Archive for April, 2010


Friday, April 30:  Today, the fourth and fifth grade classes at Chojeon Elementary School go on a field trip to Daejeon to visit the National Science Museum.

The National Science Museum is a museum which studies and exhibits scientific materials. At its center is the Astronomical Hall, which is the largest dome in Korea. From here you can vividly see the phenomenon of the celestial sphere and the human development of space.  It re-creates a night sky.

the kids line up at Chojeon Elementary School

the kids line up at Chojeon Elementary School

one of my favorite little students

one of my favorite little students

There are exhibits featuring about 4,000 items based on nature and natural science at the Permanent Exhibit Hall. There are also exhibit halls featuring Korean nature, weapons, and folk musical instruments. You can see the stages of collecting energy from nature, and its use in transportation. Outside the Hall is Cheomseongdae, a weather evaluating machine from the Goryeo period; models of plant-eating dinosaurs; and a steam engine. The exhibits help to easily understand the theories of science, and the wonders of nature (Official Site of Korea Tourism: National Science Museum).

the National Science Museum in Daejeon

the National Science Museum in Daejeon

Mr. Son

Mr. Son, the 5th grade teacher at Chojeon

the two 4th grade teachers: Coffee J on the right.

the two 4th grade teachers: Coffee J on the right.

4th and 5th graders

4th and 5th graders

Mr. Son on the right

Mr. Son on the right

the National Science Museum

the National Science Museum

me with some of my students

me with some of my students

the ubiquitous peace sign

the ubiquitous peace sign

fun-loving boys

fun-loving boys

more cute boys

more cute boys

and some of the girls

and some of the girls

inside the Science Museum.  The human body unveiled....

inside the Science Museum. The human body unveiled….

muscles of the human body

muscles of the human body

a human on a bicycle

a human on a bicycle

... and another cut in half

… and another cut in half

a bubble show

a bubble show

more bubbles

more bubbles

tiny bubbles

tiny bubbles

and big bubbles

and big bubbles

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Monday, March 15: I teach at two elementary schools in rural Seongju County, but I live in the city of Daegu. So… each day I have about an hour commute each way to work; luckily I’m able to carpool with some of my fellow teachers.  Otherwise, I’d have a horribly inconvenient trip by city bus and then by rural bus which could take me 1 1/2 hours and 10,000 Korean won/day.  The teachers offered me the option of carpooling with them during my first week.  I think it may have been a temporary offer, but now, much to their dismay, they are stuck with me; I’m like the guest they can’t quite shake, the visitor who is overstaying her welcome.   I’m playing dumb as long as I can….

Welcome to Seongju

Welcome to Seongju

Carpool #1 to Chojeon Elementary (M, T, F): I ride to work three days a week with three funny guys: my co-teacher Coffee-J, Mr. Yun, the PE and head teacher, and Mr. Sun, the 5th grade teacher.  During the entire drive, they talk together animatedly in Korean, laughing, making hand gestures, cracking crazy jokes; it’s high jinx.  Despite the fact that I can’t understand a word they’re saying, I find myself laughing along as if I understand their jokes.  I want to belong to their little group, but clearly I don’t.  Being the only woman and having very limited Korean speaking abilities, I mainly stay quietly amused in the back seat.

Coffee J, Mr. Yun, and Mr. Sun

Coffee J, Mr. Yun, and Mr. Sun at Chojeon Elementary School

I don’t know quite what to do with myself.  Some days, I simply fall asleep when my mind wanders off into an imaginary land where Englishy is spoken….inside my own head. (Koreans add “y” to the end of many English words: Englishy, lunchy, clothies, etc.) Sometimes I pull out my Korean flashcards and mutter words incorrectly to myself until one of them overhears me and corrects my pronunciation. (Odee, Yogi, Chogi – Where? Here. There.)  Other days, I stare absently out the window at the miles of vinyl houses where the yellow melon is grown. Other days I just can’t keep quiet and I start yapping to Coffee-J in English, probably taxing the poor guy’s mind first thing in the morning.  When I do that, of course, Mr. Sun and Mr. Yun become the outsiders, as they can speak very limited Englishy.  I don’t like to do this too much as it disrupts their camaraderie and may get me ousted from the carpool.  That’s something I DO NOT want to happen.

This past Friday afternoon, Coffee J and I got behind a slow-moving vehicle and he impatiently tried to get around.  He said, “What do you call this, this slow-moving car?” I said, “Hmm… I guess you’d say he’s pokey.” He said “porky? like the food?” I said, “No, p-o-k-e-y, pokey. Not a food!  You’d probably call him a slowpoke.” He said, “Oh, ok, a slow-pokey! That’s funny!” Then he kept saying that word all the way home.  “Oh, another slow-pokey. Haha!”

Tuesday, March 16: Carpool #2 to Byeokjin Elementary (W, Th) : My other carpool is with Mr. O, the 2nd grade teacher at my other school.  He is also my “manager” at Byeokjin.  I was excited before I met him because Coffee J said Mr. O has a Ph.D. in English.  However, Mr. O speaks very limited Englishy!!  As a matter of fact, hardly anyone at Byeokjin speaks Englishy; I honestly have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing at that school!!  Apparently Mr. O got his Ph.D. in English many years ago and, like many who study foreign languages, learned to read and write but not to speak.

Mr. O

Mr. O

The first day Mr. O picked me up, Coffee J met us in his car at the pick up spot.  Coffee J and Mr. O got out of their respective cars and Coffee J introduced me to Mr. O.  I promptly got in the front seat of Mr. O’s car, but first I had to move his briefcase, his phone, and his jacket to the back seat.  It happened to be snowing that day, and Mr. O drove very nervously and slowly to Byeokjin.  I could tell he was quite on edge, between the snow, trying to speak to me in his very poor Englishy, and having a strange woman in the car with him.

On Friday, I was back in my regular carpool with the Chojeon guys.  Coffee J’s phone rang and there was a very loud voice on the other end.  Coffee J held the phone away from his ear and then thrust his phone into the air so everyone in the carpool could hear what the other party was saying.  The three guys were laughing their heads off, but I was clueless as usual. After he hung up the phone, Coffee J said, “That was Mr. O.  He called to say that the next time you ride with him, he wants you to sit in the back seat. He can’t concentrate with you in the front seat and he feels very nervous!”

What???

The next day, I dutifully got into Mr. O’s back seat when he picked me up.  I figured since he wanted me to sit in the back seat (despite the fact that a perfectly good front seat was available!!) that I could just mind my own business in the back seat.  I planned to busily occupy myself putting phone numbers into my new Korean phone, looking over my lesson plans, reading emails on my blackberry.

Surprisingly, Mr. O talked to me non-stop.  He told me a story that went something like this: “I don’t like autumn.  It remembers me of my girlfriend in college.  She was rich and liked to eat (some kind of food I didn’t understand). She was the brother of my wife.  OK? You understand?”  There was some other stuff about the girlfriend eating a lot of some kind of food.  I tried so hard to understand what he was trying to tell me.  Did the girlfriend get fat eating all that food?  Did she leave him or did he leave her because she got fat?  Did he meet his wife through his girlfriend’s brother??

Vinyl houses for growing the yellow melon

Vinyl houses for growing the yellow melon

a typical rainy winter day waiting for the carpool on the main road from Daegu to Seongju

a typical rainy winter day waiting for the carpool on the main road from Daegu to Seongju

I patiently tried to process his convoluted tale.  Then Mr. O said, “By the way, I talked to Mr. Kim (Coffee J) and he told me you are a lot of fun, that you like to drink alcohol and soju.  So one night, I want to drink alcohol with you!”  Huh???  Now that’s an experience I can’t wait for:-)

Monday, March 29: Today, I’m informed by Coffee-J that our carpool is going out for dinner and drinks tonight after work.  This seems to always be the way things work in Korea.  No one asks if you might have other engagements; they simply announce some plan and expect you to follow along.  Usually, because I’m a foreigner and hardly anyone speaks English, I’m always the last to know.

Tonight we go out to a Korean restaurant in Daegu and eat bulgogi.   On this outing, it’s just the Chojeon car pool teachers; Mr. O is not included.

Mr. Yun and Coffee-J, making a toast with soju

Mr. Yun and Coffee-J, making a toast with soju

Bulgogi is made from thin slices of sirloin or other prime cuts of beef.  Before cooking, the meat is marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, pepper and other ingredients such as scallions, garlic, onions or mushrooms.

Bulgogi is traditionally grilled, but pan cooking has become popular as well. Whole cloves of garlic, sliced onions and chopped green peppers are often grilled or fried with the meat.  This dish is sometimes served with a side of lettuce, which is used to wrap a slice of cooked meat, often along with a dab of ssamjang (a thick spicy sauce made of soy bean paste, a red chili condiment, sesame oil, garlic, green onions, and optionally brown sugar), or other side dishes, and then eaten together. (Wikipedia: Bulgogi)

Mr. Yun, Coffee-J, me and Mr. Sun at our bulgogi dinner

Mr. Yun, Coffee-J, me and Mr. Sun at our bulgogi dinner

As always at any Korean gathering, the meal is accompanied by huge amounts of beer and soju, a distilled South Korean beverage traditionally made from rice.  It tastes similar to vodka but sweeter (Wikipedia: Soju).  There are always some bottles of Fanta also floating around.

Me and Mr. Sun

Me and Mr. Sun making a toast with soju

In short order, with all the soju and beer going around, everyone is quite drunk.  We laugh a lot and I feel like these carpooling co-teachers of mine are becoming good friends.

Mr. Sun and I have a race to see who can drink our soup the fastest

Mr. Sun and I have a race to see who can drink our soup the fastest

Mr. Yun doesn't speak a word of English, but he's always a jolly fellow

Mr. Yun doesn’t speak a word of English, but he’s always a jolly fellow

After dinner, we go to noraebang, where we all have a grand time belting out songs, both Korean and English.  Crazy times!!

me, probably singing Hotel California, always my song of choice! :-)

me, probably singing Hotel California, always my song of choice! 🙂

me and Mr. Yun singing in the noraebang

me and Mr. Yun singing in the noraebang

Tuesday, April 27: Today, I’m informed once again that we’re having a carpool party, this time including Mr. O from Byeokjin Elementary.  After work, we head to a restaurant between Seongju and Daegu.  As always, the meal includes a lot of beer and soju and as always, there are lots of laughs and high jinx.  This is typical Korean culture that I experienced too many times to count!

Coffee-J's face always turns bright red when he drinks

Coffee-J’s face always turns bright red when he drinks

me holding a bottle of soju

me holding a bottle of soju

Coffee-J with chopstick teeth

Coffee-J with chopstick teeth

the typical Korean pose with the V-sign

the typical Korean pose with the V-sign

Take one down and pass it around, 99 bottles of soju on the wall :-)

Take one down and pass it around, 99 bottles of soju on the wall 🙂

a pose with bottles of beer and soju

a pose with bottles of beer and soju

Saturday, April 24:  Today, Kathy and I ventured to Busan (pronounced by Koreans as Pusan), Korea’s second largest city after Seoul (3.6 million people) and the 5th largest port city in the world.

Busan on the map

Busan on the map

We drove in Kathy’s Matiz directly to Haeundae Beach, where we lounged on the beach for a couple of hours, chatting and watching people and looking out at Suyeong Bay and the East Sea.  It was too cool for bathing suits, so we wore jeans and sweaters. It was quite lovely there, bounded by hills at both ends that reminded me of pictures I’ve seen of the Amalfi Coast.

Haeundae Beach in Busan

Haeundae Beach in Busan

me on Haeundae Beach in Busan, South Korea

me on Haeundae Beach in Busan, South Korea

me on Haeundae Beach in April

me on Haeundae Beach in April

We stopped at the Fuzzy Navel, where we had drinks and  chimichangas and burritos on the patio with a bunch of other Westerners.  We hung out a while longer at the beach and then took a pleasant walk through Dongbaek Park at the south end of the beach.  The best thing about this park was the greenery, the shade and a really cool rope bridge that made me feel like Indiana Jones!!

Dongbaek Park

Dongbaek Park

Indiana Cathy on the rope bridge

Indiana Cathy on the rope bridge

Kathy and Koreans on the rope bridge

Kathy and Koreans on the rope bridge

me in Dongbaek Park

me in Dongbaek Park

the path along the coast at Dongbaek Park

the path along the coast at Dongbaek Park

In the evening, we ate very spicy Indian food at an Indian restaurant (the first I’ve found in Korea!) and then went to the Paradise Casino Busan, where only foreigners are admitted.  Kathy likes to play blackjack….I only stayed a short time as I get bored with such stuff. I went alone back to our very basic hotel, the Lord Beach!

Sunday, April 25:  Sunday morning,  we explored the GoEun Museum of Photography which featured an exhibit by Korean Photographer Kim Ki-chan.  Black and white photos of Korean life in the past were primarily featured.  My favorite photo was a father pulling a large safe or something on a cart; his little girl is strapped to the huge metal object.  To me, it captures something of Korean life, a melding of tradition and modernity, and the strong family ties that are pervasive in Korean life.

My favorite photo in the exhibit

My favorite photo in the exhibit

Kathy at the photography exhibit

Kathy at the photography exhibit

me with one of the amazing Korean black & white photos

me with one of the amazing Korean black & white photos

Korean children keeping cool

Korean children keeping cool

We walked back to our hotel through the Korean market.  We could see various Korean greens, bonsai, fruits such as oranges, apples & berries, fish swimming in plastic tubs and a white fluffy dog.

berries and oranges and other fruits in the Korean market

berries and oranges and other fruits in the Korean market

Bonsai

Bonsai

Various korean vegetables

Various korean vegetables

Korean greens

Korean greens

fish for sale

fish for sale

a shopkeeper's white fluffy dog

a shopkeeper’s white fluffy dog

The thing I loved the most in Busan was Donghae Yonggung-Sa, a temple set on the rocky coast.  For some reason it was totally packed, possibly some Buddhist holiday we didn’t know about; though usually crowds like that would detract from a place’s appeal, I didn’t find it offensive.  I actually thought the crowd added to its pilgrimage ambience.

On our way down to the temple, we stopped in an artist’s studio to check out some paintings.  We found the artist’s workspace but not an artist in sight.

artist's studio

artist’s studio

paints

paints

The entrance is lined with large carved stone zodiac figures and the steps leading to the temple are lined with stone lanterns.  It’s such a pleasant setting all around, set on a rocky coast overlooking the East Sea with a pine-covered hillside behind it.  Buddha and bodhisattva statues abound and a huge pot-bellied smiling Buddha sits near the top.

me with one of many sculptures lining the path to Donghae Yonggung-Sa

me with one of many sculptures lining the path to Donghae Yonggung-Sa

sculptures on the way to Donghae Yonggung-Sa

sculptures on the way to Donghae Yonggung-Sa

pagoda on the way to Donghae Yonggung-Sa

pagoda on the way to Donghae Yonggung-Sa

me and a golden lion

me and a golden lion

stone lanterns on the pathway

stone lanterns on the pathway

Donghae Yonggung-Sa Temple

Donghae Yonggung-Sa Temple

the rocky promontory at Donghae Yonggung-Sa

the rocky promontory at Donghae Yonggung-Sa

Donghae Yonggung-Sa

Donghae Yonggung-Sa

a temple at Donghae Yonggung-Sa

a temple at Donghae Yonggung-Sa

Gold seated Buddha

Gold seated Buddha

Me at Donghae Yonggung-Sa

Me at Donghae Yonggung-Sa

As we were walking back down from the top, we saw what looked like a monk with long white hair down to his waist.  he was so funky looking, we decided we had to follow him and get a picture.  Kathy took my camera and ran ahead of him; she got a great shot of him with me looking over his shoulder.  It’s such a funny picture because we have the same color of hair!!  Later, when I showed Coffee J the picture Kathy had taken, he laughed and said he thought the guy was a “faux monk.”  Leave it to Coffee J to make some off-the-wall comment!

The "faux monk" with some unidentified white-haired girl behind

The “faux monk” with some unidentified white-haired girl behind

Friday, April 23:  Today I take some pictures of my 6th grade class at Chojeon Elementary School.  I divide the students into teams and challenge them with a scavenger hunt; they have to follow directions throughout the school, finding little treasures hidden at the spot where each clue leads them.  At that point, they find another clue that leads them to another clue and so on.  These pictures are taken as they study the directions to the next clue.

my 6th grade class at Chojeon Elementary

my 6th grade class at Chojeon Elementary

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

6th graders Chojeon

This was a large class of 30 rambunctious students.  The teacher couldn’t speak much English, but he seemed to be a very good teacher himself.  It was always a challenge teaching them because of their lively energy, but some of them were incredibly smart.

Friday, April 16:  After our failed attempt to make it to Gyeongju on April 3, Kathy and I finally find our way there today.  We hope to ride the hot air balloon, which doesn’t really float about freely in the air, but is tethered to the ground.  However, neither of us has ever been on a hot air balloon, so we want to go even if we are anchored to earth.

the tethered hot air balloon at Gyeongju

the tethered hot air balloon at Gyeongju

me in front of the balloon

me in front of the balloon

up, up & away, without us!

up, up & away, without us!

We buy tickets and wait at a table in the shade until the time specified on our ticket.  We watch about 4-5 groups go up in the balloon.  Finally, it’s our turn…  but the wind starts gusting and they close the balloon for 10 minutes.  They then let us on the balloon and gale force winds whip the balloon about over our heads.  We are promptly escorted off the balloon.  Next, they shut it down for the rest of the day!!

Kathy and me

Kathy and me

So…. we eat a nice lunch by Bomun Lake, rent some dilapidated bicycles, and ride along the lake’s edge under the cherry blossoms.

Cherry blossoms on Bomun Lake

Cherry blossoms on Bomun Lake

Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms

lunchtime

lunchtime

Kathy at lunch

Kathy at lunch

me & my bicycle

me & my bicycle

tunnel of cherry blossoms

tunnel of cherry blossoms

Kathy at Bomun Lake

Kathy at Bomun Lake

Kathy & me at Bomun Lake

Kathy & me at Bomun Lake

We come to a big open square where small Korean children are driving motor-powered cars haphazardly around like maniacs.

maniac Korean children drivers

maniac Korean children drivers

too small to be driving!!

too small to be driving!!

wild little drivers

wild little drivers

he's on a mission

he’s on a mission

taking my life in my hands

taking my life in my hands

Finally, Kathy decides she wants to drive an All-Terrain-Vehicle around a motor-course.  She dons a helmet and off she goes.

Kathy, all helmeted up and ready to go

Kathy, all helmeted up and ready to go

Kathy on her ATV

Kathy on her ATV

Kathy takes the ATV course by storm

Kathy takes the ATV course by storm

Finally we part ways with Bomun Lake and its little line of swan paddle boats.  We head back to Daegu for the rest of the weekend.

swan paddle boats on Bomun Lake

swan paddle boats on Bomun Lake

Monday, April 5:  Today, I take some pictures of Coffee-J’s 4th grade class at Chojeon Elementary School.  They are a wild bunch, as you can see from the pictures.

Coffee-J's 4th grade class

Coffee-J’s 4th grade class

Coffee-J's 4th grade class

Coffee-J’s 4th grade class

Boys will be boys and then...

Boys will be boys and then…

boys will be boys.... :-)

boys will be boys…. 🙂

and kids will be kids... :-)

and kids will be kids… 🙂

Saturday, April 3: My first adventure with my friend Kathy in her Matiz is an attempted trip to Gyeongju.  We get on the highway and see signs for Gwangju.  It turns out Gwangju is near the southwesternmost tip of Korea, on the opposite side of the country from Gyeongju, but we think, because of the multitudes of misspelled transliterations throughout the country, that they are the same.  We believe we are going east toward Gyeongju, but instead find ourselves in the Gaya Mountains on the west side of Daegu.  Of course Gwangju is still miles and miles away.  I keep wondering why we’re seeing signs for Seongju, where we teach, to the west of Daegu.

We end up salvaging the trip by exploring the Haeinsa Temple in the Gaya Mountains, which is perfectly lovely.

crossing the creek to Haeinsa Temple

crossing the creek to Haeinsa Temple

me on the bridge over the creek at Haeinsa Temple

me on the bridge over the creek at Haeinsa Temple

stream at Haeinsa

stream at Haeinsa

Haeinsa is a head temple of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism in the Gaya Mountains in South Gyeongsang Province. Haeinsa is most notable for being the home of the Tripitaka Koreana, the whole of the Buddhist Scriptures carved onto 81,350 wooden printing blocks, which it has housed since 1398.  Sadly Kathy and I don’t see this today.  Since we come upon this place by happenstance, it’s only later that we discover what we missed.

Haeinsa is one of the Three Jewel Temples of Korea, and represents Dharma or the Buddha’s teachings (Wikipedia: Haeinsa Temple).

one of the temples at Haeinsa

one of the temples at Haeinsa

on the grounds of Haeinsa Temple

on the grounds of Haeinsa Temple

We walk around the temple complex on this cool spring day.  There seems to be some kind of festival going on, but we have no idea what it is.  Colorful lanterns are strung up along all the pathways and it seems to be quite crowded and festive.

inside one of the temples

inside one of the temples

I love the ceiling!

I love the ceiling!

on the grounds of Haeinsa Temple

on the grounds of Haeinsa Temple

crossing a bridge at Haeinsa

crossing a bridge at Haeinsa

a temple at Hainsa

a temple at Hainsa

a decorated elephant at Haeinsa at the end of a kind of labyrinth

a decorated elephant at Haeinsa at the end of a kind of labyrinth

lanterns lining the temple path

lanterns lining the temple path

me along the temple path

me along the temple path

another colorful lantern

another colorful lantern

me framed by Haeinsa Temple

me framed by Haeinsa Temple

We have lovely time exploring the Haeinsa Temple, even if it wasn’t our intended destination. 🙂

Friday, April 2: The Buddha with the flat hat is beckoning.  He waits on the mountain top, as he has for over a thousand years, and I have a wish that begs to be wished.  Thus I must climb the mountain.  This is no small feat, especially for someone who hasn’t fully recovered from a partial knee replacement done only 3 months ago.  But, I am determined.  I have formulated this wish very carefully in my mind, and it’s a beautiful day, and my fellow adventurer Myrna is with me.  Myrna and I haven’t seen each other all week, and we are chatting and laughing and enjoying catching up with each other.  We’re full of Dunkin’ Donuts and we’ve paid our 5,ooo Won and we are the only ones on the Daegu City Tour.  The annoying tour guide keeps chatting to us in his bad English, interrupting our conversation.  But we’re excited to be on our adventure, and we try to ignore him as best we can.

We get on the bus for the Daegu City Tour

We get on the bus for the Daegu City Tour

We want to visit Gatbawi.  He’s a seated Buddha of Medicine sculpture from the 800s that looks out over the foothills of Palgong-san.  A wide flat rock sits on the Buddha’s head.  It is a weathered sculpture, but highly revered by Buddhists; legend has it that Gatbawi will grant you one wish as long as you wish it wholeheartedly.   We are told the hike will take one hour up and one hour down, so we take our time, stopping along the way to explore a youth hostel with a spa inside, and taking a few unintended detours. 

Myrna on our hike up the mountain

Myrna on our hike up the mountain

Taking a breather on the hike up the mountain

Taking a breather on the hike up the mountain

We stop and photograph several brightly colored temples along the route.

Temple at Gatbawi

Temple at Gatbawi

Close up of a temple

Close up of a temple

pavilion in the temple complex

pavilion in the temple complex

inside the pavilion, lanterns and fish

inside the pavilion, lanterns and fish

inside a temple

inside a temple

Myrna, who is a wonderful photographer, takes a black and white photo of me sitting on a bridge to the temple complex.

I love this photo of me in meditative pose at the temples near Gatbawi

I love this photo of me in meditative pose at the temples near Gatbawi

After an hour and a half, we are confronted by the true climb, up a steep incline of boulders and rough steps. We are breathing hard; it’s so strenuous for someone as out of shape as I am!  We start to worry as it has already taken us 2 hours and we can see the Buddha far, far up the mountain.  We’re afraid we won’t be able to catch our bus back to town, so we try to rush.  Along the way, we pass more temples and a hillside overrun by mini-Buddhas.

the steep climb up to gatbawi

the steep climb up to gatbawi

Hundreds of mini Buddhas on hillside

Hundreds of mini Buddhas on hillside

At one point Myrna hangs upside down on a rock and wants me to take a picture of her.  We don’t notice at that moment, but she has put her phone in the pocket of her sweater jacket and it falls out.  We continue our hike and make it, out of breath, to the top of the mountain.  It is 4:00 and we stared the hike at 1:15.  We have one hour and 15 minutes to make it back to the bottom to catch the last bus.

Gatbawi

Gatbawi

There are probably 60 people up there on the platform, the wide patio in front of the Buddha, pilgrims who have come to pray and meditate in Gatbawi’s presence.  People kneeling, faces to the ground, people sitting with crossed legs in true meditating style.  I am not a Buddhist, but I am interested in Buddhism and have read much about it. I sit on a mat and I ask the Buddha for the wish I have been thinking about all the way up the mountain.  I feel good, and hopeful, and I ask wholeheartedly.

Cathy meets Gatbawi

Cathy meets Gatbawi

Myrna meets Gatbawi

Myrna meets Gatbawi

the view of the mountains from Gatbawi

the view of the mountains from Gatbawi

Myrna at the top of the world

Myrna at the top of the world

the mountains below

the mountains below

Myrna and I stop in the gift shop, buy matching decorative handkerchiefs with some kind of Buddhist symbol on them and strands of glass chili peppers.  Then we head down the mountain as fast as our sore legs will carry us.  Myrna is running down, but I am more cautious with my sore and wobbly knee. At several points, I slip on uneven rocks and fall on my butt.  Once, I slip on a gravelly spot and my knee snaps under me all askew.  I fear I have damaged it irreparably, undoing the work of the surgeons!  Later, as I am walking along minding my own business, I feel a hand sweeping my butt.  I look and a Korean man is brushing the dirt off my ass.  He smiles… I say “Kamsamnida…”  Hmmm….what else is there to say?

me and Myrna at Gatbawi

me and Myrna at Gatbawi

About halfway down, Myrna, who is somehow above me although she was way ahead of me going down, yells to me that she has to go back up because she lost her phone!  I keep going down because I’m so slow.  When I reach the temples further down the mountain, I call Myrna’s phone in case she is near it, so she can hear it and find it.  A Korean woman answers, “An nyoung hasayo.”  I say, “You have my friend’s phone! She’s looking for it!”  She says something in Korean.  What we have here is a failure to communicate.  I see Myrna racing down the mountain again.  I call out that someone has her phone.  She gets on and someone now is on the other end who speaks a little English.  We get it all sorted out and the woman returns her phone to an agreed upon location.

We are sore beyond belief; we can hardly move our legs.  But we are proud!  We made it!  I presented my wish wholeheartedly to the Buddha.  Maybe someday I can say it came true.  We shall see if this Buddha is true to his word:-)

Thursday, April 1:  My friend Kathy may be in danger of becoming a Korean.  Another native English teacher in the lovely “yellow melon” county of Seongju, she teaches at the boys’ middle school.  She’s in-the-know about Korean life because she’s been here a year longer than us newcomers.  She opted to renew her contract with EPIK (English Program in Korea), and now she’s truly settling in.  She made the leap to becoming a true resident by purchasing a car, a Daewoo Matiz, a 5-door hatchback “city car.”  Some people call it a disposable car.  It’s truly inexpensive, about 1.4 million Won, or about $1,200.  She named the car Lucy.  If she becomes Korean, she may have to change her name to the Korean style, with family name first.  She’ll become Daegu Kathy and her little car will be Daegu Lucy Matiz.

The Matiz and Kathy

The Matiz and Kathy

It appears to be a tiny vehicle on first view, from the outside, but inside it’s perfectly roomy.  Surprisingly, it even feels safe at high speeds on the highway.   It has a GPS that Kathy turns on only when we’re on our way back to Daegu, since the system is in Korean only and she doesn’t know how to program it for anywhere but home.

Kathy is a funny girl.  She is one of the most open and blunt people I’ve ever met.  She doesn’t mind telling anybody about her failed career endeavors, and refreshingly, she makes fun of herself in the telling.  When I listen to her, I feel that I might have had an identical or parallel life, except I’m not as artistic as she is, and I was lucky enough to have a husband who supported me financially through all my failed career attempts.  She hasn’t been married, so she has soldiered through by her own sheer will and with the help of  family and friends.  She told me a story once about a radio program she thoroughly botched that led to end of her radio career, and she makes it a funny story, although I’m sure it wasn’t funny at the time.

Kathy and Cathy at Hard Rock Cafe for Poker night

Kathy and Cathy at Hard Rock Cafe for Poker night

She’s a photographer and a writer, and a radio and TV show producer.  She’s also an English teacher in Korea.  But she has aspirations to succeed at these former pursuits, to have an artist’s studio/loft in L.A., to produce TV and radio shows, to exhibit her photography, to publish books.  She periodically suffers setbacks to her dreams.  On her recent vacation to Bangkok, she was in a taxi with her very expensive camera and lenses in tow.  When she went to pay the taxi driver, she reached into her bag to get more money, setting aside the camera.  Then she jumped out of the cab, and the taxi drove away.  She tells how she got on the elevator in her hotel, and just as the doors closed, she realized she left her camera in the taxi.  Thousands of dollars gone, just like that.

She’s gone through periods where she did Bikram yoga religiously, others where she meditated an hour or more each day.  She wears a cross because she believes it keeps her safe.  She believes in miracles and for asking the universe very clearly for what you want in life.  She inspired me to write a list of the things I want in my life, and I look at it, sometimes revising it, every night before I go to sleep.  She encourages me to frame things in a more positive way, to avoid saying negative things.  I’m trying, though not always succeeding…..

She was worried about driving in Korea because Koreans are crazy drivers.  She discovered one day that when she flipped off another driver, he immediately backed off.  So, we decided she should get a rubber hand with a bobbing middle finger (like those dogs with the bobbing heads) and attach it to the hood of her car.  That way she can make a statement wherever she drives.

Kathy is kind-hearted and tries to look out for us by planning social events such as coffee shop Boggle, Poker night at Hard Rock, movie nights, dinners out, etc.  I’m sure sometimes she feels unappreciated, as Myrna and I are often homebodies and don’t always jump on board with her plans.  Hopefully, she’ll forgive my lazy tendencies….  and you will read more about our continuing adventures in Daegu Lucy Matiz……

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