images of the crossing over

Morning walk, 2.26.2011

My first walk in the park behind our temple in nearly a year. Last vacation we had–at the end of the summer–I distinctly recall lamenting not having the time for a walk through the park. I was about to finish this vacation with the same lament, and have narrowly avoided it.

There was a time when what was behind the temple wasn’t a park, but simply a single long, wooded, and largely uninhabited crest of land (we glorify it to a series of mountains and “peaks” when we talk about what barely qualifies as a couple of hills where I’m from). In front of our temple, which at that time wasn’t the modern, Korean-style building we have now, but a Japanese-style complex, grass and trees also stretched down to the street below us. Now the crest has been officially turned into a park, complete with sculpture gardens, paved paths, and a few motley concessions stands; and in front of our temple the street runs right up to and then through the front gate. The old, occupation-era Japanese buildings are gone, for the most part.

At the top of the park stairs, there’s a great view of the West Sea and the estuary of the Geum River, even the though the view is admittedly an industrial one. Both the stretch down the coast on the North Jeolla side of the river and up it on the South Chung-jeong side are dizzy with smoke and steam coming from various factories, plants, and in the case of North Jeolla, the international harbor just south of the city. But, as one of my sisters at school, an art major and the former site administrator (read: design and content director) for our school’s homepage, landscapes are a weakness for me. Sure enough, despite my best shot a few times over, nothing compelling. Ah, well, who goes to parks to look at industriascapes anyway?

11 responses

  1. My favorite time of year is when the plum and cherry trees blossoms, but there’s something about the lines of the bare twigs and branches that also amazes me each winter.

    I read a few months ago that Korea is still considered a “developing nation.” I wondered how much more industrial they had to get?

    February 26, 2011 at 12:13 am

    • Where you live depends a lot on which Korea you live in. Any of the five major cities (Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Gwangju, Daejeon) are developed and, in fact, pushing the envelope for communications technology globally.

      Outside of the major urban centers, I can see, however, how someone might call Korea a “developing,” rather than “developed,” nation. Where did you read this? I’d be interested to read it myself. One thing to consider is that industrialization isn’t necessarily the same as “developed,” although the degree to which advanced industrialization has been achieved could be considered one of many signs of a developed economy.

      It might be interesting for you to take a look at Wikipedia’s entry under “developing country,” especially the section “Criticism of the term ‘developing country.'”

      When I first moved to my home city–the city I still live in, actually, in North Jeolla Province–seven years ago, the city itself was, despite good internet, ubiquitous cell phones, and public transportation, not at all the same mold as Seoul. Farmers still planted paddy by hand not a 15 minute bike-ride out of the city “center.” There were no truly reliable medical services within the city limits, much less in the rural areas surrounding us. And I couldn’t even get a cup of real coffee, which is (as anyone can tell you) a true mark of full development. Where I attend school, which is outside Daegu, people still do most of their planting and harvesting using labor-intensive methods; still preserve a lot their winter food, especially as market produce prices go up, making imports or even Korean-produced “hot house” winter harvests too expensive for most folk in rural areas; and still live in “New Village”-era brick or mud homes with the distinctive blue tin roofs.

      Does all this make Korea, or at least the region I moved to, “developing” versus “developed”? I can’t say. But I often remind folks that if you’ve only visited Seoul, you haven’t seen Korea.

      If you like plum and cherry blossoms, come to visit Unmun-sa sometime! We have lovely cherry blossoms in the late spring.

      February 26, 2011 at 6:27 am

  2. Bill Young

    The photo has the look and feel of winter, bright and sunny with a sense of austerity. I also like the park behind Heungcheon-Sa and views of the Geum River out to the West Sea. And I’m glad you got your walk in the park during this vacation.

    February 26, 2011 at 3:31 am

    • It was a beautiful morning! Apparently, rain and high winds are headed our way, so this was, literally, my one chance. Glad I had some time, too.

      February 26, 2011 at 6:28 am

  3. Thank you for such a detailed response, I hope I didn’t take too much of your time!

    I think I first read it in a list on wiki, actually, it was something like that…
    I’ve spent a lot of time traveling through Korea, and my favorite places are usually as you described, seeing the farmers working so closely to the earth. It’s something I often thing we could use a better understanding of back home, but that’s a whole other topic to waste time on!

    I’ve been to Unjusa but not Unmunsa! I may take you up on the offer if the other Bhikkhunis don’t mind me bringing a two year old who flashes between moments of Buddha-nuture and Mara with little notice! ^_^

    I really enjoy Jeolla-do, I used to make seasonal trips to Maisan and Seonunsa.

    I used to live in Daegu, which temple do you study at?
    I know this is like my student asking me if I know John from Canada, but I wonder if you know this Bhikkhuni I met in Daegu…

    One of the photos you posted really reminded me of her face.

    February 26, 2011 at 1:38 pm

  4. Sorry, I think that link didn’t work..

    February 26, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    • Joseph,
      Don’t worry about taking up time. What’s here to be given, is given.

      I don’t know that particular nun, although it’s not such a long shot as you might think.

      If you have time, Unmun-sa is lovely. No one will mind; the temple is large and you won’t be bothering anyone. If you’d like an informal tour, go to the office in the inner courtyard and ask for one of the foreign nuns; we’ll be happy to come and show you around! There’s also a hermitage on the mountain behind the temple called Sari-am, where it’s possible to stay a few nights, with meals, for a nominal “kido fee.” The mountains are very lovely, so making a weekend trip of it is a good idea. You can find public transportation directions at the Unmun-sa website:

      February 28, 2011 at 12:36 pm

      • I was just looking at the web-site, it looks stunning!

        From Seoul, is the best way to go to Daegu, then take a bus?

        March 1, 2011 at 8:11 am

  5. “a two year old who flashes between moments of Buddha-nuture and Mara with little notice!” LOL! But now I wonder, is there any other kind of two year old?!

    If you get a chance, you really should visit. Unmun-sa is a beautiful temple, in a gorgous setting.

    March 1, 2011 at 7:49 am

    • Hey Chong Go Sunim,
      Fancy seeing you here! haha
      Actually, that could be a half decent description of most of us! ^^

      I mentioned visiting Unmun-sa to EunBong (my wife), and she said it sounds nice. I’m especially interested in spending the night at the hermitage, it’s something I’ve wanted to do since I moved to Korea is to stay a night (or a few years!) in a mountain hermitage. I’ll have to see when the time comes if EunBong will share my enthusiasm. ^^

      Is it close to Seonun-sa?

      March 1, 2011 at 8:04 am

  6. Joseph–

    Take any transportation to Daegu: bus or train. Either way, you’ll need to get to the Nam-bu Bus Terminal (Mancheon Subway Stop if you take the subway from any of the other terminals or train stations in the city). At the Nambu Terminal, grab a bus to Unmun-sa; it’s listed. Buses usually run once an hour or so. When you get off at the Unmun-sa Bus Station, it’ll be in a big parking lot. Continue walking up the road in the direction the bus had been going, toward the ticket booth in front of the pine-tree lined avenue. There’s a nice pedestrian trail now leading from that parking lot to the Unmun-sa gate. Anyway: there you are.

    Sari-am is further into the mountains. It won’t be the hermitage you see directly above Unmun-sa. (Most people confuse it with Sari-am, but it’s Buk-dae Am and not the same.) Sari-am is a “kido do-ryang,” meaning they chant four times a day. Generally, it’s busy on the weekends, just so you know. Not that there won’t be room if you all come, but that things are just…busy. The hermitage is dedicated to the Solitary Arahant, and lots of folks come to pray to him.

    March 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm

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