Sunday, February 19, 2012
It's always difficult to leave Thailand, and this time was no different.
At the same time, it was a relief to get back to a stable life, even though I was back in Korea with little money and no apartment.
My job didn't start for a couple of weeks but I had to come back to deal with work visa difficulties. Christopher Paul Neil, the child rapist from Vancouver, was teaching in Korea just before German police unswirled his face and in response the Korean government made it really complicated to get a working visa. I spent most of my last few days in Thailand trying to deal with the Korean Embassy in Montreal and the Canadian Embassy in Seoul, but they both just had me spinning in circles. Finally, I had to come back early to deal with things in person.
I arrived in Incheon early in the morning and caught a bus to Bundang. I was literally repulsing to look out the bus window at the long rows of uniform, grey apartment buildings after a few months away. It was like landing in Lego Land, but all the coloured pieces had been removed. I was excited to be able to visit a Korean temple, though, was I was settled. At times in India, I really craved a Korean temple visit.
After a few days, I got my visa paperwork sorted out, and was going to do a temple stay but ended up filling in for a sick teacher, which was good, because now that I was finished traveling, I had to start paying off my credit card!
Mentally, I was caught between to places. Half of me wanted to work one more year, take another trip through China and Tibet, visit Nepal again to do some trekking, than come back to Korea and become a monk. A friend who is a monk in Jogyesa's head temple in Seoul was ready to set everything up for me. I knew the one struggle I would have would be to give up on the thought of ever having a wife and family. Maybe I would get over it, but that's really hard to say.
While I was in Indian, my friend Joe was emailing me about a sangha he'd been going to on Saturdays to discuss a book written by a Korean Bhikkhuni, Zen Master Dae Haeng, who Joe thought is probably enlightened. (People who know her would agree that Joe was right!) I began attending the group with Joe, and met Chong Go Sunim, who lead the group, and Marcus, who'd developed a bond with Joe while I was away. Both Chong Go Sunim and Marcus have been a great influence on my development since then. At one meeting, I asked Chong Go Sunim how many monks tend to struggle with celibacy, and he responded, "How many monks are many?" It wasn't the answer I was hoping for, but, honestly, it was a good one!
May and I kept in touch for a while, but it was obviously finished. Even while we were together, she would get a phone call from a friend telling her what her ex-boyfriend was doing and which one of her friend's he'd slept with the night before, which would set her to crying with me sitting next to her a little confused by the situation. And, honestly, I'd never really loved her well.
Meanwhile, after all the talk of getting married I had in India and Nepal, and random marriage proposals in other places, it had set the thought in my head that I wanted to get married. At the same time, May was sending me emails, saying she missed me and talking about getting marriage, but, despite my feelings, I knew I didn't want to marry her. Finally, I sent a difficult email telling her just that, and that week, I met EunBong. After only two weeks, I knew I she was who I wanted to marry. I wondered if it was because of my trip but I didn't have a single doubt that she was the one. A year later, not only were we married, but we also had a two week old Fina!
There have been a few difficult times when I asked myself why I didn't run straight to the mountains and join a temple, but I couldn't imagine a world without Fina, now! Besides, the are a lot of important things one can learn through a committed relationship, and that's what the Dharma realm apparently thought was best for me. (At least, that's what my mind tells me!)