Vancouver

I have decided not to try to make sense of Vancouver. At least not yet. The place seems ideal for ‘letting go’ and just absorbing whatever there is without having to think about it.

It is about an hour walk from the house to the ‘Carnegie’ – we are heading downtown for the first time. Surrounded by mountains and breathtaking views, this city gives away a small-town vibe as we walk through its neighbourhoods, each with its own distinctive character. Alongside neon Santas and perfect lawns, down the Commercial, passing port cranes, organic food stores and endless shops with god knows what; we eventually turn into East Hastings that will take us Downtown Eastside. Known as Canada’s poorest post code and one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Vancouver, this place keeps us entertained for the rest of the day. There is something atmospherical about this district. Junkies and prostitutes,  the scent of pot everywhere, busy traffic, China town, a geezer poking his head out of a dumpster and the hectic air. We are enjoying the character of this grim neighbourhood that, on the other hand, is well known for its community activism. It is to no surprise that the first shooting gallery and needle exchange in North America happened to be here. The Carnegie, The Women’s Centre along with Drug centres, all at once on East Hastings.

As we walk around, we course prices of certain goods. Yes, Vancouver is expensive – even Dunia is thinking about giving up smoking. .. We decide to avoid paying overpriced public transport, hence the hours of walking.  We enjoy yummy two-bucks-lunch at Carnegie.  The ‘yes-or-no-to-smoking’ debate takes place throughout the day, but eventually Dunia gives up and approaches a street seller at the junction. After examining the quality of the contraband, our debate about quitting the habit starts again…

Hot Sweaty Jimjilbang (Korean Sauna/Bath House)

Jimjilbang Massage Chairs

Jimjilbang Massage ChairsAfter enough recommendations from Koreans and Americans alike, we finally did it: abandoned the freezing cold van and headed over to a hot sweaty Jimjilbang in search of some comfort.

Upon entry my 3 trousers and 2 jackets were making me sweat just standing at reception, gosh! How I was looking forward to get to the sauna!

As always a minor language barrier at the till, but eventually Radka and me stood there, orange pyjama and towels in hand..  ready to ENTER.

No idea and not exactly sure what to expect, we entered the female changing room.  Only about 2 steps into the area the cleaner woman came charging at us with her mop/broom thing, shouting frantically in Korean and getting everyone in there to turn their heads at us, whilst covering their naked bodies with very small towels. Koreans are not very accustomed to the idea of women having very short hair, with most of the Korean women sporting about 4 different hair styles, tops. Therefore, we surely must be boys!! !  lost in the female changing room. She’s charging at us, while we repeatedly shout at her and everyone else: We are girls!!!!

Someone finally translated that into Korean and the woman stops in her tracks and just bursts into laughter, with everyone else joining in, slowly lowering their very small towels. Oh I couldn’t have wished for a better entry. At least everyone knew within seconds that 2 foreigners had come in.

A little embarrassed and now definitely sweating, we try and locate our lockers, to get undressed.

At the far end of the room we locate steamed up glass double doors, we step in and go ‘Ahhhhhhhh…’ HOT water, HOT rooms!!! I wish it hadn’t take us nearly 3 months to make this move.

Koreans surely know how to beat the winter blues, I reckon the Finns and Swedes could learn a thing or two. ..

Fish tank

Today we set up the

photographs and projector at Cafe Ruf for our first presentation in Seoul – and the exciting thing for us? We haven’t a clue who’s coming – we sent out loads of emails but, unlike previous events, we have no fan base here in Seoul…

And  if photographic exhibitions are kinda like inverse goldfish bowls then walking down some streets in Seoul, you’d think the place was one big aquarium. This does offer a chance to inspect and study the various sea creatures of this planet without getting your feet wet just as our guests tonight can view Russia without getting the visa.

My favourite marine observation comes when looking into the circular tanks and the massively magnifed crabs inside, gazing into their alien mouths with their multitude of pincers.

Book

Nine years after meeting a French-Korean family on the road in Turkey and India, we finally meet again Miae, one of their crew who drove from Seoul to Paris and back again, first giving me the idea of driving to this country. Miae hasn’t changed a bit and it must have been a blast from the past for her seeing our trucks which are more or less the same type as we had all that time ago.
Many people we have met in Korea know of her series of books that she published on her return from her epic journey and this has given us the idea of writing a book ourselves. Aimed at the Korean market and depicting the completion of one long road through Russia, panoramics on every page and each of our voices reminiscing the thoughts and emotions… can we do it? Watch this space.