Saturday, February 13, 2010

Episode 52: Busan Day 5

On Sunday, January 10th, I woke up in Jeong-pil’s house, just outside of Busn, after Ji-hyun and I had spent the night there. When I exited my room, I found Jeong-pil’s fiancé hard at work making an incredible “fusion” breakfast - as Jeong-pil called it.

The breakfast consisted of the traditional Korean side dishes like kimchi, rice, and yellow bean sprouts. However, it also contained a delicious fruit salad with red and green peppers, apples, tangerines and some other fruit, mixed together in a pineapple sauce; and there was also a green pumpkin (smaller than the orange variety) hollowed out, then filled with mushrooms, some meat (probably beef), with some other vegetables, which had all been cooked together like this and then topped with melted cheese.

(Fusion breakfast'd! Oddly enough, Jeong-pil didn't like it.)

After breakfast I sat down to watch some TV, and Yeon-gyeong (Jeong-pil’s fiancé) made me some delicious, freshly-juiced apple/carrot concoction. This was then chased with a homemade apple tea. Both were delicious.

The show I was watching on the telly that morning featured a group of young Korean men, called “The Dream Team,” travelling around Vancouver/Whistler, trying a number of Olympic sports and challenges. It was obviously a promo for that TV station’s upcoming coverage of the Winter Olympics, but it was also rather interesting from a cultural perspective.

The members of The Dream Team proceeded to dance, scream, fall down, and generally make a hash of whatever sport they were trying to do (not necessarily on purpose). As I watched, I wasn’t sure what it was that I was feeling. It could have been embarrassment for The Dream Team, or it could have been the bitter taste of indignation at seeing such buffoonery in my home country. However, I soon remembered all the times a Canadian comedian has traveled to another country during the Olympics to make a fool of himself on TV for the entertainment of Canadian viewers, not to mention all the Western English teachers here who tend to make a mockery of Korean customs on a regular basis, and that helped put things in a different perspective.

After we had packed up, Jeong-pil drove us out to one of the easterly most points in Korea. I'm not sure exactly what the name of the place is, but it was definitely a popular destination, and a giant mail box and tiger existed as if to show evidence of that.

(See the mail box? You don't get to build something that big unless you're already a big deal. Right? I mean, it's not like a town would build a giant statue of an animal or other object just to attract tourists unless the tourists already wanted to come there. Everyone knows that.)

(Apparently you can push letters in the small slot at the bottom. I'm not sure if they actually get sent anywhere though.)

(Psst... Jeong-pil, Ji-hyun, don't look behind you...)

After soaking in the fresh sea air (I had forgotten how pollution free air tasted by this point), Jeong-pil, Ji-hyun and sat in one of myriad cafes lining the parking lot. These cafes were basically wood shacks, with a plastic tent attached to them. However, despite the less than five-star interiors, at the Black Cat Cafe where we ate, the hot chocolate was some of the best in Korea (and I know my hot chocolates) so I was filled with a deep satisfaction.

(Cafes by the sea.)

After our snack, we all went to Yonggungsa - a temple in north-east Busan. Unlike most temples in Korea, which are built high in the mountains (to protect them from Japanese invaders bent on arson), Yonggunsa is built right beside the sea. Hopefully my pictures will say a thousand words for me, because I seem to be having trouble sufficiently describing the experience in my own words.

(This is a big Buddha statue. A normal person's head would come up to around the its toes.)

(Ha! You didn't believe me, did you?)

(In the bottom of the picture is a stone bowl, on the lower terrace. I'm not sure why, but many people were attempting to throw coins in it. It probably means they'll have a son, who in turn won't be able to get married because every other couple threw a stone in a bowl to get a son too.)

(Looking down from the top of the temple.)

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