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Basics about Toji Cultural Centre

When I was preparing for my time here one big difficulty was finding anything (in English) about what life at this residency would be like.

I had read the official notes of course and knew this place is run by the Toji Cultural Foundation and is set in the rural mountains near Wonju.

I also learned about Pak Kyong Ni (1926-2008) who has a status in Korean literature that has no equivalent in Singapore–but I’ll write more about her, about Korean literature and about what it’s like to be a Korean writer today… later.

Today this is about the very, very basics and I’m writing with future Singapore or at least English speaking residents in mind.

The internet connection is very good if you’re in the right place. This is the block where I’m staying and the connection is simply great. Worth putting up with occasional leaky toilets for:

ImageThis used to be known as the ‘white building’ where most foreign residents are housed and though it was painted orange while I was here, they still refer to it as the white building.

I really love it here, but it’s an old building so there are leaks and cracks and occasionally the floor boards warp and twist but the Uncles who fix everything from the gardens to the lights here come with mallets and whack them back in place.

This is my room on the ground floor of the white/orange house:

ImageIn true Singapore style I’ve got a washing line and washing stand outside. There is a washing machine in the main building but no dryer and a line is a really good idea because we wash our bedding ourselves too. Or could… one of the other residents said he’d been here over two months and it hadn’t occurred to him to wash his sheets so I guess it’s optional. But so far a laundry round once a week is keeping me healthy.

Also fantastic is the food here, which is usually rice and an array of vegetables, either picked fresh or taken out of the kimchi containers. We get our own breakfasts. The kitchen door is unlocked at 6:30 am and white bread and eggs are available in the fridge next to the cast iron griddle which I really love using. I don’t like the white bread but have been experimenting with pancakes and frozen waffles and so far it’s been good. Lunch and dinner are communal meals at 12noon and 6pm. There’s a white board in the dining room and if you’re not eating in you sign out on the board next to your name and room number. I love the food here which is largely vegetarian. Occasionally there’s fried fish or chicken or (today) what looked like spam cubes but there’s always plenty of other stuff I and another vegan writer can eat.

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This is our future meals growing and fermenting–the plot is next to our block.

My daily routine here is wonderfully basic: Because of the days getting longer it’s easy to wake up around 6 am. I write my morning pages on 750 words. Breakfast around 7am followed by a short walk, 9 am to 12 noon writing ‘Angels of Life’, Lunchtime at 12noon followed by email and facebook catch-ups, then reading for 2 hours (At the moment I’m reading ‘The Taj Conspiracy’ by Manreet Sodhi Someshwar and Jung’s ‘Synchronicity’) then editing ‘The Blackmore Girls’ from 4pm to 6pm and Dinner. After dinner there’s time for a slightly longer walk and then shower and web surfing till around 10pm when I’m falling asleep.

Of course this is just a rough guide. There are days when I just want to go out and explore a new trail and then I do because the changes here are so dramatic. When I got here everything was still brown and then suddenly within a week it was all green. What was just a clump of green stalks with one brave purple flower turned overnight into a thick mass of irises–which are now all gone. Likewise the crowds of sunflowers bursting out and tons more flowers I don’t know the names of. Beware though–what looks from a distance like a field carpeted with pretty white blossoms turns up close to be knee deep in dry straw and last season plants and the flowers are actually growing up through that and bloom at waist and chest height (on me at least) another wonderful experience in spite of the thorns and snakes!

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Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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