Sunday, August 15, 2010

Strange Day

Today was filled with really random things, I've got to put it in words before I forget something.

We decided to take the subway to Halmoni's house today rather than the car because there's usually so much traffic. So, while waiting forever to catch the Jungang line to Yangsu station, the boyfriend pulled out his cell phone and started to play Chinese Chess (Changgi). I got upset that he was going to play by himself, so he started to teach me how to play. Then, amazingly (I'm easily impressed by technology), he used bluetooth to link our two phones together so we could play against each other using two phones. Changgi is pretty hard... it's pretty similar to regular chess in some ways, but you've got to learn new directions for all the pieces. If I ever get better at it, I'd like to make a post about it, because it is a cool game.

That kept us entertained until we got to Halmoni's house. Then it was time to eat. Usually we eat a very Korean lunch here, normally samgyupsal, soup, and lots of side dishes. But, today, we brought some thai curry that the boyfriend had cooked up that morning at our house. We warmed it up and served it. His whole family immediatly said "매워!" "It's spicy!", which is amusing since Koreans are always asking me something like, "Can you eat our spicy Korean food?" But, they ate what was in their bowls but no one went for seconds. We didn't take the leftovers with us but I have a feeling it will go straight in the trash tonight.

We had been planning on going hiking in the afternoon since we're planning on hiking Hallasan, the tallest mountain in Korea this coming September for Chuseok. We're really out of shape, so we've decided to climb one mountain ever weekend until we leave for Jejudo. We decided to wait a little and digest our food before leaving though. We started watching this show called "My Girlfriend Is a Nine-Tailed Fox" and got a little sucked in. There's another drama about the nine-tailed fox that plays during prime time lately, but this is more of a comedy than a serious drama, and it takes place in modern day times unlike the other one. I was happy that I was able to understand about 25% of the dialogue, but that means I was still missing a lot. The boyfriend had to fill in some parts for me.

We wound up watching nearly two episodes of the show before we were about to head out for our hike. Then, the boyfriend's father told us that the lawn had to be mowed. It was another hour before we got to leave. We had been planing to take the subway one stop and hiking a mountain there, but due to the fact that it was nearly 4 o'clock at this point we decided to try hiking a mountain that was a little closer.

It was about 3 km to the top, but it went along the ridge of several hills before assending to the top of the mountain. It was mostly a gentle up and down hike until the end. The only difficult part about ascending was being attacked by bugs the entire time. The climb down the other side was actually quite strenuous. I'm glad we didn't climb up that side because we would have been dead long before we reached the top.

When we had nearly reached the bottom, we came across a temple and decided to check it out. I had seen this temple several times from afar and had always wanted to check it out because it is rather unique.

Apparently, this is the temple that the boyfriend's grandmother visits often, and the boyfriend saw a monk he thought he recognized from his childhood. He went over to say hello, and when the monk realized who my boyfriend was, he invited us in for dinner. We couldn't really refuse, and I was curious about getting dinner at the temple.

Dinner was nice, some rice cakes, rice, kimchi soup (김치국), and some other typical vegetable side dishes. After we had eaten dinner, we were encouraged to go and meet the head monk's mother who lives upstairs in the house where we ate dinner. When she realized who my boyfriend was, she was surprised and shouted "Ah, so this is the American girlfriend!". Apparently the boyfriend's grandmother had mentioned me to this woman. It was a little startling to meet a totally random stranger who knew of my existence....

After meeting that halmoni, we were brought over to an air conditioned temple to have coffee and watermelon with the head monk. He encouraged us to get married quickly and have a baby. He also talked for a while with the boyfriend giving some life advice. Then, when we were trying to say thanks for everything, but we'd better get going, he suggested that he teach us some breathing techniques.

He tended to the boyfriend while a female monk came out of the other room and taught me. She said a lot of things in Korean about why we were breathing like this but I understood only maybe 20%... Basically, I think she was trying to tell me that I need to practice breathing with my stomach rather than my chest and lungs. So, as I breathed she held my chest down and forced me to fill my stomach with ever breath. I guess while you breath in that manner, you can breath in good energy and release bad energy as you exhale.

After she finished with the breathing, she sent me back to the monk to get a sort of healing massage. Basically, he rubbed down my arms while breathing in a very particular way, then cracked every bone in my body from my neck down to my toes.

After that was finished, he instructed us to stretch tomorrow morning, otherwise we'll be sick for three days since he sort of infused our bodies with energy or something. Seems a little strange to me, but stretching never hurt anyone, so I'll try to remember when I wake up.

After this, we made our way out of the temple promising to bring Halmoni to the temple soon. By now it was dark and we made our way down the road down the mountain. The street goes directly out to the highway, and so we walked along the side of the highway back to the subway station. While there's plenty of room on the side of the road for walkers or bicyclers, it was still pretty scary to do at night.

That was the end of the strangeness. We went home, played some more Changgi on the subway and were home by about 9 o'clock.


  1. Sounds like some of my adventures :)

    I wrote an article about playing Korean chess awhile ago - - not exactly an expert here, but it'll teach you how the pieces move and stuff.

  2. He's got a very accepting family :-) You are one lucky lady.

    Halla is beautiful... but it will probably kill you no matter what kind of shape you are in. We didn't make it to the hike because of rain, but in September it should be very nice. Have fun!