Monday, May 17, 2010
The Lotus Lantern Festival
Life is becoming both more regular and busier. There just are just no more days where I spend the whole day alone. This is in large part because of all the friends I have made especially with a few specific ones. So with work and now friendship taking up so much of my time I find it is my reading and writing that suffer. I just do not take the time to write, in part because I am not doing as many interesting things I had been before but also I just do not have the energy. I think I am going to try and write shorter entries in hopes of keeping up better but we’ll see how that goes.
So yesterday I hung out with my friend Andy (short for Andrea). We went into Seoul for a parade, which is part of the Lotus Lantern Festival. The festival lasts all week and is a celebration in honor of Buddha’s birthday. Buddha’s birthday is a national holiday so I don’t have school on Friday. Yay. The festival includes the lantern parade, a Buddhist culture street fair and a traditional lantern exhibition that takes place in and around the Jogyesa and Bongeunsa Temples. During the day people make lanterns, print traditional Korean patterns and practice Zen meditation under the guidance of Buddhist monks. In the afternoon, children dressed in traditional bright-colored hanbok clothing and Buddhist priests in flowing robes fill the streets around the Jogyesa Temple. As the poongmullori percussion music begins, glowing lanterns are carried from Dongdaemun Stadium to the temple as part of the parade. The lanterns range from small hand held lotus shapes to much larger lights carried by groups and giant lantern floats in the shape of dragons, elephants and Buddhas. After the parade, countless pink paper blossoms rain down from above in a grand finale.
Andy and I went to Seoul early so we had time to grab some dinner and look around before the parade began. We had a burrito from Toma Tilla, the first Mexican place I had found 5 or 6 weeks ago. We had also had one the day before and Andy liked it so we went back. So this was my first weekend where I got to have two burritos. After dinner we began to walk around. There were numerous stationary lantern displays made to look like all sorts of different plants, animals and people. Finally we searched for a place to watch the parade from. Not surprisingly it was very crowded and it was difficult to find an open spot from which to see the parade. Andy and I finally found one but we had to constantly fight to maintain our spot from people who would come up from behind us and try and squeeze through us or around us. At one point I accidently pushed a small girl to the ground as I was looking the other way trying to keep someone else from getting in front of us. Even worse the girl was just trying to get past me so she could give a small toddler a paper lantern to play with. Don’t worry she was okay and the toddler got the lantern. The parade itself was great. Andy and I took turns taking pictures with her camera trying to get any shot we could. The floats and people moved pretty fast and people’s heads and arms were constantly in the way so it was difficult to get good pictures. But we did get some as you can see in the blog. We stayed for a couple of hours and then headed home since we had school today. It was a lot of fun and definitely worth the time.
Fun note: Andy and I both have purple hoodies that we wear quite often. Now in Korea it is common for couples to dress alike. A boy and girl who are dating will wear the same t-shirts or same sweatshirts or at least the same colors in order to show others that they are a couple. So often Andy and I have been pointed at or snickered at in the thought that we were dating. I have even shown my classes some of the pictures of Andy and me at the parade and they laughed and called her my girlfriend. I mean is it our fault that we both look so good in purple?