Hay-gyung’s friend and his sister arrived tonight, and he happens to speak Chinese fluently so he and Xiao are enjoying themselves. he seems really cool and speaks Chinese amazingly fast – but unfortunately speaks no English; its been interesting to hear Xiao speak in his native tongue. Xiao decided to take a ferry to china this Friday, so his time here is coming to an end. I am both saddened and relieved by this. the sunnims finally convinced him to shave his face and I have a feeling that if he stayed on any longer they’de convince him to shave his head too – it’s clear that they wish he’d become a monk and stay here. haha.
meanwhile, I’ve become accustomed to the rhythm here and if anything I hope to take that rhythmic comfort home with me and put it to use. we wake up every day at 7am for breakfast together then we work for awhile, I clean up my room, roll up my bed, brush my teeth, check my email and work on my lesson plan for the day. at 10am we pray together until 11ish in the Buddha hall. at 12 we have lunch together, then I finish my lesson plan, make copies and prepare the classroom. the kids arrive at 1:50, pray, and then we start. at 5 they leave, I take a break, we have dinner together at 6 and then lounge around and talk over tea/coffee. then I have free time, but I usually go to bed around 8 or 9 because I get so tired. this daily schedule is a welcome relief to the sporadic chaos I usually create in my life. I am looking forward to seeing if I can apply this comfort at home…
the morning sunrise is to die for-
enjoying my rock-like pillow and cozy floor bed –
my and Hay-gyung’s room (as well as any other women who happen to be staying overnight in the temple, this room can house at least 5 if i give up my wimpy habit of sleeping on the meditation cushons… haha….) –
the reality of a cold shower in a plastic bowl –
part of me is homesick. part of me is comfortable and satisfied. part of me despises sexism, namely; the obvious sexism demonstrated at the tables. I didn’t notice the seating prior to Xiao’s arrival, but it has become clear that the arrangement is regimented and structured. Kunsunnim and the other sunnims sit together at the first table, then the men that hang out around the temple or live here sit at the next table, and women sit at the last. my heart began spewing red flames when I realized that even though Xiao has no purpose here, his looks are unappealing to the monks (hair in the face and beard, until today..), and he’s a cultural idiot – he is more privileged and honored than I am because of his sex. so we have been talking of switching seats. I tried to sit next to Apa today, but was booted for Kunsunim’s older brother who is extremely quiet and seems to spend his time digging holes in random places around the temple. at dinner today Hay-gyung was asked to move down a seat to make one closer to the sunnims for a man who arrived late to dinner. I can’t stand this.
how can I enjoy this culture and revel in my newfound passion for Buddhism when so many aspects of both are tied to sexist, patriarchal traditions? should I suppress my American feminism? would this be a way of humbling myself? or should I call the shit, defy cultural norms, trade seats with Xiao and refuse to move?
wouldn’t that be interesting.
this realization of sexist traditions is not a new one for me. I definitely gained an understanding of it during my last semester here through the societal pressures, especially surrounding physical appearance. women are also discouraged from smoking, which causes closeters to resort to smoking in women’s bathrooms – everywhere. at bus stops, universities, national monuments, restaurants, and everywhere else I have visited there have been signs, sometimes obvious, like cigarette butts on the floor and ashes on the toilet, to just a lingering smell. this is just one ode to the discrimination. while I want to conform to this culture and break negative stereotypes of westerns, specifically Americans, I find it increasingly hard to suppress my hatred of sexist traditions and am feeling really fed up with it.
i’ve got to find a way to balance my passions with my desire to be culturally sensitive and seperate myself from some of my ideologies. so much harder than it sounds…