Friday, December 08, 2017

enjoy this view

After the Butoh performance at the Museo Nacional de las Culturas I talked about in my previous post, we walked back home, which means walking through the historic centre.

At this particular junction, abut to enter the Zócalo, we stopped for a moment. Old buildings all around us. The cathedral in front. The Torre Latinoamericana (Mexico City's first skyscraper) in the distance. The sound of organilleros (portable organ players). The rooted-in-history calls of peddlers. The habibi said to me: enjoy this view, you won't have it later.

As you can tell from my blog, life is constant movement. We moved to Mexico City from Toronto just over three years ago. Now the time has come to change to a new normal – we're moving to Canton City (Guangzhou), China. In less than a month. 

I took a good look. A good listen. I took it all in.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

the Butoh of Mushimaru Fujieda

Of course, the habibi is always on the lookout for things artistic and performative, especially Butoh. And so he took me this past weekend to see both a group performance by Mushimaru Fujieda (藤條虫丸) and people that had taken a workshop of his, at the Museo Nacional de las Culturas, and a solo performance by him, a "natural physical poem" called "Period", at Un teatro.

The group performance at the museum was an interesting experience. Fujieda had a couple of very strong performers, the setting was great, and seeing them perform their way from the garden below, up the staircase and into a hall gave plenty of opportunity to showcase everyone. Fujieda, of course, outperformed everybody through sheer intensity of expression from toe to eye.

But it was his solo performance at night, of which I unfortunately have no photos, the one that was bound to strike me the most. The sentence "natural physical poem" may sound pretentious, but his performance was like that, like a poem. Hard to understand at first, especially since he didn't help much by – intentionally, obviously – beginning in the most tedious way possible. But as his performance evolved and the "poem" started to flow more lively, you were caught in your own images and interpretations as Butoh is supposed to do. An electric guitar player improvising as well, and recorded polyglot poems, added to the sense of losing yourself in it.

If you can catch Fujieda somewhere, try and make it to a performance of his to lose yourself in physical poetry as well.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

bye bye Korea, bye bye Japan

Getting from Busan to Mexico City takes a long time. So, basically, I spent like 24 hours on planes and at airports. My main activities?

Well, at Gimhae Airport (that's the airport serving Busan), since I had got up at around 4am, I had a very Asian breakfast, with abalone porridge followed by a kimchi-esque onigiri. I think the porridge was way better – there is something very comforting about these rice-based warm soupy things in winter...

At least, my early-as-hell rise meant I could see the sunrise from the plane and bid farewell to Korea. 

Once on the plane and with the Korean coastline out of sight, it was a fully Japanese experience, as I was travelling with All Nippon Airways and I was also going to spend a whole 7 hours in Narita Airport! How do you fill seven hours? Easy!

You try unadon (鰻丼), or unagi donburi. That is, glazed eel on a bowl of rice.  

You can also go shopping at any of the numerous shops selling Japanese items, like Akihabara. I bought plenty of mochi and wasabi snacks for back home!

You can then go on and try a kimono! Well, actually, you can't, because this was a temporary thing and I just happened to be at the right place at the right time! They had both male and female kimonos and, with plenty of time to spare, I was more than happy to try one! It took three women to help me put it on! And wow, does that thing constrict your thorax! But it was so much fun.

Finally, you try some Japanese craft brewskies. The Tokyo stout I tried was pretty good! Followed by a red one, followed by boarding my flight to Mexico City!

Finally, on the plane, you simply enjoy your bento dinner, and ask for plenty more beer, especially Kirin. Even airplane food is OK if you fly Japanese, eh? 

So, there. Another whirlwind trip to Asia. But there will be more...

Monday, December 04, 2017

66 hours in Busan – part II

My final work day in Busan our hosts did something amazing. Since they knew most of the conference participants had little to no time to explore the city, and that the vast majority had travelled great distances to Busan, they organized a tour for all of us right after the end of the conference! Awesome!

Our first stop? One of the temples I had originally intended to visit but couldn't because of lack of free time! Haedong Yonggungsa Temple (해동 용궁사)! A seaside Buddhist temple from 1376! 

But first, before getting to the entrance, you had to cross a small market with seaweed, treats, and seafood on sale. Again, this looked rather intriguing, but definitely not appetizing: 

Once past the stands – the temple. First, through a gate and descending path that took you to a sitting Buddha nearby with people praying and beautiful sweeping views of the temple and the sea...

Once at the temple itself, there was a shrine. And underneath, an underground chapel. At the chapel, people would do some ritual where they'd pour water three times into a small canal, and then drink a little of the water they were pouring. A curious space, wet, with numerous candles... 

The main part of the temple was the kind of architecture I always notice in Korea. I can see the Chinese origins, but I can also tell that a number of details and the use of colour is neither Chinese nor Japanese, but its own very distinctive Korean interpretation.

If you climbed via a narrow path, you could get to the highest part of the complex for more views but, more importantly, for a representation of the Guanyin, the Bodhisattva of compassion. 

Now, walking back to the bus through the food market I spotted these. Some sort of pastry filled with red bean paste. And piping hot! I grabbed a bagful!

This would have been more than enough, you know? I loved this temple.

But, the tour consisted of two parts, you see? And they couldn't have been more different from each other. Because the second stop was the Lotte Outlet Mall. I decided to join for this second part because I was curious about visiting this as part of a Korean experience. But I don't seem to enjoy malls. And this was no exception. The highlights? The sunset I could enjoy when I exited the complex out of boredom, and one of the best matcha ice-creams I've had in my life! LOL 

At the end, they dropped us back at our hotel, after which i decided to go back to the place where I had enjoyed ramen the night I arrived. I was dying to try something else they offered and that I had never seen before – kimchi dumplings! Like, two of the best things in the world combined into one! Totally delicious. Followed by some not so delicious but still good shrimp skewers in a weird batter.

My flight was next morning. Like, I had to be up and ready to catch the bus before 5am. So after dinner, I just went bed. But still, what a fantastic short visit!

Friday, December 01, 2017

development effectiveness, bento, and sunsets

As I have mentioned before, many of my super brief trips to far flung places are work-related. This time, the setting was more than special – Busan. 

You see, Busan is the place where the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation was born in 2011. And so as not to bore you with details, I'll be super brief – this is a global partnership that promotes that development cooperation efforts align with the priorities of the recipient countries, that there be transparency and accountability even on the part of providers, that inclusive partnerships be fostered (for example, you should be including civil society), and that your efforts should be aimed at producing results. If you want tor read more, you can visit this post of mine on the Partnership or you can go directly to the Partnership's website.

In fact, my previous THREE trips to Seoul had been for this forum about the Partnership. So it was very exciting to finally be in Busan where it all started six years ago! Since this forum was filled with people that were more doers than talkers, I dared wear some not-leather shoes with bright red laces. Yay!

And it being a progressive space, of course it was no surprise one of the more important panels was an all-woman one. Mind you, the panel dealt with development cooperation issues, not with feminist issues. These women were there because they were experts, not because they were women. Yay again! 

As always, our Korean hosts were, well, amazing hosts. At the end of the first work day they offered us a traditional Korean music concert. I particularly loved the flute-like instruments, and I was especially excited to see an erhu-like instrument like the one my Russian grandfather used to play!

Food, of course, was never an issue. It was delicious and, of course, this being an Asian culture that values aesthetics as well, pretty!

And were that not enough, we might have been inside conference rooms for two days, but the views of the beach and the sunsets were not half-bad!

It has been a good run with you, Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation, I'm most thankful. 

Wait, what? Does this sound like some sort of good-bye? I guess you'll have to wait a bit to find out what this is all about!

Thursday, November 30, 2017

66 hours in Busan – part I

Yep. That's right. I flew all the way from Mexico City to spend 66 hours in Busan. That's "blitzworktrips" for you. Unsurprisingly, I've become an expert at fitting in some touring and eating in tight work trips, right?

My first day in Busan was more like a half day. And it was good. From views of the very modern water-bound city on my way from the airport:

To Haeundae Beach (해운대 해수욕장), right across from my hotel. Sure, the weather was pretty chilly, but the sun was simply glorious!

From the beach, it was a nice walk to Dongbaek Island (동백공원), a park with beautiful views of the sea and of the city, with a pavilion with more views of the surrounding area, and a couple of cute stray cats!

From the park, it was a relaxed – if almost freezing – walk by the water. The sea, the modern buildings, the sunset, a bridge in the distance. Frigging awesome walk!

To finish the day? There was this food street near the hotel, the Haeundae Traditional Market (해운대 전통시장), chock-full with restaurants selling all sorts of seafood imaginable! It did look intriguing, but I fell for a way less outlandish – but also incredibly delicious – ramen bowl at the most simple of eateries. It had ramen, homemade dumplings, shrimp, and over 20 mussels! All in a typically spicy Korean broth. Nom nom!

Since I didn't mind the cold that much, and my mouth was sort of suffering the effects of chowing down a full bowl of fire, and given that I passed this ice-cream parlour with rather exotic flavours, I finished my tour with a fire-cooling chocolate and sea salt treat.

And that was just my first half-day! See?