And this is just one of the many fun and unexpected things you're about to read. So come, join me on a wondrous journey through the wilderness of adventure, over the river of knowledge to the heady heights of cultural awareness. Trust me. Do it.
Today, I didn't have to teach! Instead, I got to join all the other foreign teachers from the Icheon area at the first annual(?) Korean cultural experience. At the education office, I got to meet all of the other foreign teachers in the area, which is a mixed blessing, I'd have to say. I'll explain later. Next, we watched Korean tourism commercials. Yes, they have tourism commercials. So does Rhode Island. What's your point?
Anyway, the templestay looks totally awesome. Basically, you spend a weekend at a Buddhist temple, hanging out with the monks, meditating, walking, shaving your head, doing whatever else it is that Buddhist monks do. Maybe I'll acquire the power to kill a yak from 200 yards away... with MIND-BULLETS!!! That's telekinesis, Kyle.
OK, sorry, but it was cool-looking.
Anyway, after the commercials, we got into the real hands-on cultural experience. No, not Korean women, unfortunately, but almost as good. We got to go to a kimchi factory and make our own kimchi and mandu! Well, let's not get carried away here. We got to take the mandu (Korean dumplings) filling and roll it up into... well, dumplings. But we were encouraged to be creative. So yes, I did what you're all thinking and rolled one that looked like a joint. ... OK -- no, I didn't. I can't even roll a joint, what's wrong with ya'll for even suggesting that?! Jeez... I did however roll one that looked like a Walt's calzone -- the little french twist around the edges. I lost on the most creative score to a South African guy who rolled one "American-style," as he called it, which involved laying about 5 of the little dumpling dough circles down in a row and making a giant mandu-burrito. Well, that was my opinion, at least. I may not have even been in the running. Who knows?
Then, we moved on to the kimchi -- they already had the chili paste all ready for us, so we just had to take it and slather it all over a head of cabbage that had been pre-brined for our enjoyment. Then we slapped that shit in a plastic bag, they vacuum-sealed it for us and now it lives in my refrigerator. I think I'll call him Gilbert.
Next we moved to the trying on of the hanbok: traditional Korean costumes. I LOVE HANBOK. These things are friggin comfortable. And pink? Boy howdy, I tell ya I ain't never seen somethin so durn pink in all mah days. I was told by the ladies dressing us that I looked like a king. Apparently, Korean royalty are gay. Who knew? Um, yeah. Korea? Just kidding... come back! I still like you! I didn't mean gay... I meant, uh... secure in their sexuality? Yep, that's what I meant. That's the ticket. =)
Next we drove to the ceramics center! Now, those of you who know me, which is all of you, because I sincerely doubt this blog is that interesting or funny if you don't know me, will know that the whole arts-craftsy-makin-shit-with-my-hands thing and I don't really jive together. I'm sure, if you ask nicely, my mom can tell you some great stories about the craptacular art projects I used to turn in for school. Anyway, bottom line is, we watched a little video (in Korean) about pottery-making, got a translation (from a Korean), saw a demonstration by a (Korean) guy who's been doing this for 20 years, and got to work. Now let me stop here and point out the uselessness, nay, the counterproductiveness, of these demonstrations. Have you ever watched someone who's really a master of their craft work? I mean, watched a professional pianist rock out at the symphony? A glass-blower knock out a vase in like 3 minutes? A really dedicated stoner roll a joint? Man, I've really got joints on the brain today, and I don't know why. I don't think this country even has pot, so that's not it. Or, maybe that is it... huh. What was I saying?... =) Just kidding. Um, so yeah. Watching master craftsmen (craftswomen? craftspeople? wtf?) work can give you a really twisted idea of the level of difficulty involved in creating something out of rotating clay. I mean, this guy knocks out three different shaped vases in like 3 minutes... it was crazy! And we're all sitting there going, Wow! I can do that! It's easy! Right?!?
Stop. Just stop. It is not easy. I couldn't even get the effin clay in the right shape to put on the damn wheel. You have to pattycake out a little base. Easy, right? But, it has to be actually round. And a uniform thickness. Now, keep in mind that this is clay we're talking about here. How in God's name do you get a hunk of clay into any semblance of uniform thickness. I mean, I know it can be done. I seen it. But how? How, I say? Well, apparently, I wasn't getting it, because the hairy potter guy came over and looked at mine, shook his head, and reformed it for me. Doh. Although, to be fair, he then did that with a bunch of other people too. The next step is to roll out several long ~inch-thick worm-looking things. You are then supposed to lay these on top of the base in circles, building 4 or 5 levels of uniformly-thick clay rings. Well, I won't dwell on the details of this travesty, but potter-dude was back in a jiffy to hook me up and set things straight. Next we had to smoosh the clay flat, both inside and outside the newly-formed vessel. I actually did this part of the process, and it was the only step that I would successfully complete the rest of the way.
I know, it sounds sad, but in a funny way, haha, poor Sean, yada yada yada, right? Well, here's the thing. The next step was to throw it on the wheel and spin this bastard. I mean, really get after it and tear this clay a new one. I thought we'd get a chance to play with for a while, "bugger it up" as Mireille, the South African girl so adorably put it, and then have Mr. Potter fix it. I mean, that's how I'd been working so far, and it was goin pretty well for me up to this point. But alas! I didn't even get a chance to bugger it up -- all I got a chance to do (and this isn't just me, this is everyone) was sort of vaguely show him what shape I wanted my (My? Ha!) new ceramic monstrosity to be. So I moved my hands in a nice flowy curvy shape, like a vase, I'm thinking, and he smiles and says, "Yeah. Like pretty girl." And I thought, ya know, yes, that's actually exactly what I want. So, now I get to wait till February to receive my well-proportioned sexy vase. I literally can't wait. I'll post pictures when I get it. In February. Yes. I said February.
And that was the end of the day. I caught a bus back to Janghowon, ate dinner, came home and watched the season finale of Dexter. This is a great (GREAT!) show, if you haven't seen it. Craziness. And it just got picked up for 2 more seasons! Hellz yeah. ;) Tomorrow, I'm going to Yong-in for teacher training, and if that's half as fun as today I'll be a happy camper tomorrow evening. Wish me luck. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.