Freedom…that is all. :)
Location: Oahu, Hawaii, USA.
Hawai’i Family Vacation Series: Home sickness firsts list.
#1 Wish  : To see my mom and dad and give them both a big warm hug. Location: Dole Plantation, Oahu, Hawai’i, USA.
Wish #2 : Coffee with real cream while sitting in a real dinner with crazy Americana crap everywhere. Location: Steps from Wikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawai’i, USA.
Wish #3 : A Pinacolada with an umbrella in it on the beach. Location: Wikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawai’i, USA.
Wish #4 : Being lazy in the sun on a beach. Location: Wikiki Beach, Oahu, Hawai’i, USA.
Sneak Peak: The Gift of Travelling - Hawai’i Family Vacation:
Staring tomorrow and for the next while, I will be posting pictures daily from my halfway-point Christmas Vacation with my parents in Hawai’i. it’s been almost a year since the three of us have been together!
 Killer Surf (Literally, you can’t swim on this beach unless you are a pro.) Location: West Oahu, Hawaii, USA.
2014 Focus: Saying more with less.
Happy New Year Everybody! I wanted to start off this year’s posts by saying that, this year on Destined to Wander I hope to do the following:
Culture Tuesday’s 2014: BIFF 2013
Better late then never to cover BIFF 2013. Back in October friend Holli and Erika ,  organized a trip to go to the Busan International Film Festival or BIFF for short. I had been to quite a few other film festivals namely the Toronto International Film Festival, Windsor International Film Festival, Victoria International Film Festival and Philadelphia International Film Festival, so I thought I understood how film international film festival run. Basically, you see a lot of films in a short amount of time that you are unlikely to see anywhere else. Typically in a day you see like 3-5 films and scurry to their scatter locations throughout the city, and in the end you are left feeling exhausted, yet stimulated, uplifted and thoughtful. Well, you feel like you might have on your first real week of classes in the first year of university.
Yet, neither myself, Erika or Holli were prepared for BIFF. As the bulk of the films that a person could book that day (as strangely, and not typical of any other ‘IFF’ I’ve gone to you could book tickets in advance) were showing in either the world’s largest department store - Shinsegae, or the other equally large department store right across the street. Needless to stay when weren’t in our seats we were frantically running up many, many escalators or in claustrophobic elevators. It was madness. So we didn’t see as many films as we wanted to because of it. Yet, we did manage to see four films in two days, and for the part they were good films. I would have to say my favourite film (The Painting Pool being a close second) was Bringing Tibet Home.
Bringing Tibet Home is a film by Tibetan filmmaker and South Korea graduate, Tenzin Tsetan Choklay, documenting Tibetan contemporary artists Tenzing Rigdo’s project to move 20,000 kg. of Tibetan soil (illegally) across the Tibetan border an into the Dharamsala, India. Dharamsala, India is the largest amount of Tibetan refugees call home at the moment. The film is visually moving, and the project is inspiring. What I like the most about the film is two things: 1) I forgot about the ‘filminess’ of the film and just got lost in the story, evidence in my opinion of a combination of good story telling, directing and editing. 2) It is always encouraging to see ‘risk’ being taken seriously in creative art, and is always always refreshing.
To understand more about the film, the project or the director go to: http://www.bringingtibethome.com
So thank you, Tenzin Tsetan Choklay and Tenzing Rigdo for the great film; thank you Busan for the wonderful festival adventure, and thank you Erika and Holli for that most excellent weekend.
It was good to know that Korean’s celebrate Halloween, as this is hands down my favourite holiday of the year. I love Halloween, always have, always will. I especially love the giddiness one feels when one makes their own costume and tries it on for the first time (usually at home) and a feeling like your the most interesting and cool person on the planet comes over you. I love it because I am a performance artist at heart and Halloween is basically the unofficial national performance art day for all the countries that participate in it. And lastly, I adore Halloween because I feel most at home in costumes.
For most of my adult life, on Halloween, I have been dressing up like this:
This is an early picture of Monochrome, an action-adventure character I am developing in my spare time.
Every year I take out and put on Monochrome trying to perfect her. I usually perform her on Halloween as a series of long tableau’s being as still as humanely possible so I become more of a statue then an alive participant. She’s fun to put on in groups, at parties and events that I have done over the years because of her opaque black skin, which I’ve found that people don’t really know how to engage and interact with. I think this is because when you put on the such opaque and dark make-up you lose all facial expressions and then no one knows how to read you via facial expressions. It freaks them out really, and it’s fun to play with people like this in a safe way.
I get a thrill out of watching the suspension happen with the people around me as the opaqueness of my skin and the stillness makes me into somewhere between a person, villian and an object.
YET, this year I decided to adopt a more family-friendly costume as I would be wearing it in front kids at the school I teach at. So, I decided to resurrect the ladybug, a costume I remember wearing as one of my first costumes as a child. I love it because of the shell and its simplicity. I even made the shell similar (but bigger) to the last time I wore it and added clay and glitter on top for a fun “campy” DIY effect.
This picture of me in my ladybug costume was taken by the amazing Paige Stewart, a great photographer currently based out of Seoul.
Here are some pictures of me wearing it and some pictures of the kids costumes and my lovely coworkers costumes. It was a great start to Halloween, as this party actually took place the day before Halloween, and featured games, dancing and a haunted house. It was fun enjoying the kids and being apart of their fun.
The gang in costume on Halloween Party one of two.
Despite the unfortunate ‘Indian” impostor costume, these kids are looking pretty cute in all their day-before Halloween glory!
Two great witches!
Eitherway, in Monochrome or not, Halloween is always a blast! On this eve of Halloween I wish everyone the most fantasmic, wonderous, safe and giddy Halloween!
Day 2: Hanok Village & Namsung Tower
This was a beautiful day to take in the sights of Seoul.
What I thought was going to be a quiet and peaceful day ended up as a fun-filled actioned packed culturally enriching day thanks to Alyssa and her parents (pic 9) and my mom (pic 1).
We took in many traditional performances in the Hanok Village near Namsung tower (pic 1-7). Alyssa and I even participated in a circle dance which was so cool (pic 3-4). We made our own vibrant masks, based off of traditional Korean masks (mine, pic 8). We ended off the day with a tour up Seoul tallest tower (pic 10), Namsung tower. This a cool place to go especially at sunset if your in Seoul for a while it is definitely worth the bus fare on small hike up hill. What a wicked day!
Day 1: Momma Visit
Here are my mom’s first impressions of Korea:
Airport…Wow! Seoul is so big, modern and busy!!
Travelling from airport … without out the Korean signage and licence plates, these all look like the modern highways and buildings back home and could be anywhere in North America!
Day 1-2 —- lots of coffee shops, garlic on the subway… not a great gig being a washroom attendant… yuk tongs for the garbage cans.
Subway behaviour: not much talking… lots of watching tv on the their Samsung fablets, or mostly they are asleep, but the subway vendors are hilarious!
Alli’s looked like it did when I Skype with her…
Not too overwhelmed, just want to drink it all in…. by the way where’s the old shit??
My mom’s first impressions read like a beautiful poem so I really just left them as is and raw. To me, fragmented thoughts of overwhelming wonder are really what it’s like when you first get here I think.Korean people really do try, even if the can’t understand you…
On decisions and ideas: “You’re just working a plan.”
This very much sums up both, the spirit of my momma past, present and future, our time together in South Korea this past Chuseok, and my life since I left Canada.
The next several blog post will document the past two weeks spent with my mom. She has even agreed to co-write some of these entries with me.
Before, I start this series I would like to state my most sincere and heartfelt thank you to my mom for coming to visit me. It was a long way to come, a lot of fun was had with her and I miss her already.
Thanks so much momma!
Next post: Day 1 with Momma.
Culture Tuesday’s: Ceramic Heels
Artist: Hong Mi Jeong
When: April 27th, 2013 to May 3rd, 2013.
Where: Jaemigallery, 506-3 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, South Korea.
I really would have liked to have posted this in April, to give both the artist and the space, Jaemi Gallery a plug. However, I didn’t have this blog until end of the May and I just started Culture Tuesday’s last week!
Hong Mi Jeong is a Korean ceramic sculptor and I went to her first solo show, Ceramic Heels. It was the first ever opening I attended in South Korea. It is one of my major goals to see as much art as I can while in South Korea, so I was thrilled to experience my first opening in one of Seoul’s most famous and wealthy neighbourhoods—Sinsa in Gangnam District.
As for the art work, it was placed at ground level, the space was clean save for the work so not to distract the viewer. Their were approximately 19 shoe-scaled ceramic sculptures on display. Both the arrangement and the individual works had a nice balance between solidity and airy fragility provided by both the earthy ceramic material and the subject matter of women’s high-fashion heels. The work seemed like a perfect candidate to be entered into The Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Ontario, Canada a museum dedicated to the story and artful history of shoe design.
Overall, the works were engaging and their was quite a good number who turned out for the opening in the airy minimalistic space and it was a lot of fun. Great work Hong Mi Jeong!
Hanagae Beach : A great beach not far away!
Hanagae Beach on Muuido island is so very close to Seoul, it’s like a 30 minute bus ride directly from the Incheon Airport and to get their is easy, cheap and fast. You can take one of three buses #222, 220 or 306 bus from the Departure wing bus bay #7 at ICN airport. 222 and I believe 220 drop you directly off at Muuido Ferry terminal, whereas 306 drops you off at the road near the road to the ferry terminal. You can pay 1,500 W (approx. $1.50 CAD) on either bus to get you to the Muuido Ferry Terminal. Then you pay a one-way fare of 3,000 W (approx. $3.00 CAD) to walk onto the Ferry, you don’t pay this on the way back. Last, you take the green bus (another 1,500 W fare) waiting right at the end of the ferry dock as you walk off the boat and it will take you right up to the main entrance of Hanagae beach. All the buses take t money so if you don’t have cash you can still. It’s just this simple.
A few of us took this very same route to savour the last bit of gorgeous summer weather In South Korea. We stayed right on the beach in a handy hut that cost 10,000 w + 10,000w (approx. $10 CAD) per person a night, and came with pillows and blankets. There is also a 10,000 w key deposit that you get back at the end too,
We brought some food and also ate some yummy Korean BBQ beach side. This beach was one of the few beaches I’ve been to since coming to korea (and surprisingly i’ve been to quite a few in such a short amount of time) that was closer to the beaches I’ve been used to growing up near the great lakes of Canada. The sand was nice and the beach lesser known so it wasn’t packed the whole time we were there.
Also for those who like ziplining, you can do this here for 30,000 W (approx. $30 CAD along the beach). Personally, I have never gone ziplining before and I want my first experience to be through a dense and magestic jungle. Yet, it seemed safe and fun though!
Some other cool highlights were: blinking and seeing that the almost 1km long shoreline (pic #2) at 3:00 p.m. vanished into rippling waves (pic #6-8) the temperature of soup. Also, at night it was awesome looking out at the flashing lights that seemed like gigantic, distant fireflies in the night sky only to discover they were really just flashlights carried by whole families of Koreans doing some late night clam digging, which was what the lady in pic#3 was also doing during the day.
Overall, it was a quality weekend and I highly recommend anyone in the greater Seoul area who has never been to Hanagae Beach to go before the weather gets to chilly to swim. Right now the water is fantastic so go!
Culture Tuesday’s: Korean Bow Collection 2013 - Martyn Thompson
Since moving here I have been to more openings and galleries than I have in a number of years. I don’t know why I seem to have been hermitting from art since it was in my life as a professional exhibiting artist for many years previous. Either way I am glad I am back viewing art on a weekly basis. I would like this trend to continue, and to help with this effort I will be doing a spot every Tuesday promoting the art spaces and opening I attend that week.
Korean Bow Collection 2013 - “New Works’.
Artist: Martyn Thompson
Location: Color of Money, Ilsan, South Korea.
When: Saturday, August 31st, 2013.
This past weekend I attended my second art opening since moving to South Korea. Thompson’s work is really engaging, performative and layered. His show is installed at a local billard hall/restaurant/bar two districts down from where I live, The Color of Money (they have really good western food including good veggie burgers!).
'New Works,' consists of primarily a series of gorgeously rich, high colour photographs installed in a local expat-friendly Korean bar. Smaller-scaled sculptures are also featured and something I enjoyed at the show as the semi-transparent figurative effect Martyn employed I have seen other artists attempt but few as successfully as he has in “Deep Bow #1”. As this play of heaviness and lightness with the 3-D bowing figure on layered printed glass is not an easy effect to pull off, but he did so quite nicely.
The Korean Bow Collection, whether in its photographic or scultpural manifestations, features the performance of a Korean deep bow from various people who come from various places. I have heard from many others that the Korean bow when performed to another, is a sign of deep respect in traditional Korean culture.
Living in Korea for the past seven months, I have only seen Koreans bow this way less than a handful of times: I saw monks perform a deep bow before the image of Shakyamuni Buddha in a traditional Korean Buddhist temple, and the other time I saw a groom bow in a Korean wedding to the parents of both the bride and the groom both dressed in traditional Korean dress (Hanbok).
The Deep bow imagery Martyn is using seem to me to talk about an intimate struggle going on in Korean culture today. The imagery he uses talks about the layered and complex struggle currently going on between young adults growing up with two major influencing cultures: western culture and Korean culture. What’s important to note here is the the people of South Korea are indigenous to the Korean Peninsula, and the battle between their traditions and the force of outside foreign traditions caused by the pull of global trade is complicated on many levels.
The subject matter is further strengthened by the material aspects of the work, stemming from a layering of fast shutter images capturing the movement of many people from many backgrounds performing the Korean Deep bow, some nude, some in varying states of undress and some in Hanbok.
Furthermore, at the opening, there was also a traditional dance performed in the space and I felt it helped to provide a gentle framework for the viewers, and was a good choice to include.
In the end, I was left feeling both engaged by and a sense of balance from the work between how the subject matter and the physical artifact was presented in the foreigner friendly space in the heart of a Korean suburb on the outskirts of South Korea’s largest city.
So needles to say, if you are in the area of Jeonbalsan, in Ilsan between now and September 14th, be sure to stop by the Color of Money and check out ‘New Works’ by Martyn Thompson, as you will be glad you did.
Getting around in Taiwan:
Getting around in Taiwan is one of the most enjoyable transit experiences I have had in a long time. The subway system is cheap (less than a dollar CAD in most zones), it’s zoned which makes it easy because just by paying you know where your going. The system is in English and easy to navigate—even easier than the KoRail system in South Korea, and it is really easy to navigate here too.
We took bicycles, a boat, the train, the bus, and the subway. In a small city the bikes we rode (pic 7) were really the best way to see a lot of the city of Hualien. We took boats (pic 6) to see a rare glimpse of the majestic sperm whales. We took the train (pic 5) to see Eastern Taiwan in a laid back way riding along with the locals. We took subways (pic 1-4) to see a staggering amount of sites in Taipei in a limited amount of time. The only type of transit we didn’t take (besides cars of course) was Taiwan’s beloved scooters, which are everywhere in-masse. I was a little intimidated by them to be honest and their higher CC limit on the scooters were a no-go this time around.
On a weird note: The Taipei metro single uses passes that look and feel like poker chips but have a sensor that lifts the gate for entry. Space-age poker chips are cool.
The other weird thing about the Taipei subway system is that the bathrooms have a light-up digital LED display that tells you which stalls are occupied and which aren’t. Creepy yet useful, and the shot shows the female washroom, but they also have these for the male washrooms too.
Coming to Taiwan we were worried about the availability of the train tickets in a busy time during the summer. Yet, their was barely a line and plenty of tickets when we got to the station the morning of. Transit went this way throughout the trip. Overall it was one great nice long ride throughout the land of Formosa.
Taiwan: Great Heights
A fear I am currently in the process of over coming is my fear of heights. My fear of heights seems to grow each year along with my determination to stop being so irrationally scared of the immense of space between me and the ground when I am near the edge of something way up high. As my favourite lyric from the much-loved musician, Alanis Morrisette goes, “the only way out is through,” or rather up a mountain.
So in this spirit, I gave myself a proper push in the right direction of freedom from this fear when Alyssa and I decided to ride the The Maokong Gondola (貓空纜車, pic 1 and 2). This gondola ride is a 4.3 km long, lasts about a half and hour one way and follows a path up to Maokong Mountain wherein the greatest distance at one point between the ground and the floor of the gondola is around 300 meters. It was a challenge at times between the whistling wind from the open vents in the gondola, the uneasy swaying of the gondola, the length of time the ride was and the general anxiety that I have from being so far away from the ground.
Yet the white knuckle ride both there and back was worth it as we were fortunate to experience a tea ceremony in what was once the largest tea growing region of Taiwan. We also had some of the best Chinese food I have had to date. Last but not least, we viewed a breath-taking sunset on the cliff top and saw all of Taipei laid out before us. If you are ever in this area, find out when the sun is setting that day and plan to arrive at Taipei Zoo station about a hour and a half before—everything is still open and eating dinner while watching a beautiful sunset is so amazing here!
This night as with many, many other nights since leaving Canada I felt truly elated, and was thankful for the day.
Hot Springs in Taiwan
One of the best ways to for me to unwind is in spas. I love them and I have been going to hot springs around the world since an early age. It is one of my goals to visit every major hot spring in the world.
Taiwan has hundreds of natural hot springs as it is on a collision zone between two major tectonic plates (the Yangtze and Philippine Sea Plates) in the pacific ocean and experiences minor (and sometimes major) seismic activity on a daily basis. Taiwanese hot springs are unique as the water is very clear, and potable. The first mentioning of hot springs in Taiwan were around the 1690’s, but they weren’t developed until the 1800’s by German business men.
The first hot springs to be developed in Taiwan were the Beitou hot springs and were the same ones I soaked in one hot and humid afternoon earlier this month. These hot springs at their rawest sources (pic 1, 3) are immensely hot and not swimmable and boil and bubble like halloween witches’ brew.
To be tolerable to soak tired feet in, the water is either piped into hotel/private spas or the Millenium Hot Springs spa, a public access outdoor natural spring in Beitou, accessible by the Taipei Subway system. Through piping the natural spring water they can control the temperature largely by using water displacement, wherein the hottest pools are right next to the main water pipe and the coolest pool are the farthest away and have been refiltered and recollected many times as the water flows down into successively cooler pools. So you are never uncomfortable in these hot springs because their are many pools to choose from.
Other neat facts: