While Christianity has a significant presence in Korea, Buddhism also has a large following as well. On a typical weekend off from teaching in Baebang, I decided to seek out out local temple. After hiking into the hills above my town through rice and kimchi farms, I finally reached its hallowed grounds. When you are faced with a view like the one displayed above, how could you not build a shrine to your deity of choice?
Despite arriving at its doorstep on a weekend afternoon, all was quiet. Perfect for a spot of exploration and a rare moment of serenity in a nation as crowded as South Korea…
With South Korea having the rich past that it does, its not long after a foreigner arrives here before they go searching for relics of its heritage. As such, I also went looking for the most vaunted cultural attraction in Cheonan, Gagwonsa Temple, within the first few months of being settled in South Korea (little did I know that it would be close to the end of my stay there, but c’est la vie).
Located up on the slopes of Taejosan above the rapidly growing industrial, high-tech and research city of Cheonan, this place is one of serenity and peace from the hustle and bustle present in the streets below.
Pictured above is the aftermath of a typical grocery trip in Korea for yours truly. Before you start getting concerned about me dropping dead of a heart attack at 35, know that most artery inflammation is mostly the result of over-consumption of simple carbohydrates (sugars + white bread) and trans fats (often created when processed foods are made) with red meat ranking well behind on the danger scale. Besides, I did buy spinach and onions before this grocery run, with remnants already in the fridge and cupboard, thank you very much 🙂
For those that can’t see through the glare on the can: My fighting time! Let’s be cafe time!
In countries where the first language isn’t English, the populace has often attempted to insert education of the world’s most spoken language into their curriculum, with varying results. Korea is one of those countries that has pushed hard to get their citizens educated in the use of this often confusing form of communication (2nd hardest in the world to learn after Mandarin Chinese), and for the most part, it has resulted in its economies’ rapid rise.
During my time in Korea, one of the things that interested me most was getting acquainted with this nation’s unique cuisine. Kimchi, Donkastsu, Kimbap … all had their turn in my mouth, with interesting results at minimum.
One thing that I had yet to try at the point in time when the events in this post occurred (June 2013) was Samgyeopsal, or Korean-style grilled pork belly. I preferred to call it a pet name, Mutant Korean Bacon™, much to the amusement of friends.
NOTE FROM JAMES: The following is a guest post contributed by Angela Stevens, who has become the first author on this site other than myself in its history. All views expressed are her own and do necessarily reflect my opinion, nor that of The Pursuit of Excitement. That said, I am a big fan of poker, so it gives me great pleasure to present the following post to you
When you’re in a homogeneous place like South Korea, where less than 1% of the population are foreigners more or less like you, sometimes you gotta band together to avoid feeling overwhelmed sometimes.
Don’t get me wrong, cultural immersion is rad and all, but sometimes you crave the company of people that share your collective societal experiences and that speak your language. Cheonan, despite being a smaller city by Korea standards (600,000), has an expat community that is larger than normal, making for a lively community.
Christmas 2012 in Calgary … my holiday season had a much lower profile this year, but I had a lot to reflect and grateful for over the past 365+ days!
It’s amazing what can happen in the span of 365 short days. This time last year, I was freezing in the depths of yet another Alberta winter, yet I had a renewed spring in my step, despite the darkness that early January brings with it.
With my free time winding down to the end of yet another weekend, I wanted to do something with my time that was new and exciting, lest I feel that I wasted it. Time to explore is at a premium when you’re a hagwon teacher in South Korea, so you need to use the time that you aren’t teaching, lesson planning, cooking, cleaning, and sleeping to the best uses possible.
Throughout my time in South Korea, I tried many foods. Today, we will highlight a few more things I ate during the course of my stay here. Admittedly, some of them aren’t exactly exotic, but I feel they are at least somewhat relevant to those from the West heading to South Korea, either to teach or to travel. Let’s start with a late night visit to Cafe Bene, for a little spot of dessert…