Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Japan 2

Well, 2 main points for today...

- sushi is not as bad as I thought it was and
- being covered in Korean mosquito bites is not as fun as everyone says it is (ok, so no one has really told me that being attacked by Korean mosquitos is fun, but now I know personally that it is not)

Last night the Rev. Dr. Kim-chi told us that he would take us to the fish market (world famous) in the morning if we wanted to. Not everyone wanted to go, but four of us were adventerous and took the plunge. We dragged our sorry butts out of bed and walked out the door just after 6am. It took us a while to get the subway figured out, but a kind soul who could handle the small amount of Japanese that PK could speak and led us right to the fish market. The woman who runs the place which we are staying joked that you could get off of the subway and follow your nose which was very true!! The second you stepped off of the subway train the aroma of fish filled your nose. The thing was that this fish didn't smell bad. Most Americans haven't ever smelled real fresh fish. It does not smell bad at all. On our way to the fish market we passed a few Shinto shrines. Some are so small along the roads that you would not even know they existed if you did not know what you were looking for. I have always enjoyed learning about Shinto, and it is neat to have enough background to not have to ask questions, but to just know about it. When we arrived at the market and it was pretty destitute. Apparently arriving at 6:45 is late, and all the fresh fish have sold out. We were lucky, however, and found one restaraunt that had the day's catch still available. We ordered a bunch of tuna sushi and enjoyed it in community. I even ate one whole piece!! The journey back to the house was amongst the commuter rush, so it was pretty crowded. There were not many women on the subway, and I felt a bit out of place.

We got back and just tooled around the house for a bit. The only thing on the agenda for the day was a bus tour of Tokyo. We took the Japan Rail (JR) to the bus stop and just spent some time in the area shopping and looking for food that was relatively cheap. We don't quite have the hang of the yen, and the dollar is weak to the yen, so it is hard to do mental math. I luckily found some sort of gel for my mosquito bites, and that kept me from itching too much during the day. It is hard to communicate with a pharmacist when you don't speak the same language. It makes me wonder how frustrated people in the U.S. who don't speak English are pushed around and shown anger by those who do speak English... hm...

The bus tour didn't consist of a whole lot except for going to the Sensoji Buddhist Temple. The area is world famous for the shopping strip right in front of the temple. It was quite the site. I can't wait to post pictures of it. Again, I was thankful for all the studying I have done in the area of Buddhism. Even my very basic knowledge saved me a lot of confusion and question asking when we walked around the temple. It was an absolutely gorgeous space. The thing I will remember most is the people gathered around the incense bowl at the foot of the steps waving their arms to cover themselves in the smell of that incense. As you walked up the steps you could smell it from the people, and it was a handsome smell, just like the handsome temple that I was walking into. I wish I would have had more time to soak it all in, but as we were on a tour we didn't have a whole lot. I did finish my souvenir shopping, and headed back to the bus.

The evening was pretty uneventful. For frugality's sake, we ate at McDonald's and headed back to the house. As we journeyed back, the physical limits of the group were tested. There are some on the group that are not able to walk long distances and do stairs with ease, and so we were always scoping for shorter routes, elevators, and escalators. It really slowed the group down, and we were all forced to understand the needs of the group as a whole instead of just our own.

After we had taken the JR back a few stops, we put those who were tired in a cab and strolled our way back to the house through Harajuku. It seems strange to just say that so casually. It is true that the district is a fashion capital. We passed all sorts of designer stores: Fendi, D&G, Burberry, Dior, Cartier, and so many more. The people in the area are all dressed like they have lived in Harajuku their whole lives. I felt very underdressed. Though the people are so fashionable, I have been pleased to see that many more women wear tennis shoes/flats here. Coming from Korea, the land of spike heels, it was good to see people who value the look of their feet barefoot over how their outfit looks as a whole. Seeing the women wearing heels makes me think of all of the blisters, hammer toes, and bunyons in the future for these women. Japanese podiatrists may want to move to S. Korea ;) Also, there are many more "Westerners" here than in Seoul. It has been nice to hear a bit more English, although certainly not necessary.

Folks are tiring easily here now. A few people feel under the weather, and some (ok, not some, just me) are itchy. I am going to go to bed on the hard floor and be thankful that I have the opportunity to be on such a trip and to have a roof over my head in this interesting and lively city.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Japan 1

It is with great pleasure that I write a blog that is current and does not need back dated!

Today was our last time in Korea. We were bid farewell by many of the pastors of Bupyeong Church and were accompanied to the airport by Peter and James. None of us want to leave the two of them, but we were comforted by the hope of their visit to the U.S. Now we just have to make it happen.

As we got nearer to going through security, one of the women on our trip decided that a minor condition she had been experiencing was bad enough to visit the urgent care in the airport. The visit was only $12, and she got the medication that she needed, but she was warned that if the condition does not improve, she will not be permitted to re-enter the United States. That is a bit scary.

We all spent the last of our won on candy and waited at the gate for flight. Though the flight itself was turbulent, I got upgraded along with four others from our group to economy plus (not very exciting in the grand scheme of things, but since I was the only one who didn't get bumped up to first class on that same flight into Korea, I felt justified). We knew when we got on the plane that the health questionaire would happen, but the Japanese government means business with this H1N1 thing. They pulled a few members of our group for random extra paperwork. We all made it through the quarantine and customs, and after a long wait, the purchase of bus and rail tickets, the exchange of money (won and dollars to yen), we set out for Tokyo via bus. It was good to see coastline that was not lined with barbed wire. It is strange to think that we are only a two hour flight from Korea and the political tension is so much less.

A 1.5 hour bus ride and a CRAZY taxi trip took us to our home for the next few days, the Methodist Missionary Center in Tokyo. All of the women (8) are sleeping in one room, mostly on traditional Japanese mat-type beds. We'll see if I can walk in the morning! We grabbed a quick bit, spent some time de-briefing from Korea, and relaxed.

It is off to bed. I am tired, but excited to be in Japan. Garrett asked me if I was ready to come home. Earlier in the day I would have said yes, but now I am not so sure. I miss him and my Loler, but I am refreshed by the change of scenery.

South Korea 13

June 8

I felt remarkably refreshed in the morning. My solitude must have paid off. After breakfast we set out to enjoy our last full day in Korea.

Pastor James told us that Rev. Peter was "in poor condition." While we have all enjoyed his devotion to hospitality, it is a real reminder of the importance of self care while in vocational ministry.

Pastor James bravely leads us for the day. The first stop was the Samsung Center where we got to experience some of the newest technologly that Samsung has developed recently. The most noteable was the "fingerthin" 60" LCD TV. man, that would be a souvenir for Garrett! Our next stop was to the market. We had won in hand and were ready to spend. We were told that this was a tourist market, but i did not see very many tourists outside of our group. I just cannot picture myself shopping in this setting on a regular basis. I did, however, getting even better at bartering. I ended up making deals for half of our group because they were too timid to push the vendors. Imagine me, the aggressive shopper. Garrett probably wouldn't believe that at all. I am too much of a people pleaser normally to be good at bartering.

The market was so busy that I felt like my introverted evening the night before was immediately washed away in the crowd. Also in the crowd were men who had deformed and missing appendages (mainly legs) who would crawl around on the ground with boomboxes on wheels looking for money. Whenever someone would step over them or onto them, they would just grunt a little and keep moving. It was an interesting site. I wonder if they are being "pimped" for their deformaties.

I got all of my souvenirs from Korea, and only had about 1,000 won left. It was a good hour of shopping. We came back, had a quick rest, and then were taken out by Peter and James for our "last supper." We ate on the upper deck of a restaraunt and enjoyed traditional Korean food with our Korean friends. We laughed a lot, reminisced about our time in Korea, and did not want to go back for the "final lecture" at church. We were happily suprised when Peter told us that instead he was going to treat us to an evening at the traditional Korean sauna instead!

What an experience the sauna was! Let me be frank for a minute. I turned the corner into the locker room and was taken aback by all of the nakedness in the ladies' locker room. It was quite shocking!! The ladies of the group changed into the shorts and t-shirts provided by the sauna and met up with the gents for some sweating time. We entered the first of three heat rooms. This one was 64 degrees celcius. The room was painted on the inside like a pyramid, and half of the floor was a rock pit. Some of us put our feet into the rocks while sitting on a step, not being very adventurous. The others sat on the mat on the floor and played jacks with Peter. As we all chatted, a women came in and dug herself a pit in the scorching rocks and just laid down. Three of us were brave enough to take the plunge and lay in the rocks. It was intense, but so relaxing.

After each session in the heat room, we took a quick trip to the igloo. This is seriously a real igloo in the middle of a spa. I had to remind myself not to lean against the walls for fear that my back would stick to them. We worked our way up to the highest heat room, the 85 degrees celcius room (194 degrees F). We (for time's sake) didn't stay in long, but it was so worth it. After leaving the heat room, we decided to go Korean style and take a dip into a few of the various hot tubs. These tubs are separate for men and women, as it is traditional to go nude. It was fun to let the inhibitions go within our group, but it was awkward to be the naked Americans in a spa full of Korean women. For me, the challenge was getting looked at because I had tattoos. There was only one other women in the room with a tattoo. The rest of the experience I will not write about, as it is too personal for public eyes ;)

It was a great close to a great time with our friends at Bupyeong Church. We exchanged gifts with Peter and James and called it a night. I think we all slept a little more relaxed that night.

South Korea 12

June 7

I slept well on Ok-Jin's bed. I would be lying if I said that I wnated to sleep on the floor like I argued the night before. Her mother made me breakfast and apologized for it being so simple. Her apologies were not necessary and i did my best to tell her that. Let me just say that bathrooms in homes are very different. There was not a shower, but there were so many buttons on the toilet that I didn't know what to do with them all!

Upon returning to church we got a tour of the Sunday School classes/parking garage/choirs/orchestra spaces.

Starting with parking... only one thing... the older tower of the church can hold 34 cars. It is like a dry cleaning rail! You drive your car in, get out, and a button gets pushed and the cars go around almost as though they are on a ferris wheel. When you are through with church, you just push the button and the device brings your car down to you. NUTS!

Music... there are so many musicians in this church! There is an organ in the choir practice room and the conductor (yes, I said conductor) wears tails in the service!! All of the hymns are accompanied by a full orchestra. In the evening service the Angelos kids choir sang.

Now for Sunday school... Their program makes me reflect again on vision. An elder told us a story while we were walking to the Sunday school building. This story is about the landscape of the church. The pastor had a vision of a tree in a place that the contractor did not recommend. The pastor did not know why, but he fought for this tree so much that the contractor eventually quit. The tree went in, and when a worker fell from the scaffolding, he landed on the tree instead of the concrete. He broke four ribs, but had the tree not been there he probably would have died. The tree is still there and is called "the Tree of Life."

I guess I was going to write about Sunday school and haven't yet. We knew that the program was huge, but we did not know how intentional it was. The main office monitors attendance but not just for record's sake. If a student does not come, the call, email, and visit until they have understood (and hopefully solved) the problem. They also are prayer centered. They have many bulletin boards that remind people to pray for and evangelize to certain places (schools, etc.) and people. This ministry takes evangelism seriously. They are not scared to do it! I feel as though churches in the U.S. focus on outreach that they hope will turn into evangelism, where this church intentionally evangelizes. I must admit that I am a bit frightened of blatant evangelism. I think that is because I have only seen empty evangelism. Empty evangelism is evangelism that ends at salvation. Not Bupyeong Church! They evangelize and then support those who come to church. And if you stop coming? They will email, call, and visit. My mega-church reservations are slowly dissolving in this church. The numbers here are a testament to the faithfulness to a God who calls us to make disciples.

We attended the late morning service and I am still completely in awe of the scale. A full orchestra is mind blowing. The church is a fine tuned machine! In spite of it all, one strange thing happened after the service. Our entire group stood at the back of the narthex so that the congregation could welcome us. I had two male classmates on either side of me. A gentleman greeting the guy to my right, shaking his hand and exchanging pleasantries, and when I extended my hand to greet him, he passed right by me without acknowledging my presence. he then greeted the guy on my left in the same cordial manner in which he greeted the first male classmate. I have spent a lot of time wondering if this is a cultural thing, as it was an isolated incident or if it was indeed a matter of choice by that man. The guys seem to think it is cultural. I am not so sure...

After the service and a fabulous lunch, we heard the testament of one of the church's elders. Through his amazing testimony, one thing was abundantly clear. He (along with all the members of Bupyeong Church) believes in the faithfulness of God and the power of prayer. Some classmates and I had a long conversation after this testimony. Here are the cliffnotes...

- Why are American churches (in general) so scared of evangelism? Because we are so afraid of offending or putting people off. The people here, despite their quiet and polite nature are not afraid to boast of Jesus.

- Why were we taught in school not to pray for miracles? These people pray for miracles and they happen. Ask and you shall receive.
- No matter how great the shepherd, only sheep can produce sheep. This church has empowered the lay people to make disciples and it has obviously worked.

The evening was relaxed, with another service. The children's chorus sang, which was the highlight for me. The message was about the keys to happiness. During the message, ment were encouraged to step up and be the heads of their households, and this made me revisit the incident from earlier in the day . I cannot figure out the gender dynamics of this church (and this culture).

Later in the evening most of the group went to play basketball with pastor James, but I stayed back. My limits were being tested socially and I needed to just exist in solitude for a bit. After writing and washing some clothes in the sink I hit the sack before my roommate got home. I didn't want to speak to people, so I enjoyed letting the music (via my ipod) speak to me until I drifted off.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

South Korea 11

(still June 6)

With my overnight things in hand I headed to the lobby. There i met my host, Cho Ok-Jin. She was shy about using her English but told me that her brother would join us. We headed out with some of my classmates and their hosts to explore the Bupyeong area of Incheon. We had fun having coffee, eating dinner, making fans, taking pictures, and chatting. Talking with Ok-Jin and her brother, was intersting. Ok-Jin is 27 years old (Korean age), and her brother is five years older. They were suprised to hear that I was married at 23. I was even more suprised to hear that they live with their parents. in my experience, young people who live in cities live with roommates or by themselves. We all enjoyed comparing our cultures and experiencing theirs. One of my classmates and his host seem to be hitting it off and Ok-Jin and I joke that they would make a cute couple. This sparked discussion (again) of relationships and culture. Both Ok-Jin and her brother want to marry Koreans and he explained to me that it is not because of family pressure but because, though he speaks English well, he expresses himself best in Korean. He told me that he did not want to marry someone who would not experience the fullness of his love because of his limited language. Here I had thought (after meeting a Korean girl who is dating an African-American guy and worries about what her family will say when she tells them that they want to get married) that secretly all Koreans want to marry someone who is not Korean but choose not to because of the old people. What a poor assumption on my part. Americans don't know what having a national identity is all about. Our country is so young and we are currently such a mixture of people that we have very little history in common with our fellow American in comparison to the rest of the world, especially the Korean people. Why do some South Koreans want to be reunited with North Koreans, no matter how hard or far-fetched the idea may seem? Because to be divided means a severed sense of identity. To not share all of their hostory with the North Koreans is breaking the hearts of many South Korean people. I wish I could experience such strong roots.

moving on...

The young adult service in the evening was better attended than I ever imagined. They had over 250 people at their Saturday service! This group showered us with gifts, love, prayers, and acceptance. more Korean hospitality! It never ends...

After a very long (but fulfilling day) Ok-Jin and I reached her house. All the way there she kept telling her brother to take my bag for me. I wouldn't let him, but the effort was kind and a bit humorous. When we arrived, her father was still at work and her mother was out with an old friend, and so she and I shared pictures. I showed her a picture of Garrett, my dad, my brother, and I at my wedding. She then showed me a picture of her parents at their wedding 34 years ago. This picture is gorgeous with the newly married couple dressed in traditional Korean attire. I asked if they (Ok-Jin and her brother) if they wanted to wear traditional Korean attire at their weddings, and they both answered yes. They told me that the younger generation will have the wedding wearing traditional attire and then go to the reception wearing Western wedding attire, or vice versa. It is just another example of how the traditional Korean culture can be maintained while still moving forward. It is a balance that amazes me.

After a glass of corn silk tea, I hit the sack. I was wiped!! As a special treat, Ok-Jin treated me to a serenade. She sang and strummed her guitar while sitting cross-legged on her blankets while I sat in her bed. She would not let me sleep on the floor, no matter how hard I fought. I really think that if you look up hospitality in the dictionary you will find a picture of a kind Korean face in the margin.

South Korea 10

June 6

Our wake up call sounded at 4:40 a.m. We had already been up for 40 minutes by then but the beautiful music over the intercom was not unwelcome. I was not excited to be up this early. Traveling is tiring, and I was truly exhausted. Little did I know how worth it being up that early would be. The first thing that astounded me was how many people came. The bottom level of the sanctuary was more than sparsely filled. Over 500 people were in attendance. As we walked in, we saw many people in deep and honest prayer already. I guess that they had been there quite a while. After a few hymns and scripture readings, they began to pray. They start praying by shouting (in Korean), "Lord! Lord! Lord!" They then pray out loud and all at once. There is name for this prayer that I know how to pronounce but not to spell. The music in the background is not mild and quiet, but full of energy and the spirit. It matches the prayer. The musician plays until 6 a.m. so that those praying can tell time by the music, but the faithful do not stop praying at 5. They pray until they are done praying. What a beautiful experience to be a part of.

We boarded the bus to Gangwha island shortly after. While we were all tired, few of us slept because we reflected on the morning. It was great to see green after being in cities for a few days. I really am a small town girl... For every cornfield in Ohio there is a rice paddy on Gangwha island. They are neat to see.

Our first stop was an Anglican chuch which was built in the traditional Korean style. Before walking in (like many places in Korea) you take off your shoes. It was a testament to the Korean Christians and their unique balance. They seem to balance their ancient culture to their religion which is so relatively new. We also visited the first Methodist church on the island, but before we got there we were randomly stopped by soldiers at a checkpoint. The sea on the North side of the island is so narrow that Gangwha is easily accesible from North Korea, and though the banks of Gangwha are lined with barbed wire (as are many coastlines and riverbeds in northern South Korea) and guarded by soldiers it is still a vulnerable spot. It was a harsh reminder that the beautiful, peacefull, free people of South Korea are (rightfully) always on guard.

We left the island and had lun with Rev. Lee's mother and the mother of a Korean classmate of mine at MTSO. It is a small world! Over lunch we discussed our trepidation regarding the homestay that was to come upon our return to Bupyeong Methodist Church.

South Korea 9

June 5

I was not upset to leave Seoul. While I enjoyed my time there, it was too busy for me. The population of Seoul is so large, and there are always tons of people out and about. While I consider myself an extrovert, my limits were tested. When I would get back to my room at the ened of the day I would hardly speak to my roommate.

We were picked up by the Pastor of Mission and Music of Bupyeong Methodist Church and an intern pastor (Rev. Peter Lee and James Kim, respectively). Our first stop was to the foreign missionaries cemetery. There were so many people buried there from Ohio. One was born in Latty! The grave that stuck out to me most was the one that read, "The man who loved Korea more than Koreans did." Learning more about Korea, I find it amazing that 120 years ago missionaries started coming here and now the Korean church is sending out so many missionaries to other countries. The reason that the U.S. missionaries (not just U.S. I suppose, but all of them) wanted to be buried here was so that they could continue to pray for Korea. I wonder what they would think of the church now. Only 120 years has passed since the first missionary to Korea and now the number of Christians nearly matches that of religions as old as 4,000 years.

After leaving the cemetery we moved on to the museum of Korean Christianity. The only real thoughts I have are how much it reminded me of the Living Bible Museum in Mansfield, Ohio and how disturbed I was by the center of the museum. It requires a bit of explantion... There is a hollow column in the center of the museum that you can see into from each floor. From ther ground level you look up into the column. The floor beneath you is an animation of fire. Looking upwards you see a few figures and a cross, but you cannot see what the scene holds. From the second floor you can see a figure (someone young and modern) reaching out towards the cross which is still one floor above you. Finally, reaching the third floor, you see the entire picture. The people (three of them) seem to be soaring up towards the cross, away from the flames below them. It was a strange display, but it made much more sense knowing that the museum was funded and is mantained by a full gospel church.

We then moved on to Bupyeong Methodist Church. On the way, Rev. Lee told us that our accomodations would be a bit less than a hotel. We didn't think much of it. Though the drive between the museum and the church was short, i still managed to doze off. I woke up to Rev. Lee saying, "Don't worry about your bags. We will take care of them." As I stepped off of the bus, I was handed a rose and greeted by a line of people smiling, waving, and saying hello. What an amazing greeting.

I was (and still am) amazed by the scale of this church. At first I was apprehensive. All of my feelings about mega-churches immediately appeared.

We dropped off our things in our rooms. Only then did we realize that Rev. Lee was kidding. The floors are headed (as if we would need it), there is high speed internet in each room, coffee is free (as much as you can drink), electricity conversion is provided, and everything else is merely a phone call away. For our enjoyment there is a rooftop rose garden. It was created simply for the enjoyment of guests.

We learned on the tour of the church that the reason they have the facilities for guest is because of a vision had by a church member. This person person saw a ministry that teaches leadership and evangelism while folks learn about Korean Christianity and hospitality. The vision is now a reality.

On the tour and hearing Senior pastor Hong Eun-Pa speak about his church, all I can thinka bout is vision. Not only was vision at the center of the building the church (like the vision of yellow stone that was imported from Egypt), but the central vision of honest evangelism is at the center of this church now.

South Korea 8

(still June 4, evening)

As we walked into the theatre, we walked through a protest. The protest was strange because it was so divided. About a week before our arrival the former South Korean president killed himself. Some feel that it was purely suicide while others believe he was pushed towards the action by political pressure because of the current conflict between North and South Korea. It brings me back to a conversation that a classmate and I had on the bus. Michelle (our DMZ tourguide) made it seem as though almost all South Korean people want to reunite with North Korea, but we don't see how that can ever happen. This protest made us see that the view of North Korea held by South Koreans is much more comlicated, far from black and white.

We kept walking and reached the theatre. After a heavy day, a visit to the theatre was the prefect ending. We watched "Miso."

Just a note about the subway... I would like to know what the media here is telling people about H1N1 (or "swine flu") because each time we step into an enclosed space (subway, elevator, etc.) with folks, they immediately cover their faces and try to share as little air as possible with us.

South Korea 7

(still June 4)

... I have never felt the way I did in Panmunjom before...

There are so many thoughts and feelings and sites and sounds to capture that I don't even know where to start. Being in a room where North and South Korea have met is intimidating. We saw the line down the middle of the table marking the MDL (Military Demarcation Line, or, THE BORDER) and realized as we gathered around that table that we were, by all literal and legal standards, in communist North Korea.

After that we moved to an observation area where the North Korean main building was fully visible (along with the guard on the front steps). We were free to take pictures there, and I (like every other tourist) took advantage. As I zoomed in, however, I saw that the North Korean guard had grabbed his binoculars and was glaring at me. The tour guide assured us that this is quite normal, but it took every ounce of my strength to force each small breath out of my chest.

As we continued from site to site we were accompanied by a U.S. soldier (in my journal I named him, but I will leave him unnamed here). I was raised in a family that thanked soldiers and I never knew how I felt about the practice. Just the presence of this soldier put me at ease. As Michelle told us that the other side of the Bridge of No Return held heavily armed North Korean soldiers, I was thankful for that U.S. soldier and I thanked him with each thanks that I had not uttered before to a soldier. The Bridge was the place that once held P.o.W.s from both North and South Korea who were being returned. As they stood on the bridge, they were given the chance to choose the side they would like to return to but warned that once they chose they could never go back.

Above all of these feelings, though, I was just kept breathless (and not in the good way) knowing that mere feet from where I stood were landmines. The frail North Korean dictator was no longer a frail old man who suffered a stroke in my mind but a man who brainwashes and manipulates children in North Korea to learn about his childhood before they learn basic hygiene. In school, the math lessons that North Korean children read are on paper so cheap that most children don't learn basic addition because of the faded figures and torn pages but can cleary read the quotes of their "father," the dictator, on high quality and expensive paper. The portrait of this leader painted in my mind by the U.S. media was replaced by the image held by many South Korean people; a man who separated families and cultures and strikes fear into the hearts of many...

... many more emotions cannot be written. The only thing I though on the bus going back to Seoul was how glad I was to be driving south instead of north.

South Korea 6

June 4

It is strange to hear a South Korean citizen say, "Technically we are still at war." Michelle (her Christian name) uttered that phrase on the way to Mt. Odu Unification Observatory. So far today has been just strange emotionally... to want to learn about this conflict but to be so intimidated by the agenda of the day. We will see what Panmunjom holds...

South Korea 5

June 3

What a long day today was!! Starting out at Dunkin Donuts I realized just how strange it must be to be a resident of Seoul going about your daily life and run into 11 Americans who don't really understand the public transportation.

The common theme of today was getting recognized for being different. I have never really been in that situation. While we visited the King's Palace (NAME GOES HERE), the elementary students were eager to try their English out on us. It was generally fun. They would yell "WHERE ARE YOU FROM?!"

The sensory experiences I have had today are noteworthy. I have enjoyed the smell of incense from the Buddhist temple and the first bite of kimchi. Everyone says that it is an acquired taste. I will be the judge of that...

I can't keep my eyes open anymore and will go to bed... Here are other things we experienced today.

- Korean Methodist University
- McDonald's
- Tea House
- Shopping/dinner

South Korea 4

June 2, 10:30 pm

After getting through customs and exchanging some money (dollars to won), we called a cab and got on our way into Seoul. I was amazed at how much English I saw written on signs and buildings. As we rode in silence a bit in the cab, we were cautious about trying out the little Korean we knew. Our cabdrive was brave and broke the silence. It was not much, but it was enough to put us each at ease.

It is odd to drive into a city at night. you cannot see any landscape (which was hard for me, knowing we were on a bridge but not seeing the water), and when the city lights hit you all at once, you cannot do anything but stare out the window with your mouth hanging open. I really am a small town girl...

We finally reached the Centennial Center and it was quiet, which is all this weary traveler needed. I just don't know if I can get used to this whole bathroom slippers thing.

South Korea 3

June 2 (somewhere around 3pm)

Landed in Tokyo! I am mostly excited about being able to check another continent off of my list. Other than that, it is hard to gauge anything about Japan other than how lovely our terminal is. On to Seoul!!

South Korea 2

still June 1

We are flying somehwere over the Bering Sea. Collectively, we tried to figure out what time it is in Ohio and also in Seoul. It is a strange feeling, knowingthat time (for all intensive purposes) does not exist. Also, as a few of us grow restless on the flight, we talk about how this is all about control. It is hard to let go of control when it is so freely given (or taken) in everyday life. I am guessing this is the first of many times I will have to learn this (not only on this trip).

South Korea 1

I wish that I could figure out how to back-date posts, but since I can't, I am taking the chance to blog what I have already journaled.

June 1

Dr. Kim is late to school for our grand departure. I think it is a reminder to me that I am not in charge on this trip. I am trying to remind myseld of this. Once we got to Chicago and I turned off my blackberry, I started to process that this trip is real and that I am, despite all trepidation, looking forward to this experience.