Sunday, May 24, 2009
Budddha's lantern festival
If you haven't noticed, I have been a little lazy lately with the blog. Some days I am really inspired to write, while other days I could care less if I saw or touched my computer again. I would say that these mood swings are intertwined with my productivity spurts and the status of Kyle's progress in getting here. There are periods of times when my dedication is as strong as Hercules and I am super productive all of the time, I work out regularly, I write often and I manage my time and money well, and other times when the dedication wanes to that of a pillow; soft, weak and squishy but since it isn't living doesn't do much but assist with sleep. (Do you like how that makes absolutely no sense? I couldn't think of anything clever so I went with an inanimate object which has no strength at all! Good thing I am not writing an essay for school.) But back to my laziness with the blog, I mention it because this post is about the Buddha's lantern festival nearly a month past and I am just now getting around to writing about it. Ooops! How did that happen?
The weather had been really lovely. The sun had been shining all week. My long sleeve shirts remained in their shelf for the entire week making way for my short sleeve shirts and even a skirt or two. It was all very exciting, this exchange of cold weather clothes for warm weather clothes. I had planned on going to the lantern festival with a friend until the cold, with a stubborn furry stormed back in to ruin the weekend. You may not have gathered by my multiple posts about my dislike of cold weather, that I really hate any type of weather that doesn't have the word warm and/or sun involved in it's description. I considered crawling back into my hibernating state, but was somehow persuaded to enter the land of the living even if it included engaging in battle with cold weather and possible rain. I threw on my coat, scarf and gloves and we ventured into Seoul to meet up with some other foreigners whom were friends of friends.
The lantern festival is a celebration of Buddha's birthday with festivities such as lantern making, games, activities and a parade. The Korean tourism website says "The lighting of a lotus-shaped lantern in Buddhism traditionally symbolizes a display of religious devotion to performing good deeds and lighting up the dark side of the world filled with agony. "
Unfortunately, the lantern festival which main attraction was making one's own lantern stopped making lanterns by the time we joined in on the festivities. We had read that it would be happening until 7pm but at 3pm the lantern making booths started to close. We wandered aimlessly unsure of what to do next for a while until we came upon the Buddhist temple. Many performers dressed in traditional Korean clothing were either on stage performing or lined up next to the stage waiting for their next performance. The kids were particularly adorable.
There were hundreds of booths lining the normally busy street with many different attractions. The group of people I was with however didn't seem too interested in stopping to look at the different booths, which I found odd and a little frustrating. Why go to a festival, walk the streets, but not stop to participate in the activities? What was the point in going to this festival if all you wanted to do was walk the streets in the cold? Alison, the friend I went with, and I nstopped at a fan painting booth and sat down to paint. The design was already on the fan. My job was to fill it in with paint, kind of a like a paint by numbers. The Korean lady helping out, however was unhappy with some of my painting choices. She informed me that I needed to change the color of the center part which unbeknownst to me was a seed. I tried, but was unsuccessful. Not to worry, I was told, for her "teacher" would make it beautiful for me. She whisked me and fan away to a little old lady running the booth. With little concentration, she took a brush, and painted away at what she saw as my mistakes. In the end, the fan was more beautiful than my original copy, but the whole experience was a bit strange. I liked the end product, but why couldn't my fan just remain in it's ugly condition?
After the paint by number failure we found ourselves at the next booth- a small lantern making booth! Hurray!! We wouldn't miss out on the lantern making after all. And we found it just in time because they were running out of leaves faster than you could sneeze. The process included taking a toilet paper roll thingy-ma-jig, dipping your finger in glue, smearing the glue on the toilet paper roll and sticking on the brightly colored lantern leaves in the shape of a flower. I was working as quickly as my sticky glue covered fingers would work as I could see that the flower leaves were running out quickly and the green leaves which went on the outside seemed very sparse. In fact, the only ones available by the time I was ready for the finishing touches were torn up bits littering the floor. In the end however, my lantern was able to be completed because a few booths down, another lantern making place had some left over green available. I was actually quite pleased with the state of my lantern- granted it wasn't hard to make and probably very difficult to screw up, but it isn't uncommon for me to find a way- I mean since my fan was unsatisfactory with the paint by numbers.
After the lantern making, we found refuge in a little Korean restaurant that served porridge. This isn't breakfast oatmeal we are talking, it is something similar to oats but not oats and served with chicken or seafood. It isn't sweet, it is a regular meal, one that Koreans are great fans of. Personally, I have decided, I prefer my oatmeal without meat.
After our strange dinner was the parade. If it had been up to me, I would have chosen to go home considering that not only was it too cold for my liking, the heavens had opened up and were beginning to shed light tears. Rain plus cold weather plus sitting outside in this weather equals NO THANK YOU. But that is what we did, sit in the cold drizzle to watch the Buddha parade. It was a lovely parade, and the rain even stopped after a while. My camera stopped working half way through the days so I have very few photos to share, but all in all, it was an exciting day.