Korea is full of experiences…
There are really two things that always come to mind when I think of Korea, the food, because let’s face it that’s true for me anywhere, and temples. I love a Korean temple…during the daytime, anyway.
One of my “once in a lifetime experiences” was staying at a Korean temple overnight. One night. One long, hungry, sore muscle-y night.
Upon arrival, we were given our clothes to wear for the two days. These were suspiciously close to the uniforms that U.S. criminals are issued when they enter prison. This should have been my first clue. We were then trotted off to the communal dining facility where we were given boiled vegetarian fare and rice. This I expected and was fine with. It wasn’t the tastiest meal, but, for a change, I really wasn’t there for a culinary experience, so that was okay.
After dinner, and dish cleanup which we all rightly participated in, we meandered the grounds to an evening session of chanting, prayer, and prostration. This is where the sore muscles come from. It is believed that 108 prostrations is the perfect number, and many people old, and young alike, were making their way through them. I think I made it to 19. And I felt every bit of those 19 prostrations, let me tell you. A devout Buddhist, I do not make. However, I was here for this experience, and decided to get out of the way, sit in the back and listen and look, but not participate. Of course I also did not take photos, because I thought that would be invasive.
Soon after, we went to bed. We slept on Korean futons which were quite comfortable. It was only about 8:30 PM, but we knew we were required to wake up at 4:00 AM to sweep the grounds. Again, this I was happy about. And we did. And we swept, and unlike the prostrations, I felt more zen sweeping and removing the tree litter from the path. It was an exhileratingly pensive time, and we all worked up an appetite for breakfast.
Breakfast, I’m sure, was the exact same food as dinner. Really. No change at all. One meal okay, two is pushing it, but we knew we’d be done by lunch so no big deal.
Overall, it was an interesting, cultural experience. One that I would tell people to do if they are interested. Fun? Not really. Interesting, and for me a truly once in a lifetime experience!
Korea is full of great things to do! Have you been there? Are you going?