Public Bathing, Buddhism, and Pumpkins

17 Sep

This, my friends, sums up this past weekend for me. What to do on a gloomy Friday night? What to do, what to do? My roommate Jin Ju (I may have mentioned her once or twice) suggested we go to the “sauna”. Having read my friend Jess’ blog (she’s also in Korea) only a few days before, I was wizened to the fact that “sauna” may mean something different here. Still, I went with an open mind. Fast forward twenty minutes, 6000 won spent (~$6), an awkward locker room moment of truth, and there I was, standing naked in a true Korean sauna. And what is that? It’s basically a big room with three actual saunas at different heats, shower heads lining the walls, and three different bathing pools; one very hot, one warm, and one freezing cold (the three bears come to mind). Actually, the blessing in all this was that no one was there except for us and the woman who worked there! Jin Ju was disappointed, implying I wasn’t getting the Full Cultural Experience of being confronted by an onslaught of naked bodies at close range to my person…but between you and me that is an FCE I’m okay living without. Besides, I actually saw the woman who worked there in various states of un/dress throughout the evening as she walked in and out of the room restocking towels, checking the water temperatures, and cleaning. That was enough for me. (What a job…Korea is a very strange place sometimes.) Sufficiently pruney and exfoliated (for a thorough scrubbing tops the whole experience!), we walked home, only stopping to buy a bucket of ice cream and some fun fish-shaped red bean-filled desserty things. Yum!

The next morning (a Saturday, remember), we got up at 6:30am, ready to pack into a tour bus and explore some of the Buddhist monuments of Korea. This was a tour my boss, Kyong Jung, and his family were already going on, and we were invited. It was so great! I saw a few thousand-year-old pagodas (where, from what I understand, monks’ ashes were placed when they died), an ancient and still running monastery, a perfectly preserved Buddha statue from the 9th century, and even some dinosaur footprints thrown in for good measure (nothing special, they just looked like discolored dips in a big excavated riverbed). The sad thing about this trip was yet another reminder of all the falsehoods we humans put our hope in. Bowing to an idol will not better your life, and placing rocks in a neat pile won’t satisfy your heart’s desires…. The hilarious thing about this trip was that they decided to show Titanic on the bus. Never mind that there were several young, impressionable children there! Again, Korea is a strange place sometimes – but it gets stranger, still. While there was definitely enough driving time to finish the movie, we only got to watch until they hit the iceberg. After that, they only played music videos! Anyways, this didn’t really bother me as I was bent on reading, mostly, and ended up with a massive headache, besides. Thus ended a long and tiring, though interesting, day.

On Sunday I went to Jesus Village Church as usual, and enjoyed the English-language small-group bible study before the service. The questions in our study book are very simple (i.e. appropriate for people learning/improving their English), but I engaged with it nonetheless, and even learned a few things. After church and another delicious lunch of kimpap (basically a sushi roll, but with vegetables and ham), Jin Ju and I decided to hike up the mountain behind our house. It’s a short hike, about 40 minutes up and down, with a path sheltered by pine trees. Just like home! At the peak there were a lot of exercise machines and equipment for public use. I was really impressed with all the elderly people who not only made it to the top of the mountain , but who were using these machines like old pros! (I, for one, was huffing and puffing like a big bad wolf.) Feeling heartened by my supposed youthful advantage, I tried out a few. Let’s just say I’m not yet an old pro.

Trying out some giant hula hoops on the mountain.

Once we descended the mountain, passing small, private farms and gardens, I mused about pumpkin pie when I saw a few on a vine. The man who owned this particular garden happened to be working in his backyard just then. Jin Ju asked him if he sold his pumpkins, because her Canadian friend here would like to make a pie. He didn’t really answer the question, but responded with the Korean version of “Oh, she came all the way from Canada? We’ll give her a pumpkin!” At which his wife went and picked one for us, and handed it over the fence with a friendly smile. I was touched.  My friend Frank recently shared this Pearl Bailey quote on Facebook: “People see God every day, they just don’t recognize him.” Well, this time I recognized Him, and it was a beautiful moment. I came home and immediately cooked and froze my pumpkin – I just need a few more ingredients and I’ll be smelling pie by thanksgiving!

Proof that there is human kindness in this world.

So what else is new?

  • Nothing much, actually. People keep asking me if I’m adjusted to living in Korea – the answer was already “yes” after the first two or three days.
  • I know I warned y’all that I’m feeling the honeymoon stage ware off. Well, that doesn’t mean everything has to start sucking. It just means I’m getting comfortable here. As for homesickness, I’ve experienced only the minimal amount. Please continue to pray that this would be the way of it!
  • Korean language presents the biggest frustrations in my day to day – I can study a list of words for half an hour, only to remember one or two the next day. Still, with the book in front of me, I do just fine. I wrote five sentences today, and got them all right – so that’s encouraging!
  • There’s been some talk between Kyong Jung and I about my future teaching responsibilities. The idea is that I’ll be doing some peace education stuff in an informal setting, probably with university students (this is a university town). At some point I might also be teaching English to refugees or other marginalized citizens. Pray that I would take every upcoming challenge head-on, and be able to build solid relationships with these people. Pray that I not lack in zeal, but keep my spiritual fervor as I serve the Lord in this way (Romans 12:11)!

Thanks, everyone, for your patience in reading these massive blog updates of mine! I so appreciate all the support you’re giving me through your prayer and kind words. Kamsahamnida!



3 Responses to “Public Bathing, Buddhism, and Pumpkins”

  1. Heather September 22, 2012 at 10:37 AM #

    oooh mother, let the girl type!
    Deborah, I am reading your blog and loving it, as always. I’m sorry it takes me a while to get around to it, but I am so entertained and enwrapped when I do! I love you!

    Your sister,

  2. Mama September 20, 2012 at 1:37 AM #

    oops….. does the honeymoon stage ware off……or wear off?? Deborah, can’t believe you missed this. so unlike you. Wow, I sound critical. But, you know that I LOVE you and LOVE your posts!!!! Keep em coming.

    • Deborah September 20, 2012 at 10:54 AM #

      Haha! I guess sometimes the grammar police need policing…thanks for keepin’ it real, Ma.

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