Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Yeoido island cherry blossom hunt

Yeoido "island" is in the middle of the Han river and home to Seoul's financial district, the 63 Building and supposedly one of the best spots in Seoul to enjoy the cherry blossoms in the spring. Saturday morning I made my way to Yeoido for the second time in a week. The first (and only) other time I went was on a field trip to the 63 Building with ten 4 year olds in my care. Saturday on Yeoido was far more relaxing without the mandatory head counts every 2 minutes, crying little ones, and rushing through a hot and overcrowded aquarium.

I started my search for cherry blossoms at Yeoido park. The park is home to an ecological forest, three ponds, a bicycle track, bike and skate rentals, and many perfect picnic spots that were being taken advantage of. The sun was shining and I decided to postpone my hunt for awhile while I enjoyed the weather under a tree behind the Kind Sejong statue.

After searching the entire park and then walking towards the National Assembly and then back again to the park I had only spotted a couple scattered cherry blossom trees, certainly not what everyone had been talking about. I was walking back through the park to the subway when I saw a large crowd gathered on the large rectangular basketball/skate area. There was a stage set up and people wearing sashes and carrying signs. It seemed to be a rally or protest for something. I saw a few men wearing white robes with long beards and also a few monks wandering amongst the crowd.

The parade of protest

I asked a woman what was going on but lack of common language prevented a complete explanation. Five minutes later the same woman came running up to me and pointed at her hand phone, "Englishe!" She said. A man on his hand phone came up to explain what the event was for.

He said that the Korean government has stopped recognizing acupuncture as a legitimate practice and is trying to disestablish the practice throughout Korea. The acupuncturist community throughout Korea is very upset about the governments new stance and organized a rally to gain support for the long held tradition, which they believe to be very beneficial and natural.

I told him I had never had acupuncture done and asked him what it was like. His face lit up and he yelled for a woman to come over to us. "You very lucky today," he said. "Many acupuncture masters are gathered here. She is one of best! Where do you have problem area?"

I shrugged and told him I didn't know of any specific problems. With her hands holding my wrist and then neck she did a diagnosis. She said I have circulation problems and also a slight problem with my liver and heart (could it possibly be from the Hoegaarden and hookah from the previous night..?).

She proceeded to stick several small square bandaids on my hands that had miniature needles attached. Then came the larger needles that were stuck in my chest, stomach, lower back, behind the knees, and the scariest but also the one with the least feeling, in the top of my head.

Making a diagnosis

Overall, it was a very quick and relatively painless process. I can't comment on the effectiveness because I have no idea how to tell, but I'm almost certain it did no harm. As far as I'm concerned (and I know absolutely nothing about acupuncture) the Korean government should leave the acupuncturists alone. If the people getting acupuncture believe it works, then it probably does. After all, the whole world is only in your mind...

The acupuncture master

I never found the cherry blossoms on Yeoido. Maybe the blossoms had already gone. Maybe I didn't go to the right park. It doesn't really matter though, it's all about what was found along the way.