Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Templestay

Last weekend I went to a Templestay.  This is where you go to a Buddhist temple and experience life in the temple and learn about Buddhism.  I have wanted to do this since I came to Korea but I have been putting this off because it included a very early morning and I like my rest.  However, I finally bit the bullet and signed up for one.  I chose a good weekend too because for some reason the city of Seoul paid for the Templestay for the guests.  That was a nice surprise and a good start to the weekend.

The templestay started at 3pm on Saturday and ended at noon on Sunday.  It all started with a small hike up to the temple (of course).  I then signed in and was given a baggy purple vest and pants to wear and then sent to my room, which I was sharing with three other people.  We changed and got a tour of the temple, along with some of the history of Buddhism.



We had a bit of free time here and there to wander around.  We had supper, rang the bell and then met at the Buddha Hall to do our 108 prostrations.  This involved standing and then getting onto our hands and knees and bowing very deeply.  This, especially after the hike and tour, was very difficult.  I didn't do all 108 prostrations but I did do them constantly for the time, around 25 minutes.  My legs were very weak by the end.  We followed the prostrations with meditation.  My legs were so exhausted that they were cramping a bit during the seated meditation but luckily they had us do walking meditation, too.  After this was all finished, around 8:30, we were sent off to bed or to continue with the meditation.

We were woken up at 4:30am by a monk hitting a stick on something.  It was actually very quiet and took me a while to realize what I was hearing.  Then the bell or a gong was hit.  We had to meet in the Buddha Hall for the morning gathering, which involved a few more prostrations.  We were then given an hour rest or meditate before meeting there again for breakfast.  After breakfast, we did some communal work.  I washed and dried some of the breakfast dishes.  Others had to clean the hall or the sleeping quarters.  

Later we met with one of the monks and had tea with her.  We enjoyed some Korean snacks and tea and got to ask the monk some questions.  I didn't have much to ask but it was interesting to hear the other participants questions and to hear the monk's responses.  She spoke a little English and had a translator when she needed one.  After tea, we went for a short hike around the temple.  Needless to say, my legs were very sore from the prostrations the day before and it was difficult to go both up and downhill but I made it.  The mountains in Korea are beautiful and I will miss them when I come home.

After the hike, we had lunch and then changed to go home.  I really enjoyed the experience and I am very glad I finally convinced myself to do it.  I almost didn't do a Templestay while I was here because of the reason mentioned earlier and because I was worried about the food, which was basically normal Korean food but vegetarian.  I didn't mind the food but something things have started to grow on me in the last few months that I never really liked last year.  I guess my palate is changing more and more.  Anyway, I really enjoyed Templestay and I am so glad I did it.  Here are some more pictures.


This is a face in the rock by the temple.


This is the Dharma Gate.  Nirvana is as easy to get to as stepping through this gate.


Stepping through the gate.


About the ring the bell.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Singapore

I had a friend from Canada come and visit and we went to Singapore for my summer holiday.  It is basically just a city, but it is one of the cleanest cities I've ever been to.  The sidewalks were so clean.  No spit, vomit, or urine.....ahhh, the things you take for granted sometimes.  Here in Korea, those things are plentiful on the sidewalk.  The buildings in Singapore were either really well kept or new.  I enjoyed some of the architecture.  It had some really unique buildings.

We went to different areas of the city, such as Chinatown and Little India. There was shopping everywhere and they have a good underground shopping system like Korea, except in Singapore it was more like an underground mall, rather than the market-like set up that you find in Korea.

Singapore was fairly expensive but it did have inexpensive options too.  There were way more familiar stores and products there, than in Korea.  It was nice to see some familiar things and eat some familiar snacks.  English is their national language, so that was also a nice change, to have people understand you perfectly and to be able to understand them.

I went to Universal Studios for the first time.  Some of the rides were a bit too much for me and left me feeling a little ill, but some were fun.  We also went to a water park.  I didn't end up staying there to long. There was a crazy water slide that we went on and I scraped my knee pretty good on the landing.  You get in a inflatable boat/raft and then it takes you up on a conveyor belt to the top of the slide.  Then, as soon as you were at the top you get put into the enclosed slide.  When you come out of the enclosed slide, you slide straight down at a sharp angle and then something like a conveyor belt (apparently it's hydromagnetic) takes you back up a steep incline, and then you repeat.  It took us back up three times, by the third time I actually said out loud, "Not again!"  Finally we came to the bottom and the boat tipped and I scraped my knee on the bottom of the pool.  I had to get a bandage and stay out of the water for a bit so we went to the aquarium.

I didn't take many pictures, but I do have a few from the Singapore Flyer, an observation wheel.  Here they are, plus a photo from the Incheon(Seoul) airport.







Saturday, 19 July 2014

It's Been Soooo Long!

Hi everyone!

I'm sorry it's been so long since I've written.  I've no real excuse, I just didn't feel like it.  I'll give you a few quick updates.

I went to the Lantern Parade in Seoul again this year.  It was great to see it again.  However, it was held shortly after the ferry incident and it was a very somber affair.  Last year there was a lot of noise and smiling and laughing from the participants but this year the parade was very quiet and the participants looked very serious.  It was still a great experience.

I've gone on a few hikes this spring.  I still question my motives, and my sanity, all the way up the mountain, but it feels great once I've reached the top.  I'm still incredibly slow going but that way I get to enjoy the nature.  It is so beautiful.





The last three pictures were taken at the fortress wall, which I'd been to in the fall.  I believe I have one almost identical to the last picture in a previous post from the fall.

I also went to a Korean baseball game this spring.  It was very interesting.  I was rooting for the Dooson Bears because they have an English website.  They played the Samsung team, which had won the championship the year before.  It was pretty crazy.  Dooson crushed Samsung by something like 14 to 2.  I was surprised that they kept playing right to the ninth inning.

We bought tickets at the gate and and there were no assigned seats.  That would have been okay, except some people were using seats, that others had paid to sit in, to hold their food.  Some said they were saving the seat for someone, even though these people never ended up coming.  I thought it was really inconsiderate.  I know I would have been upset to have paid for a seat and then had to sit on the stairs or stand by the fence because someone didn't want to hold their chicken.

You are also allowed to bring in your own food and drinks to the games.  So, there were a lot of coolers.  Due to the previously mentioned seating problems, I was not able to sit with my group, but I did get a seat next to two very nice Korean women.  The one right beside me spoke English and explained things to me.  For example, the only foreign players on each of those teams were the pitchers, who were from the US.  The one who didn't speak English made me a hat out of a newspaper to keep the sun out of my eyes. I enjoyed the game and hope to do it again sometime.  It was also very cheap.  It was less than ten dollars.


I'm sorry it took me so long to wright something.  I'll try not to leave it so long next time.

Take Care!


Saturday, 8 March 2014

Cambodia

Hello friends and family,

I'm sorry it has taken me so long to post this.  I've no good excuse, so we'll leave it at that.  :)  Over Christmas, I went to Cambodia.  I went to Siem Reap and stayed at a yoga retreat just outside the city.

Cambodia was very beautiful, but not as warm as I was expecting.  It felt like nice, early summer, Saskatchewan days.  So, I'm not complaining about that, it was kind of nice and reminded me of home, but I brought clothing for plus thirty, so I was freezing.  Cambodia had an earthy feel.  The people seem to still work closely with the land, yet they had technology.  The roads were covered with a few cars/trucks, a lot of motorcycles, a lot of bicycles and pedestrians.  There would often be two to four people on a motorbike.  The passengers were so comfortable that they looked like they may as well have been lounging on a porch.  I saw one woman feeding a baby some baby food on the back of a bike.  I kind of liked that they were that comfortable.

video


The yoga retreat was good.  It was a little over scheduled for me, and we were supposed to attend all the classes.  However, between the classes we could lay in a hammock, go for a walk, ride a bike, or whatever else struck our fancy, but there was usually only an hour or so between the classes.  There was also only one, maybe two yoga classes a day.  There were three or four meditation classes a day.  I wasn't expecting that much meditation, but I was open to it.  They were quite strict about it though and that made it difficult for me to relax enough to stay focused.  After, I'd seen the temples though, during the last day of my trip, I was finally relaxed enough to enjoy the yoga and meditation more.  I thoroughly enjoyed laying in the hammocks and reading.




My second last day, I went into Siem Reap to check out the temples.  I decided to get up early and see the sun rise there.   However, it was a cloudy day, so I didn't see the sun rise.  It just got lighter.  I started with Angkor Wat.  The buildings were beautiful and I got some amazing pictures.








I went to Angkor Thom next.  Angkor Thom Bayon was my favourite temple.  It was breathtaking.  It may be the most beautiful ruins I've seen.  Not that I've seen many.











Shopping was also really good in Cambodia.  They had a lot of different things and the prices were really good.  They had a bunch of flowy clothes that I love, so I stocked up.  They had some beautiful paintings and wood carvings.  There were hammocks, and blankets, and all sorts of things.  The prices were sooo good.   I want to go back again before I head back home so I can stock up on some more things.

I loved Cambodia and I would love to go back, and not just for the shopping.

Take care, everyone!

Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Korean Mystery I Shall Always Ponder

Hi friends,
I was telling a friend about something that I find baffling here in Korea, and she suggested I write about it and things like this, when I don't have any special travels or events to write about.  So, I will share with you something I find very troubling here.  It began when I first got here, but I thought 'Hey, it's just Korea' but then, a few weeks ago, I rediscovered the matter, and it had become more puzzling in my mind.

During my first month here I was excited to find there was a Starbucks relatively nearby.  I have two drinks I order there.  When I'm hot, I drink a chai frappuccino and when I'm cold, I drink a peppermint hot chocolate.  It was still cold when I first came to Korea, so I was excited to get my favourite peppermint hot chocolate.  I was disappointed to hear them tell me in broken English that they did not have it.  I even asked if they had peppermint syrup, but alas, they did not have any.  As disappointed as I was, I just accepted it was not a thing here in Korea.

The summer was very hot and I had forgotten my troubles over the occasional chai frappuccino.  However, the cold weather returned and I naively tried again, thinking with Christmas coming maybe they would have it.  They did not.  I asked again about the syrup, and again I was denied and crestfallen.  Then, I started to think.  I realized something was awry.  I don't know why I hadn't realized it earlier, but once I realized it, no sense was to be made.

I'd had peppermint hot chocolate in Korea.  In fact, I'd had a peppermint hot chocolate in every coffee shop (and there are many here) that I'd been in.  So, peppermint hot chocolate is a huge thing in Korea.  So, why in the world does the coffee shop, with the best peppermint hot chocolate I've had, not have it on its' menu. How can one explain that?  There is no logic here.  So now, not only do I not have my peppermint hot chocolate, and am forlorn, but now, I'm also very confused.  Where was Starbucks marketing on this one?  If every coffee shop (possibly excluding independently run ones) in the country has it on it's menu, why would you not have it on yours, when you have it on yours in other countries?

I shall leave you with this to ponder, as I do every time I walk by a coffee shop, which is often.  There are a lot here.  No lie.  They love their coffee here.  I've never seen so many coffee shops.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Fall Hike

Hi!

I finally got back up on the mountain, after the last terrifying hike.  I wasn't that traumatized.  I was waiting for an easy hike that began at a decent hour.  I found one, easy being relative.  I learned from the last hike that 'easy' is a term used when you have an incredibly small chance of falling off a mountain.  Just the way I like it!

I hiked around Seoul's old fortress wall.  It was quite beautiful.  It involved at lot of stairs, but there were some great views and the leaves have started to change colours, so it was quite lovely.  I enjoyed the scenery and I'm sure if not for my cold, I would have enjoyed the fresh air more.  I was a little disappointed I couldn't smell the fresh air and the fallen leaves, but it was still a pretty good day.  Here are some pictures.







Sunday, 29 September 2013

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Hi,
I went to Gyeongbokgung Palace today.  There isn't a lot to write about.  It was a really large complex and had a lot to see.  I have a bunch of pictures for you.