Baekje

6:49 AM Jessica Montgomery 4 Comments

Ah yes, the long awaited field trip. A chance to bust out of these KT walls and explore some of what Korea truly has to offer...
Yesterday we toured the Gonju region of Korea focusing on the period of Baekje. The Baekje (Paekche), Goguryeo, and Silla were all part of the Three Kingdoms period in Korean history. I've been told that you will often hear Koreans reference the "three kingdoms". We had a "tour guide" on our bus from Seoul. She was adorable! She kept saying how happy she was to meet all of us and you could truly tell how proud she was of her culture. Loved her.
Our first stop on our whirl-wind tour was a small pottery village in Gonju. Our bus went 30 minutes out into the countryside, passing mountains, farmland, and huts full of drying red peppers along the way. We then took a small winding road over an even smaller bridge to reach our destination.
I could see myself living at this pottery village. So beautiful. So friendly. So Earthy! Upon arriving, my group was squeezed into this small studio space. The walls were covered with shelves of past work, posted inspiration, old tools, and a flair for necessity rather than showmanship. The owner of the studio was Joung Soon-ja and she was the sweetest thing ever. Her hair was in braided pigtails and she wore an apron covered in the exploits from a day of working in clay. She constantly smiled and truly wanted us to have a great experience with her. She made over 300 pots for our group to paint. 300. She also pre-applied glaze that we were going to design over, and will eventually fire and deliver the finished work to us.
Her dog was just as sweet. His name was Dokey. As in, "Okey-Dokey!". He met us down the hill at our bus and trotted all the way up with us. He hopped up on tables, nuzzled, and needed some lovin'. :)
Once we were done with the painting (reminiscent of summer camp -haha) she asked for volunteers to work on her wheel. I jumped at the chance of course. Most people didn't want to get dirty or some BS like that...but when else will you have the chance to come into an artists studio and play around in her element with her standing by having just as much fun as you? Exactly. Incredible! I threw "from the hump" for the first time..and was a mild success. haha
I grabbed a card from her so I can maybe take a class! How amazing would that be?!
After that we bussed over to a restaurant/village in the countryside to have authentic bibimbap. Bibimbap is a rice dish that contains various vegetables, an egg, hot pepper paste, and rice of course! I devoured it.

By this time it was pouring outside. The weather in Korea has been wet enough without rain, but now we were becoming saturated by actual precipitation rather than just humidity. Of course, this happened just in time for our hike to Gapsa Temple. [I honestly didn't mind the rain. I felt like it added to the experience and adventure. And really, if you are surrounded by some of the most breath-taking scenery, culture, and locations and you're complaining about rain...it's not the weather that's the problem.] The walk to the temple housed sights of its own. We passed by a small cafe village where you could see workers in kitchens crouching over piles of ginger and bushels of root vegetables strung up on posts. It was incredible and I truly felt like an outsider. Past the village it became more and more remote. The path was wide and tended to, but the scenery became more and more dense. Before reaching the temple we passed by various gates, arches, bridges, and statues -most represented the fact that we were entering a new realm. A protected realm.
When we reached Gapsa Temple the sky seemed to open up. We were getting drenched! And some people didn't have umbrellas! [Lucky for me I broke down and made my first Korean purchase early in the morning at a convenience store..] The temple was beautiful but, unfortunately due to time restraints, we could not stay long. We were only on temple grounds for less than 15 minutes. I'll just have to go back some day!
Bali! Bali! Back on the bus to head to a traditional Hanok village. At the village we had to take of our shoes to be seated, on the floor, in a small room to watch another traditional music performance. I loved the setting. The "door" to the room was essentially an entirely removed fourth wall -so the pouring rain outside complimented the performance. The bamboo floors were rough to sit on [since I'm old and all...] but absolutely gorgeous.
Once again...back on the bus! We rushed over the to the Gonju National Museum to see the artifacts from King Muryeong's tomb..for literally 15 minutes then it was back on the bus again! -Back to the Hanok village for tea and traditional costuming. Back at the village we were dressed as King's and Queen's. One couple was even dressed as a traditional bride and groom and we held a small wedding ritual. I was a mother who gave away my son..haha!
After this whirlwind of a day, the hour long bus ride back to Daejeon was welcomed. Riding back into town me and the girl I was sitting next to were calling out Korean characters that we recognized on billboards and street signs. It's true, you can learn basic Hangeul quickly..but understanding what it means is an entirely different story.

'Jessica' in Korean


4 comments:

  1. How perfect, your first excusion; and to visit a potter's studio as part of the trip. I can' wait to see pictures of some of the wares. Keep packing in lots of fun when you can, and make rhe most of work tomorrow, too.

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  2. Hey! Thanks for the comment. Who is this?? :)

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