Monday, May 18, 2015

the reason for the season

On our solar calendar, May 25 (next Monday) is a national holiday this year: it's the Buddha's Birthday, known in Korean as bucheonim oshin-nal or in Sino-Korean as seokga-tanshin-il. (The seokga comes from the Indian Shakya, which is the tribe that Gautama hailed from: Siddhartha Gautama Shakyamuni.) The Great Teacher's birthday, which is always on April 8 of the lunar calendar, of course means lotus lanterns—or the cheap commercial equivalent, at least. Dongguk is an explicitly Buddhist university, so it's only natural that the campus might become especially festive around this time of year.

This first picture is of a building across from where I teach. I know it mainly as the building that has both a Shinhan Bank ATM (where I pay my gas and electric bills... yes, bill-paying can be done via ATM) and a Holly's Coffee, a Starbucks clone that I never visit, just as I never visit Starbucks if I can help it.

Click on the photo below to enlarge:

The above photo is of the jonghap gangeui-dong (something of an all-purpose lecture facility; the term jonghap means "integrated," i.e., everything you need is gathered all together there), which is the building in which I teach. It's mostly offices and classrooms. All four of my classes are in Room 209, the room in which your worst fears are realized.

Below is a pic of the Bio Building, slightly uphill from the Holly's Coffee building and across from the rear entrance of my building. This building houses my department's Ilsan-branch office, and it also has the lone, overworked photocopier with which I may make free photocopies. There's a copy center in the building where I teach, but I have to pay 50 won (about 5 cents) per page for copies.

So Siddhartha is the reason for the season. I'm off next Monday, which means I have a four-day weekend coming up. My buddy JW and his wife want me to come visit them; JW's wife, who is normally somewhat shy and quiet and prone to speaking in Korean, was a bit drunk this past weekend, and she wouldn't stop telling me—in English—how much she wanted me to come over, play with her kids, and teach her how to cook Western-style chicken the way I did back in late March. So I now know JW's wife is hilarious when drunk. One of the five Buddhist precepts is to abstain from taking intoxicants of any sort, so I'll be curious to see how she is this weekend. At a guess, she won't give a damn about the precepts: she's Catholic, and what's a Catholic if not an avid drinker?



Charles said...

I like the last photo. As I'm sure you know, that lantern shows the Buddha in the 天上天下唯我獨尊 (In the heavens above and on earth below, I alone am the honored one) pose. I've always just called it the "Disco Buddha," though.

Kevin Kim said...

Knew the pose, but not the Chinese. Thanks.

Tathagata Travolta. Interesting thought.

TheBigHenry said...

You mean to say you don't care to have a young Starbucks intellectual engage you in a stimulating conversation about race?


Kevin Kim said...

Ha ha.

Alas, Henry, this country is full of young leftists with no sense of history. And they all say the wrong things.