Day 6: Busan Korea

If there was ever a day of shooting that fit right in with the basic concept of the this blog, it would have been today. Of course, I suppose that the whole enlightenment thing would imply that I should be able to have the same feeling of peace on a construction site in Times Square as I do at a Buddhist temple in Korea. I'm obviously not there yet.

The day started pretty much the way any other tour day starts. Even though I would prefer to be in a new place on my own rather than as part of a tour, admittedly the tours are a nice way to see the city and get a feel for where everything is. Of course, all of the self-convincing I tried to do that "I'm from Iowa and this is nothing" were completely ineffective. I'm a Californian now...and it was COLD!

We headed onto the bus where the tour guide began telling us all about Busan. I was so blown away by the way that the port seemed to go on forever. Seemingly endless, there were stacks upon stacks of containers on both ships and on the land, to the point where it seemed that the whole port (5th busiest in the world) is practically bursting at the seams. At one point I saw a long row of containers stacked at least 10 high in what appeared to be the back side of apartment buildings. Intertwined with all of this are more ships still being assembled in dry-docks. What's most striking about it all is that this during a recessed economic period.
After about a 40-minute ride through Busan, we arrived at the Beomeosa Temple. What immediately made the whole experience for me was the fact that this was, despite being very old, still an active site. Many people were showing up for meditations and there were the sounds of Buddhist chants coming from everywhere. There was an intense sense of peace coming that came over me. I was almost able to overcome the "cold" that was making my fingers numb, but it seemed that my eye just took over as I began to snap hundreds of photographs.
Most powerful was the sense that, since the site itself was so unlike anything I have access too, everyday objects began to feel as if I was seeing them for the first time. From something as simple as a broom or a pair of shoes came the ability to wonder again.
Of particular note, were the shingles that were stacked in nearly every corner of the site, each bearing different writings. The idea, as I understood it, was that you could pray for someone and that prayer shingle would eventually wind up on the temple somewhere (as they replaced the old ones I guess). A little like having a star named after you I suppose, but a nice idea.
After a stop off in Tower Park which, save for some panoramic views of roofs, was rather uninteresting, we arrived at the Fish Market. I would guess that even the most hardened Anthony Bordain fan would have to work to keep it together here. I'm actually quite adventurous with food, the one thing I would have had to draw the line at was the live octopus. Raw I can deal with. Dead, however, is a requirement.
Of course, there was not time for sampling, as we had a bus headed for a ship. Nevertheless, it was an interesting end to my day in Korea, and I do know that I will want to visit Busan on my own. The busy port, followed by a journey into heavy Buddhism and back to the work-a-day lives of the fish market workers, I realized what a dynamic, place this is. What look like incompatibilities in the wildly different lives, connected only by the designation "Korean" seemed so well meshed. Busan is not really a city that I would have made it a point to come to on my own, though it's now on the list of places to take off my shoes and stay awhile.