It’s now Chuseok break again. Last year for Chuseok, I went to Gonju to see the old Baekje capital. This year I’m staying in my apartment, packing, cleaning, and just relaxing. I leave for India in eleven days.
It’s raining now, and it was raining yesterday morning too. I like waking up to the quiet rain, with the windows open and a slightly melancholy, yet calm feeling in the air. You feel insulated and safe in your house, just next to the pitter patter of the rain.
So I’ve accomplished most of the things that I wrote about accomplishing. I went to Haeinsa, and it was fun. It was kind of an ordeal, since I made the stupid mistake of getting on the wrong train, and thus going halfway to Seoul before switching. (Only in Korea can a simple mistake get you half way across the country in under an hour.) When we finally arrived, the serenity of the mountain, and the absolute isolation of the temple was really welcoming. The temple was much more isolated than most temples I’ve been to, either because it was Sunday and nobody was there, or just because it really is not a popular place–despite its place on the UNESCO list. We didn’t get to see the actual Triptikana, because we arrived too late to go in, but we saw the building where it was housed. (Kind of a disappointment, but two awkward Korean guys had the same reaction, and we took several stiff pictures with them and their request.)
At sunset, the monks came out of their rooms and started an impromptu playing of the temple instruments, in a small pavilion at the bottom of the complex. They played the drums, and rang the huge bell, and gorgeous, calm sounds reverberated over the whole mountain. It was surreally calm and wonderful.
In other recent news, I had my Taekwondo Test on Sunday. It was VERY Korean. We arrived about five minutes after the test began. The judges filed out of the room, nobody payed attention, and then I was rushed by my teachers around the gym, until they found my spot. I was number 46. The last of the adults to test, and also the last one to arrive. It seems as though this test is very rarely undertaken by adults. For the thousands of kids that were there, I was the last of the group of adults–only 46 of us. I was also the only foreigner I saw. Kristen was there, and saw that there was a school with a foreign student, but that he was younger. (Also, the astute observation that–like me–he did not wear the same clothes as the rest of his school. His taekwondo bok said “KAIST” and mine says “Taekwondo”, as opposed to the name of my school.)
We sat in lines and waited. When our line was next, we stood up and did jumping jacks. Then we stretched. Then we walked out onto the floor. There were a million other things happening, but it didn’t seem too chaotic. I was shaking, I was so scared–I was sure that because I was different all eyes were on me, and I was the last one, the only one in the line in the back. (The test is administered in groups of ten.) We started our first form, form number 8, and I completed it well. Then we had to do number 6, which was the arbitrarily chosen form. (In the test, you don’t know what the second form is until you arrived. I was very lucky because 6 was a good one for me.) I did the forms well, according to my teacher. Then we bowed to the judges and walked over to the fighting stage. I was put in a head pad and a chest guard, and then I spared with someone about my age. She kicked hard, and I was too nervous to really lash out. I don’t think I did very well at that part, but watching Kristen’s video, I see that the two men in front of me were mostly just standing there, so I guess I did alright. Fighting has never been my strong point. I’m too afraid to inflict damage on anyone.
Anyway, then that was it. My kwangjangnim (taekwondo teacher) was suddenly there, took off my pads, and said “Good job! Good job!” and whisked me away. Then we watched his wife do her second black belt test, and that was it!
It was VERY surreal, and nothing like a black belt test at home. I’m not sure if I passed the test or not. They say I’ll know soon, but I have no way of knowing either way. Nobody will give me a straight answer, so I have the feeling that it’s probably a no go. But maybe they just don’t want to say yes or no and then lose face by that being the wrong answer.
That’s been my life the past few weeks. I’m relaxing these next few days and packing, cleaning, drawing, and just chilling. It’s going to be great. Oh, and probably will go up to a local temple for a while so I can buy some gifts and enjoy the temple atmosphere.