Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lunar New Year in Korea

Stepped off the plane in Pusan, South Korea to frigid air and steamy milk coffee from vending machines, kimchi pots sleeping soundly on tiled roof tops and boiled chestnuts on street vender carts.
Blue sky high as a horse’s tail, sheets of ice on rivers with banks covered in greasy mud, and old men pulling carts of flattened cardboard on bicycles with square kickstands.
Dusty patches of grass beneath trees and cold sand on my toes, hotel lobbies to stand in and whisper about, late night taxi rides through cities alit and aglow with possibility.
Back alleys to wander with my bare camera, no case, just me and my thick shoes and heavy socks stomping along, notebook and ink pen in my back pocket.
Jogs high up in the sparse mountainsides my legs raw and red and burning from frozen wind or rummaging through markets, winking at my girls who love it as well. Watching them sleep on hard hotel beds with the TV running silently in the corner in the middle of the night, just breathing in the silence. Walking to the window looking out over the city, so thankful at life.
And I can speak… oh the joy of being able to say anything to anyone. That first morning I bought three doughnuts for my daughters: a glazed old fashioned for Xian; cream filled for Bekah, and strawberry for Kinu, and laughed with the woman behind the counter about how happy being a father makes me, that I can return to this county and show my daughters the world.
But the true joy of returning to Korea is in the personal things for me. In seeing how much the country has changed, grown up, spread its influence throughout Asia in music and movies and culture and art, but yet remains infinitely the same. Wandering streets I have walked now for a decade and a half. Visiting old friends and family, former teachers and students from past lives. So happy. Just standing in the cold sunlight laughing, wanting more.

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