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The Adventurer’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 11 Jun 2006

Location: Korea (South)

MapWe awoke to the sound of a chant and a bell, the wake up call. We couldn't help but think of just cancelling and going to sleep, but we just had to get the full experience of this all. We started by going into the same building where we did the chant yesterday and did the same bow and the same chant. After that, we went to another building where we bowed (prostrated, actually) 108 times. We were bowing to the buddhas by the way honoring them. This isn't easy. It was hot in the room which made it uncomfortable, and I was glad when it was over. It was good exercise though!

When we finished the bowing ceremony, it was time for breakfast, and the ceremony was elaborate. We were led by one of the main monks there. We ate only vegetables, a soup-like dish, and rice. We had to do exactly as the monk did together (the idea is building a sense of community and togetherness). We arranged our dishes a certain way, such that each of us set them up the same way. When we were finished, we had to clean our bowls with the water that was served as drinking water, and a piece of radish, and then we had to drink that very same water! The idea here is not to waste a single morcel of food or a single drop of water. It was an interesting experience, to say the least.

After the breakfast ceremony, Tracey and I had a tea ceremony with the monk. This was the most interesting part of the stay as he told us about his life as a monk, and his experience about giving up all desire. He was explaining that sometimes he can see his desire and his nondesire at odds with each other. We had two other Korean girls with us who translated what he said as he did not speak English. After the tea ceremony, we participated in the community cleanup, again the idea of community. Everybody had to sweep the grounds, but it was not hard work, and it didn't take long.

After the cleanup, we went for a little tour around the temple grounds. We particpated in an activity where we had to guide each other across the river on the rocks. One person has their eyes closed and you walk arm in arm with the other person telling you where to step and how big of a step you need to take. One wrong step and you fall. You take turns one guiding the other one way, and then the other guiding the way back. A little scary, but I didn't open my eyes once, really!

We felt exhausted after getting up at 3:00 am, but the cultural experience was one I will never forget, and one that can really only be appreciated in Asia--if you want to experience it in an ancient setting.