Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Name Game

In Gunsan, trees are flowering, sky is blue.

Friday night I got on a bus out of Seoul on my way to Heungcheonsa, a temple 3 hours south of Seoul in Gunsan. I arrived to Gunsan by 9:30 pm and spent the night at a jimjilbang. The circumstances behind this weekend trip were unusual. Through the far-reaching connections the internet has provided, I was informed recently that there was another woman in Korea that shares the same given name as me. She has since abandoned her English name and was recently ordained as a Buddhist nun, and is now known as Soen Joon Sunim. She has a blog at One Robe, One Bowl and an introduction can be found here. She is 26, from Colorado and is one of the most amazing people I have met in Korea (or elsewhere for that matter).

When I first arrived at the temple Saturday morning after meeting Soen Joon Sunim, we spent some time making lotus lanterns for Buddha's birthday (May 5th). While watching me separate the delicate leaves of paper, one of the sunims said I must have made lanterns before in a previous life and my past karma had brought me to Korea in this life. Quite an interesting thought.

Afterwards, I followed Soen Joon Sunim into the main hall and struggled to follow along while she chanted. How she has managed to memorize it all in Korean is beyond me, but even without understanding all of the words, it was beautiful.

The day began as overcast and drab but after lunch the clouds were gone and the sun was shining. A perfect day. For lunch we had tofu, vegetables and a fresh cilantro salad that will not be soon forgotten (I never see cilantro in Seoul and I seriously miss it). After lunch, we walked along the park trail that was sprinkled with cherry blossom petals and sporadically lined with flowers.

After our walk, Soen Joon Sunim spent the next few hours studying and I walked back up to the park alone and found a peaceful sunny spot, surrounded with cherry blossoms and overlooking downtown. The best naps for me are always outside and always on a sunny day. With a slight breeze blowing, the conditions were perfect and I took full advantage. When I woke up my mind was clear and refreshed and I did some catching up in my journal, which had been neglected for far too long.

After dinner I took off to Boryeong with a tentative plan to meet Soen Joon Sunim and some of the other nuns at Buddha's birthday parade next Sunday in Seoul.

Formerly known as Amanda Young... times two