Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Pacific Details

Tree frog
Last Thursday, on the slightly crafty bus i took heading South East from Seoul to Gyeongju, the TV news was dominated by the announcement that Peongchang (South Korea), had been chosen to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. This points up something that few people would be likely to know about Korea; it is 70% mountainous. Furthermore, though some ancient forest has been lost, virtually all the elevations i saw (mostly not very high) were covered in trees. In terms of wildlife, given that summers get so hot, i was surprised not to see any reptiles whatsoever, but saw tree frogs, chipmunks, white herons and great big blue-black butterflies the size of sparrows. There was also a 'flock' of woodpeckers and a squadron of dragonflies - Korea is one of the few places where one can still see them flying in formation (only joking about that bit).

Bulguksa Temple complex, Gyeongju
Gyeongju is a 'must' for tourists, being the ancient capital of the 'Silla' kingdom which emerged in around the 6th century. The adjacent Bulguksa temple complex is a fairly recent though meticulous restoration; and Seokguram grotto is an extraordinary, original 8th century Buddha guarded by suitably fierce looking warriors in a very sophisticated shrine (there's a graphic in the museum in Seoul which shows how it was built).

At the carpark there i put a coin in a telescope and caught my first sight of the Pacific Ocean. Setting off down a winding road, the idea was to walk about 150km to the ferry terminal at Busan, but heavy rain caused delays and then i couldn't find a pedestrian-friendly way out of Ulsan. I must mention however that on Sunday evening a very kind priest there gave me a delicious supper and, after Mass, an envelope containing $100!! I then spent the night on the sofa...which someone had abandoned in a derelict plot of land next to a scrapyard down the road - actually Fr. Philipo would surely have offered me somewhere to stay if he'd understood my situation, but in any case it was good to do more walking in the evening cool.

One more thing i must mention about Koreans - they are outstanding singers. I was already aware of this, having happened to attend a Korean language Mass at Lourdes some years ago. In contrast to the often bleak picture at home (at least in Catholic Churches - though obviously things are better in Wales), Koreans really enjoy singing, and i scarcely heard a duff note in the fortnight i was there.

This morning i've arrived in Shimonoseki, having crossed the East Sea to Japan.

Here is the Prayer to Our Lady of Namyang;

Dear Holy Mother of Namyang
Who opens her arms of mercy with a smile!
We behold your intimacy of beauteous love
And deep intimacy with the Infant Jesus.
You are the Virgin Mother, born of Immaculate Conception
And holy blessings, who bore and nurtured our Lord Jesus.
Holy Mother of God, we praise you who are also our mother.
Dear Holy Mother of Namyang,
The very sight of the Infant Jesus who hangs on to your garment
Tells us to stay near you and rely on your care and mercy.
Do not forsake us when we cling to you for mercy,
With only our trust and love, and the desire to belong to you;
And therefore let us stay in your house.
Our powerful Advocate Mother who is always with the Lord,
Praying for our cause, to you we entrust our prayer
Confident of your intercession.
Give us your merciful and caring glance
And bless us, our families and our nation. Amen.

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