In a soaking, chill April rain, the community assembled in their long traveling robes at 6:30 a.m. outside the office to formally bow to the senior nuns and then take off for spring vacation, which begins today. Along with a few other nuns, I’ll be staying at school this vacation to continue to fill my responsibilities and duties as the Head Chant Master in the main Dharma Hall.
For those who can’t read the hangul–Korean alphabet–of the title, “da-nyeo-o-gettsumnida” means, literally, “I’ll be back.” Minus Austrian accent, pop-culture reference, and irony. I can’t ever translate that literally for guests without laughing. But Koreans do not literally say “Goodbye” to elders, although we use the equivalent among friends. If you will, in fact, “be back,” then you say so to your elders. If you won’t be back, because you don’t live with said elders, you would say something like “I’ll be going now,” but it doesn’t sound as casual in Korean (가보겠습니다).
Right now, nestled in a warm, well-lit corner room, a box of books beside my desk (everything from e.e. cummings to T. Cleary), coffee having been brewed and shared among a few sisters taking a later bus, a small bun of good bread rustled up and cheese and apples procured for a snack, nothing to do but the morning offering service at ten, and tomorrow–weather permitting–some work in the Dharma Hall, it is vacation indeed.