Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Little Differences

Melanie and I found a great hike just behind our apartment today. So much is the same in the US and Korea, and probably all developed countries - cars and buildings and commerce and marketing and friends and meals and love and struggle. But especially in nature, and especially between Gangwondo and Colorado - both being on the 38th parallel and both being mountainous, so much is the same. But there are also tons of differences, often in the details, and I'm trying to take note of them. Today they seemed to be popping out everywhere, and I had my camera with me, so without further rambling, here are some of the differences you might find on a Sunday afternoon hike in Gangwon-do, Korea as compared with Colorado, USA.

Cars parked on sidewalks (and motorbikes driving on sidewalks... Grrr.)

Enclosed trampolines by the side of the street that kids can pay to play on (a nice alternative to the ubiquitous and ever so popular "PC room").

Weird, unidentified pink fruit...

...that sometimes looks an awful lot like a turkey's head!

Spiky poof balls. Update: We asked a co-teacher, and it turns out these are chestnuts! The nuts grow inside these spiky balls on trees. Now if we can just figure out how to pick and open them safely.

Giant bat-moth-hummingbird creatures.

Lounge chairs on top of a mountain's ridge.

Signs in the wilderness (or this level of confusion from your partner!).

And my favorite, ubiquitous agriculture. This deserves its own post... they grow food everywhere! South Korea is a tiny country (smaller than Virginia) supporting a medium sized population (50 million people) and a gigantic economy (the 13th largest in the world). I heard someone say recently that self-sufficiency in food production is an essential component of national security. Well, Korea is working this one to the max. Between every apartment and sidewalk there are pumpkin vines and pepper plants, next to every parking lot is a plot of onions or soybeans. It's inspiring. I hope that by next spring we will know enough Korean to get involved in cultivating the land with the locals. What better a way to build community, self-reliance and security in the face of an increasingly unstable global order.

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