Category Archives: Travel Blog

Travel Blog #7 – Dogapsa Temple.

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A historic, and cultural haven, a temple stay at Dogapsa Temple (도갑사) in Yeongam (about a 50 minute bus ride from Gwangju, plus another 10-15 minute ride in a taxi) was both what I needed, and didn’t know I wanted.

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I am not a religious person by any means, but I do have a deep fascination with Buddhism, with it being one of the oldest religions (or perhaps the oldest), and the concepts it embodies. This stay taught me a lot about the praying ritual, the history of Buddha, and the daily practices of a buddhist monk.

Before going (and after) to the temple, there was this wonderful coffee shop my friend brought me to. I love shops that are well designed, and this place definitely wins all my votes.

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Most people know how rare it is to find decent coffee in Korea!

There is something you should know about this temple. At this temple specifically (might be the only one!), is a great brother/sister combo. The sister is one of the monks that is in charge of the temple stay, while the brother is the temple stay manager. Being incredibly nice and such wonderful people would have been enough, but their grasp on the English language really puts this stay over the top. They were one of the many highlights of this trip. (there weren’t any bad memories at all haha!)

The day consisted of praying, meditation, and a tour of the surrounding area, which obviously includes the temple itself. The meals were all vegetarian (Korean vegetarian is quite good!), and tea service with dried radish tea was an absolute delight.

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There is something magical about meditating in a place, where no cars are driving past, and that you can hear the river rushing, the wind blowing, the birds singing, and the leafs shuffling. I am certainly not someone who meditates daily (or at all), but this experience just might change me. I don’t think I have ever been this relaxed. No timetables, no rushing, no deadlines.

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Remember to take off your shoes outside whenever you go into any room/temple!

Anyways, here are the rest of the pictures. I really recommend everyone to go. It is worth the trip to Yeongam.

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The nights are incredible. It is pitch black, and well, who doesn’t like a blanket of stars?

IMG_6721 IMG_6680 IMG_6679 IMG_6675 IMG_6667 IMG_6663 IMG_6659 Families praying for their families and friends.

Oh, did I not mention? There was also a group of elementary school kid that stayed with us. I made a few new friends (친구), who might be the most adorable friends I have.

IMG_6783IMG_6784At the end of this temple stay, you are given a postcard, to write to anyone you want (including yourself), and they will send it 1 months-1 year later.

And with everything I did this weekend, and all the memories I received, the one thing that stood out to me, was how much I smiled, and laughed in those 24 hours.

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Protecting the life in the earth, air, wind, and hell.

Until next time,

Richard T.

Trainee Polymath

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Travel Blog #6 – Muju-gun

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추석 (Chuseok) is a major harvest festival that celebrates good harvest, and is usually celebrated by visiting their hometowns, family gatherings, and a traditional korean feast. I used this trip for a totally different reason, and went on a trip to Muju with a group of friends.

a 4 hour journey from my apartment in Naju, all the pictures, and information I’ve gathered informed me that this trip would be extremely peaceful and involve a lot of adventure. it definitely proved truthful, and made some new friends out of it too!

Muju is a famous city to go skiing in, and as such, there were a ton of ski shops in the area. However, it was the wrong season so everything was closed, and was very quiet around the area…which is exactly what I like.  We did a lot of barbecues (almost burned my eyebrows off, thanks Rachel), river rafting (of sorts), hiking, and took the gondola up to one of the mountains. Great view, great friends, and a great weekend overall. This trip yields no complaints from me!

As usual, I am not very good with words, so I will just show pictures instead. Also I realize this post has been quite overdue, but what can I say? I’m lazy and slow. Deal with it :).

IMG_6430This is the pension we stayed at. Very clean, accessible and well located. The cherry on top is the nice family that owns it. The daughter , with her superb English helped us arrange our river rafting, and many other things.

IMG_6467IMG_6465Good company makes for a good time.

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 Just some the sights you’d find in Muju-gun. Roadside vegetable gardens, weird stick men, and ALL the nature.

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If hiking is your thing, this is the place to be. Gorgeous views, clear, clean rivers to play in, and lots of sitting areas fit for large groups randomly placed throughout.

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 While you are here, might as well head to the Muju Resort and take the gondola up to the top of the world (not really). There you will find a wonderful view, with fresh air and more tourists you are willing to interact with. Tip: Bring a frisbee.

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 Oh, and perhaps enjoy the life around you. You only get one.

Until next time,

Richard T.

Trainee Polymath

Travel Blog #5 – JAPAN!

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Of the many islands, Japan has got to be one of my favourites. There are many things I love about this country: food, people, history, landscape and food (I know food was put down twice). But each time I go, I discover another thing I love about this glorious city. This time, it was the drinking culture.

This trip included 2 days in Osaka, followed by a wonderful 3-4 hour bullet train ride to Tokyo, where my friend and I stayed for another 4 days. What a fabulous trip it was. In short, it was a trip to meet an old friend, make new ones, and to stuff my face full of delicious foods. Unfortunately, I am not a very good writer, but I consider myself an adequate photographer, so here are some of the reasons why you should go to Japan, in order of awesomeness.

First up is the drinking.

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 Now here comes the food!

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Sightseeing should now finish off the job.

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However, I should say this. As much as I love Japan, There is no bloody way I would want to ever live there. Strict work environments would be enough to snap me in half. This is why I am so happy to be living in Korea; have all the fun, and only a fraction of the responsibilities.

Until next time,

Richard T.

Trainee Polymath

Travel Blog #4 – SEOUL!

Ahhh, what a journey.

It still amazes me that a short 4 hour bus ride takes me more than half way across this tiny little country. Back in Canada, 4 hours would get me, well….to and from work.

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After coincidentally taking the bus with a friend from Naju to Seoul, I waited for another friend at the bustling bus terminal when I arrived in the evening. This was a fellow student back in high school, someone I never said a word to, Yet somehow we connected through Facebook, and as we awkwardly found each other, it was not awkward as I would have presumed. It was as warm a welcome as I had received from when I returned back to Toronto from Jasper. That night we had a wonderful Korean evening snack before I headed to a Jjimjilbang.

Man, how to describe Jjimjilbangs…I would have to say relaxing, entertaining and most of all, carefree. For those who don’t know, this is essentially a bathhouse amusement park. It is a place loitered with showers, baths, saunas, and other unique treatments that families and individuals can enjoy. It also includes other entertainment (based on location, of course) such as computer rooms, arcades, theatre rooms, and food bars. It essentially has everything a wandering traveller needs…if you are comfortable with your body. Just as swimming pools have its own dress code, Jjimjilbangs also have their own: birthday suit. segregated into genders, everyone must don their birthday suit (proudly) to the communal bath. Unfortunately, I currently lack the self confidence to attempt it. However, you can believe that I will continue going until I get over my irrational fear of naked men scrubbing me down! I did find a wonderful leather reclining chair to sleep for the night, and was ready for the festivities that awaited me in Seoul.

In just a second, you will enjoy my adventure with me. But before that, a little background information. South Korea is a rather conservative country, and has yet to really embrace differences in others as well as some parts of the world. That being said, the Seoul Gay Pride Parade 2014 was very well received by a large amount of people…for the most part. As the parade began, two groups of protestors did everything in their power to stop the merriment. the first group were homophobes (religious or otherwise), and the second group were those still mourning for the ferry accident here in South Korea. While it was disappointing that previous suffering had to impede on the happiness of others on a completely different celebration, it was very interesting to have witnessed it in person. Anyways, reading is for chumps. Lets look at pictures instead!

IMG_5136A wax statue of a prisoner at Seodaemun Museum Jail, during one of the Japanese Occupation (Independence Movement 1910-1945).

IMG_5347a guard at Gyeongbokgung Palace.

IMG_5243A bridge at Han river, where many people suicide. The words along the bridge offer encourage to souls that might have lost their way.

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Police standing guard against protestors during the 2014 Seoul Gay Pride Parade.

IMG_5660Two people, any two people loving whoever, and whatever they want.

IMG_5687Gay (in both senses of the word) and proud!

IMG_5699One of the few LGBTQ that unfortunately had water/garbage thrown at them. why must people impede on other people’s happiness when it harms no one else?

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A Fantastic drummer.

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A weird group (even to koreans) that were praying, mumbling or summoning something the whole time. (one korean said they were trying to communicate with the souls of those who passed away in the ferry).

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The outside of the National Museum of History. An AMAZING museum to visit. Themed art galleries are also present.

This was truly an amazing journey, one that made me appreciate a few things, both new and old.

1. Thrill of exploring new things.

2. Understand that a plan is necessary, but it should be loose so that many changes can be made to it.

3. The wonderful feeling of companionship wherever I am.

Culture truly is a fascinating thing. My favourite thing about culture is how it shapes people’s thoughts and ideals, for better or worse. What is your favourite thing about culture?

Until next time,

Richard T.

Trainee Polymath

Travel Blog #3 – A Wonderful School

Yeongsanpo Girls Middle School.

In a previous blog, I briefly mentioned how extremely alien this school was to me.

It still is.

However, I am starting to settle in and learning how to teach and have fun with the students and the same time. Now, over a month and a half, it seems I am learning how to fill the outrageously large shoes of my predecessor. The fun piles on, while the work diminishes. A lot has happened since then, so where to start?

Well, for starters, the lunch here is phenomenal. Variety, taste and Nutrition, It has it all! There is always a healthy helping of vegetables, followed by a meat, rice and soup that never repeats itself within the month! (a little cookie and cream ice cream that you squirt into your mouth also helps give this a step in the right direction =D ).

2014-05-22 11.57.02If you think that is impressive, how about the school? Well manicured lawns, Spotless hallways, and sweet offices and classrooms. Take a deep breath, and let it all in, because that’s what I do everyday.

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But that’s enough admiration. Let’s move on to Sports Day. I am not sure about other schools, but at my school, the enthusiasm rivals that of pop concerts. Kids designed their own class uniforms, frantically beating together a pair of thunder sticks, all the while shouting in plastic cones and putting impressive dents into handheld gongs. Trust me when I say that THIS, was a lot to take in. Their competitive spirit was even greater, demonstrating speed, endurance, and determination I didn’t know was capable within their dainty little selves. All I can really say is that I am beyond impressed.

IMG_4304IMG_4767IMG_4542IMG_4780IMG_5003IMG_4817IMG_4939IMG_4535Lastly, the one certainty of South Korea is not the spiciness of food, nor the obsession of looking immaculate…well it is these things as well (students in my school who are nearsighted will avoid wearing glasses just to look cuter). However, the constant I’m referring to is the weekly volleyball match touted for its skill, spirit and serious matches. Luckily, after watching a video and googling “how to play volleyball”, I came out half decent. It definitely earned me brownie points with the other teachers!

After reading all of this, you may think I am in a fortunate situation. Well…that’s because I am, and I am thankful everyday for such a wonderful opportunity. As David Steindl-Rast says: “We all know people who have lots of misfortunes that we ourselves would not want to have, and they are deeply happy, they radiate happiness. Why are they like this? Because they are grateful. It is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.”

Until next time,

Richard T.

Trainee Polymath

Travel Blog #2 – First Week of Experimentation: the Saving Grace

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Yeongsanpo Girls Middle School.

Intertwined within those 4 words are the many mysteries I realize I was not ready for. For starters, Yeongsanpo is a new area to me; I have no clue where I am going, where to shop, where to eat, or where to catch a bus. Next, Girls Middle School!? I haven’t even been to a boys middle school. It is definitely different than a mixed classroom. I also haven’t been to middle school for almost a decade, which makes all of this even stranger.
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There have been so many mistakes in such a short span of time. From not knowing which bus to get on, to not being able to communicate with anyone, all the way to simple conversations gone awry with my english co-teachers. I sometimes feel a little alone at school because no one can talk to me. I am going to use this negativity to fuel my need to learn Korean.

To be honest, the main point of this post is to introduce everyone to the man with an indefinite amount of generosity: Marius Van Der Westhuizen. He is the amazing teacher that I replaced here in Naju, and although I have only had one Skype call, a handful of emails, and half a day with him, I can honestly say that he is my lifesaver. His welcoming was above and beyond, and I thoroughly enjoyed the amazing orientation he gave me of the area. So to you, I say this: “I wish you the best of luck in everything you do, and if you ever need anything, just ask”.IMG_3409

All is well though and it excites me just thinking of the
growth I’ll go through in the next two years! Continue
following the blog; there will be more posts specifically
for travel, photography, my general opinions and thoughts,
and other stuff! I tend to put my best effort towards my RebirthofLife!

Until next time,

Richard T.

Trainee Polymath

Travel Blog #1 – 28 hours later…

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From the moment I left home on the 15th of April at 6:15 am, to the point where I arrived at the SBC building here in Gwangju on the 16th of April at 11pm, it took a ridiculous 28.75 hours. I love travelling as much as the next guy, but I have yet to find a way to enjoy long flights. Perhaps some of you have tips?

Anyhow, the start of my Korea “Excursion” began with an 8-day orientation, chock full of information, teaching tips and advice, cultural experiences and the best part: meeting 60+ people that are just as curious and clueless as I was am. For most of us, the only person we knew in Korea were ourselves. That is probably the reason why everyone bonded so well. Unfortunately, we also knew that we would all be going to the different corners of Korea, and that “goodbye” would be inevitable. I guess this is one thing I will have to get used to if I want to continue living the life of a wanderer. However, there is a bright side! With Korea being so small and having such an extensive web of busses and trains, it is entirely possible to visit someone at the other end of Korea and still make it back by nightfall!IMG_2906

As I stand in my apartment in Naju-si, I cannot help but think:

“This is going to be a wonderful nest”.

I hope you will all join me on this journey, to travel and be amazed with me, and to grow with me.

Until next time,

Richard T.

Trainee Polymath