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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

Listen to the Beat. (#1)

I thought I would share some of the music I listen to, as it’s often a little different from what other people listen to.  Many of them are covers. Some are oldies, some are pop. It’s pretty much everything I fancy.

Anyways, if you are like me, who needs music to be productive, maybe you’ll enjoy this!

My First Youtube Playlist.

Oh. and the next blog (Muju-gun) will be up soon…I have been sidetracked on other things as of late. Sorry!

 

Just My Thoughts #3: Lazy

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It is so easy to get into a rut. The path becomes a cycle, and my subconscious puts up bars that make it hard to escape. The only way out is to parkour out hell’s circle, and into an emptiness, where new things are learnt, things are done, and experiences to be had all fill up that space… before I move onto the next piece of dry land.

Just as any problem, first part is to Realize Your Condition. I see my problem with open eyes, which takes us to step two: Finding Motivation.

Most people know they are just going through the motions, but many are content with how things are. For people like me, i need to explore to live. My motivation is knowing about all the things i have yet to learn, and the thought of discovering things I don’t know I don’t know. Once you find your motivation, comes the most difficult part: Getting Off Your Ass and Do It.

For me? Stop lying in bed and start working out again. Stop wasting my time with tv series and start learning Korean seriously. Stop spending my weekends doing absolutely nothing and go hiking and exploring. My trip to Japan has now come to an end (travel blog will be up soon). The moment it ends, everything I’ve said will come into effect, and I hope all of you will keep me accountable for the promises I am making to myself.

Until next time,

Richard T.

Trainee Polymath

Just My Thoughts #2: Age

“How old are you?”

“I only date people in their 30’s.”

“you are in your 20’s. What would you possibly have to contribute?”

Age seems to run deep with people. It affects many of our decisions, and rightly so. However, it seems to be used in the wrong context every time, and boy, it irks me so.

Case 1: People often compare maturity with age. It seems that the general public think the two have a very strong correlation. Age is simply a measure of time, and the measurement of time is simply a man made invention. Maturity, on the other hand, is the knowledge of how to function has part of a society, and your contributions to such a society. This is not dictated by time, but rather the level of comprehension of each individual. Of course, it does take time to build such cognition skills, but the time varies so widely between every individual. Just as many mature adults I’ve seen, so have I witnessed in a child, and vice versa.

Case 2: Cheese and wine is better with age. I agree. Time to move on.

Case 3: For the western society, it seems dating someone within your age is very important. To date someone outside of your age bracket often earns the title of “pedophile” or “cougar”. We somehow made ourselves believe that love, and similar emotions are only appropriate if they are between people of a similar age group. With all evidence pointing otherwise, people still seem to think that age is the only determinant of a person’s emotional capacity. On the other side of the coin, eastern society tends to have a much larger age range suitable for dating. It seems that when you hit the special age of 30, your life being magically stable, your ability to be interesting increases, and you become better looking with absolutely no effort. Another thing.  Why do people go around shaming those who date people outside of what you consider an acceptable age group? why can’t people forget the gap in years, and focus on whether you enjoy that person’s company instead?

All I am trying to say, is that before you look at someone with judgemental eyes and ears, give them a piece of your time and open mind. You never know, they just might be brilliant, or someone with useful advice, or even perhaps the person you would want to spend a lifetime with. Age is simply a man-made invention. It should dictate a person’s capacity and potential as much as a vacuum, or toilet paper would.

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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