korea – day 10 – Gumi, Kimcheon, and NamDaeMoon

March 12, 2009 – 9:51 am

As I mentioned in the previous korea post, I MUST FINISH THIS.

After the trip to GyeongJu, we spent the night at my uncle’s home in Gumi.

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It’s a small and modest house in what most of us would consider a very rural area. this is where my dad’s family’s land is. most of it belongs to this particular uncle, since he was the only son to stay in korea, while the other two sons went off to the states. he built this home from “scratch”. he and his wife saved their entire lives in preparation for retirement.

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americans typically think of retirement as moving to florida, hanging out with other old people and going to denny’s for the senior grand slam special. koreans have a different view. my uncle and aunt spend their time farming the family land. the grow their own soybeans, and other vegetables. they do everything organically so everything is cooked simply and the flavor is amazing! they make their own soy sauce, tofu, soybean paste (dwenjang), red pepper paste (ggotchujang), and a number of other things.

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On basically what was our last full day in korea, my uncle gave us a tour of his home. extremely proud of what he’s been able to provide for his family, and also to show us that he’s taken care of our family land. he pointed to some of the dried greens that were hanging from the garage and said that it was my dad’s favorite vegetable. so he dries plenty of it each year hoping my dad comes for a visit. he showed us the mill he uses to grind the beans.

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before getting ready to take us to kimcheon, he wanted to show us one more thing. my dad’s best friend’s burial/memorial site and the buddhist temple the man had built and worshipped at. though my dad’s family is catholic, they were good friends with this man and also proud of his acheivements.

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i don’t know his name, but my dad showed me pictures. he was the provincial wrestling champion. but also a devout buddhist. he would go to a local cave and meditate for days without food or water. later he became a famous buddhist monk and raised money to build this temple. along with the temple he had a deep desire to serve the disabled and mentally handicapped. there is an adjacent home to the temple. we didn’t get to visit the facility so no pictures. unfortunately, my dad’s friend was murdered by one of the mentally ill. he was buried next to the temple.

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we then decided to take a quick trip to kimcheon. there’s a park there that features different types of art. including some very interesting statues like these:

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the first is joseph pretending to play a children’s game where you attempt to hop on someone’s back and play a game of rock, paper, scissors. next joseph was told to rub the buddha’s belly so we would have good luck in trying to have a baby. i proceeded to touch the belly button instead. the last two were all in good fun of course :)

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there should be no vacation/travel posts without the gluttonous amount food consumed! we went to a pork bbq place. instead of the usual vents that are fixed on the ceiling, you could pull these vents down towards the table and then push them back up and out of the way to eat. this basically concluded our trip to the kumi area. before we left my uncle proceeded to say “i’m sorry if they did anything wrong”. after this lengthy post of the hospitality and the family love they showed, suffice to say there was NOTHING wrong that they did. in fact, joseph and i probably should’ve said what they had said instead. we intruded on their quiet lives and they welcomed us with open arms.

my aunt and uncle put us on a high speed train back to seoul. this by itself is a treat. it’s like taking the acela instead of the regional train. time difference between the two is a few hours because there are also far fewer stops in between.

it actually dropped us off not too far from namdaemoon. so guess were we went next?

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this outdoor street market is HUGE. it’s a maze. i tried to be as diligent as possible to make sure we either knew where we were going, or at least know how to get back to where we came from. it’s a sea of wholesalers of all different types of stuff, of everything from clothes, socks, bras, pots, knives, computers….you name it, they probably have it. apparently there are alot of tourist from china and japan looking for korean ginseng. all the sales people kept yelling at me and joseph in cantonese, mandarin, taiwanese, japanese and korean – unsure whether we were one or another.

lastly, the last nite of being in korea meant that we finally got to spend some time with my cousin. usually he’s the one i spend most of my time with when i’m in korea. but this trip was obviously different. he’s also far busier now, running the furniture company that my uncle built. it used to be living room, bedroom and dining room furniture company. my cousin decided to change the direction of the company based on his research and noticing the fair share of furniture companies in asia. it was a smart investment and business strategy for him. the new direction was to build wardrobes for apartments. much like in the US, the real estate market BOOMED all over asia, with new buildings and renovations happening all over. guess who was building new wardrobes through many of korea’s new/remodeled homes?

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we ended up starting at a chicken place. like i said before, joseph was so smitten with kyochon, we looked for every opportunity to eat more of that kind of chicken. my cousin ended up taking us to this place where one of the owners looked like my aunt #6. we had some beer and chicken and caught up. instead of staying after we finished eating though, we headed off to a second place. some japanese place to eat more food and drink some more. by this time we get to this second place, i’m already a little tipsy, on the verge of drunk. i don’t think joseph was, though he did get quiet and looked very happy with a huge grin on his face. this is probably why there aren’t many pictures of our time spent with my cousin. man koreans can drink.