Saturday, May 24, 2008

Annie Pupdate the Nth

Nana and I have had some questions lately about Annie, the goofy little dog we're fostering from a shelter in Daejeon that's being forced to close. (Previous posts, possibly out of order: 1 2 3 4 5 6.) Ask and ye shall receive.

First of all, Annie's in pretty good health. She recently had her follow-up heartworm test, which came back negative, and as a result she's starting her course of shots. Also, she's nearly housebroken, though she has gotten into the habit of devouring the unspoilt sections of her pee pad, which is a pretty big accomplishment, considering how she came to us going on everything in sight. So if all else fails, we've nursed a sweet (though stupid) little dog to health and gotten her ready for a family.

Which leads us to the next question: What happens to Annie this summer? It was always out intention to foster Annie, not to adopt--especially with the possibility of grad school in the UK looming on the horizon (the UK's regulations on importing dogs are downright inhumane). That said, she's going to spend the summer at a rescue clinic in town, where she'll be put up for adoption. If she doesn't find a permanent home this summer, we'll take her back in August, but if she does, we'll find another pup to foster (trust me, there are plenty).

In the meantime, we're enjoying her company while we can.

Here is Annie looking camera-shy:
And here is Annie guarding her hoard of socks, which she collects from the floor almost the moment we drop them:Notice the eye lasers, ready to strike at a moment's notice.

Mattress World!

Brandy, I don't know if you read the blog, but let me tell you, it was kind of weird seeing you on our TV (via our Tivo and Slingbox) here in Seoul.

(FYI: Brandy is my brother's girlfriend and a family friend.)

Monday, May 19, 2008

Movin' On Up

Reader Mark asks in a comment on yesterday's post whether the upcoming move will be an improvement; I figure now is as good a time as any for more details.

The good: The new place will have an oven and a bathtub, two luxuries we lack at our current abode. Also, the new place is in a building much closer to the school (take 15 minutes off the daily commute each way) where a handful of other teachers live, and right across the street from a subway station on a much more useful line than ours (you can get downtown from there with no transfers).

The bad: The new neighborhood will have fewer options for dining and shopping, especially for grocery shopping, so we'll have to take a weekly trip back to the old neighborhood for groceries. Also, the crowded, narrow streets there will make it a bit harder to walk the dog.

The ugly: Though we asked to move a while ago, so we don't really mind, we no longer have a choice--our landlords are planning to sell our apartment. Apparently, prices in our neighborhood have gone up. Also, the timing of the move will be rough: we've got 2 days between the end of school and our departure for China, and then another 2-3 days before our return from China and our departure for Canada. So June will be a bit wild.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Buddha's Birthday Tour, Part 2: The Temples

(Note: Much of the information below is owed to our RAS tour guide and the very detailed info packet he provided us all. If you're interested in any of Prof. David Mason's work, you can find more information on his website.)

Bomunsa and Mitasa

Our Buddha's Birthday temple tour started in our neck of the woods, at Bomunsa and neighboring Mitasa, in the Bomun neighborhood northeast of the city center. Bomunsa is the home temple of the Bomun order of Buddhist nuns and is the largest convent in the Seoul metropolitan area.

In keeping with traditional Korean geomancy, Bomunsa occupies an auspicious site at the steep head of a small, narrow valley, though the lower reaches of the valley (and the crown of the hill above) have since been consumed by high-rises and busy streets. Still, behind Bomunsa's walls is a quiet oasis, growing and green, where it's easy to forget that you're in one of the biggest cities in the world. (Traveler's note: The grounds of the old Buddhist temples are some of the best photo spots in Korea. Those old monks sure knew their real estate!)

During our visit, the lower levels of the temple were crowded with visitors watching the holiday performance, but the upper levels were much quieter and more serene
And as is common in the busier temples, there were statues everywhere, including some adorable little Buddhist nun figurines.
Bomunsa is also home to a huge a modern-era pagoda, seen below, and a modern-era "cave shrine" modeled after a Shilla-era shrine in Kyeongju.
And as a final note on Bomunsa, here is a roll of members of the Bomun order. Notice all the Kims! (Actually rarer than you might expect on this roll, since the Kim clan is generally fairly wealthy; most members of the Buddhist orders come from the lower classes.)
Next door to Bomunsa is the Mitasa hermitage, a small convent affiliated with the Jogye sect, which is Korea's dominant Buddhist sect.
The hermitage includes a very old (but small) Koryo-era pagoda next to a "sanshingak" or "mountain-spirit shrine" (with the mountain spirit represented here as a white tiger; elsewhere as an old man with a white tiger) a prime example of how Korean Buddhism has adpoted elements of the old shamanistic religions. In fact, the whole mountain-worship element is part of the reason why Buddhist temples tend to be found at the heads of mountain valleys or, as is the case with Shilleuksa in Yeoju, at the tail ends of important mountain ranges.

Unfortunately, lighting made it difficult to shoot either of these items. As a consolation, here's a shot of Nana with a new friend.
Side note: Mitasa is also home to the famous mural depicting Buddha's birth that appeared in our previous post on Buddha's Birtdhay.

Gaeunsa and Potasa

Potasa, a small seminary convent affiliated with Daegu's famous Haeinsa temple, featured the first of two White Buddha carvings of the day.

The White Buddha represents a later development in the history of Buddhism: it used to be believed that one could only achieve salvation through enlightenment, but later beliefs included the possibility of salvation through Buddha's mercy, embodied by the White Buddha--also known as the Goddess of Mercy, despite the moustache.

is the larger temple down the street from Potasa. It is a seminary temple with modern facilities for about 160 monks plus several older structures. The highlight here was a giant paper lantern of the three-tusked white elephant who, according to the story of Buddha's birth, impregnated Buddha's mother in a dream.
Gaeunsa is also notable because it does not actually sit at the head of a valley, but atop a small, round hill.


On our way to dinner, we stopped at a small shrine in Segom-dong, along a mountain stream just northwest of the city center. (Geographical note: There's a low but very rugged mountain range that runs down into the Seoul city center, which effectively splits the part of the city north of the Han River in half. The reason for this is that Gyeongbokgung, the main Joseon palace in Seoul was, surprise surprise, built at the tail end of that mountain range.)

The shrine featured the second White Buddha of the day.

Bongwonsa, our last stop of the day, is the main temple of the Taego sect, which is an unusual sect in that its monks and priests can marry. They're also filthy rich, sitting as they do on some prime real-estate; seriously, some of the monks drive Lotuses, and not just for the obvious pun.

Situated just north of Yonsei University, Bongwonsa is the closest of Seoul's traditional temples to the city center, and for that reason is the epicenter of Buddha's Birthday celebrations in Seoul. (Though I'm told the modern Jogyesa, in downtown Seoul, also had a big Buddha's Birthday bash.) The long path up to Bongwonsa is very developed and commercialized, including a 24-hour restaurant and "sauna" (bath house), plus several smaller eateries lining the road.

The hike was worth it, though, as the temple itself featured the best Lotus Lantern display in town.
Also worth the hike were the Candle Hall, the Hall of 1000 Buddhas, and a some really great examples of Buddhist statuary carving.

Well, that's it for the Buddha's Birthday tour. Expect slim pickins as far as posts go for the next couple weeks--we're into the final push at school AND we'll be moving to a new apartment partway through June. Of course, if anything ludicrous happens, you'll be the first to know.