Tuesday, December 9, 2014

격세지감 (隔世之感)

When I decided to bid farewell to my former life, I needed an unfamiliar place to start anew. Korea was the natural choice since, for three years, I put all my heart to learn the language. Despite moving to a place with different language, food and circle of friends, I have grown to like them all. To arrive at a life-changing decision was never easy but to be able to smile more and to hope and dream again, it well worth the leap of faith six years ago.

Location: Cheonggyecheon (청게천, 淸溪川)
Event: "Digital Garden" by Miguel Chevalier
Date: 24 February 2009

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

명약관화 (明若觀火)

It was a cold late autumn night when Gyeongbok Palace first opened its doors to visitors after sunset. The recently restored Gwanghwamun welcomed excited visitors with its pompous display of lights and colours befitting its royal standing. Gleeful crowd and enthusiastic photographers formed a steady stream into the palace ground for an experience that even the Joseon royalties could only dream of.

But what I remember fondly wasn't the alluring night scenery of Gyeongbok Palace; it was something better, a remark left by a friend after she read the posting on my night out at the palace. "You're in Korea?", she wrote. It was a simple question but I was full of gratitude. Thank you for remembering me.

Location: Gwanghwamun (광화문, 光化門)
Date: 10 November 2010

Monday, November 17, 2014

천진난만 (天眞爛漫)

A dog was told a paradise exists at the end of the world. It decided to embark on a long journey in search of it. After three years of travelling and many difficulties, it finally reached the end of the world. However, there was no paradise; there was only an ocean and a cliff. The dog fell into despair. Just then, an artic tern hovered above it.

"Hi there, I've never seen a dog in this part of the world in the last twenty years. You're awesome."

"Sigh, I've been fooled. There is no paradise at the end of the world."

"I've circumnavigated the earth twenty times, I know for sure there is no paradise on earth. However, when I revisited the "end of the world" every year, it looked more and more beautiful and more like paradise to me. The place has not changed but I have. Look inward, I believe the paradise is already in you."


An art installation of a dog standing "precariously" at the edge of its path caught my attention. As I moved closer to it, a view of Seoul in late autumn opened out before me. I was content seeing Seoul from afar. As the saying goes, "멀리서 보면 더 아름다운 세상".

Location: Naksan (낙산, 駱山)
Date: 15 November 2010

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

낙엽귀근 (落葉歸根)

"Fallen leaves return to roots", I was told. Walking under a gingko tree which has just been gently caressed by the autumn breeze, a fallen leaf landed on my outstretched palm. I could have stopped nature from taking its course, but I did not; I tilted my palm to let it fell so that it could go on to fulfill its destiny. The beauty of autumn should not be disturbed.

Location: Jeonju Confucian School (전주향교, 全州鄕校)
Date: 11 November 2010

Sunday, November 9, 2014

질풍노도 (疾風怒濤)

The air was cold, the wind strong and the waves raging. No one would like to find themselves in the sea at this time, but do we always have a choice? In times of turbulence, we struggle, kick hard to stay afloat, gasp for air while being tossed and rolled on waves helplessly. Our inner voice alternates erratically between despair and hope as our sanity hit rock bottom. Disoriented, we lost sight of where the shore was and tempted to resign ourselves to the force of elements. "Resistance is futile", they said.

I stood at a distance slightly further than the furthest reach of the frothy waves. No matter what, the surf could not hit me. The sea was more interesting when it was rough than calm. The sound of oncoming waves crushing on the receding ones was music to my ears. I wanted to take a deep breath but the air was too chilly. As the sun set, temperature dropped lower. It was time to turn back, leaving the tumultuous times behind. Tomorrow, I would wake up early for the sunrise and morning breeze.

Location: Jeongdongjin (정동진, 正東津)
Date: 31 December 2012