I am wandering.
How long has it been since I was able to get lost and wander streets, enjoying a journey with a vague idea of a destination?
Too long. So long I now consider getting lost a luxury. A luxury on my schools founding day I was able to indulge in for the first time since arriving in Korea a month ago.
The bus let me off 15min from Yuldalsan in Mokpo. Orientating my self towards the mountain I took off at a fast pace determined to reach the peak.
An up hill climb slowed me as the murals of artist way came into view. Several blocks filled with painters from around the world and Korea among several works of fun and beauty. What stopped me there was a bench with two statues in front of a temple. Oh, I though what artist was this!
Bopjeyong born Park Jae Cheo. Born in a time (1932) when Japanese Buddhist tried to destroy many traditions of Korean Buddhism Bopjeyong begun to hear his calling at this Japanese temple on Artist way. He became one of Koreas most prevalent Buddhist writers of the Jogye order. This order fought for the revival of Korea Buddhism after the Japanese forced their beliefs on Koreans almost erasing Korean Buddhism completely.
It struck me, Buddhist can be violent too.
With that thought in mind I headed on my way up the hill winding to the left where I finally reach the park to begin my hike to Mokpo’s peak.
Do I turn right and head up direct or do I turn left and see what’s around those rocks.
I turn left. I wander past the tourist kiosk around the rocks and up some stairs and there I see it. The Bell of Peace under a beautiful pergola, a sight that I could not fully appreciate till further up the peak.
Reaching the end of this path I turn back around past the Kiosk up the steps to Admiral Yi Sunsin’s statue. A national Hero who won a great battle by scaring away Japanese troupes by staking hay on the rocks around the city making it appear that the Korean army was vast in numbers.
Further I wandered past a few more Pergolas overlooking the city and the sea till I found a canon, a replica at least. Set on stone displaying how Japan changed Korean time with this Noon day cannon replacing Koreas one of old. The noon day canon no longer marked lunch time in Korean time (central standard) but in Japanese time with changed twice during the occupation from an hour to 30 min ahead of Korean time. This is why the peace bell was cast allowing Mokpo to heal bringing their traditions back while welcoming the “English” Americans? whom they felt were their liberators.
As I wandered further I though colonialism even changes the time of day.
Not too far further, the shrill of sorrow hits your ears, bringing a message of resilience and resistance through censorship. Lee Nan-Young sings The Tears of Mokpo begging you to weep while her people stand tall.
Around the next bend and up the endless stairs I go. Thinking this has been enough to stop now is ok as I will my self further towards the next view. There in the mountain side I see a Buddha carved excited to gaze upon a piece of history Pre-occupation. There I was wrong yet again. The Japanese carved into stone a Buddha in their image amongst temples and the pagodas that have called these peaks home.
The destruction of colonialism is on my mind as I will my self up the 43rd flight of stairs that day.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten. breath. I count, over and over again, as I push my self to reach the top of the mountain that I had given up on earlier that day. Yes, I am out of shape but the sights and history filled me to the brim with satisfaction and contemplation. I had simply been ok stopping 20 flights ago but on I went to the top. To the view of the surrounding islands, mountains, and city that was simply spectacular.
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