Sitting Buddah and Tea in the Snow

A few weeks ago, before I’d left for Indonesia, my friend hosted a Christmas party in Cheonan, a small city in the northeast corner of South Chungcheong. It took us about an hour to get there from Seoul and cost 4,800 won each, which works out to about four dollars. The ride was bumpy but we packed a couple pints and it flew by. When the bus came to a stop, we hopped out into a foot of light, fluffy snow. Perfect for a Christmas party. Except we couldn’t find a cab. Not to save our lives.

It took us walking for 45 minutes in sideways snow and ill-prepared footwear before I finally saw an empty cab coming towards us on the opposite side of the street. I ran across and hopped in. I’ve discovered that if you hop in and sit down before telling the driver where you want to go, he has a much tougher time saying no to you and, 9 times out of 10, he’ll drive you there (however begrudgingly).

Anyway, we got there. Their place is 400 times the size of my apartment; it is gorgeous and massive. We’d bought some crappy gifts from the subway and hastily wrapped them in newspaper (with the help of a random drunken Korean in the train station) for Secret Santa, and after we’d had a couple of jagger bombs (first time since arriving in Korea!) we started the game. There were a couple of awesome gifts (Jenga, bottles of booze), and some hilarious ones (fifteen bottles of soju, a dog-shaped bathroom mat with accompanying candles, a frying pan). I wound up with a bottle of Chilean wine. Can’t complain.

After an hilarious night of more drinks and more games, we put on Elf and passed out on the couch/floor. In the morning, we had the most epic breakfast of all time. It started with bacon & eggs and banana pancakes, followed by sauteed mushrooms and a grilled sandwich competition, then more pancakes and more sandwiches. It lasted three hours.

When we finally rolled ourselves out of there, we decided to check out the Buddhist temple recommended to us by my friend. It was snowing, and it was freezing, but we figured we were there, and why not? So we hopped a cab. And he let us out here.

The temple was picturesque. It was beautiful, quiet in the snow, and aside from a few Buddhists who appeared and disappeared behind the buildings, we were the only people there.

The path between the temple buildings led us up a snowy trail through the trees. It was in awe that we found the sitting Buddah.

More massive than I could have imagined. So majestic in the snow.

To the left of the Sitting Buddah was a small temple building with a man standing out front, drinking a steaming cup of tea.

He gestured warmly for us to join him inside, and frozen now from head to toe, we gladly accepted his invitation into the shrine to warm up. Inside it smelled of incense and ginger tea, and as a brilliantly smiling Buddhist woman motioned for us to sit down around the electric heater, she poured us each a steaming cup of our own.

Hanging from the ceiling were hundreds of blessings suspended in beautiful paper lamps. When we were finally warmed through and through, we stood to leave and the man who had welcomed us into the shrine asked us to fill out our own little blessings – we were told to include our name, our birth country, our address, and names of our family members. He then walked us to the back of the temple and showed us each to light a stick of incense, then took us outside to the statue, where he instructed us to walk around Sitting Buddah three times in a clockwise fashion.

The statue was so big that it took us a solid five minutes to complete our journey.

After we finished, we were shown to place our burning sticks in the incense pot out front. We had completed the ritual.

Not bad for a random Sunday.