Sunday, June 17, 2007

Pimpin da Parade

Raman, like myself, had been interested in spirituality and studied from people in his native India and even lived at a temple here in Seoul for a while. We have a good time here in Korea and he is one of the many friends I have made along the way that I like to hang out with. He told me, “It is Buddha’s Birthday soon and there will be an event. You should come. It will be fun.” Not knowing much more than this, I signed on and he told me a time and subway stop to meet him at. Sometimes I like not knowing what will happen because it makes the moment so much more enjoyable. How do I love to enjoy the enjoyable!

I showed up at the subway stop Dongdaemoon Stadium. The place was flooded with people and for the first time, I actually saw lots of people in traditional Korean dress. Sure, I had seen a person here or there before but today I saw many. Not even on Chusak the ‘Korean Thanksgiving’ or the Korean New Year did I see people in traditional dress like I had thought I might. But this day was different than those other holidays and this was my first sign that today would be different.

We walked right into the stadium and looked for the section that had been designated for Raman’s temple that he use to live at and still visits. We found it and he greeted his friends. Soon every single seat in the stadium was taken and people flowed into standing in the aisles, behind the seats, in front of them, and any other nook and cranny they could find. It was truly full and impressive how the people had all gathered to celebrate the Buddha.

Raman told me it was going to be a little bit like the movie Gladiator. We had our section and were representing a certain temple so when our dance directors on the field directed us too, we would stand, dance, clap, cheer, and/or wave pieces of colored paper that had been given to us. We waved the papers more often than anything else. Each section of the stadium was for each temple and each temple had a different color of paper that matched the dancers clothes and performers costumes for that temple too. It was all very interesting to see the different sections supporting and performing at different times or at other times everyone in the stadium altogether. This is different for me because I am use to there only being two sides to any event and they are always pitted against each other. Here it was different. At times each section acted differently but at other times everyone acted in unison.

After the show, we gathered for the march and then we joined in the parade. Somehow, I got chosen to be in the parade. Me! Before I knew it, I was walking in between a whole bunch of monks and some kids whose parents attended the temple. We walked and walked, stopped and listened, and then walked some more. The sun went down and the lights came out in many different bright colors. It was very beautiful. The parade went through a good part of Seoul but through and through it all, I was having a blast. While the monks in front of me walked slowly and knowingly, I walked behind them waving to the crowds, giving high fives, and meeting the other people around me walking in the parade. The whole time, I carried a lantern. Not sure why but everyone had to carry something and so that is what I ended up with a lantern. All in all, in was definitely a fun day and one to remember. By the end of the walk I had met many new people and seen Seoul from a completely different view, I saw it threw the eyes of a parader.