Typhoons: beauty and destruction

I had a few posts ready to be published when I returned home from Korea in 2012… I am posting them now, just to have them with the collection of memories.

….I have been in Calgary for about a month and a half now. The term is buzzing by! I have so many posts for this blog about the summer that I have yet to “publish” and I thought I would get at least a few of them up and then move on.

My last 2 weeks at Mihwangsa were eventful. We had a strong typhoon that caused damage. The temple held up better than the neighbouring town, 13km away. Everyone nearby (including us) lost power and internet. I felt rather secure at the temple, and the experience of the storm was amazing. At night, when everyone was hidden away in their rooms with bolted windows and doors, I took to the porch and meditated in the elements. I sat in a full lotus position with the rain pounding down on me and the wind pushing me back. It was so powerful I couldn’t have walked in it. Meditating in the middle of a typhoon was one of the greatest experiences I have had. It was the first time I felt cold in months. I was joyous.

When I finished I went to bed. I wanted to feel the elements against my skin as I slept, so I left my window and door open. Half-way through the night, the woman in the neighboring room came screaming at me in Korean. I was disoriented and just stared at her. She then yelled “Door Close, wet, wet, wet!” and slammed my door (although I think it was the wind that slammed it and not her). Then she locked me in. This did not impress me. So I waited. About 10 minutes later she went back to bed and I promptly reopened my door (which required a lot of force, due to the clasp closure) and took to the floor to sleep again. This picture was taken of the view outside my window, the base of the building is flooded (so happy my door was higher than the water!). My own personal moat. If you hover over the pictures, you will get a description of them.

The next day we had a break in the storm. I wanted to venture out, I felt so confined by my little room. I had wandered around the temple and surveyed the damage. Knowing it would storm more we did not start any clean up efforts yet.

The weather was still not trustworthy, and it was not safe for me to retreat up the mountain, so I walked in the direction of the nearest town. There was more damage than I anticipated, not that I really knew what to anticipate. Trees were ripped out of the ground and scattered on the road, and power lines were broken and dangling to the pavement. Yes, apparently you are not supposed to walk anywhere near these as they can jump and kill you… (my electrician friend explains this to me when I get back to Calgary) however I wasn’t remembering back to that fireman safety lecture from grade two where I learned this in a cafeteria. I didn’t really have options to get around it, so I picked a side and ran. I am still here. Every rice field was flooded and all I could see were giant lakes of water that weren’t supposed to be there. Every second car that drove by stopped to offer me a ride, but I was quite content to just keep walking. When I finally reached the outskirts of the town I explored the streets. Windows were broken, signs were ripped off buildings, and everything was closed. Almost everything, one store was open. It had its doors wide open; with no lights on and a line up of people buying flashlights, batteries, water, and any other essentials. I required none of that, so I perused the isles and decided all I needed was a bottle of Soju and a few red bean rice cakes for a the walk home. By this time, I had so many blisters I wanted to take my beaten/taped/blood stained sneakers off and walk barefoot. So I did. About 4 kms later, when a car stopped to offer me a ride I accepted willingly. When I arrived back at the temple the first thing I did was throw my sneakers out and tape up my feet.

We spent the next day cleaning the temple. The rest of my stay at the temple was calm and quiet. After a few days, I ventured up the mountain several different ways, taking in every second of freedom I had before the journey home.

When I finally left the temple I spent some time in Gwanju. I visited a few temples there and I was invited to practice at all three of them, so I did. It was nice to find such tranquility in a large city. I had started to grow concern about my return home, so I meditated a lot while I was there.

When I arrived home I was hit with complete culture shock and severe jet lag. I slept for three days and barely did anything but wake up for a couple of hours to eat. Once I was able to stay awake for half a day I headed out to the mountains. I found it really hard to be around so much activity again. I had to eventually venture back to Calgary though, the school term had started and my responsibilities were adding up on me. I don’t know when I will return to Korea. When I started my journey there, I was almost adamant I wouldn’t return, however now, having experienced so much of the country, I will return for sure.


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