Sunday, May 23, 2010
Last weekend I went up to Seoul for Buddhas Birthday and Lantern Parade. I hadn't been up to Seoul in a few months and during this trip I went to the university district for the first time. Seoul is vibrant unique city that is easy to forget about in the massive suburb that is Daegu. Countless cute Coffee shop after wine bar after boutique show the common trends.
The lantern festival parade was on Sunday night (another great reason to start work at four). It was pure spectacle. It wasn't as beautiful as the Rose Parade(s) but I have never seen anything quite like it. First of all more people where in the parade than were watching it. Rows and rows of beautiful traditional Hanboks worn by people carrying hand painted lanterns. Large Buddhist congregations will chose representatives to march in the parade including my bosses mother. Along with the traditional music, art and dances where some modern floats. I loved the lanterns of the fire breathing dragons and graceful peacocks but my favorite was one of Buddha flying a helicopter. I hope to see more parades feature divinities with heavy ammunitions soon (Jesus in a Jet? Vishnu in a Tank?). I jest but it was quite bizarre to see monks pushing floats with kids dressed up as Buddha. Fake ears and all.
The parade finished in three lengthy hours. I ran off to get a Starbucks in the middle of it, I have become my mother. After the parade, we scoured the streets for discarded lanterns and found the jackpot in Jogye-sa temple. I took them home via two subways, the bullet train and taxis. They now hang in my window and will hopefully give me luck for my second year in Korea.
In other major news I have finished my Ninja training and received my Black Belt in Hapkido. Tim, Brent and I have trained together for the past year and it was finally time to take the test. We had a crowd of seven watch us and our judge was, no joke, the dean of the bodyguard department at a local university. I was incredibly nervous, sweating bullets before I even began the test. I regretted asking all my friend to come and cheer me on. After all, it is not unusual to fail a black belt test. Even a old foreigner like myself had to hold up some standards.
The test started out with nine different kicking techniques. This part is not only the most exhausting part of the test but also the most difficult. I can't master the forms and although I can kick to eye level my master wants my kicks to be over my head.
The second part of the test is the twenty-one different self defense moves. Hapkido defense focuses on wrist locks. My self defense partner is six foot tall Tim. Not only do I have to restrain him and throw him over my back but he has to do the same to me. Being the “attacker” often involves having your face wiped through pools of sweat. My black belt test was no exception.
The next part of the test was two minute sparing rounds, falls, rolls and kicking apart a three cm board. Nunchucks were cancelled which was bad news for my bruise collection.
I am now the proud owner of my black belt with my name embroidered on it,
Best souvenir ever!