here’s to a brand new year, the year of the “lucky pig”. apparantly this is a rather rare phenomenon that occurs only every 600 years or so because of the allignment of the stars or something; perhaps this means that somehow korea will be able to wiggle out of the sticky FTA aggreement the USA is imposing on them…. probably not.
well. here at the temple the new year is celebrated like it is at many temples, with a big party and lots of praying and very little sleep. i thought the kun-su-nim was joking when he asked if i would do 1,000 bows last night, but i was mistaken. luckily i have jetlag as a very valid excuse for not participating – i can’t even imagine the pain that i would be in today if i had. but that’s not to say that i got any sleep. after settling down for the night on the floor in a room off the main buddha hall with a pillow that was about as cozy as a rock, we (JK and her adorable neice and i) were made to move to another location to accomodate all of the worshipers. the new room, connected to the kitchen, smelled of cigarette smoke but the floor was as comfortable as any. women came and went all night, making sure to leave the door open to the cold night air and the bright lights on each time. i thought i was going to explode with frustration and lack of sleep, but that wouldn’t be very buddhist of me, would it? i wandered in an out of sleep while i listened to my book on tape and enjoyed my rock pillow as the women that slept next to me pulled the single blanket that we shared in every direction. haha. it is times like these that breed real tolerance and bravery.
the fun part of the whole event was not the act of attempted slumber, believe it or not, but the immense fire that blazed through the night near the foundation of the new buddha hall. i finally gave up and got off of the floor at 6am for coffee (instant…) and to watch the sun rise. we chanted and prayed around the fire as the sun rose behind a blanket of clouds – but we knew it was there. for one beautiful instant it peaked through the clouds like a bright, pink-rimmed eye to bless us in the new year. very nice. then we all had a traditional new year’s breakfast of 떠국, a spicy rice-cake soup with seaweed. JK and her niece had to get on the train this afternoon, so we spent the morning at a nearby hotsprings spa which was absolutely packed with people and i was definately the only white person for miles, reminding me harshly (because of the stares that i earned from said position) that i am, indeed, in korea once again.
i just had tea with a few of my students and their parents, it was a wierd, nervous experience for all. there is a certain immense pressure on youth by their parents to learn english and this is often exhbited when i am in the vicinity of the unlucky young ones. this pressure is unfortunate because, like with all children i meet, i just want for us to enjoy eachother and the last thing i want is for them to feel uneasy around me. we will have our chance for fun tomorrow, if i ever focus and develop some sort of lesson plan. i am really just excited to start and get a feeling for my teaching ability so that i can stop being nervous as well, but i am also excited because of how much fun it will be. i am planning to devise my lessons for each day the day before, that way i can feel out the students (and also be entirely lazy). the temple gave me the impression that they were prepared for the class but in reality the only preparation that has taken place is the aquirement of about 20 desks. there are no crayons or paper. pretty much nothing but desks and a smoky room. and less than 10 students. but i can do this! the less the better for a fulfilling challenge!
that’s it. time for a nap, i’ve earned it. there will be photos on here as soon as i can figure out how to upload them on the korean operating system. happy new year back in wisco! (i think it’s 1am there now…)