Sunday, May 22, 2011

Big Buddha... part 2

On our second full day on vacation we took a bus to Osaek, a town located in Seoraksan National Park, on the Southern side. We began our trek to the parks entrance and passed many unique "mountain bibimbob" food restaurants on the way up.   We had heard about these so called "mountain" places and we wanted to down to business.  

Mountain Bibimbab
To our great fortune, as were were looking stupidly at a map, a lady stopped in her car to ask if we needed directions.  We spoke for a minute about the park then we asked if she could recommend a good place for mountain bibimbob.  She recommended a place, which after some searching, we discovered.  It was a no sign kinda place that only locals and regulars know about.  We sat next to a Korean guy who had lived in Chicago for some years.  He seemed pleased to speak some English with us and he helped us order.  Our bibimbab came with a plethora of side dishes.  Not rinky dink side dishes either.  It also came with a liquor like wine that was made from the berries that grow in the mountains.  The meal was outstanding!  The purple liquor almost hypnotized me.  The whole experience knocked our locks into the river.  As the Chi-Korean said good by a lady from the back handed him a big bottle of a homemade looking deeeeep purple liquid.  We bought a little bottle too.  It was the same liquor wine we had had for our meal.

This all came from ordering 2 bibimbabs

After a meal like that, nothing could be wrong. We wandered throughout the park, past a temple, along an incredible river and eventually found a warm spot on a rock that fit the two of us comfortably. The sun peered out and kept us warm as we napped our wine off for an hour or so. After that we made our slow journey home and found some delicious seafood udon soup on the way. It was a quiet night and a great sleep after that.
Oh yeah, and I found some bee colonies!

Big Buddha... part 1

Over the first week of May we had our first set of teacher day off days and we maximized the time we had.  Bear and I took the midnight bus North from Busan to Sokcho, our final destination being Seoraksan National Park.  It took about 5.5 hours to get there but we were riding in the nicest coach buss we had every seen.  We had huge, comfy seats and plenty of room to stretch out.  Keep your shoes on while on a Korean but though or you'll get a scolding (I found out the hard way).  We maintained an average speed of about 45 mph.  I should say that is the only speed we went, which included freeways, residential areas and roundabouts.  It was crazy.  It seemed like the gas was controlled by a button; on or off.  Bear turned on her hibernation skills and missed all the exciting darkness. 
A nice Buddhist lady who's destination was near ours helped us find the correct busses and navigate some maps.  Her plan was to meet her sister at a temple which could only be reached on foot. 
We found the Seoraksan National Park Campground and pitched our tent.  Its cost $4 a night for the two of us and included wonderful facilities.  

Can you see Kent's head down in the lower left corner?

One of the 4 Guardians of Buddhism's heaven

Sinheungsa Temple 

Sinheungsa Temple 
Delicate flowers that smelled like plumerias or jasmine.
We got to the Park, paid our fee (which in comparison to US park fees was a drop in the bucket), then passed a big Buddha.  The huge Buddha is made of bronze and symbolizes the Buddhist presence in the mountains there.  I was amazed by this enormous sculpture.  The climb that day was peppered with some small and some large Buddhist Temples which put a spiritual mood into our minds.  It was dreary and a bit wet at times but this only accentuated the magical, mystical day we were having.  
As we drew nearer to our destination we were getting higher and higher in elevation.  The clouds were beginning to envelope everything and at times we were in a pure white out.  The end of this climb was met by yet another temple, which was nothing more then a cave in the side of an extremely steep rock wall.  There was a women up there who apparently was doing some kind of internship in Buddhism.  We were unclear as to how long she had lived up there but judging by the many sacks of rice it wasn't a weekend get away kinda deal.  there was a small dwelling area built in as well with a window looking out from the mountain.  Not many times in my life can compare to the feeling of serenity at the top of that climb looking our into the cloud that day.

On the hike to Geumganggul  Cave
(The temple that was in the clouds)

Entrance to Geumganggul Cave
(Where's Kent/Waldo?)

The view from the cave on that day...
The clouds stole all of the sounds from our ears.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Kids here learn so quickly...

Well, we've been here for about nine weeks now and are finally beginning to see some fruits of our teaching labors. Our morning kindergarden classes were definitely the most challenging in the beginning, but Kent and I have learned how to communicate through other means, like music. 
It has taken a little overtime work, but we are so proud to share with you what we have shared with the children. They are so appreciative of our skills that a few of them wrote this song for us. Please enjoy our hard work too!

Cautionary note: We may have embellished our hand in these kids's guitar skills. This incredible video MAY have come to us from an Italian grandmother who goes by the name Nani. Thanks Nani for sending this video to us. We love it so much.