Spring has finally made a permanent appearance in Seoul, and I spent the weekend enjoying the sunshine and warm weather. This Friday is Buddha's Birthday - a national holiday. I don't know why I was so surprised to find out that Buddha had a birthday, but he does. And it's a big deal. For the past several weeks lanterns have started showing up all over the country as preparations got underway for festivals and celebrations. Friday, apparently, is Buddha's actual birthday, but Seoul celebrated yesterday with the Lotus Lantern Festival in the main downtown plaza of the city.
My friends and I arrived to the festivities fairly early Sunday afternoon. I painted a Buddha magnet, made a lovely pink paper mache lotus flower, took pictures of traditional Korean dress and food, listened to live music, and enjoyed the afternoon. The streets surrounding Seoul's Jongyesa Temple were packed with booths and people. In fact, this was the biggest festival I have seen in Seoul besides New Year's Eve.
Jongyesa Temple was beautifully decorated with thousands of colorful lanterns. You couldn't even see the sky through the tightly packed lanterns dangling over almost all of the temple grounds. It was amazing.
The day culminated, however, with a bright parade through the main streets of Seoul. The parade began at dusk with traditional drums marching through the streets followed by almost two hours of floats, tradtional clothing, thousands of bright, colorful lanterns, and citizens of all ages taking to the streets.
Over the weekend, Korea also celebrated Teacher's Day. I, luckily, do not work on Saturdays, but my coteachers and the students all come to school. When I arrived at work this morning, I had two bouquets of flowers on my desk. I also had a wonderful array of colorful cards with carefully written English messages in them. Despite the fact that they made me question my ability to successfully teach English, they brightened my entire day, and I'm going to go hang them all up on a wall in my apartment as soon as I get home. It's days like this that make me very happy to be in Korea teaching. Here is a sampling:
Nice to meet you. What do you like? I like pizza and carrot. I love you teacher. Have a nice day teacher. Good bye."
"What a nice day. Teacher congratulation. Because today is teacher's day. Teacher very very pretty cute and kind. Very very thanks teacher. Bye Bye."
"Hello AndyTeacher! I'm still learning from you. I wrote this letter because of course today is teacher's day in Korea. I'm so thankful to you. Maybe you don't know me well...but I'm so thankful to you! Really! I want you to teach us very well. But youre still teaching us well!"
Have a wonderful week!