So yesterday was the trip to Palgong Mountain (팔공산) with Albert. While I mildly concerned myself with what to wear (Korean women wear skirts and heels to do everything), I headed off to meet him at 7 Valley, a shopping center that has 5 floors. As I walked, I marveled at what a beautiful day it was. It was a perfect, 68-degree, sunny, light breeze spring day. Once I got the spot off my sunglasses, everything was perfect. I walked through the shopping center, and there were no other customers, so all of the clerks were able to focus their attention on me and bow only to me. I felt a little embarrassed, and a little badly for only using the center for a meeting place instead of shopping.
As I sat, a white car (Hyundai 현대) pulled up and honked, then Albert waved out of the window. Fancy! I get in, buckle up, and we're off. We talked about breakfast, but it was a pretty quiet car ride, listening to a CD of popular recent Korean songs (see below for Sorry Sorry), and me in awe of how big my area of Daegu (Chilgok) is, and grateful to get away from the towers of apartment buildings. For probably a mile and a half leading up to the mountain, the street is lined with cherry blossom trees, and it was a beautiful sight. When we arrived, there was the typical problem in Korea of no parking, made worse by a woman taking the spot Albert was trying to back into. With the car left in a place where it would be towed in the United States, we headed off, watching people rock climb, and me having a mild cow trying to get up a big hill. I'd like to say it's because I've been sick for a week, but really--my leg is healed, it's time to exercise again. At the top he asked if I was tired, so we had apple juice boxes before heading into the park.
I didn't know what to expect going in; I was quite surprised to see 12-foot-tall angry statues out of a Hindu storybook. They were so fierce with giant bulging eyes. I wouldn't mind having one of them in my classroom from time to time. (Did you do that? Do you want me to feed you to the giant angry man?) As I looked out across a valley, it was nice to see the mountains, but it was like looking out at foothills in Montana or Colorado. Kind of petite. At first all I saw was wilderness, which was interesting, but I wondered how long I was going to last; just around a bend, though, we came upon the area where monks live and study.
It wasn't what I expected at all, and I'm glad I got to see it. After some ddeok (free!) we made a stop at the strangest water fountain I've ever seen. Instead of it being "push a button, stoop over, sip," it was, "take a cup that hundreds of strangers have drank from, hold it under the water, sip." From there, we headed up into an area that was a courtyard with row after row of pretty lanterns.
While stopped to read some information about people and places with really long, forgettable names, a tour guide came up and started yakking Albert's ear off while I started to explore the main prayer room. I've known for a long time that Yuria was a Buddhist, and I had been to her area where she prayed before. I'd never seen anything like this, and I was afraid of disturbing anyone, so I didn't take a picture. Truth be told, it reminded me of some of the really old churches in Germany, with lights lit and lined up (their reason, though, I do not know), and a deathly quiet that brings solemnity. The three big, golden statues were quite different, though. We left (lest I burst into laughter from awkwardness) and (after he lined up my shoes for me to step back into them, aw), we saw a few smaller versions of the same, and peeked around at the living arrangements. The men and women live separately, and there are signs posted so visitors do not disturb the arrangement (no females, ever, allowed!).
On the way out of the living arrangements area, we stopped at a gift shop, where he looked at some incense burners. I think he may have been trying to buy one for me, but I felt kind of embarrassed, so I looked around and took an interest in the traditional instruments people were setting up with. (Aw and sigh.) We saw some statues of angels (no wings or halos, hm), and I teased him, asking whether he was an angel or a devil. He responded by saying angels were devils' girlfriends, and a bit later he called me an angel. Aww.
Once he spied someone eating, he got very excited at the prospect of lunch, so we started off, but not before encountering a gong. After a few pictures of him pretending to hit the gong, he did tap it, garnering even more looks than the white foreigner already had.
When we made our way down to where he had seen people with bibambap, he found out it was free which made it a hundred times better. Unfortunately, this was one of those instances where you get what you pay for. We got the rice, and bean sprouts, and some of the strongest kimchi I've ever had, and radishes. Despite making faces the entire time, he actually enjoyed it--based on its price--and helped me finish mine. I had no idea what was going on, so he ended up doing our dishes, and then helped me back into my shoes. Aw. As we walked out, his sister called and asked for him to bring the car back so she could go shopping. He was upset about it, which in retrospect helps me feel better about having things cut short. We lallygagged on our way back to the car, though, stopping for some (free!) tea, ice cream, and to swing on the giant swing. He offered to pull the car over for me to take some pictures of the cherry blossoms, which in retrospect I wish I had, but I didn't want him to get into trouble. On the way back we grooved to Big Bang and etc., and it was fun. Per usual, he dropped me off at my house, and he sped off to fulfill his family duties.
I had a really nice time, and I think he did, too. And thus concludes the Palgong San Chapter. While I wonder mildly what's next, for the most part I take joy in the wonderful day I had.
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