IN THE SEOUL

 

This city does not sleep,
the wind as wistful as thoughts I cannot gather,
here, on this sojourn to the south of Seoul.

Horns honk along highways
waking drivers out of daydreams the night can’t decipher
and we buckle up and giggle briefly in back seats
but I cannot distinguish those star-bound lanterns hung with hope
from the knotted sheets I know not how to untwist.

On the soft slopes,
where Buddha has been worshiped into rock,
helicopters chase the rising sun
while you chase the parts of yourself pills cannot pacify.

Dysphoria is the new mantra.

This body won’t sleep,
this mind has taken to meander along this midway
as trumpeters announce connecting trains
we are always breathless to keep up with,
where palaces accumulate space
in place of standard stains of garish gold,
here, on this eastern stretch of the journey,
here, where cars honk in foreign tongues, far from familiar.

All is not what it once seemed,
this mouth no longer makes sense
as I cut across these sweeping vistas of strange words
breathed with bows and ways so traditional they worry the West.

Here, where there is more space to breathe and my lungs ache to adapt.

In the North,
strange armies are Trumping connections
the other continents are too confused to comprehend.

But here,
south of the strangled ties and demented ducks,
sitting sweet beneath a wiser moon,
the streets are awash with twinkling stars
below a billowing blanket of nature’s blossom;
a covering of comfort which concrete can’t squash and man cannot master.

My body can’t sleep…

I’ve seen too much but still hope for more
while this city wakes up to who it truly wants to be.

   

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly. This is a reworked poem for a week recalling last year’s breathless sojourn in South Korea. Photo taken outside the Dongaemun Design Plaza.

A SLIP AWAY FROM BLUE

 

Eyes a slip of grey from blue in a city not known as home,
on a mountainside to shelter a temple,
she is as welcome as the wind is warm,
she was there before us and we were caught before we knew it.

She carves life, carefully, like the Buddha etched into stone,
the chisel is the compliment to the rock and not the ruin,
an outer expression of inner contentment,
a monastic monk on a meditative mountain and I fall
between the stillness that rests behind each word.

Did her mouth smile
or just her eyes that shade of grey a brush away from blue
as she takes us to her temporary temple of wood and wonder
and shares with us a simple feast on a sweltering day
a treat along the trail, a rest upon the journey,
a moment to bear witness; not to be greater than the Buddha,
not to rise higher but to reflect on what we can become.

We climb over rock and broken earth,
diverge through dead ends that still deliver more light than loss,
we thirst and tire and then take in another treat; another temple, another tree,
a smile from the locals who look and laugh
and wonder why we came and what we will take back.

We travel on and place our tired feet into holds others once held to
as we witness wonders so many others may never see.
We have sat and shared joy like food, laughter like it was love
and coffee like it was an elixir to let us in on the light that lingers over life
and the eyes of the gentle light from Lithuania,
a slip of grey from a sea of blue
seeing the simple synchronicity in all that is true.

   

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly. This week’s theme is South Korea and recalling the travels though it and the faces found along the way.

SCENES FROM SOUTH KOREA, GYEONGJU, PART 3,

And further south the camera goes, Gyeongju, ancient capital of the Shilla Kingdom…

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Coloured umbrellas along the markets streets of Gyeongju

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Tumuli Gongwon, Park with 23 Tombs/Tumili of the Shilla monarchs 

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Rice Fields at sunset

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Polaris Tourist Pension in Gyeongju

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Our place for two days at the Polaris Tourist Pension in Gyeongju

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The start of our Namsan Park mountain climb

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Namsan

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Namsan

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Time to climb, it wasn’t all this easy

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Breaking through

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Chilbulam Temple were we were offered a free lunch by the beautiful Buddhist monk

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Chilbumlam Buddha on Namsan Mountain

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Climbing Namsan

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Topside of Namsan

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Another Buddha in the rock

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And another Buddha 

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The view from above

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Another beautiful Buddha

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Cute warnings are everywhere

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Rocks and trees and nature forever

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Temple at base camp

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Street Art 

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The park under night light

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An ancient astrological observatory constructed between AD 632 and 646 

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Divine dining at Dolsolmaeul

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The gardens of the Gyeongju National Museum

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The Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond from 674 CE

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Wolji Pond

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The Donggung Palace and Wolji Pond from 674 CE

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Temple guards at Bulkuk Temple 

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Bulkuk Temple 

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Bulkuk Temple

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Bulkuk Temple 

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Bulkuk Temple

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Lanterns at Bulkuk Temple 

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Bulkuk Temple 

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Bulkuk Temple 

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Bulkuk Temple 

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Bulkuk Temple 

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More Bulkuk Temple Guards, Gyeongju

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The Bell

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The climb to the covered Buddha at Seokguram.

Next Stop Busan…

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

 

SCENES FROM SOUTH KOREA, SEOUL, PART 1

 

Looking back at the last 18 days of holiday.

And so the journey begins, Seoul, South Korea… 

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The Dongaemum Design Plaza

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The Dongaemum Design Plaza

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The Dongaemum Design Plaza

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Pink character in the The Dongaemum Design Center

 

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1st night of arrival, we ask a taxi to bring us to the centre of Gangnam and he drops us off in front of & Other Stories, I work at the Paris Atelier of & Other Stories!

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The City Hall water wave of glass over the Metropolitan Library 

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Cycling through the traffic at Yeouido

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A modern shopping mall 

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Bike ride along the Han River

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The city seen from the National Museum of Korea

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Interior Ceiling of the National Museum of Korea

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Buddha in the National Museum of Korea 

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The city rising at Yeouido

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A face sculpture near Seoul Station

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The Lotte World Tower seen from Lotte World (think Disney in pastel shades)

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The city and Namsan Mountain seen from the N Seoul Tower

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Namsan Mountain, Seoul

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The N Seoul Tower seen from the Namsagol Hanok Village

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Interior of a house in the Hanok village

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Taekwondo in Action at the Hanok Village 

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Traditional Costume (Hanbok) at the Hanok Village 

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The changing of the Deoksungung palace guard

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Deoksungung palace

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British colonial architecture on the Deoksungung palace grounds

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Bell on the grounds of Deoksungung palace

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Deoksungung palace detail

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Traditional Hanbok costume at the Gyeongbokgung Palace

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Gyeongbokgung Palace

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Gyeongbokgung Palace

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Gyeongbokgung Palace

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Girls taking pictures at the Changdeokgung Palace 

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Relaxing at the Changdeokgung Palace

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Hand painted detail of the wooden roof at the Changdeokgung Palace

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Gyeonghoeru Pavilion at the Gyeongbokgung Palace 

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Gyeongbokgung Palace 

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Gyeongbokgung Palace

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Gyeongbokgung Palace 

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Gyeongbokgung Palace 

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Gyeongbokgung Palace 

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Gyeongbokgung Palace 

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Gyeongbokgung Palace 

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The Secret Garden and Pavilion at the Changdeokgung Palace (Joseon Dynasty 1392-1910)

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The Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace

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The Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace

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The Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace

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The Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace

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The Secret Garden, Changdeokgung Palace

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Changdeokgung Palace

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The Men’s quarters in the secret garden at the Changdeokgung Palace

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The Men’s quarters in the secret garden at the Changdeokgung Palace

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Changdeokgung Palace

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Changdeokgung Palace

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Ready for the hike at Bukansan National Park Mountain Range

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Buddhas at the first Temple along the mountain trail 

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Buddhist Temple along the mountain trail 

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Buddhist Temple along the mountain trail 

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Going up

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Another mountain Temple 

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Mountain Temple Bell

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Temple entrance gate 

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Golden Buddha in the hills

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Temple roof detail 

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Buddhist Temple 

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Top of the mountain 

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A view from the top.

To be continued…

All photographs by Damien B. Donnelly