Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Bushes A'Plenty

All decked out with pants, a light jacket, and a liberal dose of mosquito spray, my parents and I headed out into their woods to pick wild blackberries. Wild turkeys and a variety of birds serenaded us as we walked to our intended destination. Scattered throughout the woods were patches of the berries, just waiting to be picked by the brave. Just beyond the tangle of grapevines, sharp thorns of the canes, and swarms of menacing mosquitoes and horseflies were bunches of the sweet berries. Even with the extra bonus obstacles of stinging thistles, sticktite weeds, and burdocks, we weren't deterred. Our reward: enough wild blackberries for a dessert and plenty more for eating fresh. 

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Knitted Caps for the Lost Ones

While working on a travel book, I did a little online research on some statues I had seen at several temples in Japan. The red knitted caps on the figures, particularly little children, had caught my eye. These are known as Jizo statues, and are found in the temple courtyards. In the mizuko kuyō (literally meaning "water fetus," ceremony, special memorial services are conducted for families that have lost a child due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or abortion.

A bib or necklace is first made, followed by some chants to Jizo, the bodhisattva who protects children.  The ceremony is conducted by a Buddhist priest and may be done to comfort the mourning parents or the soul of the dead child, address guilt from an abortion, or even out of fear of retribution from a vengeful spirit. 

Outside of Japan, different forms of the practice have also emerged. It can be particularly difficult for a family who has lost a child before it has been born, as modern societies often don't address this loss. While the grieving families will never be able to replace the child through a ceremony or any other action, formal acknowledgement and a place/method to mourn can be very therapeutic. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Night at the Goatcienda

Our Philippines spring break trip started with a flight from Manila to Laoag. We arrived on time and while we were waiting for the owners of the bed & breakfast place to pick us up, decided to purchase a SIM card for a week's worth of service at around $10. Due to a blockage of the town's bridge for a Good Friday procession, it took around 90 minutes (instead of the normal 15 minutes) before the truck was able to pull up to the small airport. Hungry, the friendly family took us downtown to an open market area, where we were treated to fluorescent orange empanadas and sugary drinks.
Although simply furnished, the spacious room had modern comforts such as a shower, internet, and AC. The next morning I awoke early and was greeted by the rural landscape surrounding the Goatcienda. The upper balcony opening framed a magenta bougainvillea and other tropical plants.
A cool breeze was refreshing in the morning. Roosters crowed, accentuated by the barking of some dogs.

The friendly staff at the Goatcienda prepared a hearty breakfast with organic food from their small farm, along with freshly-ground coffee. 
The owner, an American who married a Filipino, gave us a tour of the Permaculture farm. He introduced us to his pigs, dogs, cats, and roosters. 

Even the little piglets were friendly.

After our tour, we were treated to a tour of Laoag.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Mansion Hill Architectural Gems

Keenan Home (1857)
After visiting the Period Garden Park, I spent some time wandering around the Mansion Hill neighborhood admiring the beautiful historical architecture. The area, situated around Gilman and Pickney streets, is an easy walk north of Capitol Square. The plaques in front of some of the homes indicate that they were built around the 1850's, at a time when this was one of the most prestigious neighborhoods of the city. During the 19th century, Mansion Hill (also known as Aristocrat Hill, Yankee Hill, and Big Bug Hill) was home to the movers and shakers of the city, including many successful bankers, railroad lawyers, University regents, professors, governors, mayors, and judges.

Pierce House (1857)
Some, such as the Pierce House (above), are now boutique hotels. Others are divided up into multiple apartments or are offices for lawyers and businesses. 
Keys House (1853)
Sadly, during the 1950s - 1970s, some of the buildings were demolished to make way for restaurants, office buildings, and apartments. While on my walk, I even found a sign indicating that it was once the site of a boyhood home of Frank Lloyd Wright. 
In 1977, the Mansion Hill neighborhood was designated as a historical district, which encouraged the preservation of its historical buildings. Today, it has the largest concentration of intact Victorian homes within Madison.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Period Garden Park, Madison

On this cloudless summer morning, I set out to visit the Period Garden Park. Located at the intersection of Gorham and Pickney in the Mansion Hill District of Madison, the small park is on land that was once the front lawn of the Elisha W. Keys House. This house, pictured above, was built between 1853-1854. 

In 1972, the plot (which at the time was a parking lot) was slated to be redeveloped as a 30 unit efficiency apartment building, which surely would have hidden the newly-designated historical landmark of the Keys house. Members of the community along with funding by the city and state governments helped secure the purchase of the land for a park.
Through the work of volunteers, the garden has been maintained. Over $10,000 worth of perennials, shrubs and trees have been added since 2007. 

The park has been designed to look like a typical garden that the neighborhood once enjoyed. Wrought iron from the time period was moved from a cemetery to the location. The sandstone steps are listed as original, and are typical of that era, as are the brick walkways. 
If visiting the Capitol area, the Period Garden Park is a pleasant, quiet reprieve in the heart of a historic neighborhood.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Melons and a Meow

As if to maintain the symmetrical ordered structure of the scene, the cat sits in the middle of the paneled doorway at Bongwonsa temple. Next to it are some yellow Korean melons and other shrinkwrapped fruit that would likely be used for the upcoming celebration. Perhaps the cat was intent on getting a front-row seat! 

Monday, June 06, 2016

Heunginjimun Gate, Seoul

While waiting for nightfall when the LED roses would light up at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, I walked with a friend across the street to the Heunginjimun Gate. What a contrast - from the spaceship-like ultramodern steel building of the Plaza to the stone and wood structure of the gate. 
Meaning "Great East Gate," Heunginjimun Gate was the major Eastern gate for the wall that surrounded Seoul during the Joseon Dynasty. Now it sits amidst the ultramodern skyscrapers, huge electronic displays, and a plethora of markets.  

As written on the sign in front of the gate:
Heunginjimun was the east gate of the capital city of Seoul and was built in 1398. The current gate was rebuilt in 1869. This large gate in the east was inscribed with the letter "ji," meaning wisdom. An arch type passage was created in the embankment linked to the fortress wall, and a fortress gate was built at the gatehouse erected on the passage. The gatehouse is a two story building of a type which can only be found at Sungnyemun and Heunginjimun, among the fortress gates of Seoul. The gatehouse was where the commander stayed to hold the gate and was used as a command post in times of emergency. 

Walls built with bricks and windows made of wooden plates were installed outside the gatehouse to defend the city against its enemies. The gatehouse of Heunginjimun clearly shows the architectural characteristics of the 19th century which includes a simple structural assembly and various decorations. In addition, a crescent shaped revetment was built in front of the gate to defend against invaders, and this revetment can only be found in this gate in Seoul.

The Heunginjimun Gate, also known as Dongdaemun Gate, is the Korea's National Treasure No. 1. 

Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Sun Sets in the East

The apartment is as bare as it was when I arrived. My belongings are in the suitcases, ready for tomorrow's long journey back to Wisconsin. After four years in Korea and sixteen years overseas, it's time to say goodbye. Lots of hugs, some tears, and plenty of dinner gatherings have taken place these last few weeks. Packers have quickly wrapped up and boxed the many mementos I have carefully collected during my many travels to over 32 countries.  The numerous to-do lists have been completed and the art room is all tidy, ready for the next art teacher to inspire creative minds at SFS. 
The last sunset I will see at SFS has come and gone. This beautiful campus has been such an inspiration for so many photos, transformed in the change of seasons. I will forever cherish the memories that I have of the splendid people and places at SFS, Seoul, and South Korea. I hope to return someday. For now, the sun has set in the East of my world.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Rainbows All Around Me

Reflection of the lanterns and a large Buddha statue through the window of the temple
Jogyesa Temple is a magical place in early May. This is when the place is all decked out for Buddha's birthday. In addition to the large hanji lantern sculptures and flowers, the courtyard is bathed with a rainbow canopy of lanterns. Some are arranged in striped rows of colors, while others help spell some words in hangeul. Tags dangle from the lanterns, bearing the name of donors. Such color to behold!

Rainbow canopy through the big tree

Lanterns framing a central pagoda

Canopy with hangeul lettering