Sunday, October 30, 2005

Hunting & Gathering

Can I be the only one who thinks it's just plain wrong that the Tous Les Jours bakery is closed on Sunday?

Oh, well. And it's not a translation thing because the sign is in English. Or, well, French. I meant the Roman alphabet. Funny, I hadn't thought about that before, that the two bakery chains Tous Les Jours and Paris Baguette are both actually written in French, although I think of them as being "in English" because they're not in hangeul script. They are everywhere in Daegu. I am fond of lunching at the ones by work (where there's one of each). But as for my bakery on the corner, I was out of luck this morning.

I have decided to allow myself the treat on Sundays of eating at a Western restaurant (TGIF, Outback Steakhouse, and any others I can find). This probably disappoints some people I know, but such is life. I will also freely admit that I have been frequenting Dunkin' Donuts in the mornings. It's as if I never left Boston! The Dunkin' Donuts thing, though, is one to which I see no alternative for getting a coffee. There are a billion coffee shops here, but not as we know them in the states. They're great: comfy seating, food, and beer, too, in addition to the coffee, but they are a nighttime hangout! They are not open for the morning fix.

I will also just declare right now that I did visit the Starbucks. Only once so far. Regrettably it is not on the way to work, but one can hope that when one moves to one's new place in a few weeks it just might be. Starbucks is in central Daegu in the bustling shopping nightlife fun times district on the second-floor of a big bookstore called Kyobo Books. The bookstore has some English books and a very Barnes & Noble feel. That's right, Barnes & Noble. I wanted to cry tears of joy when I stepped into that Starbucks. They served me my grande iced latte in a glass! I might go there once a week.

Finally, to complete my fall from grace, I located a Subway (the sandwich place) and I decided life here would work out after all. It is conveniently located down the block from the subway (the train station) so my new system is to walk to work, as before, but take the slightly-out-of-the-way subway to Subway on the way home. Way way way way cool. This week I had reached my breaking point with the Korean food, I think. It is just not my cup of tea (pun oh-so-intended). With the notable exception of the vegetable pancake-like thing I had at Gatbawi. And then, Subway appeared and it was like the heavens opened up and I heard glad tidings of great joy: "Fear not, for you shall bring forth a vegetarian sandwich to your home each day, and if you get a 12-inch, you can have dinner for the next day, too." And so it is. I seriously think I will eat there every day, at least until we move. So, for one month I will, aspiring only to be as cool as that Jared dude who ate at Subway every day for a month and now his pants are way too big.

I am aware that this gets me some demerits in the intrepid traveler record book. Demerits I can live with. The clam in my tofu, I can live without.

In Outback Steakhouse, there was random restaurant music playing overhead, including English pop, soft rock, R & B, and then, suddenly, some rap. Serious rap. Now, I know that all things hip-hip are cool here, but this was the unedited version of some seriously intense rap. It was so jarring to be sitting in a restaurant and suddenly hear "the mother f-in this and the n-word that" and to look around and realize that no one had any idea how, well, inappropriate it was. It was really amusing. It was weird to imagine what exactly it sounded like to native Korean speakers, how innocent it clearly must seem, compared to how loaded the words are for me and my fellow native English speakers.

Before I went in search of my bloomin' onion, I visited the Daegu National Museum this afternoon. It was just lovely. It is a nice brick building with grounds that include a flower garden, poetry garden, medicinal plants garden, traditional dye plants (including indigo!) garden, and so on. Inside there are art and artifacts on display from the Daegu region and the Gyeongsangbuk-do province. They come from various periods in this area's history, going as far back as the neolithic. Neolithic! !!! That's 10,000 B.C.E.! I couldn't believe I was staring at pottery and spearheads from more than 10,000 years ago.

I learned a lot about the development of the different styles of pottery from each of the different kingdoms and from the unified Three Kingdoms period. The archaeology gallery was fascinating, but I must admit my favorite was the Buddhist art history gallery. There were Buddha statues of all sizes -- again, really old -- plus bells, gongs, metalwork, jewelry, and even a big carved dragon head that once sat atop the flagpole of a temple. Some of the pieces had really intricate carvings of the lotus flower, which is the symbol of Buddhism, and I finally learned why it's the symbol of Buddhism (duh!): it is supposed to represent overcoming the evils and suffering of this world, just as the lotus emerges from the swamp to become a very beautiful flower. Isn't that nice?

Except when the occasional rambunctious child ran screaming by, delighted by his voice echoing through the gallery, I was pretty much in a reverie as I wandered from room to room and display case to display case. I kept finding myself staring transfixed at a 9th-century earring, or at the model scenes of Confucian ceremonies in the Traditional Folk Life gallery. I was so struck by the long history of this country and all the remnants of it that I can walk in and look at, six inches from my face. The museum really got me thinking about life, in the sense of just what do we leave behind?

I remember doing an exercise in elementary school (SAGE, for those to whom that means something) where you were reading about an imagined archaelogical excavation and it turns out they're way in the future unearthing things like golden arches. What will the archaeologists think about Dunkin' Donuts? What if they think it started in Korea and spread to New England? Will they understand what a Chinatown is? And are we going to stop keeping written and printed records because everything is on computer chips? Will we revolutionize communication so much that we unwittingly lose the ability to communicate with the future? Or will they just travel back in time to learn what they need to learn?

1 comment:

jnap said...


Your musings are good. I am always reminded of "The Motel of the Mysteries." And, remember that while science is very good, there are still many mysteries of the past to which we are just spectators guessing....

Yes, if there is no written word, no message, we just guess. (Good guesses are still guesses.)