We just returned from a week away from College Town, visiting a place that couldn't be any more different: Seoul, South Korea. My mom has been living there for the past couple of years since she retired, so my brother and Mr. Flossie and I made the 13-hour flight to pay her a visit.
It was great to spend quality time with the fam, but I have to say that Seoul is getting to be a bit too dystopian and Blade Runner-y for my taste (keeping in mind that I've now lived the provincial life in College Town for ten years, and also that I'm a person, constitutionally, for whom a trip to Best Buy is borderline too stimulating).
Seoul is so big, so crowded, and so polluted. My mom actually lives in Incheon, which used to be a separate port city, but now seems to be continuous with the Seoul megatropolis. Our hotel was in a neighborhood called New Songdo City, which is still under construction on land reclaimed from the sea. Here is the under-construction park outside our window at the Sheraton. You would be able to see the ocean in the distance but for a persistent fog/haze every day.
Ornamental cabbages (?) planted in the streetlamps (??) didn't disguise the fact that nature was not exactly being prioritized in the rush to develop. The only birds I saw all week were two magpies squawking high in the facade of the Sheraton.
But there were redeeming prospects. A human-friendly space was tucked into the shadow of my mom's apartment complex: a little market where people bought fish and produce. Bulk radishes, anyone?
And there's my mom, who takes the subway everywhere and doesn't own a car. So who has the better carbon footprint, my distaste for the decidedly industrial aesthetics of Incheon aside? Finally, there was the uneasy reflection, as Mr. F and I drove home from the airport after our trip was over, that Iowa is no less constructed a an environment than Seoul, only not as visibly so. Our agricultural system is just as unnatural and no more sustainable than the most rampant urban development.
Alas. Nostalgia for home is all well and good, but are Iowa's bucolic rolling hills and the birds at my backyard feeder just our version of the cabbage in the lamppost?