October 24, 2012 at 5:42 AM

Dispatches from South Korea: Finding Our Sea Legs

"It's all quite banal, which after the past 48 hours, is heaven."

By Todd Eric Lovato

Fox in a Forest

Todd Eric Lovato is a Santa Fe native, the managing editor of SantaFe.com and an overfed, long-haired leaping gnome.

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I don't really feel like writing right now. Korean Air served complementary wine with dinner. The flight from LAX to Incheon was more than 14 hours long and the darkness seemed to follow us across the Earth. We've been in the darkness now for 24 hours, if you include the time change. We left Santa Fe in a hurry at 11:30 a.m. on Oct 21, it's 5:30 a.m., Oct. 23 and we're just now getting off the plane.

Todd and the Fox performs its first two performances tomorrow at the ICCN festival, but in the meantime, we're in a 20-seat commuter van barreling down the freeway on a dawning Incheon coastal skyline, en route across South Korea to our destination, the sea town of Gangneung.

Inside the van sits Erik, Mari, Bea, a driver and our two guides: Hyewon "Mrs. Lee, please" Lee -- an upbeat and highly-educated 20-something resident of our host city and Miyang Kim, who seems in charge but speaks very little English. I'm interested in getting to know more about her. This Korean trio is tired. They made the three-hour drive from Gangneung to pick us up the night before and we are all eager for naps. Still, we're a happy bunch and it was a real joy to have the crew waiting for us with a sign when we stepped off the plane.

At the onset of the drive, we get to know each other by testing our Korean. The essentials: Annyeonghaseyo (formal hello), Kamsahamnida (thank you), maegju (beer). We butcher the language but everyone, particularly our attaches, seems to enjoy our linguistic failures.

I put on my headphones, some Hauschka. I love how music adds context to our day-to-day moments of life. To the beat of minimalist techno, the construction hi-rises, sea barges, cardinal sun and many intangibles come together to form a stunning tableau. The bus driver also has these really cool crane motif curtains and matching trim lining the innter-roof that gives the whole commute a warm and funky vibe.

It's all quite banal, which after the past 48 hours, is heaven.

By 11 a.m. we arrive in the host city on the eve of our Korean debut. Our hotel is six stories and overlooks the Donghae East Sea, a controversial title due to its central location between Russia, Japan, and North and South Korea.

Our guides seem to appreciate our appetite for traditional, and therefore often very spicy, Korean cuisine. They suggest we try a very spicy seafood dish for tomorrow that sounds interesting.

In the afternoon, Mariann and Bea take naps and Erik explores the beach. We need rest, tomorrow's a big day with two performances on two seperate stages. Here are some pictures from Erik's phone.


Erik: "I just saw these three ladies by the beach and caught up to them and asked them if I could take their picture and they just posed instantly -- all happy."


Erik: "I don't know why I took this. I woke up early for breakfast. It was just funny that we had assigned seats. Czeck, Iran, Russian, Spain, Japan and Turkey, a bunch of other countries and me."


Erik: "This is just right out in front of the hotel."


Erik: "I took a picture of this toilet because it's fucking awesome. It's the future. His name is King James."

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