Monday, December 20, 2004

Wrapping things up....

Already, nostalgia of this place is seeping in before ive left. within my departure is burrowed a strange mix of opposed emotions. i believe culture shock will greet me upon my return.

So as the ripples of my stone cast into the pool of Korea will imminently fade, so shall the kernels of my blog. I hope to share some more personal stories with you fair friends, face-to-face, back in brisk minnesota. fare thee well, this blog shall sleep.

Tom Franek

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Piano Exam

So last Friday I took my piano exam. The week leading up to it i put most things aside and practiced maybe an average of 7 hours each day. But Tuesday before taking it i made the mistake of cliping my fingernails. My folly resulted in the fingernails partly wanting to tear from my newly sensative skin. The tension of a fingernail tearing from the finger is not a pleasant one. I amended the problem thanks to some korean friends who introduced me to paper tape. i duly applied it, and indeed it lessened the blow.

The exam itself is in actual fact quite short, a mere 12 minutes of heart pounding...umm, im distracted by the girl next to me in the PC room eyeing herself up with a webcam for the most appealing photo she can possibly get, preparing for chating i suppose. Well, anyway, students are required to prepare 30 minutes of music. I myself prepared maybe 40 minutes, 8 pieces, and they could only hear the beginings of 6.

I entered the cool large room and after a bow (not a performance bow, a traditional bow of respect) towards the 7 or so distantly seated Yonsei piano faculty, I seated myself at the piano...

...I think it went well. Despite all of the practice, there's still things to work on. but im proud of the climactic push.

Monday, November 29, 2004


A while back i traveled to Pusan. From Seoul (north east) it's on the opposite end of South Korea (south east). In the minds of Koreans it's rather far, 5-6 hours by car, but to me that's just a drive from home to the north shore in Minnesota.

Pusan, as it hugs the sea, is quite well known for great raw fish you can buy from fish markets - it's live and ready for you to choose, and they slaughter and fillet it on the spot. We stayed with a Korean friend's relative who lives there, a kind short portly Buddhist lady. She cooked up enoromous feasts during our stay, keeping with the custom which asks that one presents more than the visitor could ever consume. One of our meals consisted of this esteemed seafood, which was met with extreme delight other then one little exception: in front of me sat a spicey fish head soup. The relative claims Koreans find the head to be the best part of the fish, a beloved delicacy. As i wished not to disgrace my host, i indeed consumed all the weird innards of the fish head. I had to chew on the brian for its juices before putting it aside (as is the custom), and ate all the squishy textures and pieces of the eye ball. Apparently many elder Korean men love to chew on fish brain. Luckily i kept it all down and appreciate the experience, but i wont be calling home to tell mom the recipe.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Cell Phone Culture

Among other things, Seoul is a cellular telephone culture. Everywhere you look you see somebody with Mr cellphone. Without execption the younger generation seems to have one in their possession, and often times you'll see the older generation with them too. If you take the subway you'll see at least 5 people talking, playing games, or text messaging on them to pass time. There's seldom a class period that goes by without the murmer of cell phone vibrations, and the clandestine reponses to friends that inevitably follows.

Text messaging is in fact, an intricate skill. One simply watches in awe as they first witness a connoisseur text messager perform their craft. With frightening speed the fingers take on one of those visual effects in which the eye is too slow to process the action (similar to watching a humming bird flutter its wings).

Before coming to Korea, i walked around with adamant aversion to those who needed to walk around with a cell phone pressed to their ear between classes as if it were a cigarette break. I wondered if the people within their proximity were not as worthy of a greeting. Like the movie "Lost in Translation," I felt that people have a million different ways to connect with their expensive little gizmos, but ironically they're distanced by them and can't connect (at least in any intimate sense), and thus all is lost in technological translation.

All of us Oles eventually purchased one. The cohorts insisted upon their importance. when my parents came my dad joked about my hypocricy. I justified my purchase and use of it through cultural argument: when in seoul (wanting to learn their culture), do as the seoulians do. And like it or not, they are neccessary if you want to find a friend in such a big place.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004


As my korean vocab perhaps extends furthest into the depths of weather gab, i engage many in an enthralling meteorological discourse. More often than not, Koreans i speak with prefer the fall season. and with good reason. the summer was way too hot, and they say the winter gusts are freezin'. I even recall a particular gentleman muttering that all Koreans just hunker down and wait all year for autumn: A time when the fall breeze through the canopy of leaves never fails to please, and the nuetral weather allows them to untether those burdens from which they find difficult to sever.

Last weekend i embarked to Mt. Seorak with 3 close friends. Our trip coincided with an abundance of autumnal tints. From a distance the mountain resembled one of those Thomas Kinkade paintings my friends at home chide me for enjoying: a wash of multicolored tones blending into one another, some shaded and others shimmering with dabs of sunlight. Once we hit the hiking trails I discovered we weren't very good hikers, but great loiterers. All too often we were held in our steps, heads upturned at a kaleidoscope of luminated leaves, a swirling mirage, a myraid of mini-stained glass windows. Witnessing the coexistance and interaction of these two natural phenomena (the fall season and the mountain) breathed into us the mental health that i sensed earlier in those who proclaimed their love for autumn.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Pollution and Exercise

I don't believe ive ever seen a korean jogging around seoul. But occasionally I go against the grain and jog in the city at night. The problem is that no matter where you go in the city you'll be hard pressed to find a breath of fresh air. Whenever inclined to take a deep breath one is inevitably met with a putrid whiff of poop (maybe falty, old sewer systems?), cigerate smoke, traffic exaust, fresh throwup, rotting garbage composting on the sidewalk, or worse yet, a combination therein. So while im running i ponder whether or not im benifiting my health or afflicting my helpless lungs. in the end im forced to clasp my lips thereby blocking the mouth's airway to the trachea, and soley focus breathing through my inborn mini-filter: the nose. but since the nose is seemlessly bound to the olfactory capacity, my filter idea requires that i also endure the frequent pungency. i wonder if this polluted double edged sword is what deters koreans from running fanaticism.

Needless to say, I greatly look forward to some fresh air back at home.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Political Ponderings

The irony in studying abroad remains that i feel more in touch with American politics while im on the opposite side of the globe. I suppose this is because the recent Bush/Kerry political debates i've been able to catch mention the homeland almost nil while discussion of possible threats from abroad (where i am) abound. one of those threats to our God blessed nation is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, aka North Korea. As ive been studying the inescapable lock Kim Jung Il has on the people of North Korea through their unique political system which somehow legitimizes what's been deemed the worst of the worst in terms of human rights violations, i feel as though i understand the korean situation better than mr george w bush (who would now want to probably tear down this blog posting under the beloved Patriot Act he wishes to institute). A visit to the last remaining barrier between nations, the DMZ (demilitarized zone), supplied a more subjective emotional value to the current civil war put on hold. Since mr bush doesnt have his eye on the north korean nuclear weapons or the north korean situation but instead quite intently focused on nonexistant implimants of mass destruction elsewhere, one can imagine my joy when i recieved my absentee ballot. i plan to send it off tomorrow.