Sunday, July 17, 2011

back from Korea...and a backyard mourning dove nest

Yes, wi-fi is ubiquitous in Korea, but during the month of June, while traveling around Korea, I never did get around to posting photos to this site.

So, here, finally, are a couple of photos:

This is one of my favorite scenes in Seoul--the six-story-tall Buddha of Bong-eun-sa temple (which dates back to the end of the 8th century), gazing out at the skyscrapers of the Gangnam district, including the 748ft/228m-tall World Trade Center Seoul Tower, built in time for the 1988 Olympics.

As recently as the 1970's and early 1980's, much of what is today Gangnam (southern Seoul) was still farmland. Perhaps no other city has undergone the transition from essentially medieval to modern so quickly. My mother lived through the Korean War, when the city was mostly flattened, and I remember my childhood visits, seeing the streets torn up for subway construction, and the endless rows of cranes and high-rise skeletons in what was still, then, countryside.

Seoul is now a city where commuters, at rush-hour, can use their smart-phones to shop for groceries, scanning bar-codes in some subway-station-displays.

The rapid change in lifestyle has created several decades of generation-gaps--each generation has grown up, literally, in a different world...but a few landmarks have remained. The tug-of-war between values--between religious and secular, Western and neo-Confucian, materialism and asceticism, progress vs. preservation, Christendom and Buddhism, filial piety vs. egotism--often not pretty, occasionally harmonious, but always vibrant.

...looking through one of the arches of Gwang-hwa-mun gate at Gyeongbok Palace,
during the recently reinstated changing-of-the-guard ceremony...
Period-dressed soldiers march on ground that until the 1990's
was dominated by the Government General building that the Japanese
had built during their colonial occupation (1910-1945).
The historical seat of Korea's Joseon dynasty has been restored
and visitors flock here several times a day for the vivid medieval pageantry.
Standing amid the architecture and sounds of the changing-of-the-guard,
you can almost forget the skyscraper-dominated sprawl of the rest of Seoul.

(More from the palace to come later.)

Locally, then:
from this morning in the backyard,
perched above the patio: 

I thought it was too late in the year for mourning doves to be nesting in the desert, but I was wrong. How these creatures have survived the neighborhood hawks and ravens so far, I don't know...

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