I doubt I'll continue writing as much once I get used to life here, but for now everything is so rich an wonderful. I'll also likely repeat myself because it's like sensory overload.
Yesterday I won some kind of Gwyndolyn lottery and she slept in my bed. I loved it! I don't mind the feet in the middle of my back, the kicks, the hair tangled in fingers or any of it. It got a bit chilly in the middle of the night and she snuggled her body up next to mind for warmth and slept with her head on my arm. I watched her sleep for a long time before drifting off to sleep myself. I woke this morning to find her with her head on her pillow watching me. We didn't speak, just stared at each other for a long time. She then turned her back to me and cuddled up by pulling my arm over her ribs. The next time I woke up I realized we were breathing at the same time. Since she breathes faster than me I'm guessing I patterned my breathing after her. That got me to thinking about what a wonderful little machine she is. Each breath enriching the blood cells with oxygen to feed her cells. The heart thumping away pushing blood throughout her system. The tiny hairs on her arms, the faint whuff of her breath on the back of my hand. What marvelous wonders we are. It was God who put this child into our world and I am forever grateful. She awoke again and we continued to lay there looking at each other. Wrapped in love and mystery. She reached out and brushed my cheek then launched herself onto me in a huge hug. What a way to wake up. I'm the one who couldn't stand it and broke the silence by telling her good morning. Her love is palpable and sweet. I am so blessed. Her Mom, Karen, is a not a jealous woman at all for which I remain eternally grateful. She lets me soak up all the Gwyndolyn love and doesn't worry about it at all. In fact, she encourages it. Lucky lucky me.
This is a small post so we walk everywhere. My knees are already reminding me of my age and getting quite sore. I am not planning on letting that stop me. I want to go to a Buddhist temple. I want to see the mountains, the sculptures, the tea ceremonies, everything I can get too.
The Korean people are wonderful. When I arrived at the airport I knew it was going to be a while before I got picked up. It was freezing cold inside and they appeared to be shutting down for the night, so I wandered outside to wait. A middle aged man attached himself to me as a sort of guard / guide. He rides a bicycle as does millions of Koreans but rather than go home, he sat with me and waited. He used his limited English to try to talk to me and I went through a series of finger motions, gyrations and mimicry to try to talk to him. The only word I knew how to say Kwa dong shia, and this means toilet. He refused to leave me until my friends arrived to pick me. That kind of eagerness to help is seen everywhere. I am so eager to learn their customs and share with them, it is great to see them so eager to share with me. They are an easily likeable people.
The Koreans are a bit phobic about sunlight. It reminds me of Rwanda where the Belgians favored the lighter skinned Tutsi peoples. I see people on the golf course constantly that are wrapped up from head to toe to prevent sun tanning. They wear long billed sun caps and have this neck attachment that covers with a spandex looking material. Darker skin indicates a poor farming lifestyle, where you have to work out under the sun. The lighter the skin is the richer and more educated you are. It's a fascinating dichotomy to observe on the streets. Almost all of the women have umbrella's they carry any time they are outside. So the umbrella's have become a work of art. The bright cheerful colors mixed with flowers and dragons keep you entertained. I am determined to get one for myself before I leave. I did buy a fan from 'the Chinese man' as he is commonly referred too that sits in a silky satiny embroidered case. It's made from balsa wood and broke the tip off the first time I used it but I love it just the same. With the muggy weather I am happy to have one.
Oh I forgot about that, this part of the country is hot and muggy a lot. Even though the temps have cooled down the humidity is quite high. There are 3 dehumidifiers going in the house and they have to be emptied several times a day. That's a LOT of humidity. The mosquito's love it. Apparently they love me too and I am chewed on frequently. Gary says he will pay me a dollar a mosquito killed. If I were quicker with my hands I could make a fortune. They are painfully annoying. It did rain last night and today which makes the mountains so beautiful. These mountains are covered completely in green trees. I see no meadows or paths although I'm sure they exist. From the street I can see 5 or 6 of them towering over us and with todays soggy weather they have wispy clouds sort of stuck on the sharp points of the pines. I hope to get a decent photo to send out. We are on the same latitude as Indianapolis and have similar vegetation. This street is lined with sycamore trees. They keep the top trimmed off so they aren't as tall as I am used too and have many more small branches. Karen thinks they are the same tree we used to see in Germany without the leaves and always wondered what they could possibly be.Plenty of pines around here also. Bushes are trimmed carefully into topiary like shapes. Some gardener put a lot of time and effort into landscaping this post. From the table where I sit I can see a bush that has been trimmed to look like stepping stones angling around the base to the top. Course having the golf course across the street might have something to do with the artistry although the whole post has beautifully manicured lawns. There is a little bridge over a moat on the golf course. Gwendolyn and I walked across it a couple of days ago and the moat is filled with Koi. All of them popping their heads up to the surface and making funny sucking noises with their little fish mouths. The little open mouths reminded me of the giant carp we used to feed at Stockton lake.
Gwyndolyn likes to have these serious conversations with me, most told sotto voce as in whisper. She began telling me to go pack my bags to go home because there is a war coming and I might die. She tells me about dinner, the girl who wants to kick her in the face, her friend Grace and a thousand other secrets. All of which I am instructed not to tell her Mom. I keep telling her we are a family and that means we are on a team, we don't keep secrets. I've said it so many times she repeats it along with me, but it hasn't slowed the flow of secrets. Part of our night time rituall includes brushing my hair and twisting it into knots with rubber bands. I'll be lucky if I have any hair left by the time she is done. She holds strands of my hair in her hand and rubs the strands between her fingers while smiling to herself. It's like she can't get enough of it. I have taken a couple of pictures of her hair dressing attempts but don't look for any on here. They are catastrophic failures.
Karen and I went to the school today so I got to see part of it. We tip-toed past her class so I could look in and hope she didn't see me. Karen, with her usual dispatch has assigned me to be a popcorn popper volunteer. She has got to be the queen of volunteer land. I like to help out though and if I ever settle down in one place I'm sure I'll become a regular on the senior citizen circuit. I really love the old folks.
For those of you keeping track, I haven't finished War & Peace yet. I keep getting distracted by other books. I've finished 4 or 5 of them since I got here. In an effort to continue sleeping successfully I do not take a book to bed with me. Although I have to admit without the distraction of the book my nightly prayers are getting longer and longer. Not sure if I've changed my 'go to sleep' time, but hey, talking to God is always pretty cool.
There is a Gyeongiu Folk craft village near us I am hoping to visit soon. The artisans work on site so you can see how they do them. There is an old railroad line that has been converted to bicycle things on tracks that you paddle along and sightsee for 2 kilometers. I'd love that too if I am not the one doing the pumping!
Despite Korea being a Buddhist country there are a surprising number of Christian churches here. I see the spires with crosses on top all the time. Baptists seem to have a strong foothold with 7th day Adventist's running a close second. That's from what I've seen though and it is all in the city, I haven't been out in the countryside yet. I'm assuming the more traditional Buddhism would be the main church. I am really looking forward to seeing a temple. I've been told there are some that you can drive most of the way up too. What a relief that will be. So far the pictures I've seen have me a bit nervous. I'm afraid I'll get to the top of the mountain and find the closest kwa dong shia is at the bottom of the hill. Going down is even harder than going up for me.
Gary's whirlwind trip to the states ended last night and he managed to go to work today. I'm guessing he will come home and flop down asleep immediately. Poor guy, that is a LOT of traveling. 30+ hours in 3 days.
Okay, this should be plenty long enough. Until next time.