Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bus Drivers Hate Me

The day after Blue One, I was burned and exhausted but still gunhoe about my Temple Stay.

Now, I shall explain what a Temple Stay is. This is a program that anyone can sign up for and you can stay at a Buddhist temple and follow the regime of a Buddhist Monk for as long as you want. I chose only for two days and a night. The temple I chose also has a focus on Martial Arts so that I got to see some monks kick butt.

Normally these temples are remote and so sometimes are a challenge to find.  As I found out; I woke up early with this knowlegde and got to a bus terminal; then arrived at the city of Gyeungju where the extremely helpful instructions told me to find the nearest tourist kiosk. I got out of the terminal and couldn't see any kiosk in sight. I went over to a couple bus stops but none of them had the buses listed that I needed. Finally I ran into a couple from I think Australia and had them direct me to the Kiosk. It was conveniently in plain sight (behind three buildings...grr). The stop I needed was across the street and my directions said to take the bus for 45minutes and after a tunnel wait five minutes then I should listen for the stop name to be announced. Well we got past the tunnel and five minutes passed but no stop and we were already pretty far out in the country. Finally I got up the courage to ask the driver. Well my Korean ability allowed me to understand the word 'no' at that point but he waived me off as though I was a particular annoying fly. Sheepishly I got back into my seat uncertain of my next move. Thankfully, after a few stops the people who had overheard my request told me my stop was here. After that I was able to find the Temple, meet the office director and got signed in. They gave me an uniform (it had the loosest pants I've ever worn). Quickly, I got changed into the Dobo and caught the Archery lessons in time.
At the lessons I discovered that the instructor was from Strasbourg (that is a French City that was in my mission) and three other participants were from France as well. So I spent most of my stay speaking french :)
We were kept on a pretty strict schedule but at the same time it was pretty relaxed. After Archery lessons we were suppose to do community service but because of the heat it was canceled so I went up to the shrine at the top of the mountain where they were having Sunomundo Demonstrations. After which we were allowed to take photos with some of the monks:

I'll add a video at the end of some of the awesome moves I go to see and do. The girl next to me was one of the french girls I became friends with.

Dinner was a monk's diet which was only vegetables. Surprisingly tasty, also one of the rules is that you can't leave any food behind. So you had to eat everything you took even if you thought it was weird or nasty.

We had Orientation after dinner and this is where we were shown the proper way to meditate and bow. They also went through some of the chants with us and what they mean and also a little about the Buddhist religion. I remembered a lot of it from my World Religion class but it was interesting to get a refresher. We went straight to evening chanting after that. We were invited to chant along if we wanted but I contented myself to just listening and following along.

After chanting, we had our own Sunomundo (Martial Arts) Training. This was awesome because it was slightly different from Hopkido. More slow kicks and punches. You had to hold your leg in one position for a longer time than a simple kick. Then we spent an hour meditating in various poses. By then it was time for bed and I was so tired that I didn't mind so much, sleeping with ten other people on the floor. Here is a picture of the room:
I fell asleep really quick but I didn't stay that way for long. Around midnight I woke up, too hot to sleep and my shoulders absolutely killing me because of the sunburns I got yesterday. Everyone else had a blanket covering them, crazy, Hot! I tossed and dozed for the rest of the night until the monk with the wake-up bell came around at four in the morning. I quickly got dressed and went up to the shrine to catch the morning chants. This lasted about a half hour and then we went to the top of the shrine to meditate. We watched the sun rise over the mountainside. Absolutely breathtaking and totally worth the early hour. Then we did some walking meditation and stretching when we arrived at the bottom of the mountain. I snapped a quick pick of a local rice field on our way:

We had breakfast around 7 and had free time for about an hour after that. I tried to sleep but my shoulders and the floor never did learn to get along. We met up again as a group and we did some more Martial Arts training, this session was more focused on yoga moves and stretching, I could follow most of them but some were pretty extreme. We even did a move that I remember doing when I was in gymnastics, called the bridge. The splits were a bit hard and I had to do the easier option that was given. :) Sorry, mom I don't do Yoga

We had tea time then with one of the Masters and I learned I was the only American there. We had people from Canada, England, France, Holland, Sweden, Germany, and of course Korea, but I was the only one to represent the USA. Awesome, represent :)

There was one more Demonstration at the shrine and I explored a bit as well. There was a gigatic buddha carved into the side of the mountain. Here are some pics:

 It was an amazing experience and the last thing that I did was have lunch. Best way to finish anything off, is with a really delicious meal :)

On the way home I got off the bus a little early so that I could take some awesome pictures of some water lily gardens in the City:
It was an end of a really good day and like anything good there has to have something that goes wrong and that happened on the bus ride home.

I got my ticket to go home to Masan, this is about a two hour bus ride. So naturally I fell asleep. Well when I woke up as the bus was pulling into a bus terminal and everyone started getting off the bus. I looked around and realized I was not in Masan. I went up to the driver and handed him my ticket asking him if this was Masan. He got angry and started spouting out a lot of Korean but I figured out through body language that I had missed my stop and was now in a completely different city called Gimhae. The bus driver shooed me off the bus and basically told me in Korean 'good luck, get out of my hair'. I was still tired so I didn't care as much. I went to the ticket office and unlike all the other Korean Cities that have a lot of tourist have signs in English as well as Korean, not this City. Everything was in Korean, thankfully I know enough korean to find my town and got a ticket (not terribly expensive) and took another bus home. This one actually stopping at the Masan Bus Terminal.
Stressful but worth it.
Now lets see if I can get ta video to work:

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