Sunday, August 14, 2016

Setting the Scene - Seoul 2016

Why is saying goodbye so hard?

I knew going into the trip that it would be full of ups and downs. I would be faced with the reality that I'm leaving this incredible organization. I would be delighted to watch the team grow close and prepare for their upcoming year. I would observe proudly in our meeting with the American Center - Korea as we presented our idea of Pop-Up Markets at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Games.

I didn't know that everything would go so wrong.

Except it didn't - at all. Seoul has a magic to it. You can feel it in the very fibre of the city. It runs almost like a grid throughout its streets, its museums, and its parks. There is a peace and a comfort woven into the grid. Artisan co-ops dot street corners, museums and art galleries jump out at you from between store-fronts, and the city hums with the quiet knowledge of home. 

The trip started with a bus ride to nowhere. After riding 30 minutes the wrong direction, and an hour the correct direction, we arrived at the American Center Korea to meet with Mr. Canning. He gave us incredible advice and guidance about how to better present our proposal, gifted our hungry team with some pop-tarts, and we went on our way. After an incredible team lunch, we ended up hiking up a mountain only to not reach the top, being turned away from a "foreigners-only" casino, and waiting in line for two and a half hours to not get to the top of the observation tower. What we did get though, was the most peaceful view of the skyline, an organic discussion about the nature of love, and a chance to tap into Seoul's magic grid.

I'm glad I started this post with imagery of a woven grid, because in my mind it describes the trip so well. Everything was masterfully woven together. Discussions on global culture and world polity, an exploration of Korean art and business culture, and the calmest, gentlest, most cleansing rain I have ever been caught in. Nothing that we experienced was out of order, out of place, or a mistake. Even the disastrous food tour we embarked on yielded a greater understanding of the effects of gentrification and western influence in South Korea.

In fiction, the setting is intentionally chosen by the author to help create a sense of place, and to enhance the tone and mood the author is creating. As a team, we selected  South Korea in this intentional way as the place for our project, the perfect nation to showcase art's power as a driver of socioeconomic development and empowerment. But what we didn't realize is that it would be the setting of life change for so many of the team members.

I couldn't have picked a more perfect place to be the future site of WFAM, and I couldn't have picked a more perfect place to say goodbye to IBSG.

I'm not gone for good - mark my words - but every phase in life leads to a new one. And now that I've graduated, it's time to make that forward step. I just hope that the rest of my experiences can be as magically woven together as Seoul was.

Tori Gilliland
World Folk Art Movement
August 2016

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