One of the great things about running a website about Korean Buddhist temples is that you get to meet a lot of amazing people. And a lot of these amazing people have varying backgrounds, interests, and insights. Rather amazingly, some of these people first visited Korea in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Here are their stories!
Q1: Where are you originally from? Introduce yourself a little.
A: I was born in Freeport, TX. I moved every year of my life around the U.S. Bill was born in Okinawa. He went to Korea in 1966.
Q2: When and why did you first come to Korea?
A: I was 12 when we moved to Seoul in the summer of 1968. We lived in Bay St. Louis, MS. I remember running down the street to my math teacher’s house, Mrs. Ramsey, squealing that I was moving to South Korea! I was thrilled before we even got there. I was in the deep south during the civil rights movements, lost my best friend, had crosses burned in our yard, my friends said you will probably marry a slanty eyed boy (racism)… well I did! My dad worked for the U.S. government, a petroleum specialist. He worked jointly with the U.S. & R.O.K. Airforce. We lived there 6 years, for my entire junior and high school experience, but I know I went to Korea to meet my Seoulmate, Bill Krause! Bill’s dad was in the war in Okinawa, stayed after the war, started a contracting company and rebuilt much of Southeast Asia. He was an invited contractor to Korea.
Q3: When you first came to Korea what city did you live in? Did you subsequently move around?
A: Seoul! We stayed in the U.N. Village, Hannam-dong. Upon our arrival, we stayed at Walker Hill Resort. We lived off base but went to Seoul American High School. Bill lived in New Itaewon up on Namsan!
Q4: What was the first temple you visited in Korea?
A: All the temples and palaces in Seoul. Immediate travel to many areas in Korea with the T.C.C. Club [Travel and Culture Club] in our high school. Bopjusa [Beopjusa Temple], Haeinsa [Temple], Kyongju [Gyeongju], Kwangju [Gwangju] areas, Pusan [Busan], Cheju-do [Jeju-do], all over. When I was a little older, we took off on our own, Bill and I and friends.
Q5: What drew your interest to Korean Buddhist temples?
A: Growing up all over the U.S., camping and nature were always my peace in a dysfunctional family! I found peace and knew holiness was not small and confined in a church.
Q6: What is your favorite temple? Why?
A: Exactly. Why would one have a favorite? HA! Feelings and experiences for me. Bill’s first love was photography, so thankful he captured much of this time period!
Q7: What temple or hermitage has changed the most from when you first got here? What has changed about it?
A: As I see your amazing travel and documenting of temples, I see many changes. In our days, we could freely go in, be welcomed to stay in the old rooms with floor heating. We did not worry about things like carbon monoxide poisoning, etc., and we always ended up in the kitchen. We shared whatever we had in our backpacks, which were heavy military packs, not this lightweight stuff! We were young foreign diplomats in many ways. Those days we would be so remote, Bill’s long hair, we were the Beatle’s to some!
Q8: What was the most difficult temple to get to? How did you get there?
A: Pyochungsa [Temple]! Back then, no roads! A small group went there together in the spring of 1973. Bill went with a friend and traveled to remote places, as this was their senior year and he would be graduating from SAHS [Seoul American High School]. We took trains and buses from Seoul. The bus literally crossed rivers and we landed in a village outside of temple. It seemed monks in training were there, as well as some students studying. We stayed days and a forest fire happened. No water or fire trucks, we were all on the mountain using everything we could to put the fire out. Truly life enriching experiences. I met Beop (a Buddhist monk) there and would love to find him. He must be at a temple someplace!
Later that year, 1973, Bill graduated and moved to college in Port Angeles, WA. We were and still are soulmates. A friend and I did an independent study in our Korean Culture class, we were seniors. We chose Pyochungsa [Temple]. We went alone and found our way and stayed. Beop greeted us; and yes, we ended up in the kitchen. We hiked all over, did the least amount of schoolwork as possible! On this occasion we joined in all chants and meditations. We went up high above the main temple, where the deep meditative place was. We knew we were amongst holiness. I did not like rice, I would sneak my bowl to hide in the mountains. I just know they probably knew this. Then, rice had to be mixed with beans as rationed or food shortages. Hard to verbalize this experience. We passed our class and this friend and I graduated in Jan., 1974 and went to be with Bill. I gave Beop a native American necklace that I was wearing.
Q9: Did you remain in Korea or did you return home?
A: I left Korea, Jan., 1974. I graduated from high school. Bill and I returned in the fall of 1981 on a tour. His parents still lived in Namsan. I have not been back. We hope to go again, especially being in Okinawa temporarily. We now live in Tehachapi, CA. There is a beautiful Korean temple, Taegosa [Temple] (Mountain Spirit Center) just down the road. It seems it was built just for us outside of our little town!