Archive for April, 2006

Visited my favorite temple, near the southeast coast. I'm too tired and sore to post pics and write, but here's a taste.

If you think they're cool now, you should have seen the lanterns at night.

Part of our training last night included running through this mountain (as well as the hill leading up to it). Obviously it was difficult, but the lanterns were lit–all two thousand of them.

And for anyone who is wondering, I finished the run second, on the heels of a marathoner. Not to brag or anything.


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I've decided that when I go back to California all I'm going to eat is fruit.

Every week I set aside a certain amount of money for fruit. Vegetables are priced reasonably here, and a bag of white rice lasts forever since I don't eat that much. But fruit has become an indulgence for me.

Yesterday I spent more than seven dollars on four large apples and eight slices of pineapple wrapped in plastic and Styrofoam. The day before, I bought a small box of strawberries for almost four dollars, and I buy those from the local market at least three days a week.

I eat two apples a day, and four cost almost five dollars. So I spend around 30-40 dollars a week. On fruit!

And that's not counting the one or two bananas I swipe from my roommate every few days when her back is turned . . . and those are quite cheap in comparison. And yeah, I am aware of how sad that is.

And ooh, those gift packages of apples and pears at Wal*Mart. Personally, nothing says romance like one of those with a big red bow on top.

If I end up making more money from my next job, I will splurge on grapes–which cost about seven bucks a bundle.

I'm thinking of starting a quasi-charity titled "Feed Your Muse," in which my ten faithful readers can send me packages of prunes and dried cranberries and apricots.

Now that I think about it, a tiny tube of honey costs about ten bucks. So if you're feeling generous, toss a couple of bottles in there, too!

(Hey, at least I stopped smoking.)

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For every thing you have missed, you have gained something else; and for every thing you gain, you lose something.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Today D and I spent the day on Insadong, a street full of tourist, calligraphy and traditional shops.

We didn't expect it to turn into a photo shoot, but this country still amazes (and confuses) us.

Lotus Lanterns in Anguk Station

Monk painting


Poor puppet. All naked and caught with binoculars on his crotch. Soju does wonders, I tell you.

Perverted Puppet 1

Perverted Puppet 2

A mini-parade broke out in the street, promoting the upcoming Seoul Intangible Cultural Heritage Festival.

Ribbons and drums

These guys are fantastic. They have to play instruments while twirling those ribbons fastened on their hats . . . by swinging their necks!

It was all very short, but I've never seen these costumes before.

I must apologize if it takes an hour or so to load my page. I've gone crazy with the camera this past month . . .

It's the thought of leaving Korea, even for a few weeks, that has made me trigger-happy.

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Plans for the next two weekends:

1) Temple stay with D (very cool Canadian chick who works at E's old school) in what I've grown to call "my place." That is, if she can delay that pesky alien registration business for another weekend. Illegal, schmegal!

2) May 5th is Children's Day in Korea–and, most important, a three-day weekend. (Uh, it's also Buddha's Birthday, but Children's Day is more prominent, although there is a huge parade is Seoul for Buddhists and non-Buddhists.) So I'm heading down to Busan for some sightseeing.

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To Dream in the Mountains

On Friday I made last-minute reservations to go to the temple I visited in December. It takes six hours to get there, but I felt like I really, really needed to go and get rid of some stress.

Then I woke up from this strange little dream.

I was sitting on a bench with the European monk and eating a large bowl of strawberries. Just stuffing them in my mouth by the fistfuls, eying him self-consciously. Why was he looking at me funny? Was I growing another zit on my forehead? Was he afraid I was going to say something stupid?

We were seating in the mountains, overlooking rice fields and folk houses. I could hear voices from down below, but no one popped out of the doors.

He was wearing his cranberry robes. I wore a red, hooded sweatshirt with "Dr. Pepper" written across the front, and no pants.

The sun was rising. I could sense we'd just finished meditating in the main hall.

"How does a European become a monk in Korea?" I asked.

He ran his hand over his shaved head and shrugged. "Is that important?"

"I'm a writer . . . I was a writer," I corrected, shoving more strawberries in my mouth. "Details are important to me. Don't you miss your friends or family?"

"Why do you make yourself so sad? Look where we are."

I set the empty container aside, reached over and pulled out a new batch. "Yeah, it's beautiful here. But I think of them a lot, especially my father."

"You think of them sometimes. And you aren't go to fly to California just yet, are you?"

I placed the bowl aside and hugged myself, my heavy head between my knees.

"If I go back," I sighed, "I'll just hurt them. I'll be so sad and confused and sentimental. They won't know what to do with me."

"So if you want them to be happy, you'll have to be happy first."

"It sounds terrible when you say it."

"Is it? It makes sense. Your parents top priority is seeing you happy. They've said that all along. Considering your history, they'll understand if you decide to stay.

" You're making changes in your life and feeling better. The only thing that gives you anxiety is the thought of visiting California."

I sat up and nodded. "I know my father is getting better. But if I see one look of pain on his face, I'll never let him go."

"Our entire lives are filled with pain. That's just the way things are. Look where we are. Every day a little piece of this country is torn apart and replaced with a factory or apartment complex. And you don't like it.

"But in order to truly feel at peace with yourself, you have to accept the ugliness. The buildings are everywhere. Even these temples disturb nature. But it all has to coexist, in the landscape and your mind.

"You know your father will be okay, and a part of you has accepted that he won't be the same. Now, accept your shame and disappointment and move on.

"Accept that you will be happy here, and that you'll never leave Korea, no matter where you are."

I looked forward to see the sun high above us. Feathery clouds drifted past us, and beyond them I could see a sky so perfectly blue I felt as if I was on another planet. I could hear birds calling in the distance, and leaves shaking in the wind.

From below, people had begun to emerge from their houses. The day had started.

I turned back to him and folded my hands into my lap. "I'm in love with you."

He shook his head, a small smile on his face. "No, you're not. Look a little farther."

I woke up with a start, and promptly canceled my reservation.

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Two weeks ago I took a trip to Gyeongbokgung, a palace in Seoul currently going through reconstruction. It's off of Anguk Station–an artsy, Buddhist-centric area I'll have to visit more often.

Yellow dust had settled on the city. I arrived late (as usual), and the palace was closed.

Palace gates, day

Palace, front

birds in stone

Later in the evening, I walked around some museums and little boutiques. I found my dream dress.

I want this dress so bad it hurts.

It was displayed next to a pair of vintage Chanel heels, so I assume it costs a fortune. Someday, perhaps . . .

I passed some lovely murals on the way to Jogyesa Temple. This was my favorite.

Nature meets machine

Jogyesa's main hall is being renovated, but I managed to snap some photos. (The monks stared at me as if I was deranged.)

Paper Lanterns

Jogyesa Main Hall

(Later it occurred to me that the pictures looked like shit because I had my flash on . . .)

I headed to the Lime Tree cafe for coffee and cheesecake. There I met three tourists from Taiwan who had won a free trip to Seoul.

"My sister wants to know if you ever feel lonely," said A, who possessed a rather impressive grasp of English.

"I have friends here," I explained, "and they're very nice. But we're not interested in the same things. And, I prefer to be alone.

"But yes, I do get lonely sometimes," I concluded.

At nine o'clock I had the idea that the palace might look better at night. I rushed over to take some more shots for the blog. The area was completely deserted, save for a lone security guard at the ticket booth.

I was very frightened, but I the sight was magnificent.

Gyeongbokgung at night

Gates at night

Palace at night

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