Sunday, October 12, 2008

the long-awaited 2nd-half of 추석

i guess blogging is one of those things that's very easy to fall behind on. many times i feel like writing a short little anecdote or observation in korea, but when i think about everything that i still have to write about, the task of retelling all the piled up memories becomes too daunting...

but here i am sitting in my 'studio' on a sunday evening, ive already killed most of the day by waking up late, seeing my friend 용훈 (yonghoon) off to the train station, doing laundry, and watching 2/3 of the mad max trilogy. and now ive told myself that im not going to cook dinner and watch the last one until ive taken a little (or likely a LOT) of time to write about my first 6 weeks in korea. i still owe you the second half of 추석 ('chuseok' which was almost a month ago) AND the two weeks before that which i think i also neglected to write about. not to mention all the pictures that need uploading.

so i guess we'd better get comfortable and have a go, eh? let's start with the rest of 추석 (chuseok) and move on from there.

so i think i left off with wonchul and i drinking soju with his grand-uncle, the architect and well-informed carrier of the park family history (i can happily say that my soju drinking ability has made a substantial comeback, although not yet quite up to par with general standards). we awoke the next morning, rubbed some cold water on our swollen eyes, bade our thanks to wonchul's relatives, and stumbled down the hill back to wonchul's grandpa's house. not to our surprise, we discovered his cousins sleeping haphazardly in a heap. a few of the adults were roaming around here and there. wonchul and i silently took in a little breakfast. i was then starting to realize more and more how wonderful and relaxed of a holiday 추석 is
no one does much work with regard to anything other than cooking. 'leisure' is the team's cheer.

wonchul informed me that we would be heading to the village church after breakfast with 할머니 ('harmoni' - grandma). the church was not far. in the car, wonchul explained to me that everyone in his family was christian except his grandfather; he said that everyday harmoni rode to church on a little motorized tractor. once she was hit by a car on the way to church and hospitalized for a little while, but i can tell you that this woman is far from seeming unhealthy or weak - although she had to move around with walking sticks, her movements and speech are quick and confident.

the church was small, of course, but sturdy and well attended - i wondered how many families were visiting for 추석 like us. apparently the church had had some trouble keeping a pastor for more than a few months because the place was so remote and likely too unfamiliar to most pastors coming from the city. the present pastor, however, had remained for 3+ years and the congregation seemed to really like the guy.

of course everything was in korean, so like usual i couldnt understand much of the sermon, but i sang the songs out of the hymnal, which is always very enjoyable to me. during the sermon i noticed that many of the congregation were elderly, as would be expected. it seemed that a good deal of them were having considerable difficulty remaining awake; harmoni, sitting next to me, was not excluded. although i felt a little guilty about it, i found it quite amusing watching their behavior. harmoni, with her head bowed and eyes closed, would periodically bob her head to indicate her heartfelt agreement with the pastor's words

at first i didnt realize she was actually asleep - not until i noticed her nodding at irregular times like that did not seem to fit with the pastor's speech (he paused once for about 15 seconds to parouse his notes which apparently harmoni was in complete agreement with) and leaning over lower and lower. once, someone in the back let out an incredible snore. occasionally, someone would nearly slip out of their seat. as i watched harmoni, however, dressed up in her nicest clothes, with her grey hair tightly curled, carrying her worn bible that had faint scribbles all over it, i couldnt help feeling a strong sense of compassion and admiration for her simple and devoted faith that brought her daily to church.

we came back home we found out that the rest of the family had already gone to the family grave site to pay respects, so wonchul and i took another nap on the gazebo by the road. then, it was suddenly time to go. wonchul's father wanted to head back to seoul a little earlier in hopes of beating the traffic this time. we had a final meal together, paid our respects to everyone, took some photos, exchanged encouraging words, and drove back down the country roads we had meandered through the day before back to the modern world. instead of going straight back to seoul, however, we stopped by the coast and visited a 녹차 ('nokcha' - green tea) farm. haraboji, like i said in the last post, used to own a green tea farm.

green tea grows on the hillsides all over 보성 (boseong). wonchul and i climbed one of these hills to survey the rising and falling rows of green tea bushes as they stretched across the rolling landscape. ive described the feeling i have when gazing at the mountains of korea as like being completely infused with a sense of aged serenity; the land is steeped in tradition, you can feel its hidden history just by touching the weather-worn earth or looking at the rounded mountains. watching the sun set on these mountains was enough to understand what causes tradition to remain in a rapidly modernizing country - it's impossible to live in seoul without sometimes seeing these mountains peeking above the tall buildings. i think that most koreans see their own culture similarly - it is too strong to be blocked out entirely.

wonchul and i slept in the car most of the time. once, we stopped at a rest area and got some fast cafeteria food for dinner. wonchul's parents offered me to sleep at their house again that night, and i gladly accepted. i never thought that relaxing and eating could be so tiring. but i was grateful for a break in the pace of my life thus far as a hagwon teacher in suwon.

1 comment:

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