The plane did not go down over the water (or land for that matter). Instead, it landed like a gentle giant at Incheon Airport and I found my way to the bus to Cheongju, where the bus delivered me and my host family collected me. The bus went down the Avenue of Trees to get to the bus station so I got a quick glimpse of it right off the bat, even if it was a dark and rainy night. Hint: The Avenue of Trees is a busy road and the median strip is very narrow in places. I like an art project with a little danger....
But my dangerous liason with some sycamore trees will have to wait just a bit. I arrived just in time for Chusuk, one of the biggest holidays in Korea and sort of the equivalent to Thanksgiving. Everything is shut down while families gather to eat. And eat and eat.
I have the great privilege to be staying with a family in Cheongju who have volunteered to put me up (and put up with me) while I am here. They have been very generous and open, so I was able to experience the holiday in the best way possible.
Here is the view of Cheongju from their apartment. Green roofing has come to Korea?
After a very large breakfast (which is basically the same as every other meal - rice, kimchee, etc..), we went to the family's temple on a hillside in Cheongju. Absolutely gorgeous.
My host family were very curious about my religion, especially when I said I was a student of Zen. When I told them that I had been to my temple in Brooklyn the morning I left for Korea, they asked if it looked like this one. Um....not exactly.
Here I am with Ji-young, who is an English major at University and very lovely young lady. She has already patiently translated numerous signs, cultural differences and political positions for me. The fact that I am almost as old as her mother has not made her uncomfortable or formal around me so I feel more like a friend of her generation than someone of her parents' generation. Or perhaps I am just really immature, which is a realization that continued to dawn on me as the day went on and I saw how responsible and mature Ji-young's parents are in their daily life.
Setting aside frivolity, lunch for Chusuk was bibimbap and dotorimuk. Bibimbap is very famous but dotorimuk is less common. It is a jelly paste made from ground acorns. Ji-young assured me that, yes, it was acorns from oak trees when I questioned if the word was correct. "Like the chipmunks like to eat!" she said. It wasn't the flavour so much as the texture that caused a slight wrinkle to my brow. Let the chipmunks keep their acorns, I say.
But where is the art? It is coming...tomorrow. Chusuk is a three-day holiday so there is nothing to be done (except continue to make granny squares and eat heavily) until tomorrow, when I must brave the Cheongju bus system without my translator.
More pictures to follow.