Elwood 5566

Ch’u-seok 2012

Posted in Buddhism, Diary notes, Travel by 노강호 on October 23, 2012

The end of September saw the celebration of one of the most important events in the lunar calendar, namely Ch’u-seok. This important celebration sees families gathering to worship their ancestral spirits and celebrate the harvest. The event is marked by a public holiday during which traditional games are played and foods such as song-pyeon (송편) and rice wine eaten.

made from glutinous rice and filled with various fillings, most especially sugar, sesame oil and sesame seeds

This Ch’u-seok, I travelled with my komdo teacher, Kwon Yong-guk and his family to a rural town near Ulsan. As well as paying respects to his relatives and ancestors, we planned to do some bamboo cutting (Bamboo Cutting in Ulsan).

Some last minute instruction

Kwon Yong-guk’s father in law, who used to be Chief of  the Fire-brigade in Ulsan, has two houses side by side in a small plot surrounded by farm land.  The setting was quite beautiful especially as it was autumn and the chillies and persimmon, such iconic sights in Korea, were ripe. We spent half an hour trying to net the super soft type of persimmon, known as hong-shi (홍시),  with a long pole and attached net.

Personally, one of the most beautiful Korean sites, a persimmon tree with big fat, juicy persimmon all as delicate as a balls of orange jelly

Preparing the barbecue

Some of the kids playing under a persimmon tree. The back garden was ringed with kimchi pots.

The cutest family dog

After cutting bamboo in the afternoon, we gathered in the courtyard of the house and cooked a barbecue. Kwon Yong-guk has a huge family with about 80 members from both sides. Many of them I was to meet the following day. Darkness fell and in the countryside, unlike Daegu, one is treated to real darkness and a good view of the stars. And when some clouds cleared and the full moon was visible, the children made wishes.

It wasn’t until the next day that I noticed three of the kids wearing sweat shirts on the back of which was printed, ‘Play like a Motherfucka.’

‘Play like a Motherfucka!!!!”

Sleeping wasn’t particularly comfortable as I was on the floor in a shared room and just as I started to get some sleep, at around 4am, Kwon Yong-guk’s alarm went off. Next, we were going fishing.

Kwon Yong-guk’s (right) passion is fishing

The lake was incredibly peaceful at 6.40 in the morning

But the scenery was great

Not being enamoured with sitting watching the floats for hours on end, I found a small patch of flat ground and did some training. Kwon Yong-guk caught two small fish. He never eats them and throws them back in the water. When he excitedly showed me his first catch I told him I needed to get my glasses but I don’t think he got the joke!

Where are my glasses?

After fishing we travelled back to the edge of Ulsan to have breakfast. Next, was a visit to one of Korea’s most beautiful temples, Tongdosa (통도사). This is Korea’s largest temple and is famous, among other things, for having no statue of the Buddha outside the temple and a temple candle which has burnt for 1300 years.

The entrance to the temple complex

One of the buildings

One of the buildings in the center of the complex

One of the Four Heavenly Kings, Virupaksa, guardian of the West.

Virupaksa suppressing demons

Leaving Tongdosa Temple. The pathway is lined with ‘100 Day Flower Trees.’

Next, we travelled to a mountain cemetery where Kwon Yong-guk’s in-laws were gathering. The cemetery spanned the sides of three mountains and was the largest I have ever seen.

just one part of the mountain cemetery

A photo from half way up the mountain

Kwon Yong-guk beside the grave of his grandfather-in-law

The view from the edge of the grave

The young kids in Hanbok. Kwon Yong-guk’s sons are far left.

preparing to pay respects

I felt quite special being asked to pay homage

After ancestral rites another barbecue was prepared

Tucking-in

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©Amongst Other Things –  努江虎 – 노강호 2012 Creative Commons Licence.
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Chu-Sok Cheesecake

Posted in Comparative, Diary notes, Health care by 노강호 on September 26, 2010

The second most important holiday – ch’u-soek (추석)

The Lurpax was back on the shelves in E-Mart and after spending exactly 9 days with a bad case of ‘red eye,’ otherwise known as conjunctivitis, I was in need of something comforting. My right eye flared up on Friday the 17th ruining my weekend and subsequently ruining the ch’u-soek holiday (추석, September 21st-23rd) as well as the following weekend. So, on the Saturday morning I had to go to my doctor who subsequently sent me to the ophthalmic hospital. Back home in Scumland UK, I’d probably have waited 4 days to see a doctor and procedures would have thrown my plans into the liquidizer. But in Daegu, there’s an eye hospital every few blocks and doctors and opticians in every block and I can easily accommodate visits to the clinic without any disruption to my plans.  The eye hospital is approximately 200 paces from my front door! Just as well as I’ve had to re-visit the clinic every third day. The infection seems to be dwindling but this morning, sat in the doctor’s chair with my head in some contraption, I felt like Alex DeLarge and though there was an absence of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, it is a strange coincidence that whilst in the waiting room, this is the music that has entertained me on my MP3 player (in fact the Liszt piano transcription). Once my head is in the constraining device, a lengthy telescope-cum-bazooka is aligned with my eye. All week he’s simply looked and prescribed medicine but today he starts poking my eye with what felt like a dental probe. Then, through eyes streaming with tears and blood, he shows me a cotton bud laced in this red gunk which is the infection membrane.  Then I had to have a shot in the backside.

Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) in Clockwork Orange

It was only to be expected that my infection, which suspends using the gym or bathhouse, would concur with a major holiday, chu-sok (추석), the Korean equivalent of Thanksgiving, and I would imagine that by Monday, when normal work resumes, I will be mostly cured. There seems to be a ‘red-eye’ epidemic in Daegu and I have often seen it mentioned on the news. It seems especially prevalent in summer. At the clinic there were two families all of whom were infected and numerous other individuals with either one or two red eyes. I didn’t go out for several days but have since bought some dark glasses.

the ophthalmic clinic from my roof top (제일 안과)

So, after having my eyes attacked with a cotton bud, I went to the supermarket. The Lurpax talked to me, trying to convince me how delicious it would be on some toast and I would have bought it if  a cheesecake on   the nearby cake and bread stand hadn’t talked louder. I’ve eaten cheese cake only once in Korea and it was just like the traditional British cheese cake – the type with currents and full of mascarpone cheese. The cake is in a box and by Jupiter’s cock it  looked  very tasty!

real cheesecake, simple and unadulterated

It was pricey, 8000 Won (£4) but after a shit week and that cotton bud, plus I’d actually walked up the mountain before going to the eye-clinic, I felt I deserved it. I get home and make some fresh coffee and sit down to enjoy my belayed ch’u-soek treat and all the time the cheesecake is telling me how sexy it’s going to taste and how superbly creamy it’s going to be. And then comes the shock… where’s the fucking cheese? I cut the cake in half looking for it but the cheesecake seems to have lost half its namesake and comprises solely cake, extremely white, light cake! Nothing about it is cheesy and while it was probably a very delicious cake, it’s not a cheesecake and so, with a curse,  I chuck it straight in the bin.

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