“I hope the fathers and mothers of little girls will look at them and say, ‘Yes, women can.'”
Despite not having a checklist when I travel to any one place, EWHA Womans University* was one of the few landmarks I knew I had to make the effort to go to while in Seoul.
Besides being the first modern educational institution for Korean women, it is currently the world’s largest female educational institute.
For those who are less inclined to feminist ideals, EWHA Womans University is also an awesome place to shop.
Hey, haven’t you heard – the place to shop is where all the (poor) university students shop!
Right outside the station, there are already rows and rows of street stalls and shops that cater to the younger crowd in the area. Plus, it’s a women university, which means most of the products are targeted at ladies!
It took so much willpower for me to not bust the bank and shop at the many sales that were happening. I had to resist because I was going to backpack to two other cities post-Seoul, and I couldn’t afford to have too heavy a backpack.
Can you imagine the sheer agony I was in?
Thankfully, as I was mentally resisting the allure of beauty, I came across a snaking queue outside this bagel shop. Hey, if there’s one thing that can take my mind off shopping, it’s food.
I’ve never actually heard of Queen’s Bagel, but the long queue of university students had to mean that it was good, right?
It didn’t hurt that the man at the counter was pleasant to look at. 🙂
I’m not a big fan of bagels, but with the wide spread of cream cheese available, I couldn’t resist.
I got myself one with earl grey cream cheese, and the cashier wrote out my name in Hanggul – which really was a small but sweet gesture.
With bagel in hand, I entered the university with as much gusto as I could muster. Truth be told, I miss being an undergrad – who doesn’t?
All those times
being late rushing for morning classes, travelling from one block to another, stalking empty tables to do work, complaining about never-ending research and essay-writing. Ah, good times.
I was excited to explore the Social Sciences and Education faculty blocks of the campus, until something else caught my eye and threw my initial plan out the window.
The 4th Arab Film Festival was going on the very day I was visiting, and if anything, films and culture are two of my favourite things. It was just my luck!
I’ve learnt that films, unlike movies, are meant to make the viewer uncomfortable, to question ideals and value systems, to initiate change.
I entered the hall prepared to receive an education.
Roshmia is a docudrama that tells the story of an elderly Palestinian couple who got into conflict with Israeli authorities over their shack in Roshmia, the last natural valley in Haifa. The couple have been staying in their makeshift shack since 1956, after they were displaced from their original town. The municipality plans to build a road across the valley to connect the Mediterranean to Mount Carmel – which requires the demolition of the couple’s home and force them to find a new home. Aouni, their sponsor, acts as a middleman between them and the municipality and attempts to secure a compensation for them. However, the negotiations lead to tension amongst the three, as each have different expectations.
The drama was raw, and the very last scene, where the authorities bulldozed the couple’s shack right in front of their eyes and them breaking down in anger and agony, broke me. The processes that allow people to be reduced to mere numbers, memories and respect to be cast down the drain, and human spirits to be broken, left me feeling despair.
What hit me worse was the understanding that this docudrama was based on real-life, and that such bastardizations to the human race is a daily occurrence in many places around the world.
What are we doing to each other?
I couldn’t shake off the sadness after the film, so I walked around and found a nice little cafe to zone out and recalibrate.
The cafe reminded me of Starbucks at NUS’ University Town, except that instead of sipping Green Tea Soy Latte and pouring over Linguistic readings, I was treating myself to a nice cup of blueberry bingsu and reading Invictus.
I would say that it was a beautiful counterbalance, to have Invictus as my reading companion during this trip. Right after watching Roshmia, I came across this powerful quote in Invictus:
Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.
It reminded me that no matter how dire the circumstances, it still really is up to us as individuals to react. Do we allow the waves to drown us, or to let it cleanse us right as we are rising above it?
It was the perfect reminder for me as I continued my journey through South Korea.
I am the master of my fate – I am the captain of my soul. – Invictus
*I’ve checked multiple sources and it really is Womans instead of Women. I kept wanting to change it, booo, but it’s a special noun, so oh well. Job hazard for an English teacher! 😛
Lots of love,