Monday, May 7, 2007
After a fun filled night with some new friends, the next morning I woke up at 7 AM on a SUNDAY to meet up with my friend Stella. I would have put up a huge fuss about the meeting time, if she spoke English, but phone conversations with here are short and to the point. Where and when, then yes or no, not much room for debate. She wanted me to join her on a road trip to some Buddhist temples in Deajong, about a 2 hour car ride away. I didn't totally know what I was agreeing to at the time, but it is much more of an adventure that way. Basically I was meeting with her, and we could have been going to a junk yard, but thank goodness, we weren't. It was a beautiful day, and it made me realize how much I missed being behind the wheel of a car. There is something about listening to music while driving that I find so enjoyable, but sadly I no longer own a car, or even have a Korean drivers liscense for that matter, so it will be some time before I experience that pleasure again. If you could put the peddel to the metal while blaring some Journey for me the next time you get behind the wheel, it would bring a smile to my face. Okay, so Stella and I were enjoying the open road when we finally saw the mountain we were heading too. I still had no idea what was coming, but when we pulled up there was a female monk waiting for us. As a joke Stella told me it was her mother, but jokes from people who know don't speak how good english well, really just mess with your head. Then we walked into an apartment building, or what looked like an apartment building, went up to the second floor, and wham! We were right in the middle of a Buddhist ceremony. We sat down on pads laid on the floor, and there we would stay for what seemed like an eternity. I thought it was too rude to look at my watch, so I can't give you exact times, but I felt like I sat there, Indian style, for 2 months.
For the rest of the time Monks chanted, beat drums, threw rice, people prayed, lit candles, bowed, stood, and bowed again. I didn't know what the heck was going on. The entire time we were just faced towards these walls of paper, until the time of the ceremony where they tear the paper down to expose one huge golden statue of the Buddha, and like a million little golden statues of some other icon. Besides being uncomfortable some of the cool parts of the ceremony were when they brought this string around, having everyone hold a peace. Then they wrapped the end of it around the statue before cutting the string you were holding. Stella told me the string is like an Angel, that's a simple translation, but I'm sure it's something like that. Also, after the ceremony we ate dinner right there on the floor we were just praying on. It was a good meal, and all the food was just blessed, so I think it had to be healthy. After the meal was over everyone helped clean up, and then Stella and I went to the mountain to see some famous temples. Overall it was a really interesting day. I certainly felt out of place at times, but I'm starting to think that isn't such a bad thing. If you don't put yourself in different situations every once in a while, everything you do will seem the same.
That should be the end of the story but sadly I was introduced to another very common occurence in Korea...the car accident. Korean drivers are well, lets just say I don't hear anyone calling them the best in the world. I think Stella seems like a pretty good driver too (despite all the driving stereotypes that work against here: Asain, woman, etc..), but with that being said, we did get into a fender-bender on the ride home. Everyone was okay, but I thought you might all want to rubberneck at the damage.