Category Archives: Countries

Blooms, booze, and bathrooms: my 8 favourite things about Korea

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Blooms, booze, and bathrooms: my 8 favourite things about Korea

Each new place and experience has those things that imprint themselves on us.  In a new culture, they end up being the things you’ll always remember clearly and long for years later as you travel to new places.  They are the things that will make you smile and be grateful for your time spent in that place, whether you recall it as a wholly uplifting experience or not. As we prepare to leave, I have been reflecting on the best bits about this strange land and the last year in it.  For me, there are 8 things that stand out as really awesome.

Follow the link to my new and improved blog at gitanalife.com to read the full post!

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Uniquely Korean. Part two.

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On the one-month-eve of my departure, I bring to you my final compilation of those things that are uniquely Korean.  Or at least, of those things that seem uniquely Korean to me because I have yet to witness them anywhere else.  All of this is not to say that they could not be found elsewhere, naturally – simply that I have not had the joy of experiencing them elsewhere yet.

Why part two, you may ask!?  Well, silly, because I already wrote part one!  It’s here.  Go check it out if you haven’t and then come back.  We’ll wait.

And now the list, edición dos:

* Holidays are never pushed to the weekends.  If a holiday falls on a Thursday, you will enjoy your Thursday off and then head back to work on Friday.  It sucks.  A lot.  (I’m so spoiled, clearly)  The only time they will extend the weekend out is for Chuseok – the one big Korean holiday (it’s like their Thanksgiving).

'yellow dust' from China

‘Yellow dust’ from China

* Yellow dust, pollution, toxins carried on the air, and radioactive fish and water from China and Japan (respectively) are a much bigger public security concern than anything North Korea says or does.  This week, for example, we are being advised to limit our physical activity outdoors because of a huge cloud of toxic dust surrounding us that blew over from China.  I get more headaches certain weeks, it seems, so I tend to believe that this is a real thing (in terms of concern).  It certainly concerns the Koreans and I can understand why, given how often it seems to happen.  That’s a lot of additional air and food contamination over a lifetime.

* Koreans meander.  Always and forever.  No one picks a side or path and sticks to it.  Many people have their noses in their phones while they walk, which could account for some of this, except that even without phones they meander.  No one ever seems in a hurry or even like there’s a specific place they might be headed.  They are just meanderers, nothing more about it 🙂

* Koreans drink hot coffees (and the like) with stir sticks, but cold beverages with straws.  It’s pretty strictly so.  I have no real idea why.  I think the straws in general are to avoid colouring the teeth, which I get (though I can’t imagine giving up the wonderful feeling of putting my lips to a take out style (because I re-use, guys!) lid).  But why the teeny stir straws?  Is it because the drinks are hot and the straws allow for less tongue burnage?  Does it help their drinks last longer so they can suffice as an entire meal?  I have no idea.  This is one mystery that will just remain unsolved, I guess.  (I’m clearly coffee-obsessed, as it shows up on both of these lists.  Perhaps I should just write a blog about worldwide coffee culture and give into my obsession.)

* There are no personal pencil sharpeners!  I have looked and looked and looked and none are to be found.  Talk about an untapped market!  Most of the older kids use mechanical pencils, and larger classroom size sharpeners do exist, but do you know what they do to sharpen regular pencils!?  They (the kids, the young kids) carry around and use an EXACTO KNIFE to sharpen their leads.  I kid you not.  Can you even begin to imagine that flying in some places!?

* In Korea, a marker is not a marker if it doesn’t smell of delicious food.  IT’S. SO. AWESOME.

* Gay does not exist here.  I mean, it does but it does not permeate the consciousness of general society.  It doesn’t exist, it isn’t in Korea, and therefore (at least this part is pleasant?!) it’s nothing to be ‘afraid of’.

071206_p18_koreans*Koreans love spam.  Of the ‘edible’ variety, not those annoying junk emails that occasionally slip through your gmail filter.  On big holidays, most notedly Chuseok, it is common to give a nicely wrapped box displaying about 12 tins of spam.  I wish I was joking.  I’m going to guess it’s a throwback to the days of poverty that weren’t so far in the past.  I mean, that’s why we all eat hotdogs, right?  I hope?  Because, ew to spam and ew to hotdogs.  This article, much to my everlasting amusement, discusses the history of spam in Korea and why Koreans love it so much 😀  The picture is also theirs.

* Remember the crazy traffic I wrote about?  Turns out it doesn’t even stop for ambulances.  Ambulances have to fight their way through the traffic and fight through lights and generally just fight to get anywhere.  Frightening to think about what that means in, you know, an emergency!

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*We all know the classic red, white and blue spinning sign of a barber shop (and in case you grew up under a rock and don’t, there’s a picture of one right here –>).  Well in Korea, these barber shop poles signify something entiiiiiirrrreeeely different.  And about as different a thing from a haircut and shave as you can get.  They signify places where sex is sold.  They are often attached to the jimjilbangs (spas), sometimes attached to seemingly random businesses, and of course always attached to brothels.  Actual hair salons have taken to using a colourful and entirely different spinning sign so as not to be confused with prostitution businesses.

* Prostitution is rampant and includes women from other countries that are lured here under false pretences (it’s not like this is the only place that happens but it doesn’t lessen my concern).  Fortunately, there are amazing organizations at work trying to combat this reality, such as Salim Women’s Shelter, where I volunteered for a large part of my time here.

* The drinking culture is literally unparalleled elsewhere in the world.  South Korean adults are the biggest drinkers in the world, and the sale of soju (the preferred national liquor) outsells vodka and whiskey worldwide.  You can check out this article for a brief synopsis (it attributes alcohol abuse to most of the crime in South Korea).  According to a google search, it seems the government is taking this somewhat seriously and at least trying to contain the effect on adults and children under the age of 25 by restricting advertising to them.

* You can leave things out in the open, even cell phones and laptops and wallets, and they will NOT go missing.  Ever.  I mean, this is no gospel so no need to heed my every word should you find yourself here.  But I seriously cross the line of what is smart in terms of leaving stuff everywhere here (partially because I’m curious how much I can get away with) and nothing ever ever goes missing.  Not helmets or jackets or bags hanging off the bike, not my laptop or phone while I’m in the bathroom at the coffee shop, nothing.  Except Jon’s license plate once.  Apparently that’s a much hotter commodity than a computer…?

* Koreans of all ages live in slip-on sandals.  Think Adidas slides.  With socks, without socks, in all seasons.  I suppose it’s to do with the ease of slipping them off 🙂 but it’s kinda funny that everyone shuffles around in black or blue or purple slides in any size ranging from clearly too small to your-foot-is-touching-the-ground-those-are-so-big-on-you large.  Maybe they’re family sized and everyone shares?

There you have it!  Our final round of ‘what’s up’ in Korealand, all the things you never knew you wanted to know and now you do!

Did I miss anything?  Tell me about it in the comments!

Denouement

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Denouement

As the Korea chapter of our lives comes quickly to a close, we have been plagued with questions of what to do next.  Where should we go?  Africa?  South America?  Back to Canada?  What should we do?  Is there work for us there?  Volunteer?  Travel?  Here, there, anywhere?!

It’s been exhausting and stressful to have the whole wide world as an option.  I know, LIFE’S HARD 😉

And it’s extra hard when your wants are at war with your needs – we all know what that feels like – and it’s never a fun part of life.  But it IS life.  And so we’ve been back and forth debating the heaviness of our desires with the realities of our current situation.

My dream has long since been to do development work in Africa but I need to work for free, it seems, to get my foot in the door.  That’s hard to do with student debt.  SO, if we head to Africa, our time in Korea would have rewarded us with a trip to Africa…but not really helped us to accomplish any debt relief.  You see the dilemma!?  So it was this that had us going back and forth….and back and forth…and back and forth for what feels like months now (I think it really was months, actually).

All of which is a long-winded way of telling you that we finally have a plan 🙂  And I think at least some of you will be pretty darn excited about it.

Drum roll, please.

We are coming back to Canada!  Exciting, right?!

Now, before we get too ahead of ourselves, you should know upfront that this is not permanent.  We do, however, expect to stay through mid/end August.  We’ll be hanging mostly in Osoyoos (and by ‘hanging’ I naturally mean ‘working our ever-loving a**es off’) but we will get to see all of you!  We are so happy!  Of course ALL of YOU strictly applies to those Canadian friends and family living in the Western part of the country.  I am sorry to report that we will not be doing any side trips to Chile or Australia or Eastern Canada or the US or anywhere else to see our scattered family and friends.  But we will be thinking of you, if that helps 😉

The Plan

Early December Jon is going to head to Johannesburg, South Africa to attend an International Teaching Conference.  I am going to come back to Canada and he will join me about 10 days later.  I’m not sure where we’ll be camped for the month of December…Victoria, Williams Lake or Osoyoos probably (or very likely some combo therein) but January the job hunt will begin in Osoyoos.  Let me know if you hear of some seasonal (Christmas) work in any of those areas, mmmkkaaayyy?

The idea is that Jon gets a teaching contract somewhere awesome (our first choice is somewhere in Africa), and we head there in August to set up camp for two years.  Then I can volunteer/work/look for work/try to get my life together (since I will be 30 by then and my god, will I ever grow up!? Hint: probably not.  That’s boring).  We don’t know where that will be, or IF it will be, and we have contingencies for where and if and when.  But no need to worry about all that for now!  We’ll keep you updated as we know more, of course.  I am nothing if not an over-sharer.

In the meantime, I think it’s going to be great fun documenting our reverse culture shock back in Canada and I am really looking forward to playing the tourist in my own country – especially wine country! – for a while.  The blog posts will continue (they’ll be continuing on a new site…stay tuned for more on that as well) and hopefully continue to entertain you as we fumble our way back into the world we know but definitely don’t remember accurately (culture shock is WEIRD).

There you have it!  Right now we are busy planning our exit from Korea and entrance into Canada (and beyond), so though we would love to start making promises about when and how we can see you all 🙂 we won’t be able to do that just yet.  We ask that you let us get back to Canada first, and then rest assured, we will absolutely make plans to see each and every one of your beautiful faces before we leave again.  You don’t think we’d forget you, do you!?

We are desperately hoping to avoid this horror. Ack!  Snow!

#TBT…We (okay, me) are desperately hoping to avoid this horror upon our return. Ack! Snow!

Falling in love with fall in Korea

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Falling in love with fall in Korea

Ask me what my favourite season is and I will tell you it’s summer every single time.  I live for flip flops and sundresses and slurpees,  and long, lazy evenings.  I have even taken to perpetually chasing summer as much as I can, in the form of vacations during winter and life abroad in warmer countries (fortunately (!?) nearly everywhere qualifies as ‘warmer’ when you hail from Canada!).

But this year I am really, super digging fall.  Fall in Korea is unparalleled.  It’s picture-book-perfect fall.  Busan sees temperatures as high as the mid twenties through until early November, with the evenings pleasantly dropping to the mid teens.  You can wear a tee during the day and go for a splendid hike, then switch into jeans and a light sweater to get through the evenings (I know some of you crazy kids long for “sweater weather”!).  Furthermore, this slow descent into winter allows the leaves to lazily change colour.  They’ve been turning for weeks, now!  BIt by bit, golden hues into orange and red flames, against a still-green backdrop.

I’m surprised to admit that I am enjoying fall here in Korea so much more than I enjoyed the summer.  Summers with 80% and higher humidity most days really are just too hot.  Believe me, I am as shocked as you to hear myself utter (write) those words.  But it’s true.  It feels like you are slogging through a mud puddle everywhere you go.  Decidedly UNsexy and also a bit exhausting.  Fall, by contrast, is exhilarating!  For starters, it’s red wine season again!  (I’m kidding.  NO I’M NOT.)  The nature is beautifeous (I’d like to make that a word), the weather is resplendent, the days are not too short yet, baseball games abound (and they are FUN), I daresay the Koreans themselves are at their best – they love fall, too – and there are festivals nonstop.

Did I mention that?  Fall is festival season in Korea!  There’s a festival, big or small, every week (or at the very least, weekEND) from September through early November.  There’s the famous Jinju Lantern Festival that I wrote about last week, there was the Sea Art Festival before that, and there are countless other festivals big and small, dotted throughout the country.  Busan has one every weekend, somewhere!  Two weeks ago there was the Jagalchi Market festival and this weekend Book Alley is having one.  I’m not lying when I tell you there’s a festival for everyone.

To sum: I love fall in Korea, fall in Korea is fabulous, and if you plan to visit Korea, fall is the time to do it.  Trust me on this.  Spring is good, it’s true…but fall is the Korean season to fall in love with.

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It doesn't even look real!

It doesn’t even look real!

Jinju Lantern Festival

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This time last year, shortly after we had arrived in Korea, I found out about the infamous Jinju Lantern Festival.  It sounded awesome.  Lots of pretty lanterns, all lit up, and people can make their own and set them adrift on the river!?  Sign me up!  But as we had just missed it, I was resigned to waiting out the year to catch it the next time around.  And of course, I very nearly missed it again!  Thank goodness my students and I were brainstorming all the things I should fit in before I leave 🙂

The festival did not disappoint.  We headed up there just for an afternoon (it’s about a 1.5 hour bus ride from Busan – scroll to bottom for more details on getting there) and had checked our expectations ahead of time.  Since our history here has been to feel let down after making the trek to some town, sight, or festival, we did not plan to be blown away.  And I think it is for this reason, in large part, that we had such a nice time.  Which isn’t to say the festival itself wasn’t also great.  It was!  It was such a pleasant surprise.  It was organized, fun, charming, and enjoyable.

Potentially adding to all of this pleasure was the fact that it was a lot like a festival as we (Jon and I, westerners, Canadians) might expect when we hear the word ‘festival’.  There were booths selling goods and crafts and food, some fair games like balloon darts and the ring toss, there were people making lanterns (alas, the lines were a bit long), and there were A LOT of lanterns everywhere.  Everyone seemed in good spirits – even the vendors!  Just charming.  If you want a good festival experience in Korea, this is the one I recommend.  Go in the afternoon to check out the stalls and maybe make your own lantern (we didn’t, sadly), make a wish upon it,  and stay into the evening to see everything all lit up.  You won’t regret it.

Jon and I mostly wandered around sampling the food, drinking the beer, enjoying slurpees(!!) and hanging out.  It was a good time.  But we like that kinda thing.  Also, the river and surrounding area is really nice.  Even though it got quite busy towards the evening, it felt small-town and peaceful.

Here are some of my pictures.  There are not a lot because the real beauty happens at night when the entire place is lit up, but my camera is horrible and does not do night pics (something I hope to remedy sooner rather than later).  As you can hopefully see, an entire section of the river was filled with giant lanterns of all shapes, sizes, and (yes!) cultural representations.  There was a whole Disney section with an Ariel, a Pinocchio, Beauty and the Beast, and more.  There were tons of Korean warriors and dragons and tigers.  There was a Statue of Liberty and an entire Canadian section with six Mounties on one, a huge maple leaf as another, two giant bear lanterns that were playing a little one-on-one, and even a Niagara Falls!  That was an exciting discovery, just as we were leaving, no less 🙂  There were also several loooooong lantern walkways – one with the ‘official’ lanterns that I think people made wishes on, and one with all the crazy, unique, personal lanterns that people made.

Check them out, but definitely go if you’re in Korea in October.  The festival usually runs through the beginning of October for about 10 days and the whole atmosphere was an upbeat one – festive, if you will 😉

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Seriously, sorry for the lousy photos.  Hopefully you get the idea and understand that my camera is NOT doing it justice.  I know what my next purchase needs to be!

*To get to Jinju from Busan you need to grab a bus from the Seobu Terminal (Sasang where the green and brown line meet).  The buses leave every few minutes for the festival, cost is ₩7,700 and the ride is under 1.5 hours.  There were lines and a bit of a wait both ways because of the festival, so give yourself some buffer time.  But things moved pretty quickly.

 

I am you, you are me

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This weekend’s temple stay at Beomeosa Temple was a pretty cool experience.  Jon found it quite spiritual.  I, basically lacking all spirituality (I do feel something akin to spiritual when I am in nature, but never as a connection to a higher being) found it less so.  That didn’t detract from the experience for me though, because it was still a very unique and illuminating two days.  And the surrounding nature was awesome.  I loved this tree.  I have about eight photos of this tree!

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Buddhism was brought to Korea from China and India in the 3rd century.  Korea claims itself as the place where traditional Buddhism is still practiced in its’ purest form.  Knowing nothing of Buddhism, but a fair bit of Korea, I have reason to doubt this claim.  Regardless, it has been in Korea for a very long time and is a big part of Korean heritage.

The first thing we learned at the temple stay was proper ‘mindful’ hand placement and how to do prostrations (bows).  I tell you, those bows are not as easy as they look!  Especially once you start doing them in the hundreds…but I get ahead of myself.  The monks use either a bamboo clapper or a hand bell shaped like a fish to signify various timings in the bowing process such as when to start, when to come up, and when to do your final bow (which is slightly different).  The fish shaped wooden hand bell is a fish to represent the fact that fish’ eyes never close, even in rest, to remind us to keep our minds always open, always awake.

We took a tour of the temple’s museum, led by one of the monks and translated by a volunteer who spent the weekend with us, and it was one of the drier parts of the temple stay for me.  We learned about some of the famous Korean monks –  all male, in case you were wondering – and we saw a couple pieces of really old and enjoyable art on the Buddhist versions of hell.

Our first Su Nim

Our first Su Nim

Though the monks normally eat in a specific four bowl ceremonial manner, we simply ate in a room from a sort of buffet.  The food was quite good, for the most part, and since it was vegan I especially enjoyed all of the choices.  Su nim (the Korean word for monk, and what we called ours) was very kind and told us to eat as much as we needed to feel satisfied, up to and including seconds, but was sure to repeat that we were expected to eat everything that touched our plate.  Nothing was to be left, and in fact, we would all happily sit and wait if someone needed additional time to finish.  I liked this because I think we should all be mindful of waste, and fortunately it never came down to waiting on someone to shove their last bites in. 😉

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At 6:30 each night, just after dark at this time of year, a drum ceremony signals the start of the evening service.  Some of the monks go up to the drum area (I couldn’t get a great photo, unfortunately, because of the low light) and play the large, leather drum for at least ten minutes.  They switch off because it is intense.  In an awesome, awe-inspiring, really wonderful way.  Such a performance!   First, the leather drum to guide the sentient beings of the Earth.  Apparently in the morning the drum is played from softer to louder, to awaken the day.  In the evening it was played from louder to softer, to close the day.  Then the metal cloud shaped bell is played briefly to guide the sentient beings of the sky, then the wooden fish shaped bell to guide the sentient beings of the sea, and finally the large iron bell to guide the souls of all sentient beings in hell.  (I may have gotten some of those confused with their respective bell types…forgive me!  And let me know if you know better!)  But seriously, if you get a chance to go to Beomeosa Temple for any reason, plan to be there for the drum ceremony.  It blew us away.

Now, you may have picked up on the fact that the first drum is leather.  Yet Buddhism encourages all living things, including insects, to be treated with care and not to be intentionally harmed.  Soooo….didn’t a cow die for that drum and every other drum like it?  I asked the monk why this was tolerated, when we had just finished a vegan meal.  He basically, and honestly, told me that it was wrong but that it was done anyways.  The leather was from a female cow, hard working and at the end of her life.  Apparently the female cow piece is important, as they make better sounding drums…??  I wanted to ask more questions (as you can imagine) but just didn’t feel like getting into a translated argument with a monk 🙂

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Immediately following the drums, we went to the Main Buddha Hall to join the monks for evening service.  Another incredible moment in our stay!  We bowed and chanted (more like sang) with the monks.  Well, we didn’t really chant, but we listened and felt the place rumble with it all.  It was a pretty neat experience to be there with them and feel their energy.  Jon especially felt this part of the stay resonated with him, because at the very least one could not escape the spirituality of the monks and the intensity of their devotion to their beliefs in that moment.  It was pretty neat that they let us be part of that and witness to it.  Not totally dissimilar to a church service, but more heartfelt than my experiences with most church services.  And of course, a lot more bowing!

Next came the hard part.  We made our 108 prayer beads, which meant 108 full prostrations.  All the way down and all the way back up.  After the down part, we would quickly string a bead, then rise all the way up and then back down again.  It was very fast paced and quite the workout!  We were all sweating and huffing by the end.  The idea with the prayer beads is actually quite nice – with each bead strung, you are to make a wish for your happiness.  I gathered that it could be specific or more general.  I tried to spend my praying time just pondering how we become, create, and maintain happiness (since I do not pray).  Unfortunately, they had us bowing and stringing at such a speed that a lot of the potential for deep thought and connection to the moment we were in was lost while trying to do everything quickly enough to keep up.  However, we do each have our very own prayer beads now.  And our legs are still sore from the workout!

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I was curious to know why the 108 prayer beads – where did 108 come from?  So I asked Su Nim and this is what he said:  We sense the world with 6 organs – eyes, ears, mouth, nose, hands (touch), and mind.  We can feel those in 3 ways – like, dislike or neutral.  That gives us 6 x 3 for 18.  Then that is multiplied by 3 again for the past, present, and future.  Now we have 54.  Times 2 for the choice we have to accept or deny everything.  And there is 108!  Phew, eh?  Also, at the end of our prayer beads are 4 beads of mercy.  The monks will pull off a bead of mercy and throw it over a dead animal, should they come across one, as a prayer that their soul finds a better life elsewhere (I think – translations can be hard).

All of the girls slept in a room together and all of the boys slept in a different room together.  This was easily the worst part of the entire experience.  People. Are. So. Inconsiderate.  AGH.  Suffice to say that if you decide to do a temple stay, bring a sleep mask and ear plugs and avoid caffeine after lunch that day.  Lights are out at 10pm and you’re up at 3 or 5am, depending on your stay.  Koreans seem to function on about 2 hours of cell-phone free sleep a night and will keep you awake without regard.   If you are not the same way and want some shuteye, go prepared!

At least the morning view was cheering :)

At least the morning view was cheering 🙂

The next morning we had a short morning service and meditation, breakfast (very similar to dinner), and enjoyed a group walk up to a hermitage.  I didn’t know what that was, so don’t feel bad if you don’t either!  It turns out hermitages are like satellite temples spanning the area directly around the ‘mother’ temple.  They tend to just be more intimate, and sometimes more quiet.  This one was both of those things as it sat higher up in the mountain and saw way less visitors.  We sat for a while and chitter chattered a bit and just enjoyed the silence.

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When we went back down, we had a two hour tea ceremony and that was our time to ask Su Nim questions.  He also asked us questions.  Mostly, people wanted to know how to find inner peace from our emotions.  Su Nim basically said that practice makes perfect.  He suggested treating your feelings as outside of yourself, acknowledging them, setting them apart from you, realizing they aren’t special from other people’s feelings (we all have struggles), and then actively letting them go.  There are pieces of that which make a lot of sense to me and the reminder was a good one.

Second Su Nim

Second Su Nim

Jon was our tea master.  He poured that tea like a champ!

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After that, it was a short closing ceremony and reflection, and we were off.  We certainly learned a lot about Korean Buddhism and it was fun to learn how to do bows and make prayer beads.  I had personally hoped for just a touch more meditation time, maybe a little more quiet, but the experience was overall a good one and one of our better experiences in Korea.  I recommend you give it a try if you have never had a temple stay experience before!

Buddhism is, unsurprisingly, not for me.  At least not the Korean variety.  I saw worship to a deity (or dead person) and male importance similar to those I have found in other religions,  and which always leaves me cold.  Also, bits of hypocrisy (remember the animal skin drum?)  and a belief in heaven and hell, and subsequently an afterlife in which you are judged, are not for me.  Still so glad we did it.  Some of the people there were Hindu, others maybe a little Christian (though I don’t think practicing), some atheist or agnostic, some Buddhist, and some likely undecided.  There was a real mixture so whatever your faith (or lack of), I think there is probably something to be gained regardless.

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Here is the English website for Beomeosa if you are interested in their programs.  We did the Resting Rest stay, which is apparently one of the calmer and less “full” options.  http://www.beomeo.kr/eng_templestay/idt.php

An art-full day

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An art-full day

We left the house this weekend, so I’m gonna go ahead and put that in the ‘win’ category.  What with our impending departure and lack of plan after Korea, we’ve been laying low and stocking the coffers, so to speak.  Anyhoo, we left the house and ended up having  a wonderful, art-filled day.  The weather was fine and it also happened to be the opening weekend of Busan’s Sea Art Festival 2013 held at Songdo Beach (very near to us), so we hopped on the bike and set out to discover it.  As an added bonus, we also finally found Taegukdo, or the “art village in the hills”.  Major score!

The self-proclaimed art village is an area of Busan, up in the hills above Toseong-dong, offering a side of the city often missed.  (For more info on the area and how to get there, check out this link).  The streets are winding and narrow, and the boxy homes a variety of colours with meandering alleyways between them.  It’s fun and funky, with cute coffee houses and paintings on walls and the odd bit of sculptural art.  It’s also quite quiet and filled to the brim with old people.  Which is awesome.  It seems that it used to be more of an artists’ enclave but is less so nowadays.  No doubt because of the semi-tourist attraction it has become.  Regardless, the art is kept up and they offer you a decent amount of cutesy kitsch at no cost, so it’s a good time.  Here are some of my favourite photos from Taeguk Village:

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It's an illuuuuussiioon

It’s an illuuuuussiioon

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Next, we headed to Songdo Beach to check out the art exhibit.  Apparently the Sea Art Festival is an annual Busan event, and the art was of the sculptural variety.  Sculptural art plus a walk on the beach?!  Suits me just fine!  I wasn’t expecting much, honestly, but it piqued my curiousity and man am I glad we went.  There were some really beautiful, thoughtful installations.  See some of my favourites (and/or better photos!) below.  Wherever possible, I have recounted a bit from the signs explaining each artists’ intent or vision for their piece (some are a bit paraphrased in the name of grammar).

This first piece “addresses the transformation which has taken place at Songdo over time…in the form of a rainbow-hued tornado…the work serves as a symbol of past devastation, change, and the hope that such devastations may ultimately lead to a brighter future”.

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I did not catch the sign for this one…but I feel confident that it is a representation of Busan…

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This was my favourite installation.  Dragonflies and bees, made with many shiny materials.  Difficult to capture the beauty in photos – they threw fractured light and looked as though they were glittering – and they made soft tinkling and whirring noises.  Per the artist’s plate: “Lee’s work aspires to create harmony between the natural and human environment and to unravel stories about the sound of nature and natural energies in the air.”

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      This is a cello.  I think. 🙂

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“‘Choppy Castle’ collapses past and present in abstract form.  Giving shape to the past and to ephemeral memories in our present time and space, Cho uses the color blue to express a diversity of experiences, individual memories, and a multiplicity of lived lives.”

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      This was Jon’s favourite installation.  The picture didn’t capture how wonderful it really was.  “Resonating Forest invites viewers into a complex sensory environment.  Audiences hear not only various bell sounds, voices and the sound of wind, but also encounter a space filled with soft sand and the scents of the sea, creating an experience that activates multiple senses.”

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“Sally” – a classic Korean animated robot character, popular from the ’70s to the ’90s. “It is an image of the future, rooted in the past, recreated and experienced in our present moment.”

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      A robot fist smashing into the ground.  They’re trying to tell us it’s to do with a child’s dreams…sounds terrifying to me.

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“‘Wind horse’ refers to the fate of people, floating around like a wind.  It is conducive to convey and fulfill the desire of the god.  It is a banner of luck.”

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A mechanical body builder.

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“A sculpted tree hung with thousands of wind chimes.  The work offers a moving message, one that combines hope and melancholy, growth and loss.”

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There were a lot more, but these were the ones I fancied the most 🙂  It’s definitely worth checking out if you happen to be in Busan.  The festival runs until October 13, 2014.

Which is your favourite from our day of art!?