Monday, May 26, 2008

Round 'n round Dew Mound

Eric, Bryce and I got weathered out of our plans to climb Polar Bear Peak, so the weekend got chopped into projects, a session at the rock gym with Bryce, a hike with Eric up Blacktail Rocks, and finally a search for the Dew Mound crag with Bryce today. The short story is that we hiked ALL OVER lower Eagle River Valley, criss crossing on various trails, seeking high points for a view...
In the process we found this cliff on the north side of the valley that demands further exploration:
We finally found Dew Rock, and there were THREE parties on it, including a super strong climber whose name I forget (see him doing 5.12 hard at rock gym routinely). Later Eddie Phae showed up with his typical contagious humor, so we had an all-star cast of southcentral's finest rock stars on hand all cracking jokes and having a good time. Turns out Eddie has a djembe and is looking for drumming partners....that could be interesting! Looking at the cliff, Bryce and I weren't too psyched - very steep, typically tricky non-straightforward Chugach face climbing, and one party gave us the line up confirming that it was all 5.10 and up. After hemming and hawing we finally decided to give one a shot, and surprise!, my mythos got resoled this winter but I forgot to lace them up, which is time-consuming given their funky lacing system, but I got the job done with a borrowed lighter and my dull nut tool while the mosquitos investigated...
We didn't have any luck on the climb but it was a fun outing and I've got renewed stoke for rock climbing yet again.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Final blast in Korea

Hung Yut holding the hot herbal drinks that got us through a couple of days in which sleep was pretty scarce and I was feeling compressed by the city - they tasted good and the hot liquid itself was enough to make me feel better, and perhaps the herbs helped because I was on the edge of getting sick the whole time. Maybe the spicey noodle soups helped too.

Yesterday, my last real day in Korea, I gave a DJ seminar starting around 3pm. It went well, with a great translator and keen participants. Towards the end we got moved to a small room with built-in red couches where we crowded in. Everyone was so interested in my insights to DJing that they were all on the edges of their seats. It was a really special, intense 15 minutes. The people here are so attentive and genuinely interested in learning - very touching. The seminar spilled over about 20 minutes past 5pm which created some excitement because I was supposed to DJ in Daijeon at 8pm and it would take at least 2 hours to drive plus I needed to eat. My ride was antsy to say the least. So I was rushed up the stairs and directed into a stylin' black 4-door sedan with leather seats. We drove 140+ kph half the time to Daijeon, weaving in and out of traffic, but the car was so smooth it didn't even phase me. After eating and one wrong turn, I walked into this funky club at 8:20am with 30 eager people already waiting. After being shown yet another DJ stand with unloved audio components, I got a set of tangos running and started to sense that this was going to be an amazing night. It was an all-nighter with attendees from 5 different towns, and the masses had shown up to see the crazy DJ from Anchorage. Short story I DJ'd for about 7 hours to 3:30am and it was a total rockin' blast with a fun, young crowd. I handed the reins over to a local DJ who continued the night and we ducked out to drive back to Seoul. Hung Yut fought sleep deprivation all the way back to Seoul making for a shaky and stressful ride. We got to sleep about 6:45am, with me pretty fed up with the crazy tango lifestyle that is the exact opposite of my view of a healthy life. I'm shocked that I haven't gotten sick.

Bottom line is that I met some very friendly people and feel a strong pull to visit again just to keep those connections despite how much I contrast with the ultra-urban lifestyle. It was a very, very special chapter in my tango life that I feel very fortunate to have experienced.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Korea take 3

I've finished DJing the 2 dances I came over here for and they both went very nicely. It feels good to unleash my tango passion onto a new community, and it's nice to have a sense of accomplishment after wandering around for a week or so looking, learning, listening, and feeling my way around to try to understand the culture and people I'm interacting with.

A few interesting facts about Seoul:
The tap water is not potable - my hosts store boiled water in this plastic water jug....feels like a camping trip in the middle of a huge city. This blew my mind to be in the middle of one of the world's larger cities, where cutting-edge high tech companies like Samsung, Hyundai, and others are based, but not have potable running water. Consider that many of the eskimo villages in remote regions of Alaska have potable piped water to homes....the priorities seem skewed to me.

A common kitchen tool, also seen at times at restaurants is a pair of scissors. Koreans like to cut up certain dishes with scissors before eating....that was a new one for me.

Hwayi (eating a strawberry) and Hung-Yut

The scene on the other side of the street from our apartment. Peace and quiet is at a premium here. And this is just the little jackhammer. Two buildings up they've had the big guns rolling for days. Ugghhhh.

More of the action outside the apartment. They're either highly skilled or winging it....

Hung-Yut wants to drive a big black car when he grows up...

I took a walk from Apgujeong to Rodeo Street (ultra-hip shopping district) just wandering around taking pictures of the city scenes. It's a lot more mellow in the middle of the day than it is at night it's a hopping place with a bunch of hot guys and gals struttin' their stuff. Here's how it went:

Recycling is the law here (for real), which is good since it seems to me the packaging is a little out of control - I couldn't buy a bell pepper without it being wrapped, individually (!) in plastic.

This one is worth clicking on to get further into the scene...

Some sort of a pipeline cleaning operation....(?)

Click on this and look around - work and action everywhere...

Pretty wild entryway....into an underground shopping center...

Wow, something green and growing...

I walked through a quiet upper-end apartment neighborhood - huge contrast. Lots quieter visually and sonically than the surrounding area.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Korea Take 2

An-nyong-ha-se-yo! (hello!) A few street scenes from Apgujeong, where I'm staying. I get woken up by a jackhammer across the street at 8am each morning - they're remodeling a building. It's busy around here, and very urban. So far I'm having a blast nosing around the streets, eating meals with Hung Yut and Hwayi and their friends. However, since I'm here for another 11 days, I'm yearning to know more Korean so I can feel more confident going into shops. Hung Yut has challenged me to start studying by learning the hangul alphabet in 2 days. It's regarded by linguists as one of the world's simplest and most accessible alphabets, so we'll see. I'm going to get on it after going for another long walk and a nap. It's a vacation after all.....

The interface between humans and cars is intense, with a bit of a 3rd world orderly chaos feeling, but it doesn't really phase me at all. Click on the photo to get further into the scene.

A tango weekend planning party with Bono Bono, Hanin Salam, Mul, Odil, Whistle, Yon Mi, Hwayi, and Hung Yut. The personalities were intriguing.... Bono Bono is the quiet one, somehow striking me as a very special person, and I found myself keeping tabs on her throughout the meal. Hanin Salam has Mongolian features, a weathered face, and a humerous, witty personality. I also kept my eye on him because I felt an immediate connection to him - he often looked me in the eye, winked, etc. attempting to keep me engaged in the conversation, which is rare for Koreans because they're shy and avoid eye contact with new people. He also gave me a warm hug when he left, which is pretty uncharacteristic of the culture. Mul and Odil are getting married soon. Mul has an easy-going personality while Odil seemed more intense. Whistle is a school teacher who has a hilarious humor and keen sense of sociability - she listened thoughtfully and spoke at key points with fervor and authority. Yon Mi's face is very expressive when she speaks. She knows some english, a bit of spanish, and some french. I danced with her the first night and we had fun. Hwayi and Hung-Yut are my hosts. I find I get along fairly easily with Hwayi and really enjoy her company. Hung Yut and I have been friends for some time so we're having a blast catching up with each other.

I feel fortunate that I enjoy all the food and none of it has been too spicey for me, I'm comfortable using chop sticks (Koreans use chop sticks made of silver), and that Hung Yut and Hwayi have taken so much time to show me around. It's been a wonderful experience so far.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Korea take 1

(Forgot to bring a card reader or the proper USB cable for the camera, I'll post pix once I get that solved)
The flight from Seattle to Incheon International, about an hour outside of Seoul (despite a 92-mph headwind and 11:15 flight time), went surprisingly fast - I was dreading it but somehow my legs didn't start going nuts until we were on our descent, thank goodness. Incheon airport is very easy to get around in - so in short order I had my rented cell phone and was on the bus heading into Seoul (my first ever cell phone....). I met Hung Yut after a series of calls to pinpoint my location (no street addresses or even names of streets in Seoul - making navigation very sensitive to local knowledge and landmarks), then we went to the milonga. The sound of familiar tango music has a way of taking the foreign edge off of things.... At the milonga I met a handful of cool people and had an engaging conversation with Patrick, an enthusiastic local who speaks good english. A handful of us went to eat afterwards and I passed the "spicey" test that they were all skeptical about. I really don't think the food will be a major issue, although I'm sure it will have its moments. The challenge will be with the language and customs and the fact that I always feel out of place in a big city.