Monday, November 24, 2008

Tripitaka Koreana

I've had a wonderful autumn in Korea. It's so beautiful when the leaves are changing. I celebrated with some great hiking, a very romantic picnic, and a trip to a Haeinsa Temple.

Haeinsa Temple is in Gayasan National Park. It's an old and very important temple in Korea. It's one of three main temples of Chogye Buddhism. The Haeinsa temple represents Dharma (Buddah's teachings). It also contains the Tripitaka. The Tripitaka is a large collection of wooden blocks upon which buddhist scripture is carved. The Tripitaka was first carved in the 11th century but was destroyed by the Mongols during an invasion. The current Tripitaka that is housed in the temple was carved in the 13th century and is made up of 81,340 wooden blocks. It's been designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you want to read more on this - check out this link.

The temple is quite lively this time of year. Like many temples in Korea it's located inside a National Park. So there were plenty of people that were popping into the temple for a moment before they embarked on a hike.

Kelly and Dale joined us on this trip. They have a car so it was so much easier than the last time we went. We had to take a taxi to a train to a subway to a bus the last time we came.

The temple was decorated with colorful lotus lanterns.

This is a shot inside one of the rooms that house the Tripitaka. The tablets are stacked on the shelves on the right side of the photo. The shelves are at least 25 feet high.

The photos we have from inside the rooms are illegal. Jason wasn't supposed to take any pictures but it's hard to stop him when he has a camera in his hands. He was scolded by a few of the security guards.

After viewing the Tripitaka we went on a short hike into the mountains. This was the first time that Kelly and Dale had seen fall colors. They're from a tropical area of Australia.

Couple photo!

Australian style couple photo!

I love this photo. I could live in it.

There are a wide variety of trees in Gayasan National Park, but the bulk of them are pines, gingko, and maple.

Pretty maple leaf.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Somewhere over the Rainbow

I first heard this version of the song while watching 50 First Dates. If you're looking for an Adam Sandler romantic comedy, I would highly recommend it. I heard it for the second time at Jed and Leni's wedding. They put together a wedding album full of wonderful music. I played the song over and over on the trip back to Minneapolis. Then a few months ago, a friend in Korea played it for me on YouTube. I find myself singing it all the time these days - so I thought I'd let you hear what it sounds like when I'm not butchering it with my falsetto.

It's sung by a guy named Israel Kamakawiwo'ole. He was a famous Hawaiian ukulele player and a beloved national hero in his home state. When he died in 1997, he was the third person ever to lay in state at the capitol building in Honolulu. This video was made as a tribute to him so it might seem a bit cheesey to some of you. At the end of the video it shows a part of his funeral in which his ashes are scattered in the ocean.

Listening to his song, I get the same type of feelings I have when I listen to What a Wonderful World by Louis Armstrong or Imagine by John Lennon. There is a sweetness and feeling of love and kinship and hope that I don't find a lot in the music that I generally listen to. I hope you will find it as beautiful as I do.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I'm usually of the mindset that the price of a product or service doesn't always allude to it's value. Cheap products are sometimes better than the high priced ones. For example, Totino's frozen pizzas are the best frozen pizzas around. Sure there's the 'rising' crust pizzas like Freshetta or Dijourno but they taste half as good as Totino's. The have actual tomato sauce (scoff!) instead of the tasty neon red tomato gel that is a signature of Totino's. You can't beat that - plus it's cheap as all get out!

Of course there's always the exceptions, such as eyebrow waxing. I've found that its worth the extra $5 to get it done at a salon instead of at a beauty college. Unless you don't mind looking like a confused vulcan for a few weeks, then it's a good deal.

Well, I've found something else that is worth the pretty penny you pay for it. The KTX. What's the KTX, you ask? It's only the coolest way to travel in all of the Korean penninsula. High speed rail! I know I've talked about the trains before, but this is different. It's quiet and smooth and fast. I don't know if I'll ever be able to go back to the 'slow' trains now. I might be ruined for life. It would be like eating velveeta after trying fresh mozzarella, like wearing Tevas after having Chacos, like watching ER after seeing House. It's not possible for me...unless I'm willing to endure some pain.

The trains have monitors on board that track its speed. We got up to 300 kph (186 mph) and it was as smooth as butter. Plus we got to Seoul in a fraction of the time it usually takes. I'm hooked! Why don't we have these in the States?

This is a picture of the 'slow' train. We couldn't even get a picture of the KTX - it went by so fast. ;)

This magazine looks like it's an English language magazine, right? It's not. A lot of the magazines here have English on the front covers but only Korean characters inside. I think it must look more sophisticated or fancy to people here if it has romanized letters on the cover.

If you think this looks like a staged're right. I finished my coffee before we got on the train.
This is the platform at one of the KTX stations. They all have Dunkin' Donuts franchises and convenience stores inside. On a side note...Dunkin' Donuts is really popular over here.

Happy Halloween

Sadly enough...Halloween isn't celebrated in Korea. I was crushed when I found this out. As you may know it's one of my favorite holidays. I love costumes! I'll take any excuse to dress up as a sexy_______. Since college I haven't been to one costume party outside of October so Halloween has been my saving grace the last few years.

Instead of dressing up this year, we threw a Halloween party at school for the kids. A few days before the holiday the kids colored pictures of jack o' lanterns, vampires, witches, and zombies to decorate the hallways. In case any of you are interested....jombie is the Korean word for zombie. Yeah! More Korean words that I'll remember.

On the big day, my class played hot potato and musical chairs. These are internationally loved games now! I didn't realize how violent musical chairs is...I had about six crying kids throughout the day. The most common injury was smashed fingers. No blood or stiches though so I'll call it a success.

Jason and I (by that I really mean Jason) meant to take more pics of the kids but we were the unwitting MC's of the festivities and didn't find the time.

I hope you all had a blast this year!

It was pretty festive around school with all the decorations up and the kids jacked up on candy. The little boy in the picture is a darling. His name is Vincent...actually it's not but that's his English name. I only know a few of the kids real names.

They sell a select few costumes at the major 'Wal-Mart' type stores here. That's a testament to the popularity of English education. The only place Halloween is celebrated is at the hogwans. The little girl on the left (Sophie) is both Jason and my favorite student. She's so tiny and cute!

As I said above...the selection of costumes here is quite limited, so we had a lot of Scream masks and glittery witch hats.

Erica she's known by the kids...did the face painting. I thought she did a pretty bang up job.