Sara and I had a great weekend.
After a scary run-in with a neighborhood dog on Friday (see Sara's Blog) we had a carefree and heartwarming (not to mention delicious) dinner with Sara's co-teacher, Im Miye, and her family. Her two children were darling and her husband was as nice as she was. We were a little late due to the dog-biting and all, but our hosts understood and we had a wonderful time playing darts, talking to Mrs. Im's husband's students via webcam, listening to their adorable kids speak select phrases of perfect English, and learning a little Korean while our hosts learned a little English. It seems that no matter where we go in this country, everyone always wants to learn a little English, and we are always willing to learn a little more Korean.
After dinner we (what else?) went out drinking with the foreigners. It's amazing how soon after swearing off Soju everyone is willing to dive back in again.
In what seemed like an ill-fated day, Sara and I started Saturday by missing the bus to Andong's largest and oldest Buddhist temple, Bongjeongsa, by about 6 seconds. As we were walking to the bus stop, I was reading numbers off the numerous buses parked there. "Ok, there's 67, 76, 0-1, 49. Oh Oh! There it is! 51! The one that's pulling away..." And as it drove off without us, I slumped down on a bench, dejected because I felt like we may miss out on Korean history for another week, a point which I was determined to correct this weekend.
Ever the optimist, Sara pointed out that the Andong Art Festival was going on at City Hall this week, and that Saturday was supposed to have something to do with children and singing. We decided to try it and, after running into some friends we hadn't seen in awhile, marched on to City Hall. We found a spot in the Auditorium and had our spirits lifted for over an hour watching Korean children and their parents sing traditional and pop songs to an enthusiastic audience. Afterward, we left and headed home for a relaxing evening of video games. (gotta chill sometime!)
Determined to make good on my personal promise to experience some Korean history, Sara and I trekked off to 도산서원 (Dosan Seowon or Dosan Confucian Academy), which is the oldest Confucian Academy in Korea. We were plenty early for the bus this time, and got to the site just in time for the clouds to break and the temperature to rise. On the way there, we passed over the dry riverbed of the river that runs through Andong. It's dry because there has been little rain in Andong as of late.
After that, we arrived at Dosan and toured one of Korea's most treasured landmarks. I didn't get many good videos because I was trying to take it in through my own eyes, but here's a quick video that should give you an idea of the architecture and setting.
There were about 15 or so buildings in total, all built into the side of the mountain. Each set of buildings was another short staircase up the hill.
After we were done with the main site, we went across the river to Sisadan, a small shrine where a stone pillar which marked the memory of an event from 1792 when so many people showed up to Dosan to take a state examination that they had to move the test site several miles away to the riverside.
Yi Hwang, the Confucian scholar who started the Dosan academy, was largely responsible for the huge spike in interest in Confucian teaching several hundred years earlier. The pillar was moved to this location when the Andong Dam was built, and the site where it had rested for 200 years was flooded. It now sits in the shrine you see in the picture above.
After we had exhausted our exploration of Dosan, we grabbed some drinks and waited for the bus, which didn't take long to show up. When we got back to Andong, we were starving, and found a great traditional Korean restaurant with delicious bi bim bap (rice, veggies, red pepper paste, egg, and a whole lotta yummy), where we ate heartily and reflected on our great weekend. If most of our weekends are half as good as this past one, our time in Korea will be very well spent.
Oh yeah...and at the Confucian academy, I learned how to fly. I bet you always wondered what Confucianism was all about.