Monday, June 18, 2012

Haeinsa Temple Stay

Hello again.

So this past weekend we went on a temple stay to Haeinsa temple which is about 1 and a half hours on the bus from Daegu. We got there on Saturday around 2ish and went up to the temple where we registered and changed into our temple attire. These grey like kinda pajama looking things. After that we took a look around and then headed back to the temple at 5 to start the program.
We started off with an introduction to Buddhism and how to meditate and bow and then we went to the main temple to have the evening ceremony with the monks. It was so beautiful! All the rooms on the temple grounds are so pretty and watching the monks is fascinating! They do this chant for the morning and the evening, its called the Hartra Sutra and they sound so beautiful when the chant it.
After that we went for dinner in the main hall (vegetables and rice because Buddhists don't eat meat) and then we all made lotus flowers out of craft paper as the lotus flower is a big part of Buddhist culture so we each made one and then you give it to Buddha as an offering and make a wish.
After this we got to ask the monks some questions about the Buddhist religion. It is so interesting to hear about and definitely something I would do again!

We then headed to the sleeping quarters where we all passed out only to be awakened at 3am for the morning ceremony. You all go into the heart of the temple grounds and listen to the monks play the four different drums and gongs they have.
One represent humans, one represents plant life, one represents the sea and its creatures and the other I think represented the spiritual world... Once you have heard them play the drums you go for the moring ceremony in the temple which is a lot like the evening one and again the monks do the chant.
Once that is over you go into another part of the temple to bow in front of Buddha 108 times to repent for all 108 sins that the Buddhists believe we commit. It is so interesting to hear what they repent for and even more so to realize how many of those sins you commit daily... Some of them I was like, Hhhhmm maybe I should bow twice for this one!!
It is really hard though because you don't just bend your upper body and bow you actually have to first half bow and then go down onto your knees and touch your nose to the floor before coming back up again... So picture doing this 108 times and then you will imagine what my legs feel like today.
After that you spend an hour in meditation which is also challenging at the beginning as firstly you have to consciously keep yourself awake because if you start to nod off the monks whack you with a bamboo stick. Also I am not used to sitting in the same cross legged position for so long with my back straight so it gets a little uncomfortable after a while. It was an amazing experience though as you realize what discipline it must take for the monks to do this everyday of their lives! Also through out this whole thing we were not allowed to talk, so you can just imagine how strange that must have been for me who hardly ever shuts up.
Once meditation was over we had breakfast and then had a tour of the temple which was stunning! 

It was a very informative experience and something I would love to find out more about.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Buddha's birthday in Seoul

Update on the long weekend.

Ok so the weekend before last was buddhas birthday so it was a public holiday in Korea so we didnt have to go to school. It was the first long weekend weve had so sally and I decided to go to Seoul since we have been here for three months and still havent explored it. It was amazing!! We stayed in a hostel (Kimchi Hostel) for fri, sat and sun night and then came home late Monday night.
On Friday we could only leave once school was over so we caught the KTX at about 6:30 with my co-teacher and her friend and arrived at about 8:30pm. We then checked into the hostel and turns out that in our dorm there was this really religious Indonesian family who pray like every hour. And we were going out so we went down to the bathrooms and got changed and did our make up and all and then when we went back up to put all our stuff down they were asleep! This was like 9:30. So it was pretty awkward! And so was the fact that we came in at about 3am and they definitely judged us for that!! Oh well, if you wanna stay in a hostel with your family thats what you get I suppose.
So Friday night was good, sally and I explored bars and clubs in our area which was awesome because we stayed in Hongdae which is the university area so there are people everywhere!! And we met up with some friends later on.
On Saturday we woke up really early because lets face it, who can sleep in a hostel with 6 other people in the room? Its loud. Haha.
Anyways so we grabbed breakfast and then made our way down to Myeongdong which is the famous shopping district in Seoul. It has forever 21 and H&M and topshop and all those places. I was in heaven. Forever 21 had four floors!! And each floor was huuuge! It was like a sensory overload for my brain. Needless to say we spent way more than we should have.
After that we grabbed a late lunch and then headed back to Hongdae because there are more like marketish shops there so its cheaper and we browsed around and did some shopping there too.
That night we had dinner with some of our friends and then we all went out again around the Hongdae area. One of our American friends is dating a Korean girl and she came out with us. Shes awesome! Her name is Shin-young, Ill add some photos
On Sunday we were dead tired but again woke up early and headed over to the palace to do some sightseeing. It was really pretty but the queues were really long so we didnt get to go all the way inside because it would have taken ages to stand in the line to buy a ticket. So once we looked around a bit and took some photos we headed to the art museum near by and this cultural centre thing.
After that we went back to Hongdae and got our hair cut! Mine is super short compared to what it was but it was ridiculously long after not being cut for three months and the ends were like rats tails! So now its nice and healthy and they thinned it out A LOT so its much easier to handle in this humid weather.
After we got our hair cut we went back to the hostel, got changed and headed out to go have a look at Cheonggye stream. Its like a man made stream underneath a main highway, its really cool and because it was buddhas birthday weekend there were lanterns everywhere which was really pretty!! BUT Korea is like couple central as men and woman are not really friends here, they are either in a relationship or married so if you see a guy and a girl together, they are in a relationship. Oh and they wear matching clothes Anyways I think the entire of Seouls dating population spent the night at the stream, looking around was depressing! As if I dont already feel like I am going to die alone, Korea reminds you of the fact that you are single and alone EVERY second of EVERY day. The response when you say you are single is, aaaaah, shame. Um thanks? 

We walked to the end of the stream and then up into Insa dong which is also quite a famous part of seoul for shopping and such and we had dinner at this really cute Italian place and then wondered around the streets and ended up finding this really cute little Belgian waffle place on a random corner in the middle of nowhere We started talking to the guy who owned it and he was born in America but moved to Korea about 10 years ago (He has family in Korea). He was really sweet and was telling us all about Seoul and where to go As we were leaving he says, well how funny is this!! Here is a girl from South Africa and a girl from England getting Belgian waffles made for them by an American in Korea When you think of it that way it is quite strange
That night we were dead tired so just chilled at the hostel with some friends and then went to bed.
On Monday we went to Han river with Liz and her sister (Her sister has been working in Australia and decided to come down to visit for a while). It was really nice to walk along the river but it was not the most amazing day as it was hot but really overcast so the view could have been better. After that we headed back to the hostel, fetched our bags and made our way to Seoul station for dinner and then caught the KTX back home at about 6:30pm.
All in all it was a very successful weekend!! I think I am still recovering now though

King sejong's palace

Some random Korean that just HAD to have a photo with me

Me, Shin-young, Sally and Shawn out in Hongdae

Shawn, Taft, Scott and I

Some statue in the middle of the road... I think it might be King Sejong?

Liz, Her sister Becky, Me(I dunno what is going on with my hair) and sally.

Shin-young and I

Or wait, Maybe this is King Sejong?

Cheongyye stream

That table flashed different colours!! Awesome cocktail place

His mustache is glued to his face...

Lanterns at Cheongyye stream

Weird 3D flowers projected onto the wall, you can watch them grow...

Mmmmmm red wine and Pizza!!! It's amazing when you find it!

Lanterns at Cheongyye stream

Lanterns at Cheongyye stream

Lanterns at Cheongyye stream

Lanterns at Cheongyye stream

Best Margarita's ever

Told you... Spent way too much.

Bye for now