Last weekend I went on a cultural trip to Suwon, put on by the Korean Culture and Information Service. I've already written about these parts of the trip:
Now I had never done a temple stay before, and didn't even know that a temple stay was something that one might do here in Korea. Needless to say, but I'll say it, I didn't know what to expect.
All 50 of us took off our shoes by the door of the temple stay place, put them in cubbies, and then found and put on the "slippers" (sandals) provided. Then after walking literally three yards from the door to the main room, I realized we had to take off the slippers we had just found and put on. Once we were all seated on the floor, we each turned in our cell phones for the stay, closing them in a plastic zip bag and writing our names on a small sticker. At this point I was so glad I had brought my digital camera with me for the weekend!
Then we were each given a set of clothes to put on upstairs, pants and a top. When we got upstairs to the room we'd be sleeping in (girls on the second floor, boys up on the third floor), no one was sure how we were supposed to change into the clothes. I thought we would change into them, but then later someone came into the room and said that a lady downstairs told her to put them on over your regular clothes.
I was wearing leggings under my jeans, so I took off the jeans before putting on the provided pants. All of the kneeling and sitting and standing would have been impossible in jeans! We each had a name tag, too.
Then we watched a short orientation video about temple stay dos and don'ts, and learned to bow correctly. After the opening "ceremony" we went to see the temple. This meant putting on the slippers we'd left just outside the main room, walking two steps to the rug by the door, finding our shoes and putting them on, and putting the slippers in the shoe cubby.
The temple was across the street from the temple stay building.
When we got to that pagoda (pictured above), we slowly circled around it three times, while stopping to do a half bow at each of the four sides (palms together in the middle of your chest, bow at the waist). So that's 12 half bows. Our temple stay volunteer guide and interpreter taught us a little bit about Buddhism and the temple while we walked through the grounds, though no memorable fact comes to mind as I write this a week later.
The temple itself was a lot smaller than I'd imagined. The temple grounds reminded me of the Korean palaces I had seen - lots of space outside with a few small buildings here and there.
By the end of our temple tour it had gotten dark outside, and we were led into a building for dinner. Dinner was an experience in itself, worth of its own post!