Che, Key, Koom at the Chondogyo Temple
I went hiking yesterday. It was nice to be up in the mountains. I didn't expect it to be. I was real groggy and fatigued. The mountain changed that though. As soon as I was halfway up, I felt pretty energized. I even talked a bit with my hiking partner, H. "You like the Mets?" I asked. "Yeah," he said. "That's nice," I smiled.
I didn't expect to do so much talking. I'm usually quiet and winded most of the journey. It's my eyes and ears that like to do most of the work. Something was different about the day though. It was - and this may sound a bit premature - lighter like a coil about to be released, like a sandwich uneaten, like a beautiful Spring day in Seoul.
I know it may be hard to believe, but it's true. We are into Spring about 20 days early here. Whether this is the responsibility of Al Gore or simply God playing the part of Al Gore in a movie starring Natalie Portman, I don't know, but I'm not going to complain, and if anything, I'm going to say, "Thank you," now to show my appreciation, and eventually get to the thump, thump, thump over what I want to tell you - I'm a tenor.
It's true. As we reached the bottom of the otherside of the mountain I began singing. It wasn't with my voice or anything. It was in my eyes and ears. They were excited about the Temple H. and I found. "Aren't you thrilled?" my eyes crooned. "Yes! Yes!! Yes!!" my ears sang back. And with my body following the melody, I sang my way into the temple. "Hmmm! Oh, yes! And yes or yes again!"
An old woman, who I suspect could hear my eyes and ears, saw me, grabbed my hand, and put a rosary of some sort in it. "Che, key, koom, che," she said, and moved her fingers over the beads. "You."
"Che, key, klam-"
"Che," I repeated.
We did this a couple times through. Then she smiled at me and patted me on my back. It wasn't until I was invited into another part of the Temple with H., that I found out exactly what this prayer was about. Apparently, H. and I had found a 100 year old Chondogyo Temple that was designated as the second most important historical landmark in all of Seoul. "Wow," H said, as he read the placard. "1912! I can't believe I've never seen this before."
"Mmmm," I agreed.
Thankfully, we were given a private tour and a nice little sit down with the leaders of the temple. They were gracious hosts, and very interested in giving us a better understanding of what Chondogyo was. They even gave H. and I a couple books. I read aloud to H., as we sat with the temple leaders drinking green tea: "It says here that, 'Great Master Su Un found the Way that leads to the salvation of the world is not found outside the self but from within the self in direct prayerful communion with Heaven.' "
"Inside," one of the temple leaders motioned to her heart. "Here. God."
"God is inside you," I said. "Yes, I agree."
"Bright eyes," she motioned to H., "Bright eyes."
"She says you got bright eyes," I smiled at H..
"Yes, yes," H. shifted nervously. "I got that."
"You," the woman pointed at me. "Pure."
"You pure. Clean."
"Yes," I smiled. "I am very clean. I am pure."
The temple leaders found this funny for some reason and laughed uproariously.
"You Christian?" A man who we were told was the Director asked.
"Yes," H. replied. "I am."
"Heaven in Christian," the Director gestured above him. "In Chondogyo, Heaven inside."
The old woman who had first approached me now had me go through the prayer again. She even got the Director to write it out for me in Korean. I laughed when he handed it to me, then scrawled the English phonetics as the old woman looked over my shoulder.
"Is this chon?"
"Chon," she agreed.
"Choo, Cho, Khwa."
The temple leaders had some other guests knock on the door. I figured that was our cue to skidattle. I gave H. a new song with my eyes and ears, and we were off, walking at a quick pace down the mountain. Every once in a while we'd stop to check out what the various street vendors were selling.
"What's that?" I pointed to some strange and foul smelling thing in a basket.
"Bundaegi," H. said, offering the Korean name. "Boiled silk worms."
"Yeah, they're as appetizing as they smell."
"You've had them?"
"You'll try anything once?"
"Not me. If it doesn't smell appetizing, I won't need to go through that."
H. and I made it back down to campus. We had some sushi at a quaint, little restaurant. We didn't talk much about Chondogyo or our experience. I was very curious though. "I wonder if I'll head back there this coming Saturday."
"Well, you can always google it," H. reassured with his eyes.
"Yeah," I agreed. "I can."