Sun Jun 1, 2003
Although I have no illusions about this journal being widely read by anyone, it’s purpose is to supplant lengthy expository e-mails while I’m in South Korea. What you’ll find here will be factual accounts of my days, or at best incoherent ramblings representing the remnants of some vague, out-of-context thought that may have splurged accidently onto the screen. I make no promises as to consistency or regularity or for that matter rigorous censorship. This journal is a companion to my website. Check it out for some scanned photographs of SK.
Yesterday I woke up and was exhilarated to see it was a relatively smog-free day, so I decided to bus it to Seoul and check out the Namsan tower. I intended to take the cable-car, but I got lost early on and ended up wandering up the mountain in that dazed touristy kind of way… I did manage to stumble upon a secluded little shrine dedicated to some Chinese general, there was non-one there and it was picturesquely situated in a mountain cleft, quite lovely. Eventually I made it to the top, after a bit of a grouse grind, and shelled out the 5000 won for the trip up to the observation deck. The view was amazing - a 360 degree panoramic view of the sprawling metropolis of Seoul. By far the highlight of my day though, was meeting Dean, an Australian anthropology grad student who was also checking out the tower (There is a disturbing number of anthro-grads that end up in the orient on teaching gigs). Dean is hoping to find an underground psychedelic trance movement in Seoul… He seems to think Koreans would embrace this because of the shamanic tradition that still exists. It certainly seems possible, considering the dualistic nature of the society. He tried to write a thesis on a spiritist cult movement in Melbourne, only to incur a serious breach of ethics by publicly denouncing the leader of the movement as a fraud. We struck up a lively conversation and before I knew it we were discussing Geertzian interpretive theories and he was trying to sell me on his appalling psychological anthropological stance where he somehow manages to insert Freudian transference theory (born of the guilt of wanting to kill one’s parents) as the backbone of common ritual practice. Of course, what always happens when two anthro-neophytes start arguing is that we agree that it’s all subjective anyway, there is no concrete reality and that it’s best just to pack it all in and become subsistence farmers. And that’s what happened.
Walking down from the mountain, we stopped at the folk village, there was some sort of festival today, so there was free admission. I think the Suwon folk village was better. I couldn’t help smiling when I saw them doing the plank-trampoline antics and remembered how I almost killed Jae-Jung because I thought the object of jumping on the plank was to knock the other person off, survivor style. Back in Kumchon, creepy Paul (my neighbour - an English teaching entrepreneur) was standing outside my building with one of his students. He always likes to show off his stilted conversational skills and delights in pinning me down for this purpose. I managed to extricate myself fairly painlessly from his inane small talk and run upstairs…
It’s swelteringly hot as usual and today is no different…I had lucid visions of diving into a clear blue sea, and started day-dreaming vividly of my childhood, when I had a whole pool to myself, and of Mauritius, where the ocean was a second home. I can never stand to be away from the ocean for too long, I’m so glad we’re going taking a trip to the west coast next week-end. So anyway, I drank some Soju and tried to read Tolstoy, hoping the vodka would inspire some sort of Russian-ness in my reading…It’s good reading Tolstoy here, where Russia is so close, it seems more real… I was thinking about visiting Siberia if I could.