Monthly Archives: October 2010

Busan, South Korea: A Photo Journal

Gwangmyeong Station Korail:From Seoul to Busan in under three hours

Busan is a fantastic vacation spot, especially in September when most of August’s vacation goers have returned to their regular homes, a new school year or their regular work routine.

The pace in Busan is comparatively slower and the atmosphere more relaxed than Seoul. In September, the water is still warm and the beaches are less crowded. The swimming beach at Hundae is clean and has many restaurants nearby for every taste – lots of foreign food chains as well as local favorites and traditional Korean food. The Hundae area also has a shopping area, a movie theater and an aquarium right on the beach. There are hotels for every family type and all price ranges and all within walking distance of the beach.

Picture of the Korean Landscape (from train window)

Hundae Beach in Busan: World Record for Most Beach Umbrellas at One Time

September is a great time to visit because vacation season is over but the water is still warm

Resort Hotels on Hundae Beach

Lord Beach Hotel: Minutes from the Beach

Lovely Nearby Thai Restaurant

Tasty Appetizers!

Hundae Beach and Resort Area at Night

Out for a Ferry Ride!

Ferry Destination…

Going Under…

Turning Around…

and one last backward glance.

Folks Appreciating Electronic Art: Hundae Beach

Zingara Poetry Picks: The Shadow by Carlo Betocchi

In order to celebrate my love of poetry and ensure that I have plenty of it available to read, I subscribe to many periodicals of both the physical and electronic varieties. Sometimes when reading these periodicals and email subscriptions, I discover a poem that is, in my subjective opinion,  beautiful. Other times I am intrigued by a  poem’s complexity and marvel at its mystery. When I find such poetry, I want to share it with the world, and say “Hey! Look at this great poem!” Whether or not the poem resonates with another person is not within my power, but the possibility that it will is thrilling, as is the way disconnection evaporates when kindred souls recognize each other through a poem. In any case, blogging allows me not only to share the poem but to promote quality poetry while discovering, or rediscovering, great poets.

Here, then, to share my love and fascination with poetry is the first of many future installments of “Lisa’s Poetry Picks.” I don’t intend at this stage to explicate or comment over-much on any of this poetry, though I suspect some poems I post will insist on some response from me. That is, I might share whatever it is about the poem that drew me to it and caused me to want replicate here. Above all, I wish to fully appreciate each poem as well as its poet. Please feel free to make comments and constructive observations about these poems if so moved.

From the March 2010 issue of the “Poetry Foundation’s” Poetry magazine:

The Shadow
by Carlo Betocchi

One spring day I saw
the shadow of a strawberry tree
lying on the moor
like a shy lamb asleep.

Its heart was far away,
suspended in the sky,
brown in a brown veil,
in the sun’s eye.

The shadow played in the wind,
moving there alone
to make the tree content.
Here and there it shone.

It knew no pain, no haste,
wanting only to feel morning,
then noon, then the slow-paced
journey of evening.

Among all the shadows always
joining eternal shadow,
shrouding the earth in falseness,
I love this steady shadow.
And thus, at times, it descends

among us, this meek semblance,
and lies down, as if drained,
in grass and in patience.

Informal Notes on The Japanese Renku

Journal of Ranga and Renku

Here are some very informal notes from the renku workshop I recently attended:

The Renku form is an endless poem consisting of alternating three- and two-line stanzas. The fist stanza consists of three lines while the second contains two lines. This pattern repeats indefinitely, or until a specified and predetermined date and time of its conclusion. Each stanza is written by a different poet and should attempt to change the focus, utilize mixed images, borrow syntax or otherwise surprise any expectations that may have been set up by the previous stanza. The Japanese tradition of Renku suggests the beginning stanzas include compliments about, and generally acknowledge the graciousness of, the host.

Ways for shifting focus and linking stanzas in unusual ways:

1) kotobazuke (link through words): Observe rhymes, existing repetition, puns, familiar phrases, grammar or syntax and carry them through. For example, if the first line of one stanza is something like “The man in the hat,” you may want to consider using the same syntax but with a very different subject, like “The car in the street.” Alternately, free associate with words and images. For example, if the previous stanza has a word like “goggles,” it makes me think of “google,” which makes think of searching, so I may write about searching. If the previous stanza uses a word like “sleep” it makes me think of a rhyme, like “sheep”, so maybe I will include something about sheep (sheep searching, searching sheep, shepherds searching for sheep…)

2) monokuze (shift through things/use contrast): Ask a question to which there is no answer, deepen the observation or present an opposite or contrasting mood. If it’s dark, lighten it. If it’s active, present a still setting, if it is quiet, add some noise.

3) ioizuke,  a.k.a./ “scent” (shift mood or feeling): Like syncopation, add an unexpected element to the mood. Use a metaphor or change the setting.

4) Finally, do not explain connections – resist the temptation to explain the image you have presented.

For our pre-Renku exercises, students worked primarily with the Haiku concept, but we discarded the syllabic restrictions,(as English doesn’t adapt to that parameter very well).

Here are a few of my exercises:


Focus: Deepen. That is, look at it, then took at it some more. Do not explain connections.

Our Prompt: Sheep in a field.

My response:

Sheep in a field
Men on horseback
Un-hitch the barbed wire


Focus: Contrast mood/use opposites

Prompt: Small boat in calm harbor

My response:

Small boat in the calm harbor
breeze echoes the sound
of raised voices


Focus: Ask a question/add a person

Prompt: The cat returns after eleven nights

My Response:

The cat returns after eleven nights
Where are you?

Anyway, you get the idea.

The homework for our class is to “make” a Renku, which has been set up as a blog. My fellow poets and I will be adding to it over the next ten days, and I’m really excited about watching it evolve and grow. I hope you, my blog readers, will take some time to check our project out at:

KC Writers’ Place Renku Project 2010

If you are interested in reading and/or contributing to some really great renku yourself, check out the Journal of Renga and Renku (as pictured above) at:  The Journal of Renga and Renku

The Banana Story: Procuring Produce in S. Korea

Purchasing bananas at the Pyeongchon E-mart in Anyang South Korea can be a little trickier than one might expect.

At first glance, the produce section of an E-mart grocery floor looks pretty much like any produce section in any American grocery or discount department store, except some of the varieties of produce may seem unusual to a foreigner. Persimmons, for example, will appear in produce bins in the autumn, as will arrays of pumpkins of a very different assortment than the large orange kinds we are used to in the United States. In the spring, large purple grapes with skins as thick as a plums and a more tart taste than table grapes typical in America appear beside the most delicious mangoes you’ve ever tasted in your life.

But bananas are as common and equally as loved in S. Korea as they are in the States, and abundantly available in the produce section –  as long as you are shopping several hours before the store closes. This is because produce is stocked once, I assume very early, every day and not replenished. In other words, produce is pretty much first come, first served. So, you can buy all the bananas you want (though buying only a few can prove a little more challenging) as long as there are bananas to buy.

Not being much of a culinary adventurist, and a big fan of bananas, I made sure to grab a generous bunch of them my very first shopping day at the Pyeongchon E-mart before browsing around for other interesting foods and odds an ends for the officetel. When my cart, which, by the way, had multi-directional wheels,  felt sufficiently full, I headed to the rows of cashiers on the ground level to purchase my goods.

There’s nothing unusual about the way E-mart cashiers operate. Just like at home, you wheel your cart into line, wait your turn, then unload your purchases onto the conveyor belt. The cashier then runs the bar code of each item across the scanner and the cash register keeps a running total. Everything was running just as smoothly as can be when suddenly the rhythmic flow of scanner-beeps came to a halt. This is usually indicative that the cashier has come across some bit of produce that needs weighed This is not, however, what occurred in this instance.

The bananas, by then somewhat near the top end of the grocery cart, had finally made their way down the conveyor belt amidst boxes of dry goods and dish towels and were now being held in the right hand of the somewhat confused looking cashier. She looked at me questioningly and I looked at her questioningly, and when that garnered no result or action on either part, I just shrugged my shoulders to convey my ignorance over the situation. She shook her head and put the bananas away, and I did not get to buy any bananas that day.

Walking home with my self-boxed groceries on my recently purchased dolly I realized that one difference between the check-out counter at E-mart and those in American grocery store is the absence of produce scales. Since the other produce I had purchased was prepackaged, it was easily scanned and caused no problems. The bananas, however, were not so conveniently packaged, and since there is no scale at the check-out counters at E-mart, there was no way for the clerk to know how much to charge for the bananas, so she could not sell them to me.

Of course, this is probably what she was trying to say to me, but not knowing the language, I remained ignorant.

When I returned the following day to try my luck again at purchasing bananas, it was with a more observant attitude. I headed back to the banana bin in the produce section and scanned the area for a scale. Nothing. But there was a woman wearing the kind of hat one wears as an employee of a grocery store standing on the other side of the banana bin helping a customer with her bananas. I made my way around to the pair and watched their interaction. The customer handed the bananas to the woman with the hat who weighed them on a digital scale, pushed a button to produce a UPC sticker, bagged the bananas, placed the UPC sticker on the bag  and handed the bananas back to the customer. Voici! What an easy and civilized method, I thought, and promptly followed suit to purchase my very own bunch of bananas to enjoy in the comfort of my own home.

This may seem like a small success, but when you are living in a foreign country and simple communication suddenly becomes a daily issue, sometimes the small successes are your only successes and so are worthy of celebration.

But this is not the end of the banana story.

After work one night, around 10:30 PM, I went by E-mart to pick up a few things as my coffers were running low, and a bunch of bananas was on my list.  Knowing my chances of getting any produce so late a night were slim, I hoped for the best. When I got to the banana bin, it was nearly, but not completely, empty. There were a few bunches of bananas left.  I picked a bunch out and took it to the lady with the scale and handed them to her. She shook her head, crossed her fingers (the Korean sign for ‘no’) and took my bananas away from me and placed them on a table behind her (well out of my reach). I was astounded and quite confused. But one thing I’d learned about Korea is this: if someone tells you “no,” they mean NO. So, realizing I was standing there like a person struck dumb, I roused myself went about my other shopping business without protest. It took me a few shopping trips to get up enough courage to buy bananas at E-mart again, and I never had any problem again.

I’ve told my banana story to many people, including my Korean students, and while they all found it amusing, no one has offered a possible reason why the banana woman took my bananas away. I’ve decided I prefer to think she knew something about those bananas that I did not and was protecting me from making the grave mistake of purchasing them. Who knows, perhaps because of her wisdom, I have avoided some infamous banana plague that causes one to foam at the mouth and attack E-mart customers while hanging from the ceiling (or otherwise “go bananas”). In which case, let me just say, thank you banana lady at E-mart who runs the digital scale, thank you from the very bottom of my heart.