On July 2oth 1969 man first landed on the moon. Neil Armstrong stated “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” In terms of physical human space exploration and exploring new worlds that has turned out to be a quote with stuttering ambition. In Korea we are currently enjoying the Lunar New Year celebrations; a joyfully positioned three day public holiday. In the far east Lunar New Year overshadows the Gregorian calendar new year. I was far too distracted over the during calendar new year with my trip in the Philippines to take consideration of what the new year really means to me. With this in mind I am taking the Lunar New Year as an opportunity to contemplate my future. After taking the giant step of moving to South Korea to teach I find myself with less than five months remaining on my contract. I am reaching a cross-roads in my life again and I need to consider and decide which small leap of my own to take next…….

I spent the first couple of days of my holiday relaxing around Changwon. I was considering a few trips around Korea but my general demeanour waking up on Wednesday morning was one of unhurried laziness. If you know me well you will know I am an all or nothing guy. I either do very little; or I go full out and get the job done. Thursday seemed like a good day to do more of the same. Thursday was actual Lunar New Year Day and it was apparent that everyone had left town to visit their family homes; businesses were closed down, streets deserted and the shine of tower blocks lights abated. I played some basketball with Sam and made myself some home comfort English food from my recently acquired oven.

On Friday I ventured out to Busan. I have been to Busan several times but I haven’t explored many parts of it. I planned to go to the Busan Museum of Modern Art. I studied art and design in my formative years and have always appreciated a good walk around an art gallery. I enjoy the complexity of contemporary art; looking for your own interpretation of someone elses vision. Being able to dettach your mind from preconception and first impression and opening yourself to visual stimulation. The gallery was perfectly quiet. There was an even balance of public guests (90% foreign teachers, 10% Korean nationals) and drably attired disinterested gallery assistants. I could happily sit in a gallery room with no disturbance for ten minutes at a time; deep in thought whether it be of displayed art or self reflection. Mentally refreshed I headed for Busans meticulously clean subway cars and a trip to the harbour.

Some of the artwork I found most interesting:

Departing the subway I saw a dog get run over in the street. The dog was owned by a man who appeared to have two other dogs; none of which were on a lead. The man, who you could suggest had experienced a tough life from his weather/alcohol beaten appearance, displayed brief anger aimed at the driver followed by greater anger directed to his lost pet; he ungraciously lumped the pup to the gutter before setting off on his way. I cautiously crossed the road. 

Busan has the worlds fourth busiest port. The scale is impressive and rather than hike the majority of it I chose to explore the ferry terminals and some of the industrial area as well as the world famous Jalgachi fish market.

The ferry terminal and industrial area were mildly interesting; the scale of industrial tankers and the machinery that is involved in constructing, maintaining and servicing these ocean going giants is incredible. Being Lunar New Year holidays most of the port was deserted and I couldn’t really appreciate the activity of the area. There was however an odd sense of abandonment. Besides shiny new vessels float the decaying pensioners and rusting tugs that have served this world famous port through the prosperation of South Korea since the end of the Korean war.

Jalgachi fish market was brimming with life. I could easily have missed this cultural gem being a non-fish eater but I decided to brave the misty pungency of seafood and explore. I am delighted I did. I have never seen so much seafood on sale, or a market as big as this. Pumped sea water flowed through the streets keeping tanked and bowled fresh seafood alive as it awaited its final destiny. As well as buying your fish to take home you could eat at virtually every stall if you wished. For some the joy of watching your dinner be killed, cooked and eaten is obviously appealing. I repeatedly witnessed the live killing, gutting, skinning and cooking of eels. One of natures unpopular creatures readily served to the consumer as the fillets fresh from the pan still twitch with the remnants of life. Every imaginable sea creature was available from fish to squid and from turtle to whale.

I left Busan tired. I’d seen a lot, maybe too much in some respects. It remains to be seen what decisions I will make over the next few weeks and months but I feel refreshed and ready to make them.


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