Friday saw a convivial dinner with the new teaching team with tonsils lubricated by copious quantities of soju. I left early to meet up with Angel Disley at Jazz and Sandro, she commented that I appeared a little tipsy.
On Saturday I had been invited to visit Ki Ppeum’s temple for a meal with Sri Lankan visitors, Angel D had also been invited. We took a taxi to the peaceful location near Chungju Dam. The temple itself has a long history but the current buildings are relatively contemporary. Arriving 30 minutes early and with the sound of chanting emanating from stereo speakers, we settled down for a quiet chat. Dead on 12 Ki Ppeum appeared to say “hi, but why was I here today?” OK, yes; it was the second senior moment of the past seven days following booking the wrong month last week at the Banana Backpackers in Seoul. The invite was for Sunday!
The monks kindly offered us lunch of the day, a home-grown bibimbap, and after some pleasant chat we decided to hike back to Chungju. It was unusually warm around 70 degrees, a far cry from recent freezing weather. Mistakenly we thought the scenery would be more pleasant but we trudged our way through an industrial estate before eventually meeting the pathway adjacent to the river. In saying that we were desperate for drinks, we were warm and uncomfortable, so at Mokaeng we found a supermarket. We had been invited to Steph’s for rooftop drinks and food so from here we took a cab home to shower.
We got to Steph’s around 4.00pm and were treated to fabulous chicken and steak wraps from resident chef Jake. It was a lovely afternoon, chatting about life in SK, new or missing timetables and future plans. As the afternoon progressed a chilly wind got up and after further out-of-town visitors arrived we headed for downtown. I left the party before turning into a pumpkin, no jokes please!
Sunday saw an early rise and a walk around Hoamji Lake before I returned to the temple by cab. Angel D was otherwise engaged with a spot of relationship counseling. On arrival the ceremonials had begun and some 70 or so Sri Lankan nationals were in attendance. Monks from their own orders sat in line with the Korean monks to eat food offerings and receive gifts from the disciples. There are over 40,000 monks in Sri Lanka, where a majority of the nation’s 20 million people are Buddhist. Offering alms is believed to bring good fortune in this life as well as the next. Sri Lanka is generally regarded as the home of the pure Theravada form of Buddhism, which is based on the Pali canon. This school of Buddhism emphasises the Four Noble Truths as the framework of Buddhist doctrine and the Noble Eightfold Path as the direct route to Nibbana, the last goal of the teaching.
Interestingly in Sri Lanka itself there are concerns that the over generous devotees are creating podgy monks. There’s a major “who ate all the pies” syndrome! Sri Lanka’s health ministry announced plans in November 2012 to draw up new guidelines on donating food to the country’s venerated Buddhist monks amid major concerns about their weight and health. The ministry stated that the faithful, who offer alms as a religious tradition, tend to give food that is too high in fat and sugar and monks were developing preventable health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
The monks visiting Chungju were definitely not food impoverished but hardly obese and the patrons of a friendly and accommodating disposition. I never felt like I was intruding. I did think it a bit cruel on the devotees that they waited forever before any chance to partake of the feast themselves. The lunch had been delayed when some 2 hours later FOBY arrived. I assumed by this time the food would have been cold and accepted his offer to leave for Shabu Shabu. We devoured the Shabu Shabu in downtown Chungers before watching the Allen Ginsberg biopic “Howl” with James Franco in the lead role. HOWL is the story of how Ginsberg’s seminal work broke down societal barriers in the face of an infamous public obscenity trial. In his famously confessional style, Ginsberg – poet, counter-culture icon, and chronicler of the Beat Generation – recounts the road trips, love affairs, and search for personal liberation that led to HOWL, the most timeless work of his career.
Later, halfway through “In Bruge” I was falling asleep but also looking forward to the Monday as it was the school Foundation day holiday. Monday I took another walk around the lake and then collected materials for a Spring Clean from E-mart. I settled down in the afternoon to a curry and the remaining hour of In Bruge followed by another viewing of the Killing Fields which never fails to upset me.
I returned to work on a beautifully sunny but cold Tuesday absorbing and awesome sunrise over the mountains before taking my first 8 am class of the year, the kids were lovely but suffering from terminal carbohydrate infusion! My oh my, breakfast, lunch and dinner!!!!!!!!