We promised pictures to make up for last month's word-heavy essay, so I (Judy) have been busy documenting the beauty around us with my cell phone. Let's start you off with the promised blossoms, and I apologize in advance to our Canadian readers who probably haven't seen as much as a dandelion yet, but please enjoy these blooms vicariously!
Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
The entire campus is hung with bloom right now, not merely courtesy of the cherry and apple, but with camellias in lipstick hues, gold festoons of forsythia, rosemary (who knew it came in five-foot woody bushes with dainty periwinkle spikes of flowers?) and here and there the early azaleas flaunting out their startling pale magenta petals against the backdrop of the dark pines
Of course, it would be nice to have a bit more sun to enjoy them with; we've had more overcast and grey this month than fair, and today is actually a cold drizzle under which even the enthusiastic and perpetual basketball practice seems slightly subdued.
Six stories beneath our windowed balcony, the campus spreads out, the cherries in full display along our driveway and beside the attached elementary school's sports ground - from whence the omnipresent sound of bopping basketballs resonates from the morning CCM blast on the campus speakers to the last dying of the light over the western hills. We are looking southeast in this photo, with the water just visible to the east, and the tall buildings of downtown Pohang to the south. As you can see - glorious blooms, but under a melancholy sky.
This balance, like an old scale which vibrates as the spices and coins are dropped alternately on either of its pans, is familiar to every one of us who have lived more than a decade or so on the planet; once past the 'living in the moment' stage in which children exist, and the dramatic pendulous swings of adolescence, we quickly learn that we can hold both joy and tears, kindness and impatience, the lovely and the plain, the mundane and the sublime, simultaneously. So there is my theme for today, made explicit, and perhaps you'll allow me to elaborate on it as I tell you about the last few weeks.
Here, for example, is how the apartment (not quite, yet, feeling 'home', though I am 'homemaking' on a daily basis!) space appears at the moment:
So, as you may gather, I'm extremely happy to have school-provided internet available, to have a brand-new computer system with an expensive monitor (a gift from Bryan!), to be running Adobe Photoshop's latest version, and to have access to things like French lemonade, art supplies, my own precious books, a print shop on campus, and more. On the other hand (or the other end of the couch, as it might be), the Kitkat and I are both draggy, coughy, stuffy, achy, and subsisting on soup/boring old toast/far too much screen time, having no energy for housework or homeschooling, let alone creative projects or getting out of the house.
Still, that's only the present situation, and there's plenty to catch you up to speed from the last week alone, without a recital of our current miseries! For example:
And did I mention? We have a vehicle!
To be precise, it's a 2013 black Korando Clubby truck, which we've nicknamed 'Maximus' after the loyal steed in 'Tangled'. (I know, Max the movie version is white - we considered 'Khan' after Mulan's black horse, but he didn't have nearly as much personality as Maximus. In the history of loyal steeds, Max tops Trigger, Tornado, Silver, and Buttermilk, as far as we're concerned - I mean, even Shadowfax didn't wield a sword in his teeth, am I right?)
This is the newest and nicest vehicle we've ever had, and his heart has been yearning for a truck (or at least not a sedan!) for twenty-five years, so there's some serious new-to-us owner's pride here. Between this truck and my Google map skills on my now-activated phone, we will literally be going places! So much easier than the shuttlebus....
And finally, a few more pictures in keeping with my theme - remember that lovely seaside café image at the very beginning of this blog post? Here are a few more shots from the evening.
The first place we tried (where I had that strawberry tart with my new friend, Grace) was inexplicably closed and we couldn't decipher the scribbled hangeul sign on the door. But since the second place was three buildings along the tiny coastal road, none of us grieved for long. We had the space nearly to ourselves; only a single table of four adjumoni (Korean 'women of a certain age', otherwise translated as 'aunties') already ensconced and well into their various coffees, were chattering over the background music.
Affogato for Bryan, the hot bitter espresso ready to play contrast to the cold mellow vanilla.
A deceptively innocent rondel of vanilla macaron for me, with just the right textural play of crisp exterior melting into resilient sweetness. Peppermint tea in a glass pot and a china teacup, dainty polka dots on an aqua ground, rimmed with gold. The Kitkat, predictably, allowed her teenage appetite to choose quantity over quality, and plunked for the apple muffin (which to be fair was moist and generous if not subtle), taking it to another table with her sketchbook and pens and leaving us to enjoy our treats and each other's company.
Eventually, though, the icecream was done, the muffin crumbled, the ocean view only a dark mass dotted with the far-off lights of squid-fishing boats, and the conversation of the table behind us rising into shrill giggles and raucous raconteuring that began to break unpleasantly in upon our dusk reveries - a good time to pack away the Kindle, the sketchbook, the papers yet to be marked, and to depart.
Sweet and salt, dark and light, pleasure and annoyance,
the flavor of mint and the scent of cigarette smoke, companionship and a headache,
sour mold in the bathroom and soft pillows in the bedroom -
the scales jangle and tremble as the hours are poured into either side.
I cannot grumble; go on pouring.
Bryan & Judy Alkema are educators, travellers, pilgrims, wordsmiths, and global learners. They are returning to Asia for the third time in their 25-year marriage and look forward to sharing their travel writing, cross-cultural experiences, wisdom perspectives, and beautiful images with you.