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The Missing Year- The Greening

The blossoms seem to vanish overnight, but everywhere the trees which have been a drab brown all these months, are starting to put forth green shoots. It is Buddha's birthday and every town and village has its lantern parades. The fortress comes alive with bright banners and re -enactments and flowers bloom all over town - on the bridges, in front of shops and even the Post Office. Koreans also do a nice line in vertical floral arrangements, particularly at the entrance to towns.

This lady at the Post office has just won the Customer Service Award.
Trust me, she's earned it. She's the one I always see.

The Fortress is now a splendid sight with colourful banners and men in tunics re -enacting the Changing of the Guard. Inside the fortress, there are all kinds of free activities for adults and children - dressing up in costumes, archery, making rubbings of the mandalas found in King Muryeong's grave, and the arrow throwing game that you find at many public venues such as the museum.

The beautiful butterfly festival at Hampyeong was another washout, but this lovely specimen stopped by as I waited for the school bus.

On the next fine weekend, I go to Hampyeong again to look at the permanent Butterfly and Environment Park they are building with the proceeds from the festivals. This area is known for its organic farming practices. So far, I haven't seen many butterflies, but people do seem to be enjoying this lovely spot beside a lake.

Special plantings at the Butterfly Park

I see a lot of Korea by bus and some of the images are exquisite, though hard to capture from a moving vehicle - A perfect crane, motionless above a rice paddy; the intricate patterns of the fields; slow rivers and small streams; tender bright green rice being planted by a girl in grass -green waders. There are neat orchards and tiny villages with their blue rooves (blue is the colour of heaven) and mists lifting from distant hills. It is never the same when I am on foot.

Mists rising from the mountains

On Teacher's Day, I get lots of love letters, several red carnations and a pair of Golf Socks. Some parents go to any length to ensure that their children receive the best possible education. Stories appear in the papers daily about "Chonji" -bribes to teachers and universities and the government's efforts to stamp it out. When I inadvertently tell one student off - the one I catch in the act, and not the other party to an incident, the others give a worldly wise sigh - they are only about 8 -10, " Must be the Chonji student," they say.

Suddenly there is news from Australia that I have become a Grandma, so it's off to Oz for a quick look at the new family member. Jaxi is a tiny redfaced bundle, who doesn't look at all happy about her rather traumatic entry into the world. By the time I see her again at Christmas she has developed into a gorgeous, outgoing little person, with a delightful personality. Well done, guys! I'll stick this pic. here in case you haven't got time to go back to the Christmas/ New Year page, although there are some others there too.

The next generation