My co-teacher Sunny is a devout Buddhist. She spends several hours every day at her temple, and two of her sisters are Buddhist….
…. and now we pause for a brief English question. What do we call female Buddhist monks? Are they Buddhist nuns? Or are nuns by definition Catholic? Sunny asked and I didn’t know the answer. Buddhist nun sounds a bit odd but Buddhist female monk is far too wordy. Anyone know?
Two of Sunny’s sisters have dedicated their lives to Buddhism. That will do for now.
Sunny offered to take my friend Katie and I on a tour of one of her favourite temples in Ulsan. Thinking it would be lovely to have someone along who actually knew what everything was, I quickly accepted.
Saturday morning dawned, cold and dreary. As I was getting ready, it began raining.
“Never mind,” Sunny said brightly as she picked us up. “Buddhists think rain is special.”
It was unclear why Buddhists though this but as Sunny pulled out into traffic, I thought it best not to distract her by probing further. I had forgotten Sunny drove at 35km/hr everywhere she went.
“I very appreciate you coming!” she enthused, looking directly at me and not at the road. “Before you teacher, he never come. He say my drive is dangerous!”
This rather indignant statement was delivered in all seriousness and as she cut off a bus and drove through a red light, prayer beads swinging madly from the rearview mirror.
“How rude,” I muttered weakly, tightening my seatbelt.
We pulled onto the highway going at, you guessed it – 35km/hr. We drove along at that speed for a while until a very large tanker truck roared up behind us, horn blaring. Did I mention that Sunny drives a very small car? More of a sewing machine on wheels than an actual car. I made a mental note to offer a heartfelt prayer of thanks if we ever made it to the temple.
Sunny accelerated to 57 km/hr but the truck driver passed us anyway, horn blaring. An added problem now presented itself – the car couldn’t seem to maintain 57km/hr with the AC on.
Sunny beetled along madly at 57 km/hr until the windows were completely fogged up. I have no idea how she could see where she was going. Then she would slow to 35km/hr and turn the AC on until the fog cleared. The whole process was repeated over and over again as we travelled through a steep and windy mountain pass and emerged into a plain on the other side.
We pulled into the parking lot of Unmun Temple, or Cloud Gate Temple. It was glorious. Autumn had certainly come to this part of Ulsan.
On the way home, Sunny decided to take a different route so we could stop at one more temple. She thought she knew where it was but after 45 minutes of driving along treacherous mountain roads in the rain, she admitted defeat.
“Maybe I will use GPS,” she announced, looking at me and trying to program the GPS at the same time. Let me add that we were driving along a two-way road that was barely wide enough for one car, and the windows were completely fogged up. Although, perhaps I should have been grateful for the steamy windows; I couldn’t see how high up we were.
Eventually we made it in one piece to the next temple. I forget the name, sorry!