It’s so hard to say goodbye

As our trip comes to a close we have traveled all over the peninsula. Our day started with a very early bus departure at 6:30 a.m. Our bus was the most whimsical and comfortable ride we had ever experienced (the reclining seats were most admirable). We went Gangneung Unification Park, Chungdongjin and Haslla Art Museum. We took Olympic pictures in front of Gangneung Train Station. Then we each selected individual sites that we would like to patron.

Gangneung Unification Park

It took us three hours to travel to Gangneung and prior to our arrival we stopped at the rest stop to have breakfast. After breakfast we would have an additional hour of travel to reach the unification park.

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Chundongjin

 

Haslla Art World

We dined at Sea Cafe. They are most know for their steak burger. After lunch we several hours admiring the modern art gallery, pinnocchio marionette museum, and sculpture park. A highlight to the museum was traveling through the tunnel that reminds one of being in the whale that Pinocchio had bravely entered to save his grandfather. Additionally, there was moving automata throughout several parts of the museum where works were exhibited.

 

Olympic Pictures

After a beautiful time at Haslla Art World we road the coastal cliffs until we reached Gangneung Train Station where took pictures in front of the Olympic structure.

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Oh the Places We’ll Go

Lastly, we would end our trip with frequenting various sites for our individual inclinations art, shopping, acclimating ourselves to tradition or culture are various reasons just to name a few. Korea the beautiful where people have welcomed us with open arms, touched our hearts, and shown us the most innermost facets to your culture. We thank you! We won’t cry because it’s over, but we will smile because it happened. “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go” as stated by Dr. Seuss. And we have definitely read to learn!

The pictures above are just a snippet of the places we have gone, but it can never depict the depths to which we have grown in our hearts. We love you Korea!

It Is Well With My Seoul

Our day began with an inspirational worship service at Yoido Full Gospel Church. It is almost impossible to believe that this church was founded as a tent church with five members in Daejo-dong just over sixty years ago. Today, it is the largest church in the world with seven Sunday morning services that provide simultaneous interpretation in various languages. Senior Pastor, Younghoon Lee, delivered a beautiful message of the freedom we have in Christ. Regardless of denominational affiliation or church background music has enormous power to engage the emotions. Music moves people of all cultures. One could not help but be lifted by the unity of voices from the multitudes.

The street food vendors and local markets permeate the district outside the church. As Dr. Hur led us along, the smells and sights were amazing.

We entered a street side bread shop with the most delicious choices. Everyone made their selection and we sat along a picturesque park area to enjoy a quick lunch.

Our next stop was Gyeongbokgung Palace. Named by a renowned Neo-Confucian scholar-statesman, Jeong Do-Jeon, the Palace name literally means “brilliance and fortune.” It was established in 1395 for the Joseon Dynasty. It has been destroyed many times by fire and the Japanese occupation but today it is restored and visitors can walk the grounds of the palace as well as observe traditional ceremonies. The group watched the Guard Changing Ceremony and then had time to explore inside the palace.

Once we left the Palace we took the subway to the Myungdong District. We enjoyed the shops along the way to our next adventure….cooking school!

Before our lesson began we each dressed in the traditional Hanbok of South Korea. There were many vibrant colors. This clothing from the Joseon period is worn as formal wear during traditional ceremonies and celebrations. We all felt like princesses in our beautiful dresses.

All week we have enjoyed trying a variety of Korean dishes. Food provided a connection to the country. Tonight we were able to participate in a cooking lesson to learn to prepare some of the most popular recipes. We enjoyed learning about the various spices and seasonings to make Bulgogi, kimchi, and a delicious japchae. After cooking we were able to enjoy the foods we prepared along with other dishes including Soondubai jiggae, haejangguk, salad, and a soft tofu stew. One thing we all agree on is that Koreans enjoy a variety of dishes at each meal.

Our final stop for the evening was Myeongdong-ding Cathedral. During the Joseon Dynasty in 1784 this parish was established as the first Catholic community. It stands in the heart of Seoul and is an important symbol of the Korean Catholic Church.

The days are passing way too quickly and we are all wishing we had more time in Korea. We cannot thank Dr. Hur and the benefactors enough for this cultural experience.

Today, we were able to tour the area near the border between North Korea and South Korea.  Our group loaded a bus to tour the Korean Demilitarization Zone or DMZ.  In less than an hour, we were near the area of land separating the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea).  The border runs along the 38th parallel.  The North invaded the South in a war that lasted 3 years.  The neutralized zone was created due to the provisions within the Korean Armistice Agreement in July, 1953.  It is 160 miles long and about 2.5 miles wide.  Both North Korea and South Korea agreed to move 2,200 feet back to create a buffer zone.  Each side is very heavily guarded.  The war is officially still ongoing.  However, there is a military stalemate or no real winner.  Our group was able to pose beside the infamous DMZ sign.  

Next, we headed down 1150ft below the ground to the site of the 3rd Tunnel.  There are four known tunnels under the border stretching from North Korea to South Korea.  The 1 mile tunnel into South Korea was discovered following an underground explosion in October, 1978.  The tunnel still remains incomplete.  The purpose of the tunnel was to allow North Korea to carry out a surprise attack on Séoul.  It’s design allowed for 30,000 per hour to cross through the tunnel with light weaponry.  South Korea gave the nickname “tunnel of aggression” to this area because it was considered an act of aggression by North Korea.  Cameras were not allowed within the tunnel.  It was significantly cooler the further underground we went.  We had to wear hard hats and bend while we walked in order to protect our heads.  

It is a unique time to be here in Seoul at this time.  President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader, Kim Jong Un have set up a summit to begin the process denuclearization on June 12.  Previously, South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-in and Kim Jung Un have met twice in the last two months at the JSA to discuss ending the Korean War and restoring relations between North Korea and South Korea.  The first item on the agenda would be relinking the cross-border railways and roads.  A second goal would be to create a joint team for the Jakarta Asian Games in August.  It will be interesting to see what happens following these discussions.

Our DMZ tour guide provided very detailed and comprehensive information on the history of this area.   The tour was a once in a lifetime experience.  We had a nice lunch of bulgogi and kimchi before our tour ended.  

We met Dr. Hur after the DMZ tour.  She took us to Osulloc, a traditional tea room in the afternoon.  We were able to enjoy a green tea roll.  It was yummy!  We all enjoyed a refreshing tea drink.  

Next, we took a leisurely stroll through the Samchungdong neighborhood.  We saw many vendors selling hand-crafted materials.  We are told many famous pop stars live in this area.  

We finished off the evening by enjoying a delicious Mexican dinner at the On the Border restaurant.  We are so grateful to Dr Hur for planning such wonderful learning experiences while we are here in Korea.  The people we have encountered here have been so kind to us.  

 

The Adventure Continues…

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Friday, June 1, 2018

Each day  continues to be filled with a wonderful adventure! This morning we began the day by walking to Ewha Woman’s University Kindergarten to tour the school. The current facility, built in 1958, is a bright, cheery place with pianos, art stations and plenty of manipulatives that children can use as they explore parallel and cooperative play. The Kindergarten serves students ages three, four and five, and promotes a curriculum that is designed to educate young children to be good citizens in a democratic society.

The Ewha University Elementary School was equally impressive. This private, Christian accredited school was founded in 1955, has approximately 600 students in 24 classes, and costs close to $4,000 a year for students. Each class has 26 students: 13 boys and 13 girls with admission being determined by a lottery.  This school places an emphasis on music, art, STEM, and vocational education and with facilities that include a planetarium, students are sure to get an incredible educational experience!

We met Dr. Oh for a delicious Italian pasta lunch at Cote before walking back to Ewha University to participate in a Question/Answer conversation on the challenges in Korean education led by Dr. Tae Seob Shin, an associate professor of educational psychology in the College of Education. This conversation was very enlightening and all participants left with the understanding that Korean student success comes at a high price.

Our afternoon was spent at a dance hagwon with a private dance instructor. The owner of the studio gave a presentation on the history of K-Pop and K-Culture before we began a personal lesson. Our dance instructor, Serena, was an exceptional dancer with great enthusiasm!  We learned four K-Pop dances and had a wonderful time learning the moves as many of us are not experienced dancers!

We spent the evening with our assigned host families having dinner. This experience was priceless as it gave us the opportunity to visit with Korean high school students, their siblings and parents. Dinner conversation was centered around getting to know each other and learning more about the life of a teenage student in Seoul, Korea. Dr. Delano, Sarahann, Robbye, myself, and our families had dinner at a traditional Korean barbecue restaurant. The meal was delicious and we tried several new items. Once dinner was finished, we drove to the Han River for coffee. The River is beautiful at night and there were several Korean families enjoying the cool weather on the Friday evening playing games, eating a picnic dinner and walking or biking. Our host families were so gracious and we enjoyed meeting them.

This trip has truly been a once in a lifetime experience. Thank you, Dr. Hur and others, for making it possible. The hospitality has been incredible!

It’s a Small World, After All!

Hello! Our adventure filled day began with a moving visit to the Templestay Buddhist Temple. There, we were able to make art using colored sand, learn how to properly have tea from a teamaster, meditate, and have enlightening conversation with a monk. We conversed about the meaning of life, and we learned that somehow, everything in the entire world is connected! It was a very rewarding, illuminating experience.

 

Next, our journey led us to Korea Jobworld, one of the most innovative places in the world. Here, children of all ages are able to explore their dreams, and really get connected with their interests, in order to turn them into a dream career. These bright students are able to participate in simulations of any job imaginable with the help of trained professionals. Job world focuses on making dreams become a reality!

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After leaving job world, we stopped briefly in Coex, where we were all amazed to see the grandest library imaginable, (along with the most amazing Gangnam style statue).

Lastly, we took a bus ride to a place like no other- Itaewon! In a place filled with so many other foreigners, we were able to experience many different amazing things (from the accents to the shopping). We split up and shopped until we dropped, then ended the night with something very familiar, near, and dear to us all: BARBECUE.

All in all, this was an amazing, and adventurous day. One lesson I hope we all took with us, is that everything is connected in some way. The children at job world find their purpose and pursue their dreams, the monk at the Buddhist temple taught us about finding our own happiness and purpose and we prayed over our dreams, and finally we lived out our dreams (lots of shopping and Gangnam Style) in Coex and Itaewon. It’s a small world, after all!

Freedom. Love. Peace.

 

Our study group began the day’s journey at Ewha Girls’ Foreign Language High School. EFLHS is a private girls’ school that laid the early foundation for women’s education in Korea. It dates back to 1886 during a time when teaching women was simply unimaginable.

The school is flourishing under the direction of Ms. Jeon  Jeong-Yeon, principal, enrolling over 400 students. The school motto is : Freedom Love Peace

31B7987E-B1AE-497D-B548-0E57722C0C498281FD12-07F1-4C25-AB78-12276B61499956CAFF06-E792-425C-B7F4-1F6B9B4EE028B94EA6A3-3827-4A9C-8FC8-2447D71C6785The Vice Principal, Chong Goo Sim, and teacher, Young Ok Kim, were very gracious in providing a very informational session and a guided tour of the school.9EA8E7AF-E060-473B-A828-D92B48C2DD29The  girls all take English classes and major in a second language. They may choose from German, Chinese, and French.

The tour allowed to experience much of the learning environment.

265A17DF-FF8A-4532-88D3-40FB8F9DC016Students in English class enjoyed asking us questions. AE811035-9C86-4826-B8BF-9D756B621FBB

Mandarin Chinese class.        Art includes fashion design.

We would have loved to stay and visit with the girls all day but alas it was time to hurry off to the bus to tour Seokchon Elementary School. If we had not realized the vastness of Seoul as of yet, this bus ride certainly helped in our understanding of how large this fabulous city really is.

The principal and the two vice principals met us with such grace.

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This school was founded in 1990. There are 990 students in grades 1-6. They intend to raise children who are global leaders. The three areas of emphasis are creativity, personal development and career development.

Sweet sounds of “Hello” and giggles were so welcoming as we toured the facility. It was nice to see such openness in both schools. Notice the glass and easy access for teachers, administrators, and students to observe learning.

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Special education teachers and aides.

Each student produced a tile to indicate their career goal.

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Hospitality is beyond anything we would have expected.

Now to move on to a rather large Korean Buffet at Lotte Gold Plaza. Thanks to her continued care, planning, and most of all patience. Thanks Dr. Hur.

The day continues with more immersion into the culture and beautiful city. The treat for the afternoon was a Sky Shuttle to the top of the Lotte World Tower.

 

The day was full of shopping at the Lotte Center stores, especially several large bookstores. Dinner was once again delicious.

We all loved book shopping and the children today.

We made it!

안녕하세요!  (Hello!) 

Welcome to our amazing adventures in Korea. We all arrived from Atlanta with all of our luggage thankfully, but somewhere along the way, we managed to lose a whole 12 hours!  

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We arrived in Seoul and took a bus to our hotel, Ever 8. It is near the Ewha Womans University. It is very nice and has some fun amenities such as a camera that allows you to look outside your room, a washer/dryer in one and a key slot that requires that the key be inserted before the lights and air conditioner will work. We all got settled into our rooms and set out to catch up on some of those hours of sleep we lost somewhere over the ocean. 

On Tuesday morning, we woke up early and excited to go to Ewha Womans University to meet with some faculty members. We had breakfast at Starbucks and then exchanged some currency. 

 

 

We then went on a tour of the university. 

 

 

We had the privilege to meet Dr. Insoo Oh, the associate dean of the College of Education, and participate in a very informative lecture entitled “Understanding Korean Students. ” We also shared lunch with several professors in College of Education. Then we had a meeting with Brian Ridgeway, an American from Auburn, Alabama who has been living in Korea since 2004. He shared his experience in Korea and helped us to understand Korean culture and customs.

 

 

The tour of the Ewha Middle School was very interesting for all of us as well. We were able to go into art classrooms, English classrooms, the library, the teacher’s office and even the school cafeteria. We asked many questions and were very warmly received by the principal, Dr. Eunhye Park and her staff and students. 

We finished out the evening with a fast-paced trip on the metro to get to the Korean House, a traditional Korean theatre. We saw Sim Cheong, a Korean folktale. It had live instruments, beautiful dancing, costumes, and even one of our own ended up on stage!