False Start!


As I headed out this morning I passed a Buddha and it made me think how at one time it was probably the centre of the community but as places develop temples/buildings get consumed. You have to walk around with your head in the air to see it, to many it will go unnoticed. We start new jobs and initially we like our work, we throw ourselves into it and often it takes over, we become invisible and taken for granted, ultimately we cannot wait to get away and start something new.  It won’t happen to me this time!

Spring is in the air, its slightly warmer, green shoots are appearing and the water is running clearer as it comes down from the mountains. Chungju means urban  (Chung) and rural (ju), the city is seen to be in harmony with the beautiful mountains and clean water. The mountains and the water express the cities “Taegeuk”; it’s yin and yang. There is good Gi (spirit and energy) at this time of year, the kids seem happier, there’s a great sense of Heung (fun, pleasure, joy and excitement) as the nights grow longer and lighter and the mornings are warmer. As I become accustomed to the idiosyncrasies of Korea I am developing a Jeong (affection, warmth, compassion and attachment) for the way things work here. I may not always understand them but it’s easy to accept them.

I saw a crane this morning, washing itself in water that just ten days ago was dirty and full of waste.  The rains and the water coming down from the hills have cleared most debris away and birds are no more a rare sight. I passed through the local park, surrounded by traffic and high-rise blocks and in the grounds of the Agricultural High School; it’s full of ponds and little bridges. When the lotus flowers blossom and the fish stocks are re-instated it should be quite spectacular.

I reached the bus terminus to catch a ride to Jungwon Mireeukrisaji, in Suanbo-myeon, a Buddhist temple site built in a highland stone cave. The temple was built to protect a stone Buddha statue. As usual confusion reigned, as I couldn’t find the 426 bus stops.  I noticed the TOURIST IMFORMATION kiosk as the sign was in foot high blue Perspex, the blue matched the rinse of the incumbent information officer.  She was in her 70’s and dressed like Hyacinth Bucket with masses of costume jewelry, she smelled as if she had come out of a pre-war Hungarian boudoir and read palms for a living.  I wish she could have read mine!!!!! She spoke no English but I persevered, pointing to the temple and the bus number in the “Chungju Tour-visiting Chungju is worth the pleasure” brochure.  She responded by pointing to the same image on a poster, speaking to me in Korean for 3 minutes, smiling throughout. I pointed to the Union Flag and said English, she nodded again and took me to the ticket desk, she then turned and walked away. I muttered “Richaaard” at her, took a deep breath and showed my “Chungju Tour-visiting Chungju is worth the pleasure” brochure to three different people, no success! No ticket, no bus, no brown signs to point me in the right direction, I had now been trying for 20 minutes and was just about to give up.  A young boy came to my rescue. “Man, no here, no bus, out! Man, no here, no bus, out!” He led me outside and pointed along the street, it was the best assistance I had experienced thus far so I headed off in the said direction. I came to the first bus stop and checked the timetable (yes, I can now read them!!!), I had missed my bus by 4 minutes, bad news, the good news there was another one in 1 hr. 56 minutes, exasperated I decided I would go on Wednesday as I have a holiday for national elections.

I decided to have a walk around the new part of town, as it is where most of my fellow teachers live. This part of town is mainly high-rise blocks with three main thoroughfares 6 lanes wide. The high-rises seem daunting but are very Corbusier in style and planning.  Each estate has around 8/10 blocks and includes a park with astro-turf, basketball court, kids playground and landscaped areas.  Each estate seems to have kindergartens, elementary schools, some have middle schools and the high schools are also usually situated nearby.  Every estate seems to have restaurants, cafes, doctors, pharmacies and supermarkets.  They are pristine and there is never any litter, the parks are full and kids and families appear very happy living there.  I think the central role families have in Korean life is why it works, low crime, no vandalism and graffiti and a seemingly safe environment, this would make the great architect proud.  Further on I get to City hall, it’s a monstrosity clad in polished concrete, give me Bolton Town Hall anytime, I sound like Camilla’s spouse.  It is here I see the advertisement for the Chungju Olympic Trials Regatta, which takes place at the end of April on the lake.  I wander through the side streets in the North part of town heading to Chungju Stadium and Gymnasium.  I pass through some low-rise neighbourhoods which all still are set out as villages with all the necessary amenities. I see people farming in an oil tanker park (bizarre) and a little dog, which cowered when approached, poor thing. I saw a monolithic, horrible church with coaches parked outside; they must ship in the congregation. When I make the gym area I see two huge silver towers laid out on the floor waiting, I suppose, to be erected.  With my engineering head on I am not impressed by the workmanship and would be horrified if people actually climbed these things. On the gym concourse kids are playing foot tennis and some bloke was sucking his toes on a bench! There was also a cheeky statue showing two naked figures striding purposefully away from the athletics track. I also met two doggies that were obviously in love, one had particularly bad dress sense. I hope it was a she as the clothing of choice was a reverse Barbra Cartland pink number and the male Zippy Sausage dog was particularly taken by her. Little did I know that later this particular day I would have another doggie experience to contend with. I carried on to the Chungju Library where I was accosted by a tramp laced with Soju, then Downtown Square and finally e-mart for mushrooms and Jordan’s cereals. On arriving home LisAiesha called me to doggiesit overnight as she wanted to visit Seoul with her cousin who was over from the states. Tomorrow I will cycle to Imperial Lake, weather forecast great!!!!!

Lao Tsu Says…

“Kindness in words creates confidence.

Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.

Kindness in giving creates love”