My week of funemployment gave me the time to touch up and upload my photos of the Golgulsa Temple Stay. Instead of retroactively editing the entry (which no one will go back and check anyway), I'll just share the pictures here (where no one will read anyway).
Bonus points: in which I attempt to be a Writer (better known as, selections from The Little Orange Notebook I Carry All The Time):
The morning started out rough. My cell phone alarm was so subtle as to be...absolutely silent. I'm still not sure how that happened. I only overslept by five minutes, however. It was stil early enough that I took the time to hit a PC-bang before I got on the subway—no job leads whatever, though I had been expecting at least three.
With only slightly diminished hopes, I promptly boarded the subway...on the wrong line. Again, fortunately my mistake was rendered relatively minor as I figured it out by the next stop. All went smoothly until I got to the Express Bus Terminal, a labyrinth of a building given over to an almost exclusively local clientele. In other words, this was no Incheon Airport, no Seoul Metro—English was in tiny print and not spoken. It took two foiled ticketing window encounters to realize that I was in the wrong building. My sleep-dazed self had somehow missed signs for the Gyeongbu Terminal, which is separated from the rest of the terminal for reasons unknown to me.
Once there, the situation was, at first, intimidating: the demanding-looking schedule, the four A.M. wake-up call, the 3000-bow penalty for missing morning chanting—but it soon degenerated into a summer camp type atmosphere. Only, at summer camp people gave a shit if you didn't show up. The minders here didn't seem to give shits or even know who was still here and who had left. They were all too busy being hippies, I guess.
I was expecting something like a sesshin: functional silence, room to myself, lots of time for meditation and to generally be alone with my thoughts. But there was no silence to be found, and rooming with nearly all of the girls on the program meant lots of chatter. And when there was silence—during sitting meditation—the cushions supplied were less than adequate. My hips needed the extra lift from a proper zafu to get into a good quarter lotus position like I had learned at my sangha.
Ceremonies were led by a ginger woman who had "drunk the Kool-Aid," as Mark described her. I, too, had noticed her tendency towards "Koreaboo."
I decided on an experiment the second night (or rather, followed Mark's lead): skip evening chanting and Sunmudo practice altogether. If questioned I would claim debilitating stomach ache. Or slitting migraine. But of course, no one questioned me (or even noticed I was missing).
Frankly speaking, the vast majority of other English teachers in Korea piss me off. There are some who never get over the culture shock, and others who are so blithely unaware that it never hits them in the first place. I don't believe in making "Korea Friends" (people you only befriend because you are both foreigners in Korea) so I didn't say much to any of the other guests. Without Mark I may have been well and truly miserable the whole time.
WHAT I LIKED
- the food
- the apathetic atmosphere (It became more of a blessing than a curse, as I could basically do whatever the heck I wanted and make my vacation my own.)
- beautiful grounds
- nice accommodations
- attending a Buddhist Chuseok service
WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE
- lack of organization
- lack of discipline
- lack of authenticity
- lack of silence