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Yesterday, I hiked Suraksan, my 27th mountain in Seoul. Like an idiot, I miscalculated the time, and ended up speeding down the mountain to beat the sunset. The remaining 10% of my hike was pitch black, and because it was a rocky stream, I lost the trail, was close to sheer panic, and was even closer to concussions, sprains, and—I wince thinking about this—death.

The top of Suraksan

The top of Suraksan

I stumbled over dry leaves and through sharp branches. Thank goodness for GPS and the flashlight on my phone. But most of all, thank goodness it was Buddha’s birthday, because the temple at the end of my hike had these glowing paper lanterns, helping me find my way.

Thank you, Buddha. Really.

Oh bless these monks.

On the way down, I vividly remember passing by two ajusshi on separate occasions. They didn’t look like they cared about the time. I really hope they made it back.

I am extremely grateful for well-kept traditions, modern technology, and friends who would come over to give you ice cream and remind you to hike smarter. I have 10 more mountains to go, you know.

Happy birthday, Buddha. And many, many thanks.

Growing up on dragon and lion dances during Chinese New Year, I love looking at the often modern footwear of these traditional practices. During this year’s Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul held the week before Buddha’s birthday, this dragon’s feet caught my eye:

Odd pair out

Odd pair out

Spot the colored ones in the middle!

This festival would be incomplete without lions frolicking about:

DSC05177

Besties.

Roar!

Roar!

In this year’s Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul a week before Buddha’s birthday, this lovely grandmother in a pink hanbok caught my eye.

I smiled. I waved. She waved back.

All smiles for Buddha!

All smiles for Buddha!

Happy (almost) Birthday, Buddha!