Divergent paths.

The days pass quickly here. Today one of the girls visiting the temple blurted out the date when she found out I was deliberately avoiding knowing this pesky little detail of life. I am not quite sure what her motivation was, but she is a young teenager and it probably seemed pretty funny at the time. I have been trying to not look at the time or the date since I arrived. A success until today, but now I know how long I have been here and I am surprised at how fast the days are going by. I will be hesitant to leave and go back to my life in Calgary. Janaehaeng said I can stay here forever with her. I can become fluent in Korean and translate for all the foreigners. If she finds out how long it took me to learn the Korean alphabet she may recant the offer! While I was in Seoul, I was attached to the idea that I would probably not return, but I have now changed my opinion and I would like to visit Korea again. This temple is more my home than the house I live in. Calgary doesn’t really feel like home to me. It feels more like the place I will live until I leave it. Right now, I am happily open to the idea that my home may end up being anywhere in the world.

I keep having to say goodbye to people whose company I would like to keep. An unpleasant side effect of travelling to foreign countries and meeting amazing people who don’t live in my country, or even in the countries that I visit. It doesn’t seem to get easier. I genuinely hope that I will see some of the great people I have befriended during my travels at another time. Since my travels started in April, I have met people who have influenced me to think ways that are more aligned to my values. Today, I said goodbye to my favourite nun/monk, Un- Seong. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t have favourites, but this woman is truly spectacular. When I met her, she had just completed a five-day walking peace demonstration.

When she hugged me goodbye, her hug was distinctly gentler than I am used to, and she held me much longer than I was expecting. As I said goodbye to her, I realized how much our chance meeting positively impacted me. This realization brought with it sadness. It is encouraging, however, to know that no matter what modicum of space I occupy on this planet, I will still find positive role models that challenge me to slow down and breathe deeply. I am constantly meeting people who facilitate my growth as a human being. Knowing there are complete strangers who want me to do well in life is a very humbling realization. I am very grateful to have learnt this.

A few days ago, upon watching me eat all the soybean soup and kelp I could find, Un-Seong said that I was very much a Korean. What a great compliment! The food at the temple is fantastic. I am kind of addicted to anything that is made of lotus root. My thoughts often drift to lotus root dishes during my meditations. I hope to buy some before my return to Canada, if I can find it. Any root here will do really, or leaf or tree. I had some bamboo the other day that was delicious. Now that I am at the temple, I am exposed to so many new gluten-free vegan dishes. I am hungry just thinking about them. I bring my little pink poetry book with me to mealtime and I write down everything I want to recreate in Calgary. It took me several days to get used to eating so early here, but now my stomach is awake and hungry as soon as I am out of bed. It sucks to have to wait until 630 to eat! I am still not accustomed to eating at set times, but I have learned that if there is food in front of me I need to eat it. This has actually worked against my favour for the first week or so, because I could not distinguish which foods were too spicy for me and which ones were not. I had to eat a lot of things I would not normally… stomach, but I am slowly becoming a pro at distinguishing which foods require a warning label. So far, any foods that are bright red or dark green are suspicious. I have yet to try kimchi, and I don’t think I will. Maybe I am not so Korean after all.

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