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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Top 10 Posts

As the last post may have made clear, I'm in a retrospective and pre-nostalgic mood, undoubtedly because I'm gearing up (physically and mentally) to leave Korea for (what will most likely not be) the last time.  More on that later.

For the last six months or more, I've been in a bit of blog despair.  It was a vicious cycle: first, I wanted to spend more time and effort on the Daegu Green Living blog which, I though, might actually make a difference somehow.  Two years and 80 or so posts later, it certainly did.  But it came at the cost of me not having the time or energy or inclination to write about, or perhaps reflect on, my personal stuff.  Then, I assume due to my lack of activity here, it seemed that most of my readership had died off.  (PS Thanks to the die-hard fans who leave and comment on just about every post!  It means a lot to me.)  Then, with views and comments and such dying off, I felt like I was indeed right that this blog wasn't so important, and gave up on it  even further. Add to that the stress of writing for the First Korean Tour for Foreign Foodies project, which essentially drained all joy from the act of blogging, and ripped my soul out by not even giving us first prize, and you'll understand why I had no steam at all. 

But that last post  about tying up loose ends got me going again. It led to me going through old posts, checking stats and hits and all that, and, eventually, to wondering what my top 10 most-read posts of all time are. The list is quite odd: 

10) "I See Through You" A relatively recent post about spotting fake smiles.  300-some hits. 

9) "Vipassana: Things I Didn't Say Before" Filling out the Vipassana story.  Almost certainly owes its popularity to the photo of me and the two Pekema boys with our pants down (underpants up) at Yosemite.  Was that really 3+ years ago?  417 hits. 

8) "The Morning After (My Arrival)"  I woke up and, hey, I was in India.  Short and sweet, one of my favorite and most intense posts. Just thinking about that day nearly brings tears to my eyes.  Over 500 views. 

7) "The King of Fruits," a fairly Mike-esque random tribute to the Durian.  This post definitely deserved all 669 of its hits, but I have no idea how it got them. 

6) "Vipassana: The Experience" One of the rare posts lucky enough to have a title more than tangentially related to its contents.  This one got picked up and shared on somebody else's blog, so the nearly 700 hits don't come as a huge surprise.  

5) "As if I needed more proof that I'm not as smart as I like to think I am."  About, of all things, my exploits trying to find a proper position for my shower curtain and the general life reflections the process brought to the fore. Apparently 800+ people enjoy crappy MSPaint diagrams.  

4) "Where Am I Now? (As I Write, not as You Read)" A pretty plain description of where I was and what I was up to in Cambodia, unremarkable except for the pretentious list of the books I had been reading.  Nearly 1300. 

3) "Daegu Bike Rally," maybe the third or fourth Daegu Bike Festival event I attended, before I was even staff.  Not sure how this one got so popular.  Maybe a Korean found and shared it?  Regardless, 1500+ hits.

2) "WJWD on New Year's Eve," a recounting of how my friends and I wound up welcoming 2011 by staying up all night chanting sanskrit sutras with a Korean Buddhist monk and her congregation at a hermitage on top of a mountain. I don't even recall what the title refers to, but I'm sure I thought it clever at the time.  3,128 views.  What the heck?

1) "This post is turning out to be much longer than I intended and actually I'm making up the title about an hour into writing it just because I need a br," a total armchair rant about what I see as the fundamental problem with our civilization: its lack of attachment to or care for the specific place it settles in.  No clue how, but this one got 3,241 views! The lesson: people like it when I gripe about the state of the world! Can do!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

All the Things I Meant to Write About in 2010, But Didn't.

I've had this sticky note on my desktop growing  and expanding and bulging and taking over my entire monitor since summer 2010, which was about the time when I got started doing really interesting stuff here.  It was also the time when I stopped feeling like I had time to write about all of it on my personal blog.  Instead, I wrote articles for Daegu newspapers and magazines and for the Daegu Green Living blog - maybe a total of 80 posts or so.  To be honest, I was somewhat smothered by the feeling that the other work was more important than my old blog.  At times, I even felt it was more important than my personal life.  But that's neither here nor there!  What's here is a giant sticky on my desk, which I'd like to clear off.  So:

In July 2010, I did my first Vipassana.  I'm pretty sure I wrote about that.  Shortly after that, I visited again, this time by bicycle.  Spent some time weeding, chatting, prepping for the Asia Monodrama Festival, visiting an apple orchard, and hanging out with a family I randomly met on the bus who invited me back to their place to eat and work in the garden together. 

 In early August, I visited the Mungyeong Omija Village, where they specialize in raising hordes of O(five)-Mi(flavor)-Ja(baby/berry) berries, which, when left in sugar for six months or so, turn into an extremely refreshing sweet/sour/tangy syrup. I didn't get to help out much on the farm, though, since it was raining; nor  did I get to do all of the fun rice cake activities or berry processing, since they only run those programs on weekends when there are tons of guests.  Mostly, I sat around in my little glass cube of a bedroom, conveniently located next to an awesome pool, reading books and sneaking into the kitchen nearby whenever I felt I had earned a beverage.

In August 2010, I did a ten-day WWOOF (WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms) farmstay at Sweet Persimmon Village, just about 70km away from Jeju. At that time, there wasn't much to be done with the persimmons, which are harvested in August, so I mostly hung out with the other volunteers - Korean, Polish, French, and American - while weeding and dismantling greenhouses after they'd been used to grow watermelons.  Since, I've been back to the farm several times, whether just to hang out, pick persimmons, eat persimmons, or lend a friendly white face for the TV crews.  

That same month, I had a couchsurfer named Pablo Garcia Gomez.  He was from Argentina, and had biked to Korea from Africa.  He only stayed for a night or two, but I bought him a bowl of noodles and allowed him to take a much-needed hot shower in my place. I also received an interesting piece of advice: if you travel Korea in the summers, you can generally get away with sleeping at elementary schools, since the kids are all on vacation.

In September 2010, I joined up with Andzrej, the Polish guy I had previously met at Sweet Persimmon Village, and we went up to a sweet pumpkin/kabocha squash farm in the northwest for a week.  We picked pumpkins (the leaves and stems are super spiny!), stuck on organic labels, shipped them out, and then went and emptied out the greenhouses and planted some onions.  I got a sense here of the precariousness of the poor farmer's life - there was no warm water, and, worse, several windows had recently been broken in a storm, giving millions of mosquitoes free entrance every evening. I nearly choked to death on the mosquito coil fumes.  Nearby farms had also been devastated by recent typhoons, several losing up to $50,000 of infrastructure, mostly in the forms of plastic greenhouses.  On the good side, I did get to walk through a tomato farm and pluck little yellow cherry tomatoes off the vines and snack on 'em. 

In October 2010, I biked back to the Herb Garden the first WWOOF farm I visited in Korea, about 130km from my house.  That's still my longest day-ride to date, and it was before I knew about adjusting the seat on my bicycle or even oiling the chain.  I'm surprised I survived. Since the persimmon farm was practically next door, I popped over there for a visit, too.

In November, I returned to the persimmon farm, and in December, back to the Herb Garden to learn the fine art of making Kimchi. 

In the meantime, I had numerous vegetarian potlucks: with coworkers, with Indian friends, with Japanese friends, with other Daegu Veg*ans, with new friends at the Green Consumers Network; for Thanksgiving, for Christmas, for the Earth, for the heck of it.  I also participated monthly in the Daegu Bike Festival, started / continued putting on eco-film nights, leading group expeditions to veggie or organic restaurants around town, and searching out organic shops, chatting with the owners, and uploading it all to the Daegu Green Living blog. 

Oh, also, I had a job and managed to save something like 80% of each paycheck while having all this fun.  Hard to believe, eh? 

Next up, 2011!