I’ve been in Korea a couple of months now, and inevitably much of the novelty has gone. But I still get surprised quite frequently. The “pagan” bonfire was one example — falling down the drain was another — and there was a quaintly bizarre incident on my coastal walk last week that made me go, “You’re not in Sandgate anymore, Goat.” That story soon. Tonight I want to talk about my local river.
JANUARY 21, 2012 Actually, let’s start with the bus. For weeks I’d been watching the local buses, trying to penetrate their mystery and movements. It was like being a whale-spotter: “Thar she blows! Looks like a #58! Wait! She’s doing a U-turn! No! We’ve lost her!”
A Cultural Sensitivity Primer Hi, all. It’s been too long between posts once again but this time my reasons are happier: I’m on holidays again! They’re rather optimistically labelling this week of leave my “Spring vacation”, and at first I could almost believe my Winter blues were over with. I had two excellent days of coastal walking and white sandy beaches to the east of Busan, then came home yesterday to bleak skies and even some more fluttering snowflakes. The dream was over.
I enjoyed some sunshine and nice hiking last weekend, closing in on walk #20 for my six weeks here. I went to bed tired and content on Sunday night; when I woke a light snow was falling and a far heavier gloom seemed to be rolling down onto Jangyu from the hills.
A few weeks ago I went on a mini-expedition down the sorry Daecheongcheon, the local river. It was a disheartening experience, the river a sad trickle of its former self, its garbage-strewn banks and bottom safely contained in protective concrete and choked with thriving reeds and weeds. But I took a diversion that day where a road crossed the river, and found myself in a grittier, grimier, more “lived in” part of Jangyu called Mugye, and in its filthy, trash-cluttered backstreets found this relic of a far older and apparently much nobler Korea, the Mugye Dolmen.
Ha! Hope that got your attention! I was going to do a nice sunshiny post this time to reward readers who stuck with me through that sorry — and rather chilly — Jeju saga. I’ve done 16 hikes or prolonged rambles (the lines are blurring) in my five weeks in Korea and I’ve only been bone-chillingly, pre-gangrenously cold on a couple of them, so I have a lot of more temperate tales to choose from and a lot of catching up to do. But I’m being spontaneous here, tonight, sitting on my heated floor in my lovely little apartment, thinking about Iceland.
Put on your shoes Put on your coat We’re going out… James McCann, ‘Been Round Here’ A friend in Sydney, Carl, had sent me an album not long before Jeju, a gritty dark-blues collection by an Australian singer called James McCann. I’d played it a few times but didn’t realise any of it had sunk in. But out of the blue, early in the evening as I swept fresh snow from the tarp and put off crawling beneath it, this one mournful number, the lyrics at once regretful and menacing, slipped into my head, spun around three times and settled in for the night.