Saturday, October 30, 2010

Seoul, Halloween, Soccer, and Chrysanthemums

Another blog that details many different experiences.

Katie, Becky, Simon, Haejung and I took our first visit to Seoul this past weekend. We didn't have Korean language class on Friday, so early Friday morning we took the bullet train the hour north to Seoul. We met with many people from the PC(USA) mission and the PC (Korea) church, as well as the Woman Ministers' Association. We found out about some really awesome work that is going on, and are optimistic about being able to help. We also met the other 4 PC(USA) missionaries in Korea for a delicious meal. Then, it was time for some sightseeing.

A. Namdaemun (South Gate)
Ancient Seoul was surrounded by walls and accessed through 4 major gates. The primary gate was the South Gate, and all visiting dignitaries and the king used this gate. It was a hub of Seoul for many years, and, even after the walls were torn down at the turn of the 1900s, the Namdemun remained National Treasure #1. That is, until it was burned down in 2008. Now, there is a huge restoration project to restore the gate to its original form (it was built in the 1300s and underwent many changes since then, including damage sustained under Japanese occupation and the Korean war). We took a tour of the restoration work, and it was fascinating!
What the gate used to look like.
The foundation of the gate, which is all that remains now. 90% of the foundation survived the fire (though almost all the rest of the gate was destroyed since it was wooden).
The 2008 fire and aftermath.
Blocks waiting to be put together to form a wall as part of the restoration work.

With Haejung waiting to go on the tour.
B. Namdemun Shijang
Around the gate there is a huge, intriguing market. However, all I purchased was a bag of dried apricots.
C. Seoul was MUCH more Westernized than Daejeon. I was so amazed at some of the restaurants there. On one corner we saw a Starbucks flanked by a three-story Dunkin Doughnuts!
D. Gyeongbuk Palace
I had already visited this place two years ago, but it is still neat. It is not the original original, since the Japanese did so much damage to historical Korea (meaning destroy it), but still neat. It is surrounded by four mountains, named after the blue dragon, red peacock, white tiger, and black turtle (please notice that these are the colors of the Korean flag). Also, there are many many stone and carved animals around the palace designed to protect it. Too bad they weren't effective at staving off a slew of conquerers, but it does make for an impressive palace. We got an English-speaking tour guide and got to see the changing of the guards (which I think was different than the last time I was here).
Front gate.
Throne room.
Changing of the guard.
And this was the hotel where we stayed. On those mats. On the (heated!) floor.

With last week being Halloween, I tried to introduce the concept to Seomna Center. My friend Kristin donated some old Halloween costumes, and it was a blast to see the kids (and teachers) dress up as pirates, knights, firemen, and mishmashes of them all. I also made them trick or treat for candy. I am pretty sure that most of the concepts were lost in translation, but I had fun and got some great pictures anyway. Happy Halloween!
The middle school class and teachers.

Some Halloween coloring with the first graders.


Daejeon has a professional soccer team, the Daejeon Citizen. So, last week my friend Mike and I ventured out to a Citizen's game. The team is in the lower third of the Korean league standings, and this is very late in the season. So, the crowd was sparse to say the least. And the funniest thing was that this was a huge stadium! It is a World Cup stadium, constructed for the 2002 Cup cohosted by Korea and Japan. And it was basically empty. The crowd consisted of mainly inebriated men and children. And the concession stand sold only Ramen noodles and dried fish. It was awesome. The Daejeon team lost, but I will be ready to cheer them on at the beginning of next season when there is hopefully some more energy and warmer weather.

Check out the Ramen noodles!
Monday our Korean language class went with two of our teachers to a chrysanthemum festival close to Daejeon. It was beautiful (if a bit funny because a town basically converts itself into a fair grounds) and a nice bonding experience with our class. Definitely better than sitting inside and studying for four hours.

Not sure why the cow was there.
Teaching continues. I am not a very good teacher, but I try. I am so grateful to all my students and the teachers and everyone at the Seomna Center for being so patient with me. And they provide yummy snacks every day at 3. Have eaten some new delicious foods which I am eager to show off to Brandon. Still not entirely sure precisely why I have been called to be here, but still feel as if I am in the right place. Thanks for everyone's continued support!

1 comment:

  1. Very cool and very beautiful and fun! i hope it continues to go well!