We have two days off and the most exciting thing is that I have my own space. So I pretty much spend the first day in motel room, watching movies, chewing on corn chips and salsa and having endless cups of tea! So very funny! There is a movie channel on the tv so I am pretty set! I don’t think I saw anyone! I did go for a quick walk, only to realise that once again we are in the business district, so not the most happening place on a weekend. But that was the most exciiting thing about that day! The following day is the beginning of a week long celebrations for Buddha’s Birthday. Yep, the buddhists were out in full display all having a bit of a bash! And it was beautiful. It started with a parade of lanterns down one of the main streets of Seoul. This parade was meant to last for 2hrs but went for 3, there was just so many people with lanterns. The cute monks were out, families, international representatives and little dancing troupes, all with these pretty lanterns. As the night descended the parade got bigger and better. Whole dragons were beginning to appear breathing fire and everything, and huge representations of buddha on lotus leaves and peacocks with sprouting tails all lit up. It was positively beautiful. And all the people marching were just so quietly happy. Big smiles on faces and waving at people, it was kind of strangely quiet and very respectful and yet kind of beautiful. The oddest floats were the ones that bore comic manga style representations of a child buddha with a finger stuck up in the air! Now I am sure this is a representation of singular peace or something, but funnily enough it looked like this little buddha was giving everyone the bird!!!! It was so funny! Again the westerners were giggling and pointing and the locals were looking at us with questioning gazes!
At one point, the announcers who were talking on the loudspeaker (which was incredibly loud, compounded by the tonal nature of the language I am sure) suggested that anyone who wanted to get up and join the parade was welcome to. Well we didn’t need a second invitation. We jumped in and started walking along the middle of the parade with a band of some sort behind us, and some sort of float of kings in front of us! The Koreans thought it was wonderful and so started handing us lanterns that they had and encouraging us to smile and wave! So there we were, in a parade of lanterns for buddhas birthday!!! Talk about getting involved! We were a hit, smiling, marching, waving, clapping, skipping along. We made the parade!
When we met up with a few of the others of the company, the parade was winding up, so walked up to the end of the street to find a small stage with some lights set up. Obviously a party waiting to happen. So we hang around and this very strange group of local folk singers start singing something that really reminded me of the Mamas and the Papas. It was in Korean and sounded a bit strange but the locals seemed to love it! It was all getting a bit droll and so some of our party left for food. THEY MISSED OUT! All of a sudden a young troupe came bounding onto the stage to some interesting kind of bubbly music you would associate with a High 5 concert, and they started doing these very interesting dance routines. Then, from above us, pink ticket-tape started to fall all over us and it all turned very festive! With Korea High 5 on stage and pink paper everywhere, we all started going a little pink ourselves, getting into the spirit of it all and dancing along with the troupe.
Then the Koreans started doing this weird circle dance that looked like Zorba the Greek in slow motion. And there was no escaping it. Women were coming over and basically grabbing our bags out of our hands and pulling us into these circles of dancing. Some of our troupe really did try to resist, thinking that we would never see our personal belongings again, but these women would have none of it. So pretty soon, we were all running in circles and bouncing along with pink paper STILL falling on top of us. This went on for a good 15 minutes and by which time we all were getting into the spirit of it all. The pink paper was CONTINUING to fall and the streets were strewn with it so of course what do the westerners do but start picking it up and throwing it at each other. The locals were a bit perplexed by this but pretty soon found it a source of much amusement. All of a sudden camera crews and nikons were all out and pictures were being taken of the strange westerners being aggressive to each other. Well it ended up with the Koreans getting into it and pretty soon we had started a pink paper war as the locals were getting into pelting all this paper... AT US!!!!! It’s kind of funny to be having a bit of fun with your mates when all of a sudden you get a mouth full of paper and an old toothless Korean man pointing at you and laughing his head off! But it was all in good fun and pretty soon the dancing and the paper stopped flowing and the party was over. I mentioned before about the apparent lack of efficiency on first impression. Not when it came to dispersing the crowd. To get rid of people, just send in the street sweepers with sirens blaring and lights flashing. Everyone will move pretty quickly and we did. We returned home and I think even 3 days later were still finding bits of pink paper in our clothing and bathrooms and so forth!