Tag Archives: south korea

Hi Buddha. I’m James. Happy birthday.

May 10th this year was the 8th day of the 4th month in the Chinese calendar: the birthday of Siddhartha. It is a holiday in South Korea where I spent a year absorbing Korean culture into my identity, so I decided to honour the holiday by performing 108 bows to Buddha, refraining from killing anything (even bugs), eating completely vegetarian meals, and eating every last grain of rice from those meals. I had hoped for a sunny day so that I could go to a park and bow in front of the small statue of Buddha I keep on my desk, but I live in Halifax. So it rained.

A quick Google search led me to the Shambhala Temple where the bemused secretary (after telling me about the temple’s free meditation lessons) said that I could use the Buddha in the lobby if I wanted. They did not have a full statue (and I did not expect them to), so I began in the lobby, thumping my knees into the linoleum floor until the next secretary on a shift change suggested that I use one of the shrine rooms.  She told me that I could light candles and incense and close the door. It was all mine. Continue reading


Daily Poem 14: Korean Form

The Form of Education in Korea

Excessive expectations nullify education

Whenever examiners utilise categories:

Ostracised philosophical understanding abdicates.

A student drew this picture of me on the back of her exam... Bonus marks!

This  poetic exercise is written in a traditional Korean form based on syllables.  In Hangul, each line has four words composed of a specific number of characters each (every character is one syllable):

3 4 3 4

3 4 3 4

3 5 4 3

When my students first told me about this form, I thought it would be difficult to use in English because of the excess of monosyllabic words, but with a quick brainstorming session of related polysyllabic adjectives, nouns, and present tense verbs the poem did not take long to write at all.

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