I am an avid armchair traveler, mainly because I lack a passport. As my sweet cousin Jane (who is a world jetsetter) reminded me, our big 5-OH is not that far off and what better way to celebrate than with a trip of a lifetime! I couldn’t agree more. [Note to self: get that passport!]
My husband, Paul, is not that fond of traveling, particularly long plane rides, but as I write this, he is winging his way halfway around the world to Seoul, South Korea, and will be gone for about 2 weeks and we only have email to communicate. This is his second business trip overseas this year. In May he went to Prague, Czech Republic (and would you believe that he brought me back a t-shirt and not beads?! He then saw a strand of bead gallery© beads that said “Czech” on them and was surprised! ;-). So I have him and his adventure on my mind as I searched for the September Pretty Palettes inspiration. I watched his flight from Minneapolis to Seattle to Seoul for fourteen hours through a website called Flight Aware. The real-time stats allow you to see the tiny little plane as it moves over continents and hovers over deep blue oceans on its route. I forced myself to stay awake until I saw that it landed, around 2am CST, or 4pm KST, the next day, where he is now.
Paul is actually about 30 minutes outside in a town called Pangyo which is a newer industrial area filled with tech companies and a lot of young professionals. He told me that there are 4 Starbucks in walking distance of his Marriot hotel and he spotted McDonalds, Subway, Papa Johns, Outback Steakhouse and several other “western” restaurants, so it definitely has western influences. I told him that was nice to fall back on, but to be sure that he experiences the native culture and foods!
Later this week they plan a trip into the city of Seoul, and I think that is where the culture will be the greatest. In my research about Seoul I can tell that it is a very cosmopolitan city, a city of contrasts. Ancient pagoda palaces mingle with gleaming high-rise skyscrapers. Seoul is the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea. This megacity is home to more than 10 million people (our city only has about 28,000!), making it the largest city proper in the developed world, with a population density that is nearly twice that of New York City and eight times that of Rome. I am anxious to hear how he feels about a city of that size!
Of course, there are parks, museums, shopping , restaurants and nightlife. But one way that I think you can really experience another culture is through a festival.
The Lotus Lantern Festival, Yeon Deung Hoe (연등회), or the “Feast of Lanterns,”caught my eye. On the eighth day of the fourth lunar month (late April or early May of the Roman calendar), hundreds of thousands of candlelit paper lanterns are raised throughout the country to commemorate the Buddha’s birthday. The party lasts for about 2 weeks culminating in a street celebration featuring more than 100,000 brightly colored lanterns strung along Seoul’s streets, on both sides of the Hangang River, transforming the city into a glittering jewel.
In addition to the popular eight-sided lantern painted with Buddhist symbols of longevity and good fortune, lanterns are also constructed in various shapes and sizes based on themes of birth—including turtles, watermelon, fish, and ducks – as well as lotus flowers. The lotus flower grows in muddy water to rise above the surface, blooming with remarkable beauty. The flower closes and sinks underwater at night, to rise and open again at dawn. Untouched by impurity, the lotus symbolizes the purity of heart and mind, or true enlightenment.
[Note: You might notice the symbol on the side of many of these lanterns that is a swastika shape. This symbol is actually much more ancient than most think it is. The word su-astika is derived from the Sanskrit. It is composed of su- meaning “good, well” and asti “it is”; the suffix -ka creates a noun, so it literally means “it is good” and is a positive symbol of prosperity, or a lucky charm.]
These decorative lanterns are suspended in the front of every household, one lantern for each family member, with their names and prayers written on narrow sheets of white paper that sway gently from the base of the lanterns. The lighting of the lanterns symbolizes the bright light of Buddha’s Dharma, or ‘path of righteousness,’ and our sincere wish for enlightenment and the liberation of all beings from suffering. Light dispelling the darkness.
The popular event includes a wide array of cultural programs, dancing troupes, traditional costumes, drum beats, religious ceremonies and fun activities, the most important being the Lotus Lantern Parade, which features beautifully illuminated floats and several thousands of people carrying illuminated lanterns in the shape of flowers, fruits, animals and other Buddhist symbols through the heart of Seoul. It sounds like the Lotus Lantern Festival is a perfect time to plan a visit to Korea. I know that I want to go!
[As an aside… when I was a teacher, I did a unit on World Religions. I always enjoyed the Buddhism portion and we would watch the movie Little Buddha featuring Keanu Reeves as the young Siddhartha Gautama. It is a beautiful story, shot lushly that always brought this culture to life for me and my students. I think I will need to watch it again!]
A walk down the bead aisle at Michaels will yield all sorts of material to go with this inspiration! I even spotted both silver and gold plated (really beautiful) hamsa hand charms and some dyed magnesite and resin beads in bright colors in the shape of Buddha’s head! I am usually not that literal with my interpretations, so I decided to stick with the colors and the bright, happy feelings rather than be so literal. But I mention it because you might like to see what you can find!
Here are the beads I chose:
Beads selected from Michaels L to R:
82867 – Salmon pink glass 6/0 seed beads
96510 – Crackle quartz multi matte 10mm
98230 – Multi floral ceramic 9mm
94513 – Multi howlite stone flower rondelle (these are some of my favorites!)
94999 – gold plated lantern OR 90730 – antique silver plated lantern
97767 – black matte glass beads 4mm
77449 – gold plated Charm Gallery lotus flower OR 77463 – silver plated Charm Gallery lotus flower
The newly revised Charm Gallery charms from Halcraft are really great. There is a great variety and some are even available in gold plated (costs just a bit more). I gave you both metal finish options. I am sending this bunch of beads and charms in the gold plate (I kept the silver plate for myself) to my Pretty Palettes partner, Elisabeth Auld. I love that the name of her company and blog is Beads for Busy Gals. That suits me to a T! Elisabeth is a wife, mother, jewelry designer and blogger. She has been keeping busy with lots of road trips with her family this summer and even squeezing in a few beady projects! She is also a lampwork artist which means that if she can’t find a bead that suits a piece, she can just whip out the glass rods, fire up the torch and make them herself! I am hoping that this tour through Seoul, the pictures and the beady color palette with inspire her – and you!
So grab some beads and get festive. See you right here on September 30th for our Lotus Lantern reveal! (Say that three times fast!)