A Birthday in Korea is...

A birthday in Korea is different, to say the least. For the actual day I went to the monthly cultural event at Hongbeop-Sa Temple, about 5 minutes from the Nopodong subway station. Hongbeop-Sa is the first modern Buddhist temple that I'd ever visited but it was surprisingly beautiful, if very different from its ancient counterparts. The program consisted of a free lunch (bibimbap), a talk on Dharma and Buddhism and a traditional Korean calligraphy class.
The pile of shoes outside of the lunch room door. Not sure where they put them when it rains...

Golden hand in front of the main entrance. I was told while visiting another temple that gold is very good for luck. ~shrug~
Light your incense here! Very pretty grounds except for the areas that were all dug up (like the background of this picture) for planting or something. 
These trees amused me to no end. I wonder if trimming them is some sort of meditative practice or if they have some deeper significance. Maybe it's just aesthetic. 
Happy Buddhas!
Fish! I think they get fed often because the second they noticed me checking them out near the water's edge they swam straight over to say hello. 
Purdy lanterns. 
Inside of the temple. During the Q and A I asked about the iconography of the 3 big Buddhas. The translator for the abbot said that it meant essentially that "you are the hero of yourself, you decide what to see, hear and say." However, another expat said that he had been told at a temple in Nepal that told him it meant 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak  no evil.' The latter sounds familiar though it could be argued that both have similar messages. In any case, it's an interesting set of images. 
I love ceiling pictures in temples. But we knew that already...
The beautiful juxtaposition of traditional life and modernity.
How many people does it take to give Starfish ink?
While we labored away with our Korean characters, the monk next to us made a happy English drawing. It was hilarious and he laughed when he showed it to us too. I like monks with a sense of humor. 
The elusive adventurer, caught on camera! (Well, elusive according to my mother, who never seems to have quite enough photos of me.)
Look at the happy birthday girl! I wrote happiness (heng bok) twice, signed my name (al-leck-su), and stamped it with little Buddha stamps. Very pretty. I'm  not artistic in the slightest but it was fun and it was about on par with the quality of my peer's work.

Definitely a fantastic, if slightly unusual way to spend my birthday.