Friday, June 18, 2010
"Tears of the Amazon" --MBC's Powerful Statement on the Destruction of the River, the Rainforest, and Indigenous Tribes
Anyway, both evenings proved enlightening. Wednesday evening, with episodes 1 and 2, the documentary drew the viewers into the dangerous beauty of the river and the surrounding rainforest -- 35 times the size of the Korean peninsula! (I think I got that right!) Spectacular scenes of monkeys, sloths, prehistoric fish, aramadillos, and crocodiles came alive in the high quality HD production. Co-existing along the river banks were various tribes of indigenous peoples. True to the approach of Korean dramas that made Korean culture, history, and family life and relationships a part of my anglo-in-LA life, "Tears of the Amazon" captured story lines from the intimate lives of indigenous people. We shared the joy of a celebration, including one tribe's festival that excluded the women -- until the women took revenge! Hilarious!! There were the joys of hunting and fishing to provide for one's family, the pregnant woman awaiting her first baby, the woman who made it to the finals in a wrestling competition though her husband hadn't made it that far in the men's competition, and even the adolescent girl who was advised by her mom to tell her if she slept with a boy. Most touching of all the human scenes that first evening was the story of an 8-year-old girl who was totally on her own, tagging along and helping where she could just to survive. Her mom had died, and her dad had abandoned her to go to the city. She still had an uncle whose only contribution to her livelihood was not to help her so that she would continue to develop the skills she needed to survive.
That was the first night, which intimately engaged the viewer in the world of the rainforest. Then - SLAM! The next night was filled with destruction all around us! The trees came crashing down -- monkeys and sloth families holding on for dear life! Each tree, according to the beliefs of one tribe, has a soul. Viewing the high-def crash of the trees was as much like witnessing a murder as was viewing dozens of carcasses of enormous prehistoric fish that had been caught illegally despite the Brazilian government's efforts to avoid overfishing through tagging. In fact, sincere efforts made by the Brazilian government to manage the Amazon and the rainforest have proved overwhelmingly ineffective. The ranchers and goldminers continue their slash and burn techniques to clear the land. Clearing the rainforest just to provide barren land where cattle graze? Flushing out gaping holes in the land and using mercury just to find particles of gold for those addicted to a get-rich-quick gamble? What about the massacre of whole tribes of indigenous people -- men, women, and children? Survivors of these attacks have nowhere to go; they don't fit into the tempting city life, but are no longer able to survive on their native lands.
The third episode, while most disturbing, was the most powerful in showing how human greed and irresponsibility are killing the Amazon and its rainforest: the fish are gone, alligators are few and very small, lack of food forces changes in tribal life, like people no longer sharing their catch with the whole tribe and families deciding to move to the city, which has incomprehensible rules and whose luxuries require money that indigenous people don't have. In fact, one scene showed older people attending literacy classes, not to learn to read but to get the free meals that were also provided.
Suddenly, the documentary was over: a eulogy to what was without a trace of hope for the future. Though no glib answers or easy solutions were provided, the experience created by the documentary leaves the viewer caring deeply and feeling responsible. Having viewed this MBC production, I realized it was not at all a matter of a "Korean perspective" on what's going on, this minute, in the Amazon. "Tears of the Amazon" convinces viewers that this is a global catastrophe and that we are all responsible for finding ways to make crucial changes - as soon as possible!
If you get a chance, do see this documentary! "Tears of the Amazon" will be available in retail video stores on line at www.dramafever.com (with minimal commercial interruptions).
Great Websites to Check Out!
- Dramafever.com: Fantastic site for watching Korean dramas! Sign up and they keep track of where you are on which episode!
- Korean Cultural Center Los Angeles: Great cultural programs and Korean language classes on Tuesday evenings!
- yesAsia.com Link: Great source for Korean and other Asian dramas and films! Many sales! Great service!
- Also recommended: koreanclass101.com. Note: free downloads!
- This link takes you to the website of two amazing composers: JJ & Chris!
- Wilki'sblog w/great photos of Korean/cross-cultural events!
- Art Gallery Casa Muhyang: Offers "the beauty of various traditional cultures"
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Favorite Restaurants (mostly Korean)
Just adding now: Tender Greens (9523 Culver Blvd., Culver City): http://www.tendergreensfood.com/
Banchan a la Carte (141 N. Western, LA): http://losangeles.citysearch.com/profile/45654877/?brand=smx_restaurant-nc Enjoyed their delicious chap chae with grilled veggies!
San Ya (2897 W. Olympic Bl. between Normandie and Vermont - exact cross street is Fedora): They have an 'unlimited' special for $14 right now.
***ChoSun Galbee Korean BBQ : http://www.chosungalbee.com/
***BCD Tofu House:
***Dong Il Jang Restaurant (3455 W. 8th St., LA): http://la.foodblogging.com/2006/01/21/korean-bbq/
***Bon Juk Porridge Shop: near Kingsley and Wilshire
***Mu Dung San Restaurant: http://www.ktownsearch.net/details.asp?id=230
***Cafe MAK: See link below in "Sweet Spots"
Recommended Sweet Spots:
***Union Bakery in South Pasadena (1138 Fair Oaks at Monterey Road): http://www.insiderpages.com/b/3711088944
***Bulgarini Gelato in Altadena: http://www.bulgarinigelato.com/
***Vanille in San Marino: http://www.insiderpages.com/b/3710358077
***Perfectly Sweet in Alhambra: http://www.cityofalhambra.org/about/dining/Sweet.html
***Cafe MAK in LA: http://losangeles.citysearch.com/profile/42539398/?brand=smx_restaurant-nc
***Jin Patisserie in Venice (recommended-can't wait to go there!):http://www.jinpatisserie.com/
A Persistent Passion: Episode Two
Episode One (Re-Cap):
Two summers ago, our heroine found “My Lovely Sam-Soon” while channel-surfing, and “tiny” Korea jumped off the map and into her life! From “Sam-Soon,” she went on to “Winter Sonata,” and moved from awareness and fascination to…..love, not just for Bae Yong Jun, but for Korea itself! During that year, she watched dozens of Korean dramas, sharing her newfound love with her family and friends. Most got hooked, staying up till 4 or 5 a.m. to watch DVDs she lent them. (You’re reading this, so you understand!)
She made new friends, too: Choonhee, the librarian at her college, and June and Wally (aka Yun-Suk), owners of a neighborhood bakery. They tried to teach her to say “Anyeong Haseyo” and “Gamsahamnida,” but her tongue tripped badly on the new sounds. Given our heroine’s bigger, better world view, she wanted to learn more. When Choonhee recommended the Korean classes at the Los Angeles Korean Cultural Center (KCC), our heroine’s addiction was about to lead her way beyond her TV……
Episode Two: Close-up of our heroine, during break at Korean language class, awkwardly picking up kimbap with chopsticks.
“But how did you become so interested in Korean dramas, Sharon?” That was Jenny, a communications major from Singapore, just finishing her degree in L.A.
“I don’t know. I just started watching and knew,” I replied as I grabbed a napkin, “knew that true love still exists somewhere in Korea.”
“Oh, Sharon,” she said, evidently concerned about my delusional state. I shrugged, smiled, and we both laughed.
They say that something is love made visible. I don’t remember. Maybe it’s Korean dramas. I do remember another thing people say about love - that it isn’t just a feeling; it’s an action. This past year, I know I moved past the feeling part of loving Korea to the action. As I summarize all of these changes, I will probably amaze myself!
A year ago, when I started studying Korean at KCC, people asked, even KCC asked on the application, why I wanted to learn Korean. All I could say was that I wanted to know more, to understand. In just a few weeks, I was amazed - I could read! I went from not knowing if a storefront sign was in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, to knowing it was hangeul, and I was able to sound it out. I didn’t know what it meant – but I could read! Now I have some basic conversation skills and am building my vocabulary. I can say: Hangook drama-reul sarang hamnida! (I love Korean dramas!)
Korean language classes were just the start! This spring, I attended KCC’s Korean Entertainment lecture series and learned more about Korean dramas, film, and animation. At the last lecture, I got the names and contact info of people who wanted to keep meeting to discuss Korean films and dramas and to explore other avenues of Korean culture – especially those avenues in nearby Koreatown! I’ve organized several gatherings for the “Hallyu Surfers” to have dinner, see films and attend cultural events – surfing the Korean Wave together! I now have my favorite Korean food – bibimbap – and favorite places to go – Chosun Galbee and Café MAK, where Elisa helps me with Korean! This new leadership role has been good for me – and so much fun! I’ve made some wonderful friends! I’ve also delved deeper into Korean film, doing some research to help prepare for a possible lecture series, even contacting scholars about participating and being delighted by their positive response! Perhaps they, too, crave more opportunities to talk about Korea!
I’ve attended KCC’s art exhibit openings, tea ceremonies, and musical performances. Images related to my experiences with Korean culture now appear in my writing. I hadn’t realized that the connection being formed was so deep. Several poems later, I was writing one screenplay about a kidnapping in Korea and another about a young woman who leaves Jeju Island in the 50s for Seoul and meets a young American soldier – someone like my dad, who actually served in Japan. That story, entwined with my own family’s history, further deepens the connection with Korea.
As I’ve continued to learn more, I’ve gained the wisdom to know that this “Persistent Passion” is not a five-episode drama, like “Freeze.” It’s an epic, like “Dae Jang Geum,” that will have more twists and turns than I can imagine. In fact, just this week I started my first blog, where I share some of my Korean-inspired poetry. I foresee a serious addiction to managing the online discussion on all things Korean!
Back when I was just “in love,” not actively loving and courting Korea, I had this fantasy: Bae Yong Jun would thank me for writing such a great screenplay for him, and I would – oh so eloquently thank him for touching my heart in “Winter Sonata.” Adapting that drama’s metaphor of finding your home in the heart of your true love, I would say something like, “Invisible walls were knocked down as I watched ‘Winter Sonata,’ and my heart grew and grew! Now my heart isn’t just your house, it’s your summer palace, big enough to hold all of Korea – North and South! – and even most of Asia! You can come visit whenever Seoul gets too darn hot!”
Since that fantasy, when an eager fan waited in a breezy, elegant, empty palace for her Yonsama, things have changed. As you can see, I have less time for all my dramas – though I still watch them and continue to get my friends addicted! Now I am busy with a real connection to Korea, one that started out in stories about love, loss, family and friendship in a culture I knew so little about. Once I watched, however, I understood, and it became a part of me. I am so thankful. I wasn’t bad before, but now I am so much better! And if Bae Yong Jun comes to visit his summer palace, he will have to wander the crowded hallways to find me among all the people I’ve come to know and love. When he finds me, of course, I will give him a big hug – one of those “Korean hugs,” when usually the guy pulls the girl close to him, and suddenly they know how much they mean to each other. Then, I’ll say “gamsahamnida, oppa!” - - and let him go....
Bae Yong Jun watches as our heroine walks over to the TV in the palace living room and turns it off so her friends can talk. He is suddenly grabbed by Auntie Lourdes, who looks like she’s going to faint! “When I watched you in ‘Untold Scandal,’ I – I – can’t breathe!” She collapses in his arms! A beautiful young Asian woman, Michelle, rushes over to help. Bae Yong Jun looks on as Michelle revives the older woman. Michelle looks up, and Bae Yong Jun gives a start as he gazes into her eyes. A look of recognition? His long lost sister? A reunion of souls destined to meet? Be sure to watch Episode Three of “A Persistent Passion”……