The Reasons Behind the Photos: Part 1

I’ve recently taken the SD card out of my old phone and started combing through the over 3,000 photos and videos I saved to it.

I owned this phone from January 2015 to December 2016, so these photos cover two years of life experience including three jobs, my college graduation, my time studying abroad in Korea and my trip to Russia and China.

For some of these photos there is an obvious reason why I took them—a notable event, an extraordinary moment, a scenic view. However, for others, the reasons behind the photos are known only to me.

This post is in honor of those photos, the ones that at first glance may seem unworthy of space on my SD card, but hold special meaning in the space in my mind. Part 1 of this series is dedicated to Korea.

Photo 1: Tater Tots

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The Reason:

During Calum and I’s time in Korea we tried many new and unfamiliar foods. This was not one of them. During our first month in Korea I went to an event with some foreign friends and our Korean buddies (from the KUBA organization) and we all ate fried chicken together afterwards. When the waitress brought out our food I pointed and squealed in delight–“No way, tater tots!” The whole table stared at me in confusion as I explained my excitement…I realized I was the only American present at this dinner, and therefore the only one familiar with this funky term for cylindrical fried potatoes. Some of my friends were convinced this must be Texan or a Southern thing, but I assured them it was quite common in the US. Luckily another group of students came and met us for dinner, and the American present in their group was able to back me up. 🙂

Photo 2: Healthy Bread

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Yes, another food photo. This dense bread was my favorite snack from the local bakery nearby our guesthouse in Korea. The label above it in Korean translates only to “healthy snack.” Our friends, Korean and foreign alike, poked fun at me for my obsession with this bread, which was obviously not even close to the number one choice for customers visiting this sweet shop. The owner of the bakery came to know me because of this bread, and she even gave me a free one when I came to buy a cake for Calum’s birthday. The friendly relationships we had with local store owners and vendors in our neighborhood are something I really miss about Korea.

Photo 3: Jindo Dog Puppy

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The Reason:

Maybe it is not the fact that I have this photo but the fact that I have so many just like it that makes it seem strange. This Jindo puppy and his twin brother lived down the street from our Korean guesthouse and could often be found outside of their owner’s storefront. I could not get enough of these adorable pups and I stopped to play with them multiple times a day. You could say I was a little obsessed!

Photo 4: Mariia’s Bracelet

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The Reason:

For a week in May 2015 my “Russian sister” Mariia came to visit me in Seoul. This was the first time I had seen her since she left the US nearly two years prior, but one of the ways we had been keeping in touch during that time was through packages and letters. Included in her packages from my family were individual additions to her charm bracelet. Of course I knew which charms we sent, but this was my first time seeing all of the charms together in one place. It seemed appropriately symbolic.

Photo 5: Momma duck and Babies on the Cheonggyecheon

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The Reason:

One of Calum and I’s favorite things to do in Seoul was to walk along the Cheonggyecheon stream that flows through the city. We were able to see the stream transform during three seasons of the year–Winter, Spring and Summer. During the Spring the stream was filled with cute duck families. It was another one of those little things that gave meaning to our daily life there.

 

Hope you enjoyed these photos and the reasons behind them! Part 2 coming soon.

Moscow Musings

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Statue of Peter the Great next to the river in Moscow. Photo credit goes to Me! As 2016 comes closer to an end, I’ve been doing some reflecting on all the things that happened to me this year.
  1. Graduating from university with a B.A. in Anthropology
  2. Traveling to China and Russia with my Russian best friend

These are the two biggest events in my life during the year 2016.

I’ve already posted a few things about my experience in China, but I have yet to post anything about my time in Russia. So, this post is based off of a few thoughts I wrote down about my impression of Moscow (my first stop of three cities in Russia).

The Feeling of the City

Everything in Moscow feels so organized, from the streets to the subway to the buildings. But rather than feeling overly sterile, the way Moscow is organized feels more like a well kept home, or maybe an elegant hotel. It is tidy and that makes it comfortable. It feels open to guests, but it is hard to say how many actual guests are actually there. Instead, the “Muscovites” are the daily guests and the city is always prepared for them. This is the feeling I got from Moscow: the city exists for the people. It feels like the city is reaching out to you, rather than just existing for the sake of itself.

This feeling was especially strong in the subway (metro) where the stations are ornately decorated. I think it is safe to say that Muscovites have one of the most beautiful daily commutes in the world. At Ploschat Revolutsii station, there is a bronze statue of a soldier and his dog. It is stated that if you rub the dog’s nose as you pass, it will bring you good luck. I assumed that this ritual might be more of a tourist thing, or something that people do only on very special days. However, I observed many average people giving the dog a quick pat as they passed by on their way to the subway trains and it made me smile. It is little actions like this that give Moscow a special sense of place.

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Here I am, petting the dog statue for good luck. Hopefully this will bring good things my way in the year 2017. Photo credit goes to Mariia!

Although it might be cliche, I really feel the need to describe the weather while I was in Moscow. Most of the time the temperature was between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, dropping down into the 50s at night, and though there was some cloud cover it never lasted more than a few hours. After the suffocating heat and humidity of Beijing in August, the weather in Moscow during this time was so refreshing. It was nice just to walk around and take in everything around me, especially in the evening.

 

 

 

 

 

Places that Were So Worth It

Of course, visiting the Red Square was a must and incredibly worth the trip. (And I can say that I visited Tiananmen Square and the Red Square within days of each other!)

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Best friends flashing peace signs on the Red Square. The day couldn’t have been more perfect. Photo credit goes to a kind Russian stranger! Thank you!

While in Moscow, Mariia also took me to the Tretyakov State Gallery. Yesterday I was speaking to my Mom and my friend Sarah about museums and whether or not to visit them when traveling.I mentioned this gallery as one museum that was worth visiting for me.I will admit that I am someone who doesn’t have much patience for museums and art galleries and would rather spend time walking around the places that I visit and experiencing the culture as it exists in the moment. However, this place was a huge exception for me.

The art at the Tretyakov is incredible, and it gave me a feel for Russian history and culture that was greater than any book or lecture could have given. I feel that the museum was enlightening for me because the subjects that the artists’ chose to portray in each piece reflect the events, stories, traditions and values that are (arguably) the most important to the Russian people. Seeing Russian parents point and explain each painting to their children was a powerful cultural experience in itself. It caused me to reflect on the art that every culture and country chooses to display in their museums and why (there are definitely positive and negative discussions to be had about this, that could be another huge blog post all by itself). Although each person may interpret a piece a bit differently, every person in the gallery is having a shared cultural experience. And of course, the art itself is incredibly detailed and masterful.

I don’t have any pictures of the gallery to share because photography inside the museum is discouraged, but you can visit the Tretyakov gallery webpage here (it is in English):

http://www.tretyakovgallery.ru/en/

In Conclusion…

That is all I have for this post! I will try to update this blog a few more times before this Winter Break is over. I’m very grateful for the experiences that I got to have both abroad and at home in 2016. I wish everyone reading this a Happy New Year!

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The Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Photo credit goes to Me.