Well, this temple stay happened back in September.  Due to a variety of problems with technology (computer breaking, getting a new one, entire blog post deleting, unable to transfer photos, etc, etc.) no one has heard from me in a while.
We’ve been busy making new friends!
But I’m still here!  And still keeping very, very busy, so you can expect many more posts from here on out!  The weather is getting cooler now, so we’ve been enjoying the outdoors while we can.  One of the places we explored was 흥국사 (Heungguksa) Temple where we lived with Buddhist monks (and their many dogs) for 24 hours.
Gorgeous patterns, bright colors, and lanterns.
Lotus lanterns holding wishes in the temple
Saturday morning Cherie, Lorna, Lisa Marie, Lisa and I all hopped in the car together and drove to Yeosu (여수) where we joined the rest of our group.  The mountain itself is actually only a 30min drive from the city, near the Yeosu airport.  After a quick jaunt up 영취산 (Yeongchwisan Mountain) we found ourselves in the heart of the old temple grounds.  We met our guide and began with changing into appropriate clothing to wear during our stay.  I actually wish we could have kept a pair of the pants–they were so comfy!  
Aren’t we adorable?
The tombs of the monks; ashes have been added for hundreds of years.
Buddha looking off into the sunset
We were then led a tour of the buildings and outdoor spaces.  We learned about the Buddhist Dharma instruments, which are rung daily.  First, we rang the Brahma bell, which is to save all beings in hell.  It is rung 28 times in the morning and 33 in the evening.  Second, we learned how to beat the dharma drum.  This saves all beings that live on earth.  A gong in the shape of a cloud is rung next to save all being that live in the sky, followed by the wooden fish which saves all beings of the sea.  We toured the main Dharma hall, as well as several other smaller halls before heading off to dinner.
Cherie ringing the Brahma bell (wooden fish and cloud gong in the background)
“Is this right?” Lorna trying out the wooden fish.
Inside the Dharma Hall
Hanging on for good luck!
Gorgeous colors and patterns inside the instrument pagoda.
After our meal, we met with one of the monks outside for meditation.  Night was falling quickly, so we each picked up a mat and headed up a path into the woods.  I wasn’t sure where we were going or how long our walk would be, so I made sure I kept up the lead with our Buddhist guide.  By the end of our trip, he was calling me “best woman” for being able to keep pace!  After about a 20 minute walk, night had completely covered the mountain.  Our final destination was a stretch of the path that was overshadowed by ancient pines on both sides.  The lower parts of the trees has lost all of their needles due to the lack of sunlight so far down, and we sat facing the long shadowy figures of bare trunks as we meditated to the nighttime sounds of the forest.
Is this why you guys took so long?!
About 15 minutes in, another part of the group joined us, finally catching up to the brisk pace the monk had set.  All together we meditated for another 7 minutes or so before our guide signaled it was time to leave.  Just as we all stepped out of the pine tree shadows, we ran into the last few people in the group.  They didn’t get a chance to meditate, but at least they got a workout!  We hiked the 20min back down the mountain and put our rugs away before heading off to another building for a craft workshop.
Do they look like lotuses yet?
Here we made our very own lotus lantern, just like the ones the monks had made and hung in the main Dharma temple!  Using carefully dyed and twisted pieces of rice paper, we delicately layered on petals to create the lotus flower.  I wish I could have taken materials home for a second one!  
Lisa’s beautiful finished lotus lantern.
Cherie all lit up!
We illuminated each lantern with a candle and set off for the Dharma temple.  It was so dark, the trail of floating, glowing flowers in front of us acted as guides through the grounds and up the temple stairs.  We had a brief ceremony where we chanted and made a wish, followed by walking around the temple three times whilst thinking of our wish, willing it to come true.
All lined up on the steps for a photo; just like in elementary school.
We quickly headed to bed thereafter.  It was cold out without the sun, and we were getting up at 4:00 tomorrow morning to catch the Buddhist chanting ceremony.  When we woke up it was absolutely freezing, but the ceremony was well worth it.  We were even given lyrics to chant along with the monks, but my reading skills weren’t quite yet up to par.  Initially Lorna, Lisa and I were going to try and stay up for the day, but since breakfast wasn’t for another two hours, we couldn’t resist our warm beds on the ondol floor.  We missed the 5:00 meditation, but I don’t think it could have topped the one from the previous night. 
Lunch or breakfast?  Can you guess?

Doesn’t matter; it’s all vegetarian (and delicious)!
After waking up (reluctantly) for breakfast, we marched off for archery!  The targets were actually a flat wooden board instead of the traditional straw targets I’ve usually shot at, and they had a large red circle painted on them.  Our monk explained that the red circle was the Japanese flag; during the war with Japan, many volunteers came to the temple to help both defend it and fight for their country.  We were all fairly decent, but it was Lisa that took to the bow and arrow the most!  I think we could have left her there to shoot all day long!
Lisa’s super focused…
…Lorna on the other hand, not so much.
Cherie (versus Lorna in the back!)

After archery we had the dreaded 108 bows.  Those of us who participated gathered in the Dharma hall, where our lead monk was waiting with a juk-bi (죽비), or split bamboo shoot.  We all got into position, and the bowing began.  With each slap of the juk-bi, we would go through a full bow.  Just like our nighttime march into the woods for meditation, he kept the rhythm going at a quick pace!  My legs were burning around 20 bows, but after we reached 40 they all began to blur together.  We all successfully completed our bows!  We had free time then, and our lead monk read our palms.  He told me that I was royalty in a part life, and then I would marry and never cheat on my husband or want for money…he may or may not have been biased from our hiking excursion the night before, but I’d say that’s a pretty good fortune!
Our guide reading Lisa Marie’s palm.

Since the remaining activities weren’t a part of the temple itself, we were allowed to change back into our clothes.  We brought the clothes and bedding out to the staff, and then met in the craft hall for one last activity.  Some calligraphy artists had come, and we were able to have them write us anything of our choosing.  I went with a traditional Korean proverb, “원숭이도 나무에서 떨어진다,” which translates literally to “Even monkeys fall from trees”.  We all make mistakes in life, even experts and professionals.  I think this proverb is fitting for me at this point in my life.  We all should take risks and chances so we can learn, grow, and change!

Bye Heungguksa, we’ll be back!