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Seoul Shock: A Temple Excursion


Seoul Shocker is Danielle Davidson’s firsthand experience with living abroad in Seoul, South Korea.

Jingwansa Temple was beautiful, and the staff was more than accommodating.

A few days ago, some other international students and I went on an excursion to the outskirts of Seoul, to a quaint little temple.

Right when we arrived, a woman approached us and began speaking to us in English. She took us inside the main room with its polished wood floors that gleamed like the sun and floor cushions neatly in a line. She smiled, buzzed around us talking about the temple and asked us if we’d eaten. We said no, and she delightedly took us downstairs..

Entering a large room with tables all around, she pointed at the seats and told us they would feed us. For free. They fed us for free? I’d never visited a more remote temple like this before, and felt a little bad about not doing anything for the meal.

We decided to eat everything she put in front of us as a sign of appreciation. The woman gave us a vegetarian meal of bean sprouts, greens, seaweed, pickled radish, rice and noodles. Before she left us to our food she asked us to wash the dishes when we were done. No problem. We would gladly wash the dishes.

After thanking her again, we dug in! There was one dish that looked a lot like grass, and none of us could think of what else it could be, but it was surprisingly delicious. It had a light sauce on it that gave it flavor, and we finished it off with the rest of the food. Setting our chopsticks aside when we were done, we stacked our bowls and took them to the sink.

One of us looked for a trash can while another found a rag and we were about to wash the plates when the woman appeared out of nowhere and took the dishes. She insisted on washing them for us, and when we protested she insisted.

We conceded and instead, looked for a rag to wipe the table, but she told us she would clean the table as well, and sent us off with a smile. The people at Jingwansa Temple were very kind, and even if we weren’t sure if we were eating grass or not, it was still delicious.