Liberation Day Weekend

August 16, 2011

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My massive feet were treated so well this weekend. Not only did I finally give up on ordering shoes and just buy a pair of Merrell’s for 165,000 Won, but I also splurged on a massage in Itaewon. If your back ever needs relief in Seoul, go to Healing Hands. They’ll set you up.

On my previous visits to the capital, I never took the time to see any of the cultural sites, something rather atypical of me. No stops at the five palaces, never bothering to see Bongseunsa Temple. Not this time. One of my adult students was transferred to Seoul shortly after our class finished, and he extended a standing offer to show me around Gyeongbok Palace; he had been a volunteer tour guide there five years ago and knew all the highlights.

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Though the rain came off and on, I’m glad I took a chance and found myself at the palace that day. Mr. Shin was able to point out things I undoubtedly would not have learned on my own:

The king would only walk on elevated ground or, if none was available, to the left of his subjects.

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There are animals and colors used to symbolize directions (N, S, E, W) in Korea. The rooster on this side of the dwelling indicates one is facing east.

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One of the “chimneys”, the mechanism used to vent heat from the floor, is considered a cultural icon.

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As if the morning’s events weren’t enough information to keep my brain occupied, my Korean friend whisked me over to a 칼국시 restaurant nearby, where we enjoyed some fine hand-cut noodles. Highly recommended. In fact, they might even rival Fukuoka ramen.

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Speaking of noodles, though I enjoyed 칼국시, I don’t see how anyone can come to Korea in the summertime and not enjoy 냉면 (naengmyeon), cold noodles served with vegetables or in water under a boiled egg. A lot of Koreans subscribe to the philosophy of eating hot food in hot weather to better cool the body (이열치열) but I could go either way. Oncheon (hot springs) are awesome in the summertime, but nothing beats a cold beverage after a long soak.

Second on the Seoul agenda was a meeting of K-bloggers. On what can only be described as the best timing ever, Danielle of Wake Up and Dance had emailed me earlier that week, extending a dinner invitation to discuss our shared outlook (hesitation, rather) at leaving Korea in the next few months. She and David were just plain fun people, swapping stories of the US and Korea, and engaging in serious discussion of what we thought our future might hold. Unbeknownst to her (or perhaps not now, since I know she reads my blog), I had one lingering thought on my mind: will I ever meet someone that makes me as happy as they seem to be? I’ve essentially closed myself from relationships abroad as we’re all constantly moving away or running from something, but still, I wonder and worry about what will happen in that regard. I’ve been without companionship for so long I had forgotten how amazing it can be with the right person.

Case in point: Simon and Martina, the couple responsible for one of the most successful websites among expats in Korea, Eat Your Kimchi. How did I arrange a meeting with such celebrities, you might ask? Well, I had bait…

Going back to my original point, I found it incredibly easy to relate to Simon and Martina, not only because we had a lot of common interests, but because they were so in sync with each other; one seemed to be able to anticipate what the other would say or do instantly. I’m surprised it takes them so long to edit videos (well… not really… editing is rough) if they rarely have to deal with talking over each other and the like. However, their perfect compatibility as a couple, despite my rambling, is not the reason I visited them in Bucheon. I was curious about their beginnings in Korea and the world of blogging:

Are you ever tempted to break into controversial territory in your
videos? Don’t get me wrong, you do explore a lot of issues surrounding
Korean culture, but I haven’t really seen anything that might raise
eyebrows.

Those issues don’t really interest us as material for videos. Primarily, we make our videos not because we’re trying to be informative. That’s just an accidental by-product of (some) of our videos. Mostly, we’re just trying to have fun with each other. We like being creative, acting silly on camera, scripting ideas and laughing with each other, and just producing fun stuff. We’re just exceptionally lucky that people like watching us be silly.

Serious topics, by all means, are great for discussion, and we will discuss them with people to great extents, but to make videos about them? Do you know how boring that would be? Ugggh. Making videos is already a reallllly long task, really long. Doing videos about serious stuff just…won’t be fun. And so, our choice in not breaching these topics is not because we’re trying to say they don’t exist, or that everything in Korea is sunshine and lollipops. Those topics just suck balls to make videos about.

You don’t seem to take too many travel videos. Do you get out of Bucheon often?
As of late, no, we do not get out of Bucheon often. Maintaining this site is really a full-time job, and most of our free time is spent in making/editing/publishing videos. Even when we went on “vacation” last week to Busan, we still had to publish our Music Mondays. So it’s really hard to dedicate a chunk of time to getting away.

When did you start to notice your videos really taking off? Did you
start paying more attention to editing and quality?

That’s hard to say. We always want to make better stuff. From the get go, when we were playing around with our point and shoot at first, we would notice things that would or would not work, and then we’d try to fix them for the next video. That spirit has always been there in our videos. There are key changes that we’ve made, though: when we realized the limits of our old camera, we upgraded to a DSLR and saw many more possibilities. We upgraded our video software as well, which let us do more things that we had in mind. We just try to stay as faithful to our imagination as possible, I guess.

The subway ride back to the hostel gave me plenty of time to ponder. I think half the reason I had planned to buy a DSLR this weekend was some naive belief I could produce videos approaching their level of quality with just some better equipment. How silly of me. Time and experience, world enough and time. In the meantime, I’ll stick with my point-and-shoot until I’m sure photography lies in my future.

Sidenote: if you’re ever looking for a decent place to crash in Seoul, check out the Kimchi Hostel in Hongdae. The rooms are clean, the staff friendly and willing to take you out dancing on a Saturday night.

As for Liberation Day itself, the only thing I can tell you is… I was scared. As I climbed the steps on the last escalator approaching the main government building, columns of police officers in full riot gear stood, staring down all new arrivals to the show. I ended up leaving early, as there was no indication when the official ceremony would begin, and the main purpose of the event seemed to be giving opposing rallies as much space as they could stand to promote their causes:

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Overall, a great weekend. Kudos to Simon and Martina for taking time out of their busy schedule to indulge a random K-blogger and to the Kimchi Hostel for putting me up for two nights in exchange for a mention on my blog.

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