Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Soundtrack of Seoul

The soundtrack of Seoul is cicadas. Thousands of the winged bugs rest in the city’s trees throughout the summer, clicking madly away in an attempt to find love. The numbers of cicadas in Seoul has grown drastically due to global warming, as the winters do not become harsh enough to kill off the bug’s larvae. The bugs range in size from tiny to terrifying, some as large as birds. They are seen as pests in a beautiful green city that becomes infested with chirping, humming, screaming bugs in the summer.
The cicadas’ sound is a comfort to me, though. I’m not bothered by their constant presence, or at having to raise my voice over theirs, because Seoul’s soundtrack mirrors Albuquerque’s. The cicadas of Albuquerque, though less gargantuan in size, are a summer staple and their buzzing accompanies many of my Albuquerque summer memories.

Seoul feels inexplicably like Albuquerque. It shouldn’t, really, with a population that outnumbers ours 20 to 1 and an area a mere 100 more square kilometers than Albuquerque’s. But I feel this city and its people are on a similar wavelength to Albuquerque. They understand the importance of aesthetics and have a desire to create beautiful things, whether contemporary or traditional. Sculptures, pop art, and statues swarm the streets much like the cicadas do in the summer, but Seoul’s art is permanent. It is embedded into their culture and their way of life here, and there is an appreciation for the beautiful that I have found in the people of New Mexico, too.

Women  and young girls walk down the street in traditional clothing, giggling, taking selfies, and admiring their gorgeous costumes. I have seen Native American women at pow-wows in New Mexico do the exact same thing, admiring and appreciating the work they adorn and the culture they represent. Seoul is unusually clean for a city with such a densely packed population, and there is a palpable pride in being a part of this place, keeping it clean, and doing your part. There’s a similar pride in being New Mexican, and although our team here in Seoul isn’t entirely New Mexican by birth, we all embody the same spunk that comes with being New Mexican. We are utterly grateful to be here, taking nothing for granted. We are full of a desire to share art, culture, and tradition in a way that promotes something bigger than any one of us.

I can’t speak for the team, but I feel at home in Seoul. I feel a familiarity that goes beyond screaming cicadas and into the depths of who the people here are in relation to who New Mexico has made me. The sound of a Seoul summer follows the wavelength of our own, and I can’t help but feel it’s a good omen for this project.

Claire Stasiewics
World Folk Art Movement
South Korea 2016

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