What It Meant To Me

14 09 2008

 

Tribute to Peace in Unification Park, Imjingak

Tribute to Peace in Unification Park, Imjingak

Last Sunday, those of us who traveled to South Korea reported out to our congregation on our trip. We were sent there on a mission to teach vacation bible school in English to 180+ children at a sister church in Seoul. After the 5-day program, we had a week to explore the city and travel to Jeju Island, the “Hawaii” of South Korea.

 

For this session, each of us was asked to talk about about what was most memorable about the trip and why. We were asked to think of the trip in terms of a journey or process of growth and/or exploration. 

Here were my thoughts. 

My journey actually began on August 3, 1980 when I and 25-30 other teenagers boarded a bus that took us from Pennsylvania to JFK airport to catch British Airways flight 177 to London Heathrow. We were part of a cultural exchange program sponsored by Rotary International.

My ultimate destination was a small town called Ramsbottom nestled in a valley just outside of Manchester in the north of England. During my 3-week visit, I stayed at the home of the president of the local Rotary Club experiencing life as he and his family lived it.

Tribute to Peace in Unification Park, Imjingak

Tribute to Peace in Unification Park, Imjingak

 

Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I had a rather sheltered childhood, learning about world cultures mostly through books – the kind without pictures. I was fascinated at how my English family was different and still the same as my family in so many ways. For me it was an eye-opening, life-changing experience that set me on a path of travel, discovery, and cultural exchange that has been a constant in my life ever since.

I’ve been very blessed. My journey has taken me throughout western Europe and Iceland and through the shanty towns in South Africa and Zambia and the farming villages of China. I’ve toured the fetid canals of Bangkok and the hillside tribe villages of northern Thailand where the main mode of transportation is the elephant. I even spent one New Year’s Eve in the tiny shack-like home of a family who lives in the mountainous region north of Tokyo, Japan.

Our recent trip to Seoul is yet another leg on what has become a life-long journey. What is most memorable to me about that trip are the same things that caught my attention 28 years ago in England — the ways in which we are the same despite the differences in our languages, customs, lifestyles, dress, foods.

 

Tribute to Peace, Unification Park, Imjingak

Tribute to Peace, Unification Park, Imjingak

Through my own experiences, I have come to believe that the path to world peace lies somewhere in cultural exchange and our willingness to step out of our own comfort zone to experience life through a different filter. Every time I’ve done that I’ve discovered that no matter what part of the world we live, the things that unite us far outnumber the things that make us different. 

I also believe that it is particularly important for our children and our youth to understand and experience this for themselves. It is my hope, maybe my dream, that by walking for a day, a week or two weeks in step with others from a different part of the world that they can gain the knowledge, compassion and empathy that it takes to make this world a safer, more peaceful place. 

Call me crazy, call me idealistic, call me naive if that suits you, but only AFTER you’ve told me what you’ve done lately to make the world a more peaceful place.

 

Friends in Seoul

Friends in Seoul

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Photos from Korea

11 08 2008
Mermaids of Jeju Island, South Korea 

 

Mermaids of Jeju Island, South Korea

 

After 10 hours of sorting and uploading, the bulk of my photos from my trip to Seoul are up on my smugmug page. I didn’t have time to edit much or add a lot of description, but you can get a view of our experience. The coolest photos, in my opinion, are the ones I snatched of the women who dive for fish and shellfish without scuba equipment. They are known as Haenyeo or Mermaids of Jeju. They train themselves to dive up to 20 meters below the surface without the use of any breathing apparatus. 

Sadly, they are an aging lot. I believe the average age of the remaining Haenyeo is 60+ years. Not enough young women are interested in taking up the dangerous profession. It takes guts to fend off sharks and subject your body to such demanding activity. 

The ladies I encountered on the way back to my hotel were a lively wizened crew. They chatted spiritedly among themselves as a photographer was setting up his gear. Although I couldn’t understand the language, I could tell they are a closely knit community. The tone and pace of their repartee reminded me of the Ya-Ya Sisters.

P.S. The reason these photos are so special to me is that I don’t believe the Haenyeo are a normal part of the tourist experience. I got up at 5:15 am one morning hoping to catch the sunrise on Jungmun beach near the Lotte Hotel. I was 20 minutes too late for that but right on time for the divers.





Kimchi This and Kimchi That

3 08 2008

So here in South Korea, you can eat just about everything with kimchi. Or, rather, kimchi is served with and in just about everything. I had kimchi dumplings for lunch today. Take your basic steamed dumpling and put kimchi in it and, voila! Kimchi dumplings. You get kimchi pancakes, kimchi in your noodle soup, kimchi eggs, kimchi casserole, roasted kimchi, boiled kimchi, cold kimchi, hot kimchi…you name it, it’s got kimchi. Although, I must confess that I have not had any kimchi cake or ice cream or candy…although I’m wondering now how a high quality 70% bittersweet chocolate would balance the spiciness of high quality kimchi in a chocolate truffle….hmmm, maybe something to try at home?





I Haven’t Met a Korean Food I Didn’t Like

1 08 2008

Wow. We’ve been eating so well here in Seoul. Traditional Korean cuisine is fast becoming my favorite of all time. The breadth and depth of the dishes is astonishing. Plus, I don’t think Koreans let any edible flora go to waste.

Tonight’s dinner was at a traditional Korean restaurant where everything, at least all the flora, served at the restaurant is produced ORGANICALLY within an hour’s drive of Seoul on a farm owned by the restauranteers. The menu included exotic delicasies such as cockscomb, bellflower, chickweed, violet, whitlow grass, shepherd’s purse, mulberry tree shoot, lily root, dandelion, common sow thistle, azalea, and hyssop.

I took notes and pictures, which I’ll post when I have better high speed access. For now, let me assure you that it was a fabulous meal, not in just the cuisine, but the presentation as well. We sat on the floor at low pine tables. All the food was served on custom hand made pottery which was stunningly beautiful. The walls were papered with traditional Korean paper which includes real flowers. The setting was rustic. We traversed a rutted dirt road, passing by lush vegetable plants loaded with eggplant, zucchini, onion, squash, etc.

Ahhhh…I was in epiciurean heaven…I think I’ll go to bed now and dream of kimchi.





Hello from Seoul!

30 07 2008

The endless feast goes on and on and on…this time in Seoul, South Korea. We arrived late Friday, July 25 and for 2 days felt totally jet-lagged. But did that stop us from eating? NO WAY!

Our hosts as Seshin Methodist Church have been nothing but generous and gracious. They began feeding us the minute we arrived from the airport. You can see the photos of the Welcome UVUC signs made from gummy bears purchased from none-other-than Costco. We felt right at home.

Our first dinner on Saturday night was at a sushi/korean/italian buffet bar…all you can eat sushi…say what??? Feast it was, and feast we did. The uni was great as was the octopus, squid and sea snails.

Our second dinner was at a traditional Korean restaurant where, as you can see in the photos, we sat on mats at low tables and were served a myriad of traditional dishes. You’ve got your acorn jelly, your seaweed, your re-hydrated shrimp, radishes, mushrooms, jelly fish, octopus, squid, tofu, barbecued pork and beef, and not to mention the kimchis- cabbage kimchi, white kimchi, whole radish kimchi, diced radish kimchi, cucumber kimchi…you can kimchi just about any vegetable as it turns out.

Dr. Kim was our gracious host. He made sure we went back to our apartment with bellies full enough to sleep off the jet lag.





In the Air Again…Er, On the Tarmac Again

1 07 2008

Well, being home was only short-lived. I flew to Dallas yesterday morning but was delayed and delayed and delayed. We pushed away from the gate at 6:45am on time, but that was the only thing that went smoothly. After taxiing toward the runway, we waited and waited only to find out that an on-board generator wasn’t working properly. We taxiied back to a gate and waited on the plane for maintenance to bring out a wiring diagram to see if they could isolate the problem…comforting, eh?

Then the pilot tells us that air traffic control in Newark experienced a radar outage. So, even with the generator restored, we had to wait an hour for a slot to take off. So much for being on time for that business meeting!

Just to make us feel great, as we’re still sitting on the same plane at a gate, the pilot tells us that the 8 am flight just took off. Now THAT’S torture! What was he thinking?

All in all I arrived in Dallas 3.5 hours behind schedule. Need I spell out that yesterday was a very long day?

But I’m happy to say I’m back in New Jersey once again. The return flight tonight left Dallas Fort Worth 10 minutes EARLY…will wonders NEVER cease??





Sunrise Over the Ocean at Long Beach Island

29 09 2007

Here are a series of photos that I took in August when I spent a few days on the Jersey shore on Long Beach Island. I hadn’t expected to get up to see the sunrise, but one of the guests included a 2-year old who’s clock didn’t switch over to a vacation pace. So I made the most of it…it was a glorious display of colors.  And, I haven’t seen the sun rise as elegantly in a while.