going to be ok. Being open. Moving on. Hope. Making the most of each and every moment. Being free. Trust. Moments of self-realization, self-empowerment and self-improvement. Traveling. Leaving. Arriving. Making choices instead of plans. Love, Love, Love.

I'm Yours.

Well, you done done me and you bet I felt it
I tried to be chill but you're so hot that I melted
I fell right through the cracks, now I'm tryin to get back
before the cool done run out I'll be givin it my best test
and nothin's gonna stop me but divine intervention
I reckon it's again my turn to win some or learn some
But I won't hesitate no more, no more, it cannot wait
I'm yours
Well open up your mind and see like me
open up your plans and damn you're free
look into your heart and you'll find love, love, love, love
listen to the music at the moment people dance and sing
Were just one big family
And it's our godforsaken right to be loved, loved, loved, loved, loved
So, i won't hesitate no more, no more, it cannot wait i'm sure
there's no need to complicate our time is short, this is our fate
I'm yours
I've been spendin' way too long checkin' my tongue in the mirror
and bendin' over backwards just to try to see it clearer
But my breath fogged up the glass
and so I drew a new face and I laughed
I guess what I'd be sayin' is there ain't no better reason
to rid yourself of vanities and just go with the seasons
it's what we aim to do, our name is our virtue
But I won't hesitate no more, no more, it cannot wait
I'm yours
Well open up your mind and see like me
open up your plans and damn you're free
look into your heart and you'll find that the sky is yours...

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 4 - Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

Bonnie has been sharing her love of Mary Poppins with Rohanna lately. As a result Rohanna can sing lengthy excerpts from the songs as well as explain what happens in most scenes with supreme excitement and exaggerated British pronunciation. Jonathan and I joke that we've never actually seen the movie on-screen, but after just 30 minutes in a taxi or bus with Rohanna and Bonnie, we already feel as though we have.

As a 2 year-old, Rohanna has been testing her reaction to not getting her way and occasionally bursts into tears when she can't have the little things she wants. Although patiently trying to explain to her that sometimes things aren't worth an outburst and that we must think carefully about why we are upset seems to work quite often, sometimes there's just no way to reason with her. Bonnie and Rohanna recently made a deal that whenever Rohanna is upset unjustifiably, Bonnie will say Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious to remind Rohanna there is not real reason to be crying. Bonnie tested out the strategy this morning when Rohanna cried because we wouldn't let her run the water hose outside her kiddie pool, wasting water on the ground. Bonnie had to say Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious about 10 times, but it actually worked quite well to calm her down and stop the tears. About 10 minutes later, on the way to the children's library, Bonnnie asked Rohanna if this strategy of saying Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious worked well and Rohanna replied with confidence, "Yes Abba!" Bonnie then asked her to explain why and Rohanna told us that, "... the word Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious makes me so happy!"

At the library Rohanna gave me a complete tour, showed me many books that she knows by heart, creatively made up titles to the unknown ones and used her very own library card to take out 3 new books. Then we went to Yofruto for frozen yogurt before meeting Momma and having a yummy Korean lunch. After Rohanna's afternoon nap at Abba's house, she woke up and wanted to show me Mary Poppins and so we turned it on in the background. She is particularly fond of the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious song. Indupedibly.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 3 - Where Do The Children Play?

For a Sunday in Seoul, we decided to check out the Seoul Children's Grand Park (Oerini Dae Gung Won). We entered the park through a traditional Korean gate to beautiful colours of flowers and natural scenery. There were huge Ginkos, fountains, ponds and gentle music echoing from the distance.

First we visited the "Roots Garden" and investigated fungi and root ecosystems and then through the "Korean Myths" area which was a surprisingly selva park area. We all commented repeatedly on how much more organic and peaceful this park was compared to Lotte World. This park is entirely free to the public. Eventually we found ourselves at the children's outdoor water play area, which was refreshingly created to exemplify a natural outdoor stream. Instead of bright colours, padded platforms and plastic contraptions, there were large boulders for climbing on and creating swirling, rushing water and granite stone tiles under the stream. Next was the outdoor jungle gym with slides and rope climbers and rock walls. Rohanna was on non-stop, full-speed. After lunch we strolled through the zoo area and Rohanna and Bonnie went for a very exciting wobbly camel ride. Rohanna then rode solo on a white miniature pony. We saw some stunning wild cats at the "Ferocious Animal" section of the park before Rohanna crashed out for her afternoon nap. At this point we decided to head out of the park and upon figuring out the nearest exit, we realized that we had seen approximately one fifth of what there was to do! On the way out we passed amusement rides and huge stages, a performing arts center and more and more indoor recreational buildings. What a fantastic place and all of this is FREE!

The park was once the largest amusement park in all of Asia. Previously a golf course, it was transformed into the Grand Children's Park in 1973 by the Korean government as a symbol of Korea's belief in the importance of children. It truly is a beautifully rich place to spend a day (especially if you're not rich!).

It was a long 1 hour taxi ride back to the hotel to gather our belongings and then continue on to the bus terminal where we boarded a bus to JinJu. Just over four hours later we arrived at home and Christine cooked us a great dinner. We were tuckered, but had enjoyed a spectacular and free day of fun in Seoul.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Day 2 - Fighting Korea 승리의 함성

We all woke up early and headed to Insadong where Christine had to do some things for her Australian working visa application. We toured around in the grey city for the morning with threateningly stormy weather, before heading back to the hotel for a midday nap.

For weeks, people adorned with the patriotic 'red shits' have been demonstrating their enthusiasm for the Korean Soccer team competing in the FIFA 2010 World Cup. We might even watch the next game on a big screen in the park at 3am on Wednesday morning! The hype can be seen in various videos on YouTube showing street flash-mobs, concerts, custom-made music videos with famous Korean singers creating medleys including the catchy Fighting Korea chant.

In the early afternoon we headed to Lotte World which is described on wikipedia as, "... a major recreation complex in SeoulSouth Korea. It consists of the world's largest indoor theme park that set a Guinness World Record open all year around,[1] an outdoor amusement park called "Magic Island", an artificial island inside a lake linked by monorailshopping malls, a luxury hotel, a Korean folk museum, sports facilities, and movie theaters all in one place. Rohanna was happily amused to explore this venue full of large stuffed characters like Lotty & Lori, restaurants and snack huts, rides designed for very small and fearless children as well an outdoor stage with enthusiastic performers willing to entertain all kinds of crowds. Here we had the most fun. First hip-hop dancers and then a Filipino cover band who liked to pull people up on stage! They eventually noticed Rohanna's strawberry curls and beaming smile and beckoned her to the stage. Unluckily Tia was the one holding her at the time and therefore had to face the crowd and answer the MCs questions. Rohanna held on to my arms for dear life, squeezing my waist with her legs as the MC asked us where we were from and what Rohanna's name was. Too shy to even say kamsamnida or accept the free CD gift, Rohanna remained frozen by the spot lights. When we got down from the stage, a smile and the natural colour returned to her face. "Was that scary, Hanna?" I asked gently. "Yes," she replied quietly with watery eyes and a fierce tone of seriousness.

After leaving the park and while approaching the taxi stand we saw a street vendor selling all sizes of the 'red shirt' in a soccer jersey style. We picked one up for little Miss Korea and then headed home to the hotel, with Hanna singing Marry Poppins songs along the way.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 1 - Late for the Sky

After a very emotional week of moving out of my little SoHo den (a place that has been monumentally comforting to me during my solo experiences for the past 2 years), moving classrooms, pushing little Eagle chicks out of the nest and saying both permanent and temporary goodbyes to many people, I was off to HK International Airport to start my summer holiday. No, I wasn't late for my flight, as the Jackson Browne title may suggest, but if you know the song then you might understand the reference to important conversations and times in your life when things are about to change.

Around 3:15 I boarded a Thai Airways flight to Seoul where Bonnie and Rohana were en route to pick me up. I arrived with memories of my first time landing at Incheon Airport, 8 days more than 2 years ago exactly. That was my first taste of Aisa and the beginning of a huge transition in my life.

After a quick bite to eat at the airport we bussed into the city to a small hotel on the south side of the river in Gangnam. Christine and Jonathan had left JinJu after work and would arrive within a few hours.