Seoul and Sinbad the Sailor

I went to Seoul last weekend. I listened to a movie on my iPhone while riding an empty train to the capital. Much can be learned about a movie through its audio track. I fell asleep and woke up near Seoul. The corridor was packed with older people. Most were geared up for a hike-up-and-booze-at-the-top sort of deal.

I visited one of the royal palaces.

Techniques to deter evil spirits:

1) Dragon Faces


I wanted to find The Papertainer Museum at the Olympic Park. The Papertainer is a museum made of shipping containers which I thought would be neat-o to visit.

I didn’t find it which is odd since it’s pretty big. Instead I enjoyed the sight of some inline skaters with sweet moves under the Olympic Peace Gate.

Late that night I saw the last snowflakes of the Korean winter fall on Hongik University. Felt like Winona Ryder in Edward Scissorhands.

The next morning I read Sinbad the Sailor on the train back to Busan. His voyages are mostly accounts of terrible troubles encountered. His stories are filled with people getting eaten by giant snakes, cannibals, mythical birds, etc., etc. Sinbad always regrets his decision to travel when these tribulations catch up to him.

Sinbad in the Valley of Diamonds

He survives, finds a treasure, and returns to Baghdad richer than before. Soon he finds an excuse to travel again.

While Sinbad’s adventures are magical and fantastic, they made me remember that risk is always present in a good adventure. Adventures have dangers both physical and emotional because we step into the unknown. This is what attracted us to the adventure in the first place. The fights between best friends, the breakups, intestinal parasites, etc., etc. are also part of an adventure… though jumping off the Swiss alps wearing flying squirrel suits may be the more fun and thrilling part of the adventure. When we travel, things won’t always work out the way we planned them. I accepted this common perception when I came to Korea but didn’t fully internalized it.

So don’t be too surprised when you find yourself alone, scared and uncertain, and, perhaps, surrounded by giant snakes. These things may all be part of your adventure package. You may be cursing your luck while walking on a valley of diamonds.

Wednesday March 21


“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Excerpt from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.

I love when part of this quote is narrated in Mike Mills’ film Beginners.