stardust expect me when you see me


Some pics here.

So on Friday, I took the day off and decided to go to Gonju. It was just an hour and a half from Seoul by bus so it seemed like a good day trip if I didn't push it. My only problem is that I've developed a bit of plantar fasciitis from all the walking I do and because I have low arches so I've been trying to rest, but I also have tons of places I need to go. I won't be able to rest until I get back to the US basically. Anyway, getting to the express bus terminal was a pain in the arse, but catching the bus was easy enough. I got to Gongju around noon and had some shrimp fried rice (bokkumbap) for lunch. Then I bought some chesnut pastries. I was looking for ice cream but they didn't have me but the shop owner heard me muttering about it and gave me a different kind of chilled chesnut pastry. I then tried to find the bus that went to the archaeological sites but I couldn't figure out where it was so I gave up and took a taxi.

I went to the Songsan-ri tombs and the site of King Muryeong's tomb (who is probably the most famous of the Paekche kings). The weather outside was gorgeous if rather hot so it was nice to be inside the museum on site and explore their fake tomb sites. I then headed up to the tombs. The path was being reworked so I'm not sure if we were supposed to walk on it but a group of Japanese tourists were so I blended in with them. I climbed all the way up the hill, had an amazing view (see pics), and then saw a sign to the Gonju National Museum which was the other place I wanted to visit. Rather than going back down the hill and walking around it, I just followed the path down the other side of the big hill. Thus accidentally going up and over a small mountain. Oops. On the way down, I saw a unified Silla tomb and a deer that was so overheated it just sat there while I walked by. The path was steep going up and going down but it really did bring me out right next to the museum. I headed inside, refilled my water bottle and headed to the second floor because a huge, noisy school group was there and I wanted to look at King Muryeong's tomb artifacts in peace. I passed them going by while making my way to the first floor and going backwards through the exhibit. This worked rather well since it's not like I don't know a lot about the artifacts anyway.

From there, I headed out towards the parking lot, hoping to find some taxis loitering. None were to be seen, so I accidentally wandered into a replica of the Chosun administrative areas and then into the Gonju Hanok village full of old traditional houses. Everyone was lingering inside to avoid the heat so I almost gave up and tried walking back towards the station but my feet were killing me and after wandering for a bit I spotted a convenience store. I bought an ice cream, a sports drink to replenish my electrolytes and asked for the local number for a taxi. I then sat in the shade, enjoying the village and my ice cream before calling a taxi. One came quite quickly and picked me up and brought me back to the bus terminal. 20 minutes later and I was back on a bus towards Seoul. I was exhausted by the time we hit the express bus terminal so I stopped to have some Myeongdong kalkuksu, which is meat and noodles soup, presumably in the myeong dong style (or from the famous store there). That replenished my electrolytes some more before I made the long journey home, pretty much limping from all the subway line changes. But I made it home by 7pm. Not bad for a day trip.

My feet hurt, but it really was a lovely trip and such a beautiful day.
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Delhi Redux (Dec 10th 2014) - finally got around to posting this

We had to wake up pretty early to get to the airport which was not the best since I did not sleep well. We woke up to freshly fried dosas (kinda like crepes) with masala dipping sauce for breakfast which we scarfed down before paying for the room and catching our taxi. The flight back to Delhi was interesting only because we were on one of the new 787s and the smartglass on the windows plus the slightly redefined layout were interesting to see. I mostly read the Visni Puri novel and R. read her own.

Once in Delhi we took the taxi back to the Fulbright house and stored my luggage there (though we were later informed we weren’t supposed to do that *shrugs*). We then walked for about ten minutes to the Jantar Mantar which I always wanted to see. It’s a series of observatories which were built in 1724 to examine various celestial phenomenon but it looks like a modern art display. It didn’t take long to visit and disappointingly, you can’t climb up any of the steps you can see. Oh well. From there we caught a rickshaw to do the one other thing I wanted to do while in India – namely, see an Ashokan pillar. I’d been hoping one had been brought to Delhi so I could see one and R. found out where it was. It was over in old Delhi at Feroz Shah Kotla Fort, which was part of a city founded by a Shah in 1354.

We were expecting to explore an old fort and see the pillar. Instead, the place was teaming with people, birds (kites I believe), and smoke. There wasn’t a ticket taker in sight but we were once again the center of attention. I had to hold my breath even to get in since there was a massive fire being burnt right near the front. Once through there, we wandered, admiring how thick the walls were until we found our way to the foot of the building the pillar perched on. It was even more crowded here since everyone had to fit into the ancient walkways and stairs to get anywhere. Opposite it was a mosque which although in ruins was still being used for worship. I had to hold my breath and dash around a lot because in every single alcove they were burning flowers and incense and saying prayers. R. and I were really confused. It also took us awhile to find the steps up to the pillar since they were cleverly hidden. R. bailed out on the lower level so I headed up on my own after actually finding the proper stairs. Once up there, the pillar was amazing to see even if it is a little broken. I liked that someone had carved an elephant into it at some point. The people meanwhile, were tying letters to the pillar, leaving offerings and reaching in to touch it. I was also mobbed by children as I always seemed to be when left alone (kids just really like me, go figure). Once I took their pictures and made my way down, I told R. it was easier to get up then we thought so we went up again. Some cheeky kids kept getting closer and closer to us while we were up there and even poked my bum at one point. *sigh*

We made our way out of there, with me holding my breath and dashing through smoke filled areas, though I figured an asthma attack due to smoke was inevitable at this point (and I was right though it held off until I was on the plane). We headed back to the Fulbright building and in the half hour before my taxi to the airport arrived, looked up what was going on. Turns out my ability to stumble on festivals is ridiculously good. On Thursdays, and only Thursdays, Indian Muslims go to that site to ask the djinn which are thought to inhabit the stones, with the head djinn being in the pillar to grant their wishes. We had a 1 in 7 chance of encountering them but since it was Thursday the 11th, we got in free and got to experience the djinn worship. Turns out it’s a pretty interesting phenomena which only started in 1977 and one of R.’s friend’s friends wrote their Phd thesis on it. Small world, huh?

We said goodbye and I caught my taxi who got me to the airport in good time. Once there, I bought a few more souveniers since I didn’t feel like changing my money and a surprisingly tasty and colourful meal from Curry Kitchen. I managed to get a few hours of sleep on the plane back, which stood me in good stead for the ridiculously long transfer procedure at Shanghai Dupong airport. Our gate was freezing due to improperly closed doors, and even with all my layers just sitting there for an hour and a half waiting for my plane had me shivering. (I couldn’t really buy anything since I only had enough Chinese money left to buy some water.) I watched some of Twin Peaks but kept getting distracted so I was glad when our plane finally loaded. The flight was quick, and I was on the airport train back to my apartment within a half hour of landing. Of course, it was snowing when I got off the subway so I was freezing since I hadn’t been able to pack a winter coat but I rushed home. I took a shower and did my laundry, hoped my sore throat wasn’t an actual cold and went to sleep. Turns out it was a cold (the same one R. got in the last days of our trip, I’d wager) which I am still recovering from, so I’ve spent my time hibernating.

(It took me about two weeks to recover from the cold and the trip in general. Had a great time though.)
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Gyeongju plus a rant about MERS

I estimate that about 10% of the population are wearing masks because of MERS. Not only is this weird to see considering it isn't spread by air unless in hospital conditions, but it pisses me off how many of them are wearing them improperly. I have to wear a mask whenever the air quality is poor so I've gone through a lot of masks finding one that works against the yellow dust and pollution. These people buy cheap masks which don't even seal to the sides of their mouth and somehow think that it's any use whatsoever. Then there's the idiots who pull down the masks so their noses are exposed. And let's not forget the woman who got on the train next to me, while not wearing a mask, then put on the mask for the duration of the ride, only to take it off before she got off the train. In what world would that have been helpful? It makes me want to not wear a mask in order to not be lumped in to the 'paranoid and stupid about MERS' crowd.

So, I went down to Daegu and Gyeongju this past week to do some research. I'd been to Daegu and the museum before and was just taking impressions of the drill holes of beads which I had already examined. This took a few hours, then I caught the express bus to Gyeongju (which only takes about an hour). Gyeongju was the former center of the Silla Kingdom during the Three Kingdoms Period and this was my first chance to visit. I took another short bus ride and checked into my hotel. This hotel, called Mini Hotel 141 is the only one I could find in Gyeongju that was explicitly non-smoking. Considering my asthma is highly triggered by smoking, it was necessary to pay whatever it took to stay in a hotel that was smoke free. Luckily, this one was only about ten dollars more than the cheaper hotels and it's location close to the train station put it close to a lot of the attractions. I got there and discovered that it was also a really nice hotel which provides toiletry kits, and even had a western style towel (this is amazing, believe me). I headed out then to find the mounded tomb park, which, since there was a tomb viewable from the corner near the hotel, I assumed wouldn't be too hard. As luck would have it, I just followed the trail of tombs to hit the park right around the sunset.

I headed inside of the actual park and just wandered around the tombs. I checked out the inside of the Cheonmacheong tomb, which was full of replicas but fun to see laid out. I ended up explaining what was there to a Korean family who was there and who didn't understand the layout and what was what. I then wandered to the far end of the park and did a giant circle before heading back out of the gate I entered in. I then headed back into town proper, ending up on the fashion streets. I got some spicy beef fried rice for dinner and an ice cream which I ate when I got back to the hotel. I watched Korean tv for a bit, marveling about how there are two channels for watching pro Go players and two channels for watching pro video game players. (At one point they were playing a game which hilariously looked like Yugioh as played by Kaiba and his holograms.) Then I went to sleep early because I had to be up early to get to the archaeological center.
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stardust expect me when you see me

My research in Korea

So far I have a trip to Busan next week and two museums to visit, with a possible third still pending. I plan to visit the Busan national museum while I’m down there just to see it and, of course, Busan Spa Land (because I am a sucker for jjimjilbang).

Then the next week I visit a museum in Daegu and an archaeological research centre in Gyeongju. I’m really excited about seeing Gyeongju for the first time since it’s got such amazing archaeological and historical sites. I think I’ll stay an extra day or two and see the sights.

Once those are all done, I only have 2-3 more museum visits to schedule and they have to be done after June 15th because the artifacts are not available until after then, so not bad.

I am pleased to say I have had to start my second fieldwork notebook. 75 artifacts down. Who knows how many more to go?
stardust expect me when you see me

Life, new zealand, asthma issues, busy busy busy

I am so behind on updating anything related to recording my life like this journal and sauronchan's tumblr. *sigh* I really need to write about the rest of my India trip and about how awesome my New Zealand trip was, but I'm not sure if I can find the time. I still have tons of things to do before my grant ends. So maybe I can fit in a summary here at least.

So, my New Zealand trip was amazing. For the first time in my life, almost nothing went wrong on my trip. One of my buses was late but that's pretty much it. I saw all the things I wanted to see from a Maori village to the glow worm caves to Weta cave. I bathed in volcanic hot springs in Rotorua and hiked up Mt. Victoria in Wellington to see where LOTR was filmed. I had some amazing food and lived off of cheap avocados when I wasn't splurging. The flight in on a new 787 was very comfortable, and my flight out through Thailand allowed me to stop for some delicious pad thai with river prawns and a massage before heading back to Korea.

I got back and discovered that Spring in Korea brings the yellow dust or hwang sa which comes over from China on the wind. Turns out that with my asthma, I can't deal with an air quality index over 100 and Seoul was hitting that three or four times a week at one point (it's down to 1-2 right now), so I became a hermit after going to the hospital and being told that going from one asthma attack a week to one a day wasn't an escalation of symptoms *headdesk* Went on singulair, started tracking the aqi religiously via an app on my phone and I now carry a mask around to wear, plus showering as soon as I get home seems to have brought me back to one attack a week, but it took me about two months to get to that point.

In the middle of all this, pretty much every single thing I needed to do become urgent. I had three different conference presentations to prepare for and present at, a 5000 word paper to write, a major scholarship application which I had to write and submit (plus get references and fill out multiple other documents), and my mother and little brother came to visit for a week. So there was about a solid month of stress even if I did enjoy my family's visit.

Probably the most interesting thing I did during that month is I went to Jeju to present at the Fulbright conference. Jeju is an island off the south coast of Korea and is kinda their Hawaii. It's a volcanic, tropical island where I had some amazing sea food. I had a seafood smorgusboard with amazing abalone cooked right in its' shell so you had to cut it out with scissors. So tender. The island is famous for oranges, particularly ones with a rather knobby end called halla-bo which are amazing. My friend and I bought a crate of 18 and ate half of them before we left. They taste like sweeter, less citrus tangerines. We also explored a lava tube which was pretty cool to see. Of course, then I caught a cold and had to give my second conference/forum presentation while coughing up my lungs. There is a hilarious video of it online (which I am not going to link to, but if you want to hear an hour long talk about Korean archaeology, leave a comment and I'll send you the link).

I've just requested an extension of my grant period for an extra six weeks so I can get to more museums. So it's back to spending my time analyzing data and trying to look at as many artifacts as possible before I run out of time. Ja ne!
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A dream

I had a dream last night that I went to this coastal town to help with some sort of clean up. I was directed by the locals to stay at this boarding house run by a fairly strict middle aged woman. There were a lot of young women arriving and they were with a different group than the one I was supposed to be working with but it seemed a nice enough place to stay. After laying down the rules and socializing a bit, I went to claim a bed. This was rather hard to do since none of the beds were pristinely tucked in so I had to look around a bit before I found one that, although not tucked in, had no belongings around it. I presumed it was free and settled in for a long sleep (I was awake for hours today resetting my sleep schedule so even my subconscious was obsessed with sleep).

I woke up and found an unfamiliar young man sitting on the bed which was next to mine. He complained that I'd slept in his bed and I responded he should have claimed it better. We bantered a bit and he told me he liked me so I should enjoy my present and gestured at a massive thunderstorm out the window which was encroaching on the nearby city. I rolled my eyes and got dressed and went downstairs where I was dragged with all the other young women to a massive warehouse where we were going to practice our duties or something. Once we were in order, the young man appeared again and scolded the woman who owned the house for her lack of respect and that she was lucky he liked me. She then proceeded to tell us that he was a ghost who haunted the boarding house and that anyone who slept in his bed suffered and she probably should have warned us. For some reason I wasn't worried and instead pointed out his present of a storm. Everyone panicked and headed back to the boarding house. Once I got there, I was in a bit of a trance and went back to my bed and grabbed a gray cloak which I only vaguely remembered bringing off a peg then headed outside. The young man was with me and he urged me to imagine the cloak growing larger and covering me from the storm. I did and was suddenly in the heart of the storm, floating and enjoying myself. It gets a bit hazy after that but once the storm passed the young man explained that he wasn't a ghost but one of the fey like Robin Goodfellow and I was one of the fey in disguise with my powers and former life hidden and dormant in order to experience a mortal life. Also, we were going to have a lot of fun now that I was here. I went thoughtfully back to the boarding house to gather my things, finding the bed I'd slept in was gone and the people there hadn't realized I'd been out riding the storm. Then the dream sunk deeper and I can't remember anymore.

Sorry for the lack of posts recently. I've really got to finish my India diary and post my trip to New Zealand as well but I've run out of free time and have a ton of things to do before mid April. So maybe I'll be able to post more then. Ja ne!
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Hampi to Bangalore Dec 9th

We were unwilling to brave the sleeper train again so instead we stayed the extra night in the hotel and caught a taxi to Bangalore the next day. This cost us $50 each instead of the $20 for the sleeper train so it really wasn’t a bad deal and we would have had to waste most of the day recovering from the sleeper train in Bangalore anyway so a six hour drive in the morning wasn’t too bad. We stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant whose power was out for most of our meal. They had really tasty vegetables which were kinda curried and pickled a bit. Might have been ocra but I’m not sure. Didn’t like their sauces much, but I had a fresh orange juice there which was really odd because it was an Indian orange which are more creamy and less citrusy. We then headed onwards and got into Bangalore around 4 and eventually found the little B&B we were staying in. We settled in, enjoyed the free and fast internet (internet in Hampi was 50 cents an hour for one device which wasn’t much but wasn’t worth the effort to get a passcode for more than an hour each night) to find a place to eat then went out shopping. I picked up the ‘unusual’ spices requested by my little brother as a present and picked up some chai spices and almond tea mix for me since that way I can make it non-caffeinated.

We ate at this great brew pub (which may well be India’s only brew pub) called Toit. It was my last night in India so we indulged. We had two appetizers of breaded and fried mushrooms and onion rings (a rarity in India). Both of us had two beers, and I was surprised to find one I really liked (I’m picky about beer) called the Tintin Toit which was a Belgian style beer. For dinner, R. ordered the hamburger with bacon and it was so massive she couldn’t finish it. I, after much deliberation, ordered the steak because how often do you get a steak for $6? It turned out to be an amazing choice. Whatever they did to marinate it and tenderize and cook it was just perfection. This was seriously one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life. After that, we ordered the desert fondue plate. We hadn’t realized how huge it would be (I think it was meant to be for four people) so we just had to pick our way, mostly devouring all the fruit dipped in chocolate and ignoring the cake bites. The marshmallows were pretty good though. The entire meal set up back about $25 each which is nothing compared to what it would have cost us in the US so we were pretty pleased, and a bit tipsy *L*

We went back to our B&B and took our showers. I repacked since I was leaving India the next day and we settled in for the night.
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Hampi Day 2 - Dec 8th

This was my favourite day of the trip. My digestive troubles were gone and we’d seen about half of the main places to see in Hampi so we could take it easy (the travel guides tell you that you need a week to see Hampi but I’m not sure how because even if you go to see the temples across the river we would have managed it in 3-4 days. And I’d suspect your average tourist would get a lot more bored of yet more temples than we did.) We hired another taxi driver for the day and this one only spoke some basic Hindi and even less English.

He took us first to the first of two Ganesha images in the area. It was surrounded by huge boulder so I left R. and her leg to rest and hiked over to see them and take silly pics. After that, he took us to a nearby temple which I think was the Sri Krishna temple. It was uncrowded for a bit until a massive group of school children arrived. Around the corner we walked down a pleasant path beside a stream to see the Ugra Narasimha image which was awesome and impressively intact for something carved in 1528 and left out in the elements. Right next door to it was Hampi’s 3m tall Shivalinga, surrounded by water because everyone needs to see a massive penis and vagina at least once in their life. We took a break then to have some fresh coconut juice (which I don’t like but R. enjoyed it) and get some freshly pressed sugar cane juice. When I was a kid, I once helped harvest sugar cane and make sourgum molasses so I must have tried the cane juice then, but I sure don’t remember it tasting so amazing. Might be the different type of cane too.

From there, he took us to the Hazara Rama temple which was on the other side of the King’s Palace complex. It had some decent sculptures including some black pillars inside, and the Ramayana was depicted along the exterior inner walls, though they were weirdly built over in places. From there, we asked him to take us to the Underground Shiva temple so called because it pretty much sits below ground level at this point. It was still a bit flooded from the monsoon which made it cool to explore, but didn’t have any of the beautiful carvings that the other temples boast.
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