The other day, my school let me go home early, and when I got home, Matt was already there too. I wanted to spend our free afternoon picnicking in the park (you know, sitting and eating, two things I do really well), but Matt had other plans.
He convinced me (I still say tricked me) into taking a hike instead. He had noticed a trail that runs up one of the small mountains surrounding Gwangju, and wanted to check it out. The path was steep and winding, and most of the way we were surrounded by what looked like new-ish forrest (and a lot of bugs).
About a quarter of the way up, we came across this:
Beautifully kept graves, complete with fresh flowers and a bench for weary (or lazy, like me) travelers.
After some more convincing from Matt, I finally dragged myself a little further up the mountain. To our surprise, about halfway up the mountain we found this:
A gorgeous Buddhist monastery, in the middle of (seemingly) nowhere on a mountain. Sometimes Korea can be surprisingly beautiful, and this was one of those moments. Plus, there was an outdoor gym, where several older men were busy building up some muscle mass and sipping on the free water provided by the monastery.
(Side note: for those that don’t already know this, the symbol on the side of the building is the sign for Buddism, not a Nazi swastika. The Buddist symbol is shown at a slightly different angle than the Nazi version…small difference in appearance, huge difference in meaning.)
At this point I was ready to call it a day, but Matt begged me to go a little further. It wasn’t an easy task, but finally he convinced me to push through to the end…and I’m so glad we did because this is what we found:
Burial mounds and an awesome view of Gwangju.
So we of course did what was definitely the most culturally sensitive and appropriate thing to do at burial mounds…we jumped.
Despite my constant whining, I was actually really happy Matt made me see this hike through to the end. The fun we had at the top of the mountain and the views we enjoyed were worth giving up our picnic in the park, and are a testament to what a little exploration can yield. Sometimes I need a little reminder to get out of my comfort zone.