Monday, February 28, 2011

Back to Songpa Sandae Noli

February 27th, 2011
At 3:45 I swung my legs out of bed and shortly after 4 we heard the 목탁 moktak (wooden clacker used by Buddhists in ceremonies) outside. We climbed up the stairs I'd been told to use, emerging from behind the altar.

The only lay people were the grandmother and I, and the abbess didn't come to the morning service, only 연일스님 Yeonil Seunim. We carried out a fairly typical morning service. Before we even began 예불문 Yebulmun (a key chant) I had already finished my 108 bows. After Yebulmun we did two other chants, one of which was hard to follow even when reading along, because of the speed and non-Korean combination of sounds (Sanskrit written in Korean). Back downstairs the grandmother read in the prayer book and I worked on translating a paper. Breakfast was shortly before 7:30, and it was much of the same foods I'd had for dinner the night before, including excellent 된장찌게 bean paste stew. After we ate and shared the apples that had been starting to go bad sitting in front of the altar in the prayer hall, Yeonil took me outside to the large ceramic jugs full of handmade sauces and filled up a huge container with bean paste for me to take back to Seoul. I was also given a bunch of 고추장 chili pepper paste, but that wasn't made at the temple. Yeonil wandered off and came back with toothpaste and facial wash, emphasizing that it was just given to them and they didn't need it, she added it to my bundle, then a few minutes later added some large pounded rice noodles.

It was really awesome to see her, but they were going to be running a 제사 jesa memorial service and I decided that my foreign presence might mar the solemnity of the occasion for the grieving family, so I headed back to Seoul.

It took forever, and it was raining cats and dogs part of the time (and I didn't have an umbrella) but I finally reached my house and changed into dry lounging around pants and started checking my email. Then the office manager from 송파산대놀이 Songpa Sandae Noli called me.
"Where are you?"
"At home."
"Aren't you coming?"
"I came yesterday, should I have come today, too?"
"How long does it take to get here?"
"About 70 minutes."
"Leave right now and you can have lunch with us."
Uhh…. I was actually really pissed off, though it took me a while to figure out why. One reason was that if I'd gone from the temple back to Songpa I could have had a leisurely coffee and been on time for class. Another was that only I am apparently expected to show up for two classes every week. And I hadn't quite been clear that I had to do that before the phone call, so I felt a bit like, as they say in Korean 양 다리 someone who is two-timing. You know, keeping both the Saturday crew (Human Treasure Ham) and the Sunday crew (Professor Yi) happy. And finally I just hate that Songpa is so far away and I'd be out a good portion of my day to have lunch with them. But I decided that since the abbess of the temple had given me some "transportation money" (totally excessive) I would take a taxi to Songpa. And then I got a really horrible taxi driver. I can translate academic Korean into English for publication, but this guy refused to hear me as wanting to go anywhere other than Itaewon (the foreigner district which was an eight minute walk away). Finally I got out of his taxi (and was incensed that I'd paid to be pissed off) and got another taxi, who was very good and sweet and calmed me down.

I got to Songpa as they were packing up to end class, and had lunch with 김학석 Kim Hakseok (the other National Human Treasure), 김영숙 Kim Yeongsuk (my office manager friend), 이병옥 Yi Byeongok (2nd ranked and a professor), and 강차욱 Gang Cha'uk, the best and most versatile musician in the group. Lunch was pretty good and afterwards I interviewed Gang. There is a lot of tension in the group right now I just can't write about in the public account.

In the evening I had dinner with Eugene and his wife 주희 Juhee, who seems just amazingly real and unpretentious, not to mention warm-hearted and beautiful. I guess it's pretty clear why Eugene wanted to marry her.

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