Category Archives: Journey to South Korea

Closing in, rising up.

Months have turned into weeks and now only 2 remain until I leave Seoul, South Korea and head back to my home in Mississauga, Canada…what an incredible ride its been!

Alongside the conclusion of this amazing adventure there have been a few other significant chapters completed in my life. As of yesterday my final assignment has been submitted and thus my degree-in-waiting (at home) has been accomplished – I have finished my undergrad! Although my “master plan” had always called for Masters to begin immediately after my undergraduate life I never expected such a unique opportunity (this exchange) to complete my final year, or rather extend it. As a result, I was forced to give myself a year of pause in studies; I would need 2012-2013 to carefully sort through my options and apply for all those schools I aspire to join, not to mention all those scholarships I wish to gain! Remarkably, fate has still been generous to me…despite worries this year would be otherwise “wasted” between periods of application, I can now say I have a year of full-time work ahead of me (my first such job) and it couldn’t be in a more perfect field (although time will tell~). To learn more about the organization I will be working for, check them out here!

So as one form of education ends for me, a new opportunity has appeared but also a new realm of people I love and trust. One of the greatest parts of this exchange (as I may have mentioned in many past posts) is the people I have met. These aren’t your average people, either (though I wish there were more of them!) – they are students now excelling as “exchangers”, teachers, thrill-seekers, explorers and especially volunteers! Some of the most memorable friendships I have made in Korea were through a volunteer group known as Mannam and the new sub-project I am a growing part of called Mannam International (check out the links!). These groups volunteer in such an enormous scope, so frequently and in so many places you could live here without doing anything else!

Alongside this dedication to supporting the community comes the amazing network of friends that host dozens of free clubs, cafe nights, concerts, dinner parties and fun networking and game events year-round! Overall I can’t think of a better compliment in my exchange than with this dream team – bridging the gap by working between locals Koreans, Foreigners and the community at large. You can check out their facebook and new blog if you are interested too!

So what is the theme here? Lets just say…don’t ever neglect any morning or night, that sunrise and sunset helps make life bright; with the close of one chapter there’s a fresh one anew, and so again the sun will rise and with it, so will you!


Korea Performance Supporters!

I hope you have all been enjoying my photographic posts in my other blog since the new year! I will try and pull this one back to speed by telling you about a great new group I have become involved with here in Seoul, South Korea – the Korea Performance Supporters! Starting from just over a month ago the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) announced its recruited supporters after those who applied in March – everyone was given a spot! The goal of this group is to attend and send feedback on a wide variety of performances and cultural events held in Korea, all for free! By using tools such as this blog, facebook and twitter, our small network is trying to show those interested in Korea what they can expect in the arts and theatre – you may be surprised!

Perhaps the best part of this group (besides the gifts) is the great network of local Koreans and foreigners from around the world you get to meet! Are you interested in this group? You can still participate! The supporters main page where we share our thoughts, arts adventures and new “missions” is also partially available to the public to engage on, just register on-site and join the community, it’s a great way to learn about cultural performances in South Korea! One quick tip, use Internet Explorer for the best experience on site (I know it is old-fashioned but that browser is still popular here!).

Now you may be wondering why I am now mentioning this group on my blog? Well after a series of fun public events and meeting/networking with my fellow supporters, I got to see my first big performance! The name of this performance is Karma – a tale of love, betrayal, fate and classic good and evil, all wrapped in the mystique of the Yin-Yang/Ohaeng (five elements) theory. The dazzling display of colour, martial arts, dance and dramatic painting makes for a striking medium to display a piece of Korean culture and history. With the base of Ohaeng you can thus expect the struggle between light and dark ans well as the elements of fire, earth, metal, water and wood – each represented through the incredible cast of characters and one extremely talented (and funny) clown! I won’t give too much away because you must come and see it for yourself! Now an international phenomenon, all the information you need can be found at Karma’s website (multiple language option at the bottom right):

I hope you enjoy the show as much as did, be sure to support performances in Korea! :]

Inextinguishable – curious flickers…

Fire, the last of the elements I wish to cover in what I hope has been a curious and enjoyable 4-part series for those of you following! As a final pitch, I encourage anyone who hasn’t watched or heard much about Avatar: The Last Airbender to certainly check it out! It is a moving portrayal of human loss, struggle and power in a dynamic animated setting. These emotions are entwined in the imagination and awe of elemental powers with plenty of Buddhist and related culture flair!

SO what is the element of fire about? “Fire is the element of power, consisting of overpowering force tempered by the unflinching will to accomplish tasks and desires. However, the recently militaristic Fire Nation twisted this into Firebending being fueled by rage, hate, and anger. Firebending draws its power from the sun, and…[Firebending] is notable for its intensive attacking style and general lack of adequate defense moves, although some notable Firebenders utilize creative defensive moves…”

Anyways, as mentioned earlier, this is meant to portray South Korea’s 24-hour side, the immortal side; permanence, emotions, change, growth and perhaps loss in some respects…this is not the place to look for burning fires! (Sorry arsonists!)

As a result of this theme today I will not label my photos in the supplementary gallery (did you know I label all my photos in past galleries??), it is up to you to decide what they mean and represent. If any of you are curious however where and when they were taken in South Korea, feel free to comment away!

Take a look at these curiosities…

(yes there is a little fire at the end, but it’s one for peace, not aggression…) – Next up, mountains!

Going with the flow: ~South Korea liquified~

On to the next post based on my favorite elemental series, here I will look at the wonderful world of water, and what it seems to represent in Seoul and South Korea…

The city of Seoul is as malleable and remarkable just like this very element and its unique variety too! As you move through the city you can always find something to fit your needs and suit your interests, regardless of the fact you are surrounded by fairly little ethnic diversity. Just like the continuity of water, this Korean society supports and engages (mostly) rather than isolates, it all depends on how much you reciprocate and try to engage back!

So what does the element speak to exactly?
“Water is the element of change…The fighting style of Waterbending is mostly flowing and graceful, acting in concert with the environment. Waterbenders deal with the flow of energy; they let their defense become their offense, turning their opponents’ own forces against them.”

And so, seeing the ebb and flow of water here in Seoul (and lack thereof) I have had much to appreciate and reflect on…literally. Considering how crucial this substance is to our lives, we often apply little value or thought to its daily use in our modern society. Change can be good but in our current situation, it has come at a heavy cost – an increased appreciation for artificial values, short-term gain and easier lifestyles at the expense of a ever-deteriorating natural environment. Just as quickly as we came to rule this planet, we have fallen victim to our own strategies and ambitions. Drought and floods appear faster than we can predict them; even here in Seoul I bear witness to vast rivers running empty for months, cracked barren soils and calcified reservoir walls. Though we expect the climate to work out itself and solve these issues, it is not that easy – it takes two to tango and managing our resources is no different, though lets replace “dance” with “cooperate” and “balance”. Like water, lets try and move with the flow – nature that is – and reconsider the embedded value in ecology, long-term thinking and difficult solutions that support far more than just a generation.

Change can be good, lets use the energy we have to become great!

The Cores and Shells of South Korea.

Its time for another elemental exploration of South Korea, here I look at the magnificent landscapes I have seen so far in this complex country, and what it has said to me about place and people.

So…Earth, the 2nd element I am covering (the first was air) is oh so poetically described through my favourite animated series, Avatar – The Last Airbender, here’s what the Avatar Wiki page had to say:

“Earth is the element of substance, making Earthbenders and their people diverse, strong, persistent, and enduring…The key to Earthbending is utilizing neutral jing, which involves waiting and listening for the right moment to strike and, when that moment comes, acting decisively.”

And so, like Airbending – this art can be translated metaphorically to represent our connection to landscapes and the kind of people it most relates to. The expansion of people across this planet needed and to this day (especially in harsh, marginalized, poor or disaster affected-regions) displays these qualities and seem to be what keeps us moving forward. Though we certainly shouldn’t have to be violent in how we move and interact, that is also a trait found repeatedly in our history, be it representing colonialism, war or more positive achievements in technological innovation, strategic development and support and these days especially, politics (good and bad). Perhaps on a simpler scale think of it this way – that perfect answer you one day gave in class, the unexpected punch-line to a joke you added just before all hope was lost, that essay, uni. application or resume submission done just in time, that one decision which shaped your life…the list goes on~

Ultimately, if we wish to keep thriving on this singular planet, we will need to embrace characteristics mentioned under all 4 elements. As we can see already, endurance will only take us so far on the current unsustainable trajectory of society…long-term planning, conservation, adaptation and most of all, innovation to the current design of our development to one where cycles, closed systems and shared knowledge is the norm. :]

The Skies of Seoul – above and beyond…

It has been over a month since my last post, and I deeply apologize for those who wish to have a more predictable blog series, as this one is at the whim of my homework and trips as they come each week! However, I will try my best to keep this flowing more regularly now, as there is a certain degree of procrastination on my part which is to blame as well…

Since my last post, I have seen so much, but I will not give a general overview as I have in my past posts, rather for this and the next three posts I will look at Seoul from an “elemental” perspective (oh, why no, this has nothing to do with my favorite show of all time…). Air, Earth, Water and Fire! So you may then guess, “Is this crazy boy going to show pictures of Seoul on fire?!?” – well, no. While the first three posts are obviously about the landscape of Seoul and surrounding Korea (though the occasional metaphor will appear), the last one is devoted to exploring the energy, life and dynamic growth that is modern Korea and its rapidly changing people. Ofcourse these chapters are really never over while I am still here, so I think I will explore these 4 elements again in the spring to see what new things I can add!

Best of all, these 4 posts will rolling on up all through this month – be sure to check out my new branch photo-only blog for South Korea here!

And so…Air.

I’ll start with a quote on the definition from that incredible show, Avatar:

“Air is the element of freedom. The Air Nomads detached themselves from worldly problems and concerns; and finding peace and freedom was the key to solve their flaws in life…The key to Airbending is flexibility and finding and following the path of least resistance. Airbending is notable for being almost entirely defensive, as well as the most dynamic of the four Bending arts.”

I can’t agree more with the above idea, it really is a liberating feeling where you can interact with the sky, feel the wind, and let all the sounds around you be enhanced and mixed with those from near and afar. Air for me is indeed like the behaviour of many of us in our daily lives, we are always searching for answers, being flexible and moving to the goal in the easiest way possible. These are traits that often lead to the best and worst ideas from our species, it all depends on what we make of the people and places we experience in our lives along the way.

And so I leave this post for you to flow your own thoughts, emotions, goals and hopes for both yourself and the planet into the New Year…

Never lose sight of the important things in life – your body, those around you and critically future generations are depending on it! Take care everyone, as always, keep it green~

D-Cube city and the experiment of Seoul…

The following photo “journey” it could be called shows just a sample of some of the amazing architecture I have seen in Seoul. It is great to see that while this city is rapidly growing, it is no longer spreading up the valleys and into adjacent regions as it once did. Today, it is literally and figuratively growing up! Quite a few advantages are coming to this city from this more sustainable path of growth but also some potential problems – here’s a quick perspective:

-High(er) density, more space for other uses, especially preservation and public areas
-Tall architecture, can be creative, attractive, define a skyline and attract newcomers and tourists
-Tall space is more versatile, multi-use buildings are becoming the norm, to the benefit of the public
-All forms of transit benefit from density both in ridership and profit and more space to move around in!
-Less energy used per given area, big plus!

Bad (but fixable):
-Space saved may be wasted towards lower density and poor quality architecture rather than mixed-use or public space (poor planning basically)
-If architecture is poor or inefficient, a big cost to maintain and repair exists, also the problem of waste management in tall buildings persists…
-Tall buildings need more investment in weather-proofing due to increased risk and harsher situations (snow build-up, funneled winds, earthquakes, etc)
-Green space can become a problem and people often desire there own garden or outdoor private space…still a work in progress for tall buildings
-Risk to birds and bats from collisions is huge, this problem is still not addressed around the world much but kills more avian creatures than any other form combined…

So first, a day in D-cube city, a wonderfully designed multi-use complex, with quite a few green features too!

Other architectural wonders I have seen – though as locals have told me, this is just the “basic stuff”, I look forward to see something grander soon!

Talk to you all again soon – mountain climbing up next!