Despite my not having posted for about two weeks, I think it's fair to say that 2010 has been a productive year, both for my blog and for my self. I believe this post is number 84, so means my chances of ever achieving ultimate blog symmetry, to which I came so close in 2009, are nil. But it also means that I've been up to a lot of stuff and had a lot on my mind.
I am tempted to say that I feel like a lot of what I've been doing - the gardening, the movie screenings, the other website, the WWOOFing, the biking, all these things that are tied up with one another in mind but feel so disparate in practice, and especially when juxtaposed with my work - is paying off, but that's not quite the right expression. The activities were and are all worth it on their own terms and I've been reaping their benefits since I started.
But nowadays things have sort of been coming together. For instance:
Thanks to my more-sociable-than-me friend Suze, who I met in Sadhana and cajoled into coming out to work at Yeungjin, I had a fantastic vegan thanksgiving potluck party (I made chili, others made indian, salads, soups, potatoes, tofurkey, gravy, a nut loaf, and more) and increased my number of vegetarian friends in Daegu from 1.5 to about 10. One of the girls I met works at a Montessori school, and she says they may need some help in the winter. I sense a chance to investigate the realm of alternative education a bit more directly...
Speaking of which, through an acquaintance of a friend I met while WWOOFing, I got offered a position at an eco-kids camp. I haven't met the staff yet, but I think I am going to be helping kids make campfires and roast sweet potatoes, and I'll also be translating for a local fisherman as he explains to the kids the significance of the wetlands and where they're headed. This will be in mid-January, and I'll be sure to write a little something about it.
Then, shortly after I agreed to do that camp, I got a call from an elder sister (Korean woman older than me) who I met at Sadhana. After 5 years of traveling, she came back to Korea a few months ago. Now she's going back on the road, this time as part of a "travel" school, taking some students with her. She asked me to come along - I suppose as a translator, mentor, and chaperone - and said that she and the kids and whatever organization she's with will pay for my flight, room, board, and other expenses for a few weeks if I accompany them to Thailand.
I also showed my fifth environmental documentary downtown - about fifteen people came. There is a core group of five or six that have come to several films, including my neighbor Mathan and some of his other friends from Tamil Nadu who are working at KNU, the big university nearby. There were some new faces as well, several of whom thanked me, asked me questions, and promised to come again. There's still a long way to go, but I think the early days of despair about Daegu Green Living are over.
In the process of distributing fliers for my movie - I never remember if it's "flier" or "flyer," but in either case, they don't really do much good - I finally stopped by 어색하지 않은 창고 (The Un-Awkward Warehouse, a name which can't be translated into English unawkwardly), a little hang-out I didn't know much about, last week. How I found out about the place is a long story, but in any case, when I got there, I found out that the owner is close with the people who organize the Ecobike rallies (which I posted about here) and that she had heard about me and was wondering when I'd stop by. Apparently I have managed to cultivate some sort of reputation - people in various local environmental circles seem to know who I am, which feels really nice. Not because I want the recognition, but because I don't want to be alone in doing what I'm doing.
A few people had gathered at the Warehouse to study and discuss Ivan Illich's "Deschooling Society," which I haven't read but which I think probably fits in with a lot of the stuff I've been reading lately, Derrick Jensen and Jules Henry in particular. One of the people at the study group, it turns out, was in Sadhana about a year ago and is taking some "travel school" students on a trip to India (and even Auroville, and maybe Sadhana) in just a few days. He's also interested in alternative education, and invited me to a lecture last night given by a philosophy teacher who returned to the countryside about 20 years ago and has run various alternative schools, many of them based around farming, since then.
Also, the Warehouse does a weekly vegetarian dinner. I went this week and, surprise, there was a TV crew, so I did a brief interview that will sooner or later be put on the local channels here. I think I made a mess of it (I recently took the TOPIK exam [Test Of Proficiency In Korean] and destroyed the mid-level test, which put me at level 4, so a bit more studying and I can probably get level 5 if I take the advanced test. A 5 means you're qualified to take university courses; 6 is the max.), but in any case, it's cool to have received a bit of coverage.
The people at the veg dinner weren't full-time vegetarians, so I got the usual "What do you eat?" question. I suppose my response - something along the lines of "I don't know, Italian pastas and Indian curries and salads and sandwiches and soups and porridges and stir-fries and other stuff I just make up as I go along" - tickled their fancy, because they all looked around the table with that "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" look, asked me to cook for them next week, and then started clapping until I accepted. I'm a bit nervous about it, but am also confident that a meal of baguettes and sliced veggies, Hummus, salad with lots of pumpkin seeds, and lentil soup will go over well.
Lastly, this morning I got an email from a fellow who works, I believe, for Ch'eonan City (not too far from here), and who translates a lot of about food and the environment from English to Korean. Someone had tipped him off about my movies and he said he was thoroughly surprised to find out that it was a foreigner behind them. He thanked me for my work and noted that it must be hard to do all this while having a completely unrelated day job, which I suppose is true. I think there is some collaboration in the cards, if time allows.
I'm not sure if there's anything else. It's hard for me to believe that this has all sort of come together over the last two weeks or so, but actually, the timing is pretty good, as I finished grading my exams today (I'll post some excerpts later), and just have one week of office hours left before I'm off for two months. I hope the news of all this exciting business will help you to forgive me if Christmas cards arrive late, or not at all. I promise, though, that anyone who reminds me of their address via email will be handsomely rewarded with something at some time this winter.