Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Balloon Pants Buddhist

My dear friend Ji Yeon’s birthday was a couple of weeks ago and we had a 26-person grilled duck dinner for her in Heywha. There’s no “uhh” sound in Korean and the ‘k’ is more like ‘g’, so I thought for a moment I was finally being made to face the dragon and trying dog meat. Most of the group I’ve been absorbed by in Seoul are part of Toastmasters International (a public speaking group) which I’m thinking about checking out next week. This means they’re all extremely interesting, motivated people who I feel really lucky to have found. The dinner then moved to Comfort Zone, a beautiful and cozy neighborhood bar/restaurant with an unattended piano, which led to traditional Korean ballads and sing-a-longs downstairs. The Arkansas Mafia was in full force and Brahm’s cousin (who lives further away in Korea) brought our total to 6 Diamond Staters…a baffling statistic for our ex-pat friends. Hours later, a birthday tiara disappeared and a bear-shaped cake was somehow consumed sans silverware, unequivocal signs of a successful party. A late night street chicken meal and the Korean Slumdog Millionaire capped off our evening. The next morning we walked back to CZ for brunch and Ji Yeon received a cultural lesson (Jem and the Holograms is an important reference). Full of bacon and/or burritos, the four of us headed to Do도 Sun선 Sa 사 , a Buddhist temple in the mountains of Seoul. It was interesting for me to compare the likenesses of Buddha, etc, to what I saw in India. A local monk’s image was found where in India the Dalai Lama would be. Large Chinese zodiac characters were carved into a hallway with pen and paper for message-writing. There obviously were no prayer flags, but I did see a giant prayer wheel/donation pot combo. A long line of chanters stood waiting to throw papers (wishes? attachments?) in a giant fire while attendant monks rang bells. Meanwhile, we took goofy photos because I’m sure Buddha doesn’t care about a little irreverence. It felt really special to be surrounded by the ceremony, the mountains, and beautiful painted, sculpted, or golden artifacts. As we serenely walked down the mountain toward a taxi, a particularly aggressive ajuma (older woman) in balloon pants knocked into Ji Yeon, wandered away, then came back and whispered something to her. Ji Yeon later translated that the woman had noticed she dragged her heels when she walked and advised she’d be a lot prettier if she didn’t.


  1. Are balloon pants anything like Hammer pants?

  2. Similar, but they were kind of cinched at the bottom. I had to create a word they were so unique.