I’m back in Seoul after my weekend in Ulsan with Omma, Big Aunt, and Second Aunt (the aunts I met before). [In all, there are seven siblings, and Omma is the youngest.]
Omma met me at the bus terminal on Friday afternoon, and from there, I was whisked off to new places–Big Aunt’s apartment, Buddhist temples, markets, etc. It was a really whirlwind trip, and to be honest, it was very stressful sometimes. I’m still processing a lot of the emotions associated with it, so forgive me for giving you a cut-and-dry recap with pictures and captions only.
[Not pictured: I had a really good 4-miler on the flat, paved walkway/bike path next to the river on Saturday morning. It was so nice to run outside of Seoul!]
Big Aunt often gets tired and rests on her apartment floor. In fact, her bed (visible in the picture below) is basically like sleeping on the floor. Even though I sleep on a Japanese futon at home, I am still not used to how hard Korean beds are.
Big Aunt also likes lettuce…a lot. She ate it three times a day, often shoving several leaves wrapped around rice into her mouth at once. This was Saturday breakfast.
On Saturday morning, Second Aunt arrived by bus from Busan, and we all went to Gyeongju, a very old and historic coastal city.
First, we went to the Bulguksa temple complex, of which I had cursory knowledge thanks to a blurb in my Korean textbook.
Sometimes, when I get angry, I feel like squeezing dragons too.
It’s really strange to see landmarks that are so old, though most of the complex had to be rebuilt after being torched during the Japanese occupation. I don’t really know much about Buddhism or Korean history, so I feel very irreverent when I visit these places. That being said, I also feel irreverent when I visit museums in the US too. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take pictures inside the actual temples, so you’ll have to look up images yourself.
I think Big Aunt’s leg hurt, but she was a trooper. This picture didn’t capture her socks+sandals get-up, but that’s her story, and she’s sticking to it.
Just seconds after this photo was taken, the glass of kiwi juice was spilled on the table. Omma looks really young [She's over fifty.]. I think this is in part due to the elaborate skin-care regimen that she and Aunts follow and also, a general eschewing of sun exposure.
Second Aunt made me retake this one because she didn’t look suitable in the first iteration, I suppose.
After leaving Bulguksa, we drove into the mountains up to Seokguram grotto. We were very high up, so there was a lot of fog (mountain mist?). It was simultaneously refreshing and infuriating because my hair got super frizzy.
We had to hike along a path to get to the grotto. Along the way, we spotted several chipmunks. This was apparently a huge deal, and Omma kept trying to feed them by hurling corn kernels [from a steamed cob that I did not finish] into the trees.
I also couldn’t photograph the inside of the grotto, but trust me–it was very old and impressive. You get a picture of me, the outside of the grotto, and some other tourists instead:
On the way out, Omma gave a 1000KRW donation so that I could ring this big-ass bell “for mercy.”
Back at the car, we found Big Aunt sacked out:
Then it was time for the world’s largest post-temple lunch. (I think Omma wanted to find vegetarian tofu for me, but this ended up being an hour+ drive around in the mountains.)
Finally, we stopped at this farmer’s market. Coming from the US, where our conception of food is often so far removed from its original state (“beef” vs. “cow”), I am often surprised by seeing so many dead animals for sale, even though that’s, in essence, what meat is. Even though being vegetarian in Korea is quite difficult, it is nice that I don’t have to grapple with these moral issues.
Today (Sunday), the rainy season was in full force, with downpours and intermittent periods of…lighter rain. I didn’t get to run this morning, which was a disappointment. After a huge breakfast, we piled in the car and drove Second Aunt back to Busan, and I was dropped off at the bus terminal on the way.
The bus ride was four-and-a-half hours, though the express bus is pretty comfortable. I sat behind a man with hideous toenails.
Like I said, this weekend was fun, but it was also unexpectedly difficult for me. And I think that my stress was evident, so I really hope that I did not seem ungrateful to these women who provided so much for me. I’ll write more about my feelings later, but this post is already long enough as is.
[I'm planning on going down again in August once the boyfriend arrives. His arrival cannot come a minute too soon. I have been counting down the weeks since Week 3 of this trip.]