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Friday, August 30, 2013

Helplessness (but NOT Little Bo Peep)

In the US, a very few people got to see one particular side of me, which a beloved psych colleague liked to call  my "Little Bo Peep" act.  This involved my acting very helpless and in need of manly support for some trivial task - and it works like a charm, even when the targeted man KNOWS he's being played.  This might include smushing hairy spiders in my office; lifting heavy boxes or moving a file cabinet; even unloading a push mower from the back of my van. 

Now, that role is not entirely fake - there are situations when I am a moron and might actually need someone to help me, but I'm too dumb to know that fact.  Here are two examples from the last 24 hours. 

Yesterday I needed to remove some stains from three shirts.  I did not have the oxyclean spray I would have used in the US, and I've never been a very good housekeeper so set-in stains are generally allowed to live.  Plus, I have always feared bleach (my grandma once burned her hands badly with bleach; my mom ruined my favorite shirt in 7th grade by bleaching out its black stripes) so I haven't used it, but I now have Time on my hands and my new role of Housewife to practice.  Plus, we had a bottle of bleach from Nick's previous apartment.  See picture.

I started by using a Q-tip dipped in a capful of the bleach, but that wasn't working fast enough (I also need to practice patience), so I dumped the whole capful onto the shirt and rubbed it in.  The liquid felt surprisingly slippery as I rinsed the shirt, and only after rinsing out the third shirt did I notice the little graphic on the bottle's label.

Now, since 90% of the writing here is in Korean, my brain has learned to tune it out - you don't even assume you'll find any English, and my Korean reading is still so slow that a special ed teacher would lose patience with me.  So I hadn't bothered to look at the label.  But the small picture caught my eye: a sink drain.  Hm.  Weird.  Oh. Wait a minute. This isn't bleach after all.  It's... drain cleaner. Oh. Well, look on the bright side: it works like a charm on old stains.  I should post this on Pinterest or something.  Or not. 

Today, Sam and I were feeling restless and decided to go to a beach; I drove (a rare occurrence as both Sam and Nick prefer to drive). We took a route through the rice paddies, which have lovely cement roads that allow us to see the rice and the egrets up close. (Egrets are giant white birds - you've seen them standing on alligators and hippos in African safari shows. They like to hunt frogs in the rice and I adore them.)  

Anyway, the paddy roads are also narrow and are rather unpredictable in terms of where you end up. Unfortunately, we followed one that ended abruptly. Dead stop.  With no place to turn around and steep banks on either side, I had to back up for 1/4 mile to the nearest intersection. Which I did pretty darn well, though Sam kept gasping and asking (begging) if I wanted him to drive. (Men.)

Now, the narrow cross-road to which I successfully backed also had steep banks and a set of very short cement "railings" on the sides; this tiny bridge went over an aquaduct. This particular intersection also happened to have a Korean bicycle man who had stopped (dead stop) to stare at our progress.  He apparently could not bear to watch me negotiate the 23+ point turn that scraped and bumped over the cement and so BOTH men decided to give me directions - one in mortified English and the other in Korean hand gestures. Our windows and the sunroof were open, it had begun raining, we were all getting soaked, and I could not stop giggling like a fool.  
Sam preferred to drive on the way home. Imagine that.

P.S. A couple of months ago, Nick gave me a short G.K. Chesterton essay on running after one's hat; it was about seeing challenges as opportunities and adventures.  (Now that I think about it, perhaps Nick had a particular point in giving me that essay a couple of months ago.  Hmm.) Anyway, this is my favorite line: "An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered."  And today... was an adventure.  : )

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Everyday life: Turning strange into normal

It's funny how fast you can adjust to new situations and the strange becomes...normal. I haven't written in awhile because nothing in particular struck me as new or interesting.  So I tried today to see through my pre-Korea eyes. These are a few things I discovered about my everyday life now that you might find strange if you visited.

I sometimes wake to distant barking around 4am; a local farm raises "meat dogs" (nureongi) for food. Most Koreans (especially the younger generations) do not eat dogs now that other forms of protein are available and they can afford to have "pet dogs," but older people (forced to eat anything they could during Japanese occupation, etc.) still enjoy the flavor.


Before showering, make sure the water heater is "on" 
by pressing the power button. Not the "water heater" button, 
which apparently turns on the floor heating system.  I don't know what the other buttons do.

After showering, foot-squeegee the water toward the drain,
which is slightly higher than the rest of the floor, so you
don't have to get trench foot during your other bathroom duties.

No one knows why F stands for
the 4th floor in our building.

It is common to double park; leave your cell # on the dash
so people can call you to move your car - nearly everyone
over 10  years old has a "handheld."

Be careful not to slip on the glossy green garage floor,
which is treacherous when wet.  Admire the dragonflies whose
accidental imprints are scattered throughout the paint.

Speed bumps are popular here.  Just getting to get to the campus exit, roughly 1/4 mile from our building, requires traversing at least 6 speed bumps. It is your right and duty to complain about them with passion.  On the way, take a moment to notice the maintenance guy using a fire hose to water the bushes. Notice too that bamboo grows wherever it pleases.

You may also notice the fire extinguisher by nearly every door. Some outside doors also have boxes that were delivered on a scooter from local restaurants.  I want to figure out how to do that - even McDonald's delivers.

If you're at McDonald's, you can order a #3 (quarter-pounder combo) by holding up 3 fingers and saying "set" to mean a combo meal.  I recommend taking your tray upstairs to people watch. Note that the (usually older) Koreans wear large visors (women) or straw hats (men), scarves, arm coverings (like shooter sleeves), and long pants or leg "sleeves" with shorts. Folks, it's 90+ degrees here - I still think they'll die of heat stroke long before skin cancer has a chance.  Still, I barely notice this anymore.

When finished at McDs, honor their "green" initiative by visiting the recycling/trash area with separate bins for ice and leftover drink, cups, mugs, food, and trash. On your car you may find a tiny piece of paper with lots of Korean print and today's hand-written date. There is no one around to explain it, so drive away and hope for the best.

On the drive back, your eyes will skim over the hundreds of small shops (e.g., women's clothes, paint, plants, hardware, sports clothes, pharmacy, office furniture, tires, beauty shops, etc.) and restaurants. Nearly every business has a sign with its name in Korean, a telephone number or two, and a small picture indicating what is being sold or served.  Most of these pictures make sense and are very helpful - fish, flowers, pizza, etc. But some still have us baffled.

a flower shop
a motorcycle shop
a restaurant - crab is their specialty
Fishing supply store

Elephants?  No idea what they're selling.

You'll drive through areas marked Silver Zone (apparently to warn drivers of retirement homes and elderly folks).  Most people live in high rises - I've only seen houses (the size of American garages) in tiny villages.  While driving, beware of drivers parked in your lane (any lane - doesn't seem to matter), cars parked in a rather non-parallel fashion along the road, and unpredictable buses and taxis. Only stop at red lights if traffic is stopped in front of you - otherwise, just pause. Nick and Sam LOVE driving here.

So many, many things are different here. Food is often wildly overpackaged.  Dryers are rare, so racks on balconies are common and I've gotten used to it taking a day to dry clothes. Most larger stores have white-gloved youth who direct your vehicle into the parking garage and to a floor, aisle, and space (keep your hazard lights on to indicate you're looking for a space); some garages have special floors for women, and green lights over empty spaces (red lights over full slots).

My korean pear (shaped like an apple) comes in foam mesh
AND plastic wrap.  Every pear.  

Nothing is particularly shocking here (well, maybe the dog farm).  But these different practices suggest different cultural values, expectations, technologies, and histories.  I don't have all that figured out yet - sometimes convenience and efficiency seem important and other times not - but I want to keep noticing and thoughtfully adapting (or not).  Thanks for coming along.  : )

Saturday, August 17, 2013

You might be a redneck if...

Many Americans are aware that a redneck is someone who is poor, missing several teeth, poorly educated, and in love with duct tape, explosions, pickup trucks, and beer. Rednecks have a lot of stuff around the house that they might fix one day; they are fanatically self-reliant and resent intrusion by outsiders and the government.  Jeff Foxworthy has earned his living as a comedian largely making redneck jokes.

I suspect that we might be the rednecks of Handong Global University, if not of Pohang, South Korea.

We moved a week ago to our permanent apartment and got around to unrolling our big rugs yesterday. Before we packed up in May, we rented a carpet cleaner to remove the fur and smell left on the rugs from our dog Ralph, a strange lab/pitbull sort of mix. However, after being plastic-wrapped and in warehouses and on a summertime ship for 10 weeks, the rugs seem to have re-generated their former dogginess. When Elisabeth and I unwrapped and unrolled the first one we were knocked back by the eau de Ralph.

So, we decided to put the rug over our porch/balcony railing to air out in the wind. Within an hour, the rug had disappeared from view.  A careful look over the railing (it appears to be glued to the brick rather than bolted, so we're very careful) revealed our rug precariously dangling off the air conditioner one balcony down.  Nick went downstairs to shove it down to the parking lot, until we could decide what to do about the smell.

We mulled our options.  We have seen no carpet cleaners - either the detergent or the vacuum/appliance. We could lay the rugs out and scrub them with shampoo or dish soap to remove the oils.  But where?  The roof (warm and flat and relatively clean) has no water supply. The outside faucet is near a lot of dirt. What to do? Sam recalled a recent conversation about folks in the Middle East who take their rugs car washes where there are specialized racks for washing their rugs. (Google does not confirm this, however).

Well,... This morning we loaded our rugs onto the new van's roof and went to the car wash.  No specialty rug racks were to be found, so we heaved the rugs over the partition walls in the car wash slots and soaped them up good.  I'm sure that an oriental rug dealer would have wet himself to see us using car shampoo on these.

Now, being a forgetful adult with a full day's agenda, it never occurred to me that the kids would see this as a grand opportunity to have a fun with the shampoo brushes and the sprayers.  We took up 3 stalls, and all the sprayers were in use amid much screaming and giggling.  Other customers and passers-by stared in wonder at the scene.  
kids' school.

When we were done, we rolled up the sopping rugs, hoisted them onto the van, and drove them back to campus, dripping all the way. Nick and Sam heaved them over the fence and we unrolled them on the plastic/grate playground at the school that Elisabeth and David attend. We can see them from our balcony. They look lovely.

I suppose some of our other behaviors can be seen in a "redneck" light. We happily drilled holes in the walls this week to hang our paintings and pictures; Sam's conversations with other tenants suggest we're seen as rebels, and our new drill is in demand.

We go to the dumpster nearly every day; today we retrieved a 5-drawer, white dresser from the dumpster.  It needs very minor adjustments to the drawer tracks/wheels and it shall reside nicely on our porch for storing fabric, crafts, and wrapping paper, etc.  I can't imagine why someone tossed it out instead of passing it on or selling it.  Then there are the bunk beds that Nick re-fashioned last week, taking over the Smoker's Patio (to their great chagrin) with his sawdust and power tools; he is certain that there are questions about whether he is really a Professor (a very respected title here) since he appears to be a dumb American who uses his hands instead of just buying furniture.

But you know what?  We're pretty happy about our ingenuity and maybe too proud about being rebellious. And we enjoy our time learning how to make and fix things together. Maybe we are rednecks.  And that's ok.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Two steps forward...: Settling in.

The joys of moving are matched only by the joys of settling in.  Here are some challenges and highlights of the last week (you can judge which is which - I'm not always sure):

(1) Figuring out how to use the appliances. Which are quite nice and shiny-new, but have all their labels and instructions in Korean, which is a bit foreign yet. The washing machine, fridge, A/C, doorbell/video system and heating system (I think that's what it is) are all in Korean.  Some manuals include funny pictures (the fridge being "goosed" is my favorite), but we have drippy ice cubes and super-long laundry cycles that I suspect are not helping with global warming.  Nick's TA (Joorahm) is coming for dinner tonight and will hopefully translate all these for us.

(2)  Hanging stuff up. Our walls and ceilings are concrete.  Covered with a wisp of drywall and semi-gloss wallpaper.  Even if you wanted to pound nails to hang pictures or a clock or something, you can't. And, nice as they are, sticky tack and 3M command hooks can't hold everything, especially on shiny wallpaper that was introduced to glue but doesn't have an intimate friendship.  Being handy Americans (there appear to be approximately 0 handy Koreans, at least of the sort that work on campus), we googled the problem.  Aha!  Cut a V-shape in the wallpaper and fold it out of the way;  use a drill bit designed for cement, use good anchors and screws, and hang away!  When we move out, we can glue the wallpaper back and the holes will be invisible. We have fallen in love our local hardware store - they are stunned that we know what tools and supplies we need. And they let the kids pet the dog, which is a treat - not many dogs around here, at least as pets.

(3) Furniture.  Real wood is very expensive and hard to find, so everything that isn't made of metal or plastic is press-board with a laminated surface.  Coming from a lovely Iowa home with hardwood floors, original oak trim, and antique wood furniture, it's hard to pay money for this style/quality.  Nick, Sam and David cleverly built some bunk beds yesterday out of dead beds salvaged from the campus Place Furniture Goes to Die. They look great (the bunk beds, not the guys - they were a sweaty mess) and are super-sturdy (the beds AND the guys).  This was Sam's highlight of the week.

(4)  Finding mattresses.  Fortunately, Joorahm saved the day by finding a bedding store and translating as Nick shopped and bargained and got a good deal on 2 mattresses plus same-day delivery. Unfortunately, the mattresses that came a few hours later were the wrong size; it seems that the campus bunk beds are a custom size.  Ah, the challenges continue.

(5) Drying clothes.  We have a washing machine, but Korean apartments don't come with dryers - everyone has drying racks on their porches and, when desperate (or lazy, like me), goes to the coin laundry.  Our coin laundry is roughly a block away; at about $1.00 a load it's not bad.  But, the cost of going out in the heat (the public areas of our building don't have A/C and we're in a nearly-record-high heat wave again this week) is more than using a drying rack.  So, we found a broken folding rack by the dumpsters; Nick figured out how to fix it, and voila!  In this heat, stuff dries in a day.

(6) Did I say porch?  I suppose it's more of a balcony.  Floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors take up one wall of our living room; the porch is about 1 meter wide, then another set of sliding doors.  Elisabeth's bedroom window looks out onto the porch, by the washing machine.  The master bedroom has its own set of sliders on the porch.  Tons of southern light (?) pouring in, which is good for the spirits.  I have found some plants by the dumpster, revived them, and those are happy on the porch - I look forward to sitting out there this fall to do some birdwatching at tree-top level.

(7) Boys' report:  David yells, "I got my hair cut this week not at Home Plus {a store downtown}, but at Home MINUS!"  I shall simply retort that he totally deserved what he got. Sam was thrilled to discover that all the cupboards, cabinets, and closets have a shiny white finish that takes white board markers well.  So he entertained us with truly terrible limericks and artwork, mostly on our bedroom closet doors.

(8) Vehicle: Nick bought a used van for us this week.  Happily, we had found a blog about this unique experience so he was mostly prepared for the yelling, grabby salesmen.  The lot outside Seoul had 20,000 cars.  I repeat: 20,000 used cars, for which the salesmen pay $400 rent per day per space - so they're motivated to MOVE those vehicles - and do so honestly, as they can go to jail if they sell a lemon. Nick and his salesman contact (a Christian, connected to Nick's colleague's pastor - that's how things are done here) narrowed the range to 6 vans. After looking carefully for rust and other mysterious Car Stuff, Nick got us a white 2002 Kia Carnival.  Which sounds like a ride at Asian Disneyland. It's wonderful.  I shall not mention here that a wall struck the front bumper today, surprising Nick greatly.

(8) Nick's best moment of the week was our first meal together in our new apartment. In the living room.  Mashed potatoes with a curry sauce.  He also had his 47th birthday here this week - the kids got him a book light, the Hobbit on DVD, and a folding "notebook" grill.  All were wrapped in left-over packing material, as we couldn't find proper wrapping paper.  Are you surprised?  No.  Neither were we.  : )

Friday, August 9, 2013

Moving Day Mantra: "Nope, not surprised"

Moving day bottom line:  
it went really, really well.

But every move comes with glitches.  Which is where the opportunity to laugh (or commit most righteous murder) comes in.  So here are the highlights.

Back story:  Nick moved to Korea in August 2012 and lived in a studio apartment on campus. After returning to Iowa for Christmas/Winter break (nearly 8 weeks), he and Elisabeth returned to Korea in February, expecting to move into the new International Faculty Hall (IFH) as it was due to be finished. False. He and Elisabeth therefore both lived his studio apartment, waiting until the building was done. In March. Then April. In May, for sure!  Sam, David and I sold our house and most of our belongings in May; we packed the rest of our belongings, which were picked up by a moving company and sent via ship to Korea. And still ... no new building. So, the five of us went from a huge house (4 floors) to living in Nick's studio apartment plus two other studios in the same building.  And, at long last, IFH was finished this week! Well, finished enough to have the university start moving some people in, including us.

Keep in mind that the Ship of Belongings was due to arrive in 6-8 weeks (early to mid-July). After much paperwork (copies of all our alien registration cards, passports, customs forms and other documents barely translated into English), our stuff was ready to be released from the port.  It has been 10 weeks, and this may be the best way to live simply - you just don't miss your stuff much once you've lived without it.  Anyway, the international movers could deliver our stuff on the same day that we were moving to our new apartment, which meant one move instead of two.  Hooray!

We rise early and had Dunkin' Donuts to prepare us for the 8:30am arrival of the campus movers (CMs - they would move our stuff across campus) and the 9:30am arrival of the international movers (IMs). Elisabeth and I went to the new apartment to clean the cupboards and floors while the menfolk waited for the movers.

We arrive to see a moving truck parked outside the new building.  If it is ours, they are an hour early.  One man is peeing at the edge of the new parking lot, which has only 10 parking spots, so he's not exactly hiding. We decide they must not be our movers.

We take the shiny new elevator up to the 5th floor, excitedly go past doors 503, 502, and arrive at #501, and ... the door is locked. We haven't been given the entry code. We can't clean or move in.  We go back down, discover the moving truck is open, and there is Sam's bike! We try to communicate with these Korean men that the apartment door is locked and we'll be back; they try to communicate something.  Maybe that they're airing out the truck.  Or waiting for donuts. I don't know.

We went back across campus to inform the the menfolk.  Nick made numerous calls; no one is answering until 9am.  No sign of campus movers.

We get the door code and go back.  Oh.  The furnished apartment has... one bed.  No fridge, stove/oven, couch, A/C, washer, table, chairs, phone.  And the lights don't work.  I like the faux wood floor.  And built-in floor-to-ceiling closets with shiny white doors.  Yup.  Sigh.....

Given our experience in Korea, which is a bizarre combination of say, Nigeria and Silicon Valley, we come up with a mantra.  "Are we surprised?  No. We are not surprised."  And, surprisingly, this helps us laugh. For a moment.

The international movers - two Korean men in their early twenties and a Korean guy in his 50s - are ready to go.  They speak about as much English as I speak Korean, which is less than your average parrot. The two younger guys are in charge of bringing stuff from the truck to the apartment; I am stationed next to the older guy at the door as I check off the box numbers on their forms (some mover from Sioux Center, Omaha, Los Angeles, Busan, or Pohang has put numbers on them). Our conversation goes like this for each box:

Me: "Number?" We both look for it on the box, I announce it in English (which he likes to imitate) and make a show of checking it on my form, then point to the room where he should take it.

Him: "Ok?  Ok!"  or "No numba!" if we can't find one.

Repeat for about 86 boxes.  Or 100 boxes.  It depends on who's doing the paperwork.  I am not surprised. Koreans love paperwork. Have I mentioned that it's over 100 degrees and high humidity?  We sweat in the shade standing still.

Once we're done, I fill out the customer survey (in English!) about mover helpfulness and whether anything is broken. Elisabeth and David have been unpacking some things and we found a broken decorative plate (I'm sorry, Wacousta Pottery!) and a broken chalice (I'm sorry, Carl Huisman!), so I checked "yes" on "broken items." This was apparently Not Ok.  Well, I did pack my own stuff (insert detailed moving drama here), it's not really their fault that my "fragile" warnings were in English instead of Korean, and it's really not a crisis, so I cross out my "yes" and check "no."  Ok?  Ok! and we share smiles all around.  I notice drops of sweat all over the floor.

We have noticed that the empty and unlocked apartment above us (not scheduled to have any residents this semester) comes fully stocked with furniture.  Later in the morning, we notice a ladder/truck lift at the window right outside our entry door (see earlier blog on campus moving).  They are campus movers, going to and from the window to the apartment above us. Oh, my hopes are rising...  and indeed!  They are removing the upstairs couch, fridge, table/chairs, desk, bookcase, washing machine, and fridge...which they load onto a truck in the parking lot below. Not to our apartment.  I remain fridgeless.  And couchless.  But lo!  I am not surprised.  Nope.

The university has provided us with a 3-bedroom furnished apartment.  We have shipped our queen-bed, but no other bed.  So we need 3 single beds, as Nick stated to the Official Department in February. However, the Official Clipboard Person (OCP) who comes says three-bedroom apartments only come with 1 single and 1 queen.  We did not want the queen so we only get one single. But we have 3 children.  That does not matter.  The OCP sent a memo out 4 months ago about the standard furniture.  Nick is struggling to remain a Christian.  We go to McDonald's for lunch (and the air-con, as they call A/C here) then go bed shopping.  The different stores have ... the same catalog and the same (high) prices for bunk beds and trundle beds.  We'll look on-line.  Sigh...

An hour later, the campus movers move a ladder/lift... to our window!  And then load each item from the truck onto the lift and through the window instead of using the empty elevator (the adorable IMs are long since gone).  They used the truck lift and the awkward window.  Oh my. Koreans do not value convenience or safety measures nearly as much as Americans.  But still.  Ok.  Breathe.  I am not surprised.

Oh, wait, no, I do not want the desk.  We did not ask for a desk.  No.  We already bought one and have moved it in.  I do not want the desk.  I did not ask for the desk.  No.  No.  They ignore me.  And load the desk from the truck to the ladder/lift through the window, past me into Elisabeth's room on top of her monopoly game and blanket.  No.  Take it out.  They are grouchy.  So am I.  But they do it.  Oh, wait!  I also do not want the desk chair.  Or the bookcase. Repeat.  Breathe.  I am not surprised.  But I sure do want a diet coke.

The campus moving men were due at 8:30 and arrive around 2.  Fine.  They haul things up the ladder/lift through the window to our living room. We scuttle them (the stuff, not the CMs) into various rooms, guessing at their content as we've hastily packed with they many suitcases and bags from our travels and the campus dumpsters (thank you, Handong students).  Fine.  It is the hottest/humidest day in galactic history.  By the end of the afternoon, two of us have significant chafing and walk like cactus-prickled cowboys.  No baby powder can be found at the campus store.  Or baking soda or chickpea powder or anything else Google recommends as a substitute.

We eat a wonderful gift of cupcakes for dinner. We have no beds for the boys.  But we have a self-inflating queen mattress (thanks Oma and Opa!). But we forget that the motor is 110v and using an international plug adaptor does not turn the motor into a 220v. which is what Korea uses. A burning smell wafts through the apartment. The motor is shot.  But we can use the handpump from the raft!  Slow and sweaty wins the race. And through the night, the invisible leaks become apparent. I am not surprised.  Sam and his trusty duct tape attempt to make amends, but they finally part ways with a slash of a knife.

Finally, finally, it's time for showers.  In the master bath, there is no curtain or other barrier between the shower and the sink and toilet.  Very European!  One might become hysterical, laughing about the day's dramas, but one must take care not to spray the toilet paper.  The bathroom floor drain, by the sink, is slightly higher than the floor.  So one brushes one's teeth while standing in a puddle.

Exhausted, chafed, and quickly sweaty again (thank you Colliers for the fan!), we are all to bed by 10.  No one can sleep.  Suddenly, my side of the bed breaks with a loud crack.  Apparently,  the support sticks under the slats in the middle had stuck to the vinyl floor when I'd pulled out the bed earlier to access the room's only outlet, which ripped them out of the slats.

We've not all slept in same place, on same floor where we can hear one another since... when?  It's like we're camping.  We share bad jokes, riddles (stinky pinkies!), and my dating history.  It's so, so hot, but we finally drift back to our beds and nearly...

At 11:35pm, someone starts drilling holes in the concrete walls upstairs. When I fall asleep at 12:45, they are still going strong.  But not surprised.

And in the morning I find a little friend in the shower stall. Sam names him Tim.  : )

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Art Museum: Civilizing the Masses

Grieving woman (partially nude); wrestling boys (nude); an abstract sculpture
(very nude and rather graphic from a particular angle, as Sam discovered today);
and butt of family jokes, the elk with a rack of unusual size
Today was our third trip to the Pohang Museum of Steel Art (POMA).  It was the first time, however, that it was actually open.  Key lesson from this experience:  Just because the web says something is open, say, 9-6 every day, does not mean that is true, even if you get a student to translate the Korean and confirm that 9-6 daily are the publicized hours. Apparently, POMA is closed on Mondays. And, for all I know, maybe on alternate Wednesdays or on Buddha's birthday. Ok, maybe it's obvious which stage of "culture shock" I'm in.  : )

Today's experience also refutes the wisdom of my mother.  She always said (to my great teen-age annoyance) that whatever you see a couple doing in public, you can be sure they're doing much more in private.  So, on our previous trips to this nude-and-genitalia steel art all over the POMA lawn, we suspected that what was INSIDE the museum would be even more graphic.  So I talked to the kids ahead of time about what we might see and what proper responses would be: slightly squinted eyes, tilted head, thoughtful nodding, perhaps limited chin/beard stroking while contemplating and discussing the underlying symbols and artist's message.  We were ready for hard questions....

Nope - not a single nude inside.  Some cool pieces, but everyone was clothed.  Here are some pix and commentary, probably well off the mark since I haven't had an art class since roughly 5th grade.  Also, every sign and guidebook and artists's statement was in Korean. Thus reinforcing lesson #48 of Living in Korea: just because the name of the place is in English and it has English on its website does NOT mean ANYTHING on location is in English or that the people working there will know a word of English.

Ok, here we go, no holds barred: here are my favorites (inside and out) for reasons artsy and juvenile.

A four-sided black box, roughly 6' tall and 8' long hung by a cable from the ceiling
and illuminated from the inside.  Human x-rays were cut into seaweed shapes and
colorful fish put on top.  In a darkened gallery, this was stunning.

Giant steel mosquito, taller than Nick and Sam.  Lovely depiction in itself,
but what we could read on the plaque gave hints of much more:
something about lawyers and the colors of the Cameroon flag.  Interesting.

This piece repulsed me, and such a strong emotion
suggests it's an important piece to me somehow.
It's title was something like "Crazy Buggers" and its highly
polished part (see detail) suggests the British
interpretation.  The tree-head puzzled me.

Detail of "Crazy Buggers" - feet
like a monster made of welded washers.  

Detail of "Crazy Buggers" - highly polished
bulldog head.

Tree - made of welded steel strips - about 20' high.  It made me feel happy
and sad at the same time.
Detail of Tree

Detail of Don Quixote (and Rosinante, the horse).  Striking balance and
emotional expression; made of cement and scrap metal.

This one made me grouchy.  It's beautifully crafted
steel, but I wanted to know WHY.  I wanted more clues
to the story.

Colorful cubes, lit from within, suspended from the ceiling over a tiled mirror
on the floor.  Titled "Clouds," it made me happy.