Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Monk Friends

Be jealous. I have lady monk friends. I’m not really sure what they call female monks here in Korea, so “lady monks” it is (UPDATE: I stopped being lazy and did a simple Google search...they are called bhikkhunis. Here is a fascinating little article about them.)  

The Great Pagoda
Last weekend Alex and I went on a hike through the great hills of Yecheon (my tiny town). We normally take the path leading to the giant, two-story pagoda which looks out over the town. This time we took the left fork in the road and trekked 1.5 km through dirt paths, gravel-paved trails, and finally, a pine forest. I wish there were some way to record smell, because the pine forest emitted one of the most incredible aromas I’ve ever experienced. It was pine-y, yes, but also a bit sweet. Words can’t describe it, other than the fact that it was wonderful.

While traipsing along boulders and pine trees, our ears began to fill with the sweet sound of beautiful chanting music. We slowly got closer to the music and spotted a small temple through the trees, in the valley of the hills we were plodding through.

Finally, we made it – I swear, it was like the freaking yellow brick road as we wound down to the end of the trail. But the work to get there was so worth it. We made our way into the main temple area, where we found two Korean women sitting on a porch, sipping drinks.
“Ko-pi?” the older woman asked us, offering coffee.

“Nay, kamsamnida,” we replied, with a "yes" and "thank you."

We sat and sipped; spotted a cute Shih Tzu named Mongi; called to Mongi to come so we could pet him; were blatantly ignored by Mongi; and finally, peered at disdainfully out the corner of his eye as Mr. Sassy Temple Guard strutted right past us.

A view from the hiking trails.
Prince Mongi. He wouldn’t even lie down without being offered a pillow to rest his regal head on. He seemed rather grumpy for being privileged enough to live at a temple. Definitely had an attitude problem. But he made me laugh, so I liked him. It was after our encounters with Mongi when we met the two monks; sisters, in fact. One was just visiting from her temple in Seoul, while the other was the actual temple “keeper,” so to speak. They spoke decent English and offered us lunch – a vegetarian-friendly meal of fresh vegetables grown near the temple. It was delicious.

The main lady monk then led us to her sleeping quarters/personal space, where she had a tea set ready to go. Her sister peeled Korean melons while she made us tea.  They were just so kind and friendly – it was such a unique experience. I mean, how often can you say that you randomly stumbled upon a beautiful temple and were fed lunch and tea by two female monks?

We’re planning to visit them again this weekend…This time, I promise to take pictures [these pics are from a different hike I went on.]

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