August 26th 2010
Karjam and I have a friend, a Buddhist nun, 연일 스님 Yeonil Seunim. We met her in Lhasa and she came to Lanzhou and met us and went to Ahwencang with us where she stayed for several days charming everyone. I was later able to meet her in Korea (just a couple months later). However the contact info we had for her no longer worked and we couldn’t find her. I thought I had a physical address in an old notebook, but couldn’t find it if so. At any rate when we were moving back to Korea Karjam insisted that we HAD to find Yeonil Seunim. So I put it on my list of things to do and first I called directly to the 조계종 Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism (which Yeonil belongs to) head office, they directed me to another office. I told them all the info I had and they kept saying “it’s going to be really hard to find her if that’s all you know.” That frustrated the heck out of me. If they meant impossible, they shouldn’t say really hard. Yeonil is her Buddhist name, and I don’t know her legal name, that’s part of the problem because even I know two Yeonil Seunim (one a monk). At any rate they weren’t going to be useful and I’d be a bad Buddhist if I started getting all pissy with them, so I tried to come up with another method to find her. First I tried to Naver (Google) a list of all the temples with nuns, or all of them in 충청 Chungcheong Province (I didn’t even know if it was north or south Chungcheong, I could only remember that her temple was in Chungcheong somewhere). This was rather frustrating. I tried a lot of keyword combinations, 여스님 woman+monk didn’t work at all and kept giving me results showing a famous monk who is called X+여스님, but 비구니 bhikkuni was not super helpful, either. At any rate I determined that there was one temple for sure (a large one and I suspected Yeonil was at a smaller place) that had nuns and I called a random number on the internet and explained the situation to whoever answered (I suspect a nun, but I don’t even know). She didn’t personally know any Yeonil Seunim but she told me to call her back the next day and she’d see if she could locate anyone that met my description (I knew rough age, her proclivity for travel and the fact that she observed the two periods of confinement and practice each year and did a lot of meditation (as opposed to those who study a lot of texts or those who work in administration).
The next day we left for Daegu. More than a year ago I was beset by benign positional vertigo (peaking on the day I threw up twice), now it appears I have it again. After arriving in Daegu I was too busy trying not to spin to remember to call the helpful woman (nun?) again, but my phone rang after 7. “You were supposed to call me back.” “Sorry I’ve been feeling sick.” “Well I found a Yeonil Seunim and it might be the one you’re looking for, want the number?” So I called Yeonil Seunim and just with me meekly saying “안녕하세요. 저는 연일 스님 찾고 있습니다.” “Hello. I’m looking for Yeonil Seunim.” She already knew it was me. We had a really awesome talk, and will meet up soon in Seoul, as the summer seclusionary period has just ended. “I love you both, you know that, right?” She told me.
I went to meet old friends 정호 Jeongho and 수연 Suyeon .
I had dinner with Jeongho.
I had coffee with Suyeon
On the way back to Georgy's house a former student when I taught at Suseong Girls' Middle School approached me, and we had a nice talk on the subway (she rode all the way to Georgy and Jinhong's stop in order to have a good chat).
I took this photo of 보경 Bogyeong, my former student, on Karjam's camera: