Buddha Bellies and Balancing Rocks

Well, I survived my first full week.  Looking back, it seems like a walk in the park compared to this week.  I know I promised tips and tricks for surviving the cultural differences in Korea, but that is going to be postponed until I have a little more free time.  This week we’ve been going 6:30 am – 9 pm…not straight through, but either way…Pretty brutal (compared to last weeks 10-12, 3:30-6).  It’s only Wednesday and I’m already looking forward to a weekend of R & R.

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The weekend before last, we also were off, and I opted to stay close to Gimcheon, as I was still adjusting and recovering from jet lag.  The past two weekends, we’ve had Saturday morning workouts, and then have Saturday afternoon and all of Sunday off.  On Sunday, my translator Olivia, took me to our stadium.  The building we play matches in is about 5 miles from our practice facilities, right in the heart of Gimcheon.  It is located in between the outdoor stadium for baseball, track and field, soccer? and the natatorium.  I say ? because I’m not quite sure what is all played in there.  When we visited our stadium, there was a fencing tournament set up.

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After that, she took me up into the Sobaeksan mountains, where there is a gorgeous Buddhist compound called Jikjisa temple.  It is a little less than a 30 minute drive from where I live, and is somewhat of a tourist destination.  Although, a tourist destination in a small South Korean town is no Eiffel Tower when it comes to people. Little did I know, we’d be back there the following Wednesday for a team building hike in the mountains right behind the temple.  I wish I had known we’d be going to the temple that Sunday, because I didn’t bring my big camera, and it was photographer’s paradise.  So much green, beautiful detail, and gold buddhas everywhere  — just as you would imagine any Buddhist temple would be.

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There was also tons of piles of balancing rocks, which I’d taken somewhat of a fancy to living in Colorado, where it seems like someone is always stacking rocks somewhere.  Olivia explained to me that the Buddhists see it as a practice of meditation.  Regardless of the reason, the location itself was so serene.  I felt like I had been thrown into everything you imagine stereotypical Buddhist Asia looking like, and it was beautiful. I even watched a kitten catch a dragonfly…Probably the cutest thing ever.

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And on the way home, we stopped for dinner and I ate my first ever WHOLE octopus  that didn’t look like calamari.  Koreans use tongs and scissors to cut meat if its too big to bite.

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That next Wednesday, I was amped for a day out of the weight room and gym, and we rolled back up to the same temple!  I was expecting a nice little gentle hike and our trainer told us we were going to jog the flat parts and walk the steep parts…easy enough.  We started off with a light jog on a paved road that went right by the temple and up further into the mountains until we reached a trail head, and then…STAIRS.  Lots and lots of stairs.  I never expected my summer hiking in Colorado to prepare me for actual hiking in Korea, but I probably would have died had I not hiked in CO this summer.  Much less elevation, but it seemed like as soon as you got to the top of one hill and started going back down, you would have to go up again.  It felt like we were walking on the crest of a range of mountains, the up, down a little, up some more…etc.

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Thankfully I started off in the front of the pack and managed to stay in the same spot the whole hike.  Our head coach was waiting for us at one of the peaks, and then we had to turn around and go back the way we came.  It was hard, but awesome to get outside of the gym and see a little bit more of Korea.  I definitely have respect for their love of hiking.  We came back to an awesome meal and the afternoon off.  Two more days of practice and my translator and I headed to Seoul to see the city for the first time and meet up with the American girls from the other teams! So much fun!

Til next time! XO

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