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September 11, 2013 / A Mindful Traveler

A Bush Grows in Cheongna

One of the privileges of being at my school since it opened just over two years ago has been to see the area around it develop.  It’s built on reclaimed land and has risen out of marshland that in the winter looks and feels like steppe.  Although the school’s symbol is the phoenix, which rises from ashes, I think likening it to a lotus is more apposite.  Not only because of the significance of the lotus flower within Mahayana Buddhism (the branch that dominates in Korea), but also because lotuses quite literally grow within marshes.

Although I personally benefit from this development and indeed owe my presence in Korea to it, I have mixed feelings about human attempts to control nature.  Notwithstanding the deep love people here have for the outdoors and hiking, I’ve found them just as interested as Americans in converting land to more commercial uses.  Indeed, given Korea’s relative lack of habitable land, I don’t think I’d be exaggerating to see this process as even more intense here than in the United States.   Just as in the United States, however, even as developers work to control nature, they seek to recreate it in parks  and, in my neighborhood, canals.

Cheongna is filled with trees, but since the area’s so young, they all come with supports to help them grow.  It has delighted me, therefore, to see bushes popping up where no seeds were sown and indeed grass (sometimes nearly a meter tall) taking over pavements in far off areas that have yet to be developed.  I’m reminded of the Leonard Cohen line, “the wilderness is gathering all its children back again.”


Leave a Comment
  1. Cheryl / Apr 16 2014 10:31 pm

    Hi there,
    You make the Cheongna area sound beautiful. I am actually moving ther this summer. I just got hired at a school there, it may be the same one you work at. I was wondering how the area has changed more in the past year. I’m really excited to be in a place that is changin so rapidly.

    • A Mindful Traveler / Apr 16 2014 10:58 pm

      If it’s the Cheongna Dalton School (that’s the only international school here) then it is the same school. What will you be teaching? It’s prettier in summer when the marsh grasses are green. Korea in general is very brown in winter and very green in summer and prettiest in the fall. Once the airport rail station opens (it was originally scheduled for last December, I’ve heard June) that will make a huge difference. It’ll be a 15 minute walk from the school, cutting the time to Seoul in half.

      • Cheryl / Apr 16 2014 11:05 pm

        Yeah it is, I didn’t think there were any other schools in the area. I will be teaching preschool. I believe it will be a new program for the school, so I’m interested to see how it goes. You teach English in the High school, right? The weather sounds a lot like New England without the snow. I heard they were putting in a new station. I am hoping it will be running before I get there in August.

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