Korea – The End

Friday saw the start of the end. I left Seoul and headed to the South coast, a city called Busan, Korea’s second largest city. It was an interesting journey getting to Busan. I caught a Taxi to the subway station then took the subway to Seoul Station. I almost squished a person on the subway as I balanced my suitcase wrong :-(. I then caught a KTX (Korea Train Express) train down to Busan. The train is so fast! It went at over 300 km/h. Very cool. From the train to the hotel was less than epic. Tip: Do NOT catch a bus in Korea with a big suitcase. It is better to take the subway, even if there are lots of stairs….

My hotel is a block back from Haeundae Beach. After I checked in to the what is the tiniest hotel room ever, I walked down to the beach. It is so beautiful, perfect sand, great waves…. I can’t wait to spend time there tomorrow.

Saturday saw me walking a lot! I was sore the next day. Haeundae beach is really a place for couples, friends, and families – I want someone here with me! I got up early (missed sunrise which is supposed to be spectacular – I’ll try later) and headed out for my first walk. I walked along the beach westward towards Dongbaek Island. There is a trail around the island with lots of stairs. Very beautiful. The famous carving credited to Choi Chi-Won is there. It is from at least the 14C, if not earlier. The island is connected to Busan by a bridge (for cars and people). On the island is APEC house which housed the 2005 meeting. You could look around it. I also got my first glimpse of the famous ***** bridge. It is 7.5 km long, the longest in Korea.

I then decided to go to the Busan Aquarium. It is quite famous here, especially for their seahorse breeding. It is the largest one in Korea, but not very big. Still, they do rehabilitation for injured sea creatures which I like. The Asian Small Clawed Otters were so cute. I then escaped back to my wee little hotel room for some much needed AC.

In the evening I went out for another wander. I saw the bridge lit up at night. It is so beautiful! I got slightly lost but found my way back. I am having trouble navigating here which is unusual for me. Normally my mental map is quite good. I then stopped at an American restaurant for dinner. I am having a tough time eating here – almost everything has seafood or beef in it. It is impressive. Many, many food places let you pick out your fish/lobster/crab/eel… I then wandered back to my room to watch Hawaii 5-0 – first TV in a while. It was the only show on in English!

I slept in on Sunday till 9:30 – I must be getting used to the rock-hard beds in Korea. I went out to the beach and walked eastward this time. On the way back I decided to go in to the ocean – It was cold but amazing! I didn’t have my bathing suit on, so I only went in to my waist. Many others were in the ocean in shorts & tees, so I was not out of place. People here taking covering up very seriously, especially the face – you have to get used to the face masks, and bandanas tied around the face here. It is important to keep your face pale. As I was dripping wet, I dried in the shade for a bit, then wandered in the market. I headed back to my room for lunch, then went out for a tea.

In the afternoon, the amazing Hayley (our RA) was in Busan!! She came by the hotel and we went out for ice flakes. So yummy. (Thank you for answering my many questions so patiently) We then wandered along the beachfront. A zombie walk happened by – a bit unexpected! Check out the video here. There was also an outdoor show on the beach sponsored by a beer company. There was a live band, YeRim Kim, and a great DJ. Pretty fun. I walked Hayley to her friends and then headed back to the hotel room. Fun day. I am tired! Glad home is in two days.

Monday morning I took a last walk on the beach – the waves were gentle and is was not crowded at all. I was sad to have to leave. I caught a taxi to the train station – well worth the $$ especially if it is not rush hour. I got to go over the long bridge which was fun. Bit of a crazy ride though. Not for the weak of stomach. I ended up taking the KTX to Incheon so I didn’t even have to catch the subway from Seoul! Once at the airport I caught the shuttle to the hotel. Lovely room, very big, funky toilet. I went out for a wander that evening. Found a great Korean restaurant. I had bibimbap and it was only 6000 Won (about $6 – $7). So yummy. That night I just relaxed. It was hard to go to sleep.

Tuesday! Time to go home! I went to a cafe for breakfast. Met an interesting man who was working there. He is in airport security but helps his wife at the cafe on days off. Great chat, all about the two Koreas. He wants me to go to North Korea and tell them that the people of South Korea love them. Wonderful. The amazing Hayley met me at the airport to hang out for a few hours between checkout & check-in. We had my last ice flakes. I will miss her! and miss Korea!

HomeThe trip home seemed faster/better than the trip there. It was still long, but better. I had a few hours in Vancouver before the final trip to Nanaimo. I was so tired on trip that I feel asleep on take off, and woke up on arrival (I don’t remember the trip at all). My wonderful husband met me at the airport with a dozen yellow roses. I was so tired, but it is so good to be home…..

Korea – Week 4

Sunday was a free day, no plans with the program. I had a lazy morning then headed out the the National Museum again as the tour was so quick last week! We did hit some of the main exhibits, but I wanted to see the rest.

BugMonday was not a very exciting day – faculty had everyone’s personal papers to mark. Each student had to write 5 pages about a Korean topic. It might not seem like much, but when you have 19 of them, it takes time. My goal was to get them all done on Monday (which I did). I did take a few minutes out of the day to watch some of the sports that the students were doing for sports day. I watched the end of soccer and all of Korean wrestling (because it was so interesting). The goal with wrestling is to have your opponent touch the mat with something besides their feet. Everyone has a cloth belt around their waist & one leg for holding on to. There are videos here and here. I did go for a walk at night – but that’s it!

AngelTuesday was a lazy day – hard to get away and do something as I had to meet people at specific times! Still I did escape for a tea and read a bit of my book. I got a pretty amazing gift from my secret angel (like a secret Santa – only not at Christmas) with a lovely note.

For dinner we were taken out for dinner by the director of BIP, Dr. Lee. He took all the faculty, the organizer, Joey Yoon, and administrative staff out to an amazing dinner at Mad for Garlic. Everything there contains Garlic. Well, one dessert doesn’t and neither do the drinks, but all the food does! I had a spicy pizza with garlic (of course), squash, green onions, and some sort of skinny hot pepper. It was sooo good. The Cesar salad had bacon chunks in it! Lots of good food and good conversation. While we were out, it started raining – maybe the monsoon has finally started two weeks late?

BROn Wednesday the students did their group presentations about some aspect of Korea. They were really good! I enjoyed them. It is amazing the power of group work. This was the fourth time they had worked in these groups (the other three were writing group papers). Presentations lasted until mid afternoon. I then wandered out and about. I went past a Baskin-Robbins (where I worked as a teen) and decided to go in. I had a green tea ice cream.

In the evening was the farewell dinner. The tables were set beautifully. The meal was a delicious buffet. There was an amazing slideshow, a door-prize draw, and some talent acts. The best part was we got to meet the person who was giving us all out secret angel gifts! Afterwards, two other faculty members and I went out for a mango ice flakes (yummy). When I got back I Skyped with home.

Thursday was the final certificate ceremony in the morning. It was pretty emotional. The president of the University spoke as did the director of international relations, students, and a faculty member. They played an amazing video of the experience and then we received a certificate of completion (me too!).

After lunch I went for a wander. I stumbled upon the Seoul trail. It is right near a busy highway. The highway crosses over-top the path sometimes, and as it was raining some bicyclists and a couple having a picnic sheltered under there. It was quite lovely the whole way along. Lots of flowers too. I stopped on the way back and pretended to have tea with my Boo.

All the faculty, our RA and another staff member went out to dinner at a chicken restaurant. It was very lovely. They gave us a gift of some treats and a face masque which we tried when we got back.

<pictures coming!>

Friday I left Seoul Women’s University and headed off on the last stage of my adventure

Korea – Week 3 – W-S

Wednesday was so busy! We had an amazing music class in the morning, a trip to the National museum and fan making in the afternoon, and a cruise on the Hangang (Han river) in the evening. A day of pictures. The music class featured traditional instruments – not folk music like previously – but more ‘elite’ (the professor’s words). She has been teaching music a number of years so she brought some very famous students with her (who come out of love to her). Apparently we could not afford the price of a show with them. It was pretty incredible.

We then went on buses to the National Museum where we had a very rapid tour. We saw the famous Pensive Bodhisattva (late 6th century) and a room of Buddha’s. We then had the opportunity to paint fans. I will have to go back.

I then had dinner at a fabulous restaurant. I had pizza with sliced almonds and Gouda (yummmm). I asked for something vegetarian as I couldn’t read the menu – only the names were in English, not the descriptions. We then walked down to the river, the sun was just about to set – very beautiful & green. Bike & walking trails, many people enjoying the day. Afterwards was the Hangang (Han River) cruise. Very beautiful, lovely breeze. We went down to the bridge that lights up and sprays water – you can see the video here.

Thursday morning we had a lesson on traditional Korean dance. Due to the number of students we were lined up 5 deep. It made it a bit frustrating as we could not see the footwork in the back. Still, it was fun, quite good exercise too! There is a video of the routine here, it is just over two minutes long.

The afternoon was the last lecture. It was about the two Koreas. The speaker, Jane Kim, is an American of Korean descent. She works with North Korean Defectors in South Korea. Phenomenal speaker. The website of the organization, The Empathy Foundation, is only in Korean, but English is being added. They are on Facebook too as they run a hostel called the Empathy Guest House.

Friday – what an exhausting day. We had a busy day going to the border of North Korea. We went to the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) of Korea at Cheorwon (very beautiful area). We passed through so many checkpoints – every time we entered and left an area, soldiers came on the bus to confirm the number of people that were on the bus and to make sure our documents were o.k. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.

The first line we crossed was the CLL (Civilian Limit Line). The only people allowed to live inside there were those whose families have lived and farmed there for a long time. The next line is the SLL (South Limit Line) which, combined with the NLL (North Limit Line) make up the DMZ. The MDL (Military Demarcation Line) is the actual border inside the DMZ.

We went to the 2nd Infiltration Tunnel. North Korea made several tunnels (the link states all of them) under the DMZ in an attempt to invade the south in the 70’s. They were discovered. South Korea opened an entrance to the tunnel and now we can go in about 400 m – within a few hundred meters of the MDL. As with most of Korea, the tunnel walls are granite. You had to wear a hardhat inside (soldiers handed them out). Many places the ceiling was low and you had to crouch down a bit. No pictures were allowed inside the tunnel.

PO MapNext we went to the Cheorwon Peace Observatory which is right above the SLL of the DMZ. No photos were allowed to be taken northward, or of an South Korean military anything. I took a picture of the relief map, just for perspective. A student is pointing to the building we are in. The two larger fence lines make up the DMZ. The building is the site of a ancient (early 900’s) capital, Taebong, of the Three Kingdom Period – no one has access to the site anymore. It was pretty neat being able to look in to North Korea that way.


TS 1LunchThe last stop was Woljeong-ri Station which connected North and South Korea. It is in the DMZ but South Korea built a replica in the hopes that one day the North & South will be connected again. South Korea is not an island, yet the only way to get to another country is by boat or plane. Before one could go to Europe or China by train, not anymore. We then went to a traditional Korean restaurant for lunch (yes, we did all that in the morning!). As I am vegetarian I was given my favourite Bibimbap again – yum

Saturday was a free day – we could chose what to do or not. So Sharon Kelly and I headed out on an adventure. The morning brought us to the tombs which are located within walking distance to the University. For 1000 won ($1) we got access to tombs at two sites. The first was Taereung – Tomb if Queen Munjeong who, according to the guide pamphlet, was “tenacious” and “wielded great power” in a time of the male dominated Joseon dynasty. You could not walk up to the tomb, but there was a good museum at the base.

Next we went about 20 minutes down the road to Gangneung (recently opened to the public) which house King  Myeongjong and Queen Insun. These tombs we could get quite close to.

Ice flakes
Ice flakes

For lunch we shared a Mango Ice Flakes. Yummm. I had been wanting to try to Korean dessert of shaved ice, cream, ice cream and topping. We also had some green tea cookies. totally decadent and totally delicious. I will have to make it when I get back to Canada.

We caught the subway to Insa-Dong and wandered. It was very crowded! Still, I bought a couple of things. We also went to the 4 story Ssamziegil which houses many wonderful shops.

As I had been wanting to see Cheong-gye-cheon, we went there next. A highway was demolished and a long buried stream was exposed in the middle of Seoul. It is a wonderful place where you can dangle your feet in the water and see fish swimming. Wonderful after a day on your feet.

Protest 2 Protest 1On the way home we wandered in to a protest. Not sure fully what they were protesting, best we could figure is about lack of work. The police said it was a peaceful protest. There were so many police present! They were doing an excellent job of directing traffic. One student said protest often happen there.

Definitely a day of contrasts


Korea – Week 3 – SMT

I cannot believe I am writing the words, week 3 – I am half way done!

Sunday was another free day as the students were still at their home-stay, returning in  evening. I decided to go out on an explore. With vague plans in mind I got on the subway. I decided to hop off at Itaewon, as that is a multicultural area of Seoul. Had I been in the mood for shopping, it would have been perfect. Lots of clothes stores with signs saying  “Big” – clearly used to foreigners. A surprising amount of stores with furs and leather.

WM1I wandered down the street and saw a sign for the War Memorial of Korea. Not knowing what it was, I decided to check it out.

I am so glad that it I did! It was an amazing, and free, museum with over 5000 years of history in it. It tell about the history of the Korean peninsula from the stone age to modern times. Quite a bit of focus was on the Korean War, as that is still an ongoing issue as North & South Korea are only in a cease-fire. I recommend going if you are in Seoul. I spent about 3.5 hours there. The Museum is best told through pictures

After I needed to see something completely different, so I headed off to the other side of the Han river. I had heard of an underground shopping mall (Coex) with an aquarium, so I decided to check it out. What a big shiny mall! The aquarium was too expensive, given how late it was, so I wandered around for a bit, then headed home.

Jongchuai Kim
Jongchuai Kim

Monday, wow, Monday. Only one picture, but what a powerful day. In the morning a man who defected from North Korea came to speak with us. He tried to defect twice. As people from North Korea cannot go directly to South Korea (too well defended), they must go to China, then head to a country that has a South Korean Embassy as South Korea accepts defectors. In China they have to work to earn enough money to be able to afford to pay someone to help them cross the Chinese boarders. If the Chinese police find them, they are ‘repatriated’ back to North Korea where they are thrown in to a camp. The first time he was caught, he lied about his age and so went to a youth camp where he was  beaten. He quickly escaped to China again and then finally made it to South Korea.

It is incredibly competitive to get in to University here – everyone must write a test which combines with their grades for getting in. As North Korean defectors have less educational opportunities (hunger and famine is prevalent) the South Korean government has said that they get in with the same requirements as foreigners – much easier. His speech was pretty moving. I will try to type it up soon.

The afternoon saw us watching a movie called “The Host“. Watch it if you like down-beat horror movies. It has a kinda uplifting ending. Too sad for my liking though. Bah. The evening was an optional documentary about the N/S Border called “On the Border”. It was a fascinating movie. I have been searching for reference to it online, and cannot find anything (other than another blog post).

Tuesday was a day of activity, which was really nice. In the morning we watched a Taekwondo demonstration from a really neat club. They also did a line dance. Here is the video. They then gave us a lesson on a few kicks – it was pretty fun, but hard!

The afternoon had us trying on traditional Korean costumes called Hanbok. It was so beautiful! In the traditional dress, there are so many layers. One student was asked to put on the traditional wedding costume as that is the most elaborate, but we all got to participate. We also learned the very formal way to bow.

After dinner another professor and I decided to watch a movie. We watched 200 Pounds Beauty. It speaks to the views on plastic surgery here. Most women get their eyes, nose and narrowed chin here. Men get their noses. It isn’t really talked about though. The attitude of the men in the movie is they want a beautiful wife/girlfriend but they don’t want them to get plastic surgery to achieve this. A Korean woman who watched the movie with us said that that is pretty typical – On job applications they must include a photo!

South Korea – Week 2 – The rest

Wednesday, the first full day after the trip, was a pretty extra ordinary day. It started off with a lecture on Korean economics. Interesting, I learned a lot, but economics is not quite my thing. After lunch I caught the subway to near Gyeongbokgung Palace. I am pretty pleased with myself as I loaded money on to my card and managed to travel all by myself. Thank goodness all stops are also in English characters for non-Korean tourists. And then I GOT TO SEE MY FRIEND SHEILA AND HER FAMILY!!!!!!! They have been traveling all over Asia and have made their way to Seoul for a week. Sheila and her daughter met me at my subway stop then walked me to the apartment that they are staying. It is pretty cute. Her son was there and later Duane arrived after a hike. We sat an chatted for a while then went out and wandered. We went to Insa-dong. and they showed me a fabulous tea place (dangerous knowledge).

As I forgot my camera (d’oh!), all pictures are from them! Thank you!

We then walked in to a little, twisty alley and found an EXCELLENT restaurant (that I won’t be able to find again) and had a traditional Korean meal. As they had tickets to go see Nanta we walked to Myeong-Dong as the show was there. If Insa-dong is traditional, Myeong-dong is modern, a huge market covering many streets. A boy K-Pop band arrived while we were there (don’t know who, but the cameras, bodyguards and many, many fans made them look pretty famous). I walked them to the theatre and then had to say Good-bye. (Sniff!). What a terrific, fun trip they are having. It was so amazing seeing Sheila and her wonderful family. (Sheila & Duane – your kids are terrific – really awesome people!)

Thursday was a quiet day. The morning was an interesting lecture on the major religions in Korea. Rather than going chronologically, Dr. Sem Vermeersch looked at the 10 key themes to the current and historical religions of Korea. It was fascinating. I found it especially interesting how Confucianism, which now less than 1% of Koreans practice, has such a strong hold on many current customs. It is a very hierarchical religion.

Chopping veggies
Chopping veggies

The afternoon brought a class on Korean food. There was a presentation then the students got to make a dish. Wow, did it smell wonderful. Looked like a lot of fun too. One of the other faculty women on the trip did a blog post about Korean food. Find it here. Warning: the pictures will make you hungry

After the sun went down, and it cooled off a couple of degrees, I went for a nice long walk around the university. Beautiful & Safe.

Friday was a pretty mellow day – In the morning was a lecture about the Korean film industry. It was a fascinating look over the last 100 years or so. I have many films that I want to see. There is a great website Koreanfilm.org which is an archive of older films – with subtitles. In the afternoon we watched JSA (Joint Security Area). IT WAS VERY SAD. Evening was mellow. Just hanging around. I took a neat picture of the moon. Some students did my nails too – they are all fancy

Saturday….. Students left for their home-stay weekend and I went out in to Seoul! My feet were very tired at the end of the day. In the morning I hoped on the subway and headed to Namsan Park, in the centre of Seoul. It was a short walk to the park. There was a the option of stairs or a Funicular (heck – fun is right in the title, is there even a choice?). That took me half way, then I took a gondola to the top of Namsan Mountain. Very Beautiful. Unfortunately it was a foggy day but I still enjoyed wandering around & seeing the sites – and eating an ice cream cone. There were ceremonial guards marching in traditional outfits. Lovers & friends attach locks all over fences there. Of course I had to go to the top of the North Seoul Tower (it is like the Eiffel or CN tower of Seoul). Panoramic, if foggy views. They had how far it was to Vancouver and I got homesick. They had a place to write and mail a postcard (highest post office in Seoul) so I mailed one to Darrell. Then back down again and off to the next place.

I then wandered Myeong-dong. Busy, Busy, Busy on Saturday. Hordes of people, no one speaking English (it isn’t a tourist place so much). Music blaring from stores, clerks calling you to come in, street vendors cooking, unusual smells. Each building has many levels of stores… So different from what I am used to. As it was lunch time, I picked a building that advertised food and went in. I found a restaurant that looked good. Full of girls out with friends & couples. Many women. Did my subconscious recognize this as a women’s restaurant? Yummy food. No tipping. I am the only foreigner there.

BookstoreAfter lunch, my quest continued for a book of Korean Poetry in English. I asked at a Tourist Info place – They suggested two. The first, closer one, no luck. The second is the largest bookstore in Seoul. It is underground and HOLY HANNAH is it huge! And full of people. Thanks to the grace of a helpful sales clerk I found two books in that madness (it has a food court) tucked away on a bottom shelf, along a wall. I went with his recommendation. Time to head home. On the way, Poetry in the subway, the first I have seen.

Prophetic words by Blake – Auguries of Innocence:Poem

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

South Korea – Week 2 – Gyeongju trip

travel distance

Well week 2 started out successfully! On Sunday we left Seoul Women’s University after breakfast and traveled to a traditional Korean Folk village, I could have spent hours there. I saw a performance of traditional folk music. The homes and building were so beautiful. I can see why a lot of K-drama is filmed there. One Canadian student was very excited as she watches many of the shows! My favourite part were the bridges. I did make a wish at the wish rock. You write your wishes on paper and tie it on to the rock

After lunch we headed off to Gyeongju. We stopped at a traditional restaurant, called Choi Family’s Noble Dining for amazing food. We then went to the very fancy hotel (Hyundai Hotel) where we stayed for two night. This hotel had possibly the best buffet breakfast in the entire world. The view from the room is amazing.

Monday was a day of Korean Heritage sites. We visited so many UNESCO World Heritage locations! My favourite was, perhaps, the first one. We went to Seokguram Grotto in Gyeongju, a Buddhist temple. It felt very peaceful. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures inside the temple (this is a common theme for the day). Buddha faces Japan, to prevent an attack. As the temple is under renovation, you could purchase a tile and write on it – it will be used in the reconstruction. I bought one and some of the students wrote on it.

One exciting thing I got to do was ring the giant bell for a 1000 won donation to charity ($1). Well worth it

We then went down the mountain to the Bulguksa temple. This temple had many more people so it was less peaceful. Still it was very beautiful. The tour guide said “Chinese like big things, Japanese like small things, Koreans find natural beautiful.” We were very limited what we could take pictures of – nothing inside any building or of any Buddha. There were fierce warriors guarding the entrance. They stop any evil from entering. In 2007 a pig was found carved behind a sign. Now this pig represents “Big Money” for those who see it. If you dream of a pig, you are supposed to buy a lottery ticket the next day. There was a recently returned grave of a monk. It took 28 years for the Japanese government to return it. The remains were missing. I needed more time to wander at here – it was large site & beautiful

Toes in the ocean
Toes in the ocean

After a traditional, and Yummy, lunch we got to go to a beach near Gyeongju. I waded in deeper than my clothes allowed. Many students swam, but I didn’t want to change in the restroom. Next time I will wear my bathing suit under my clothes. It was very neat to be able to stick my toes into the other side of the Pacific Ocean. We then went back to the hotel for a change & shower before heading out to more heritage sites.

We then went to see Burial Mounds of the Silla dynasty inside of Gyeonju.  The massive two humped Hwangnam Daechong is very impressive. One mound is for the Queen, the other for the King. We also saw the famous Cheonmachong (flying horse) burial mound which you can enter (and again not take pictures from the inside). It is named after an ancient painting on birch bark. Just a little further along was the Cheomseongdae observatory build of 362 rocks (one for each day of the lunar year). This observatory was built in the 600’s and faces south.

Dance PartyAlso at this site are some beautiful gardens. Most flowers are over at this time of year, so it was lovely to see them.

Dinner was another traditional meal. We then headed back to the hotel. And then the students danced, to a lot of loud (mainly) K-Pop. I dance a bit. Everyone seemed to be having fun.

The next day, Tuesday, saw us heading back to Seoul. First we went south to Ulsan and visited Hyundai Heavy Industries and the largest shipyard in the world. We had a tour of their Memorial Hall and a bus tour of the shipyard. WOW was it neat. Again, no pictures allowed (for espionage reasons). Sigh. Still, really neat and the scale of everything was huge. After, we had a long bus ride back to Seoul’s Women’s University.

As an aside, I have two words I can say (hello & thank you) which are used all the time. I have one word I recognize (really? – the girls use it a lot) and one favourite food Bibimbap.


Week 1 in pictures

Korea – Week 1

Hailey - Our amazing RA
Hailey – Our amazing RA

My first week in Korea through the Bahrom International Program (through Seoul Women’s University) … All I can say is WOW. I am going to try to do a brief recap of what happened this week (so I can remember down the road and so friends and family can read about it)

The first full day, Monday, was orientation and a welcoming ceremony. Everyone had to introduce themselves, most were pretty tired still! The RA for the faculty is Hailey. She is so helpful, you have to watch what you ask for!

Tuesday was the start of the lectures. I attended a fascinating lecture on “The Story of Two Koreas I”. There was so much that I didn’t know (a common theme). It was cool to be a student again. Of course we have to write questions and mark student papers, but still. I wrote a blog post about my amazement about how little South Koreans know about the human rights violations that are occurring in North Korea. This lecture opened the eyes of International and Local students.

First Subway ride - to the palace
First Subway – to the palace

We then had an ice breaking activity that had us going all over campus and playing games. Fun, but HOT and humid.

The start of Wednesday was a lecture on Korean History and Culture. We explored the Korean Peninsula from 1000 BCE to present. An amazing overview. I really realize how little I know about Korea. I just have not studied it at all. We then had the opportunity to go to Gyeongbokgung Palace. So different from the Palaces in Europe. These buildings are low, open and airy. Built mainly of stone and wood, people relied on geography to keep invaders out. Our tour guide was a wonderful woman who can trace her ancestry back 22 generations to the brother of a king. She was fabulous. Here are some of my favourite pictures:

Gyeongbok palace












We also wandered around Insa-dong – a fabulous market downtown. I will be heading back there soon as there was very little time this time.

At work
At work

The next day was a fascinating glimpse into Korea Language. The language is old, but the writing system is young! I mentioned it a bit in this post.

We then went to Icheon to a pottery workshop. Three potters patiently helped all students make one piece of pottery on a wheel which we could then decorate. Despite not being able to speak English (or most of us Korean), they were so patient while teaching. There display area, where things are put before being shipped out was sooo full. Clearly no earthquakes here (Korea is built on granite – granite is cheap and everywhere here). The Potters create such gorgeous works. They weren’t really selling, but if you were interested you could ask. I bought a small white vase with dragonflies on it.

My Favourite - It leads the band
My Favourite – It leads the band

Friday was a day of music. First was traditional instruments. We all had the opportunity to play traditional instruments. We were taught by a student band. I loved a small brass instrument. I have the name in Korean characters, but not English unfortunately. Here is a link to a small clip of the music. I took the video with my phone, so it is a bit choppy: Traditional Korean Band.

When all 80 (ish) of us played, there was a cheerful cacophony of sound.

Week 1 menu
Week 1 menu

If the day was traditional, the evening was modern. We were so very fortunate to go see a “Cookin’ Nanta” performance. If you ever have the opportunity GO! I laughed so hard I cried. It is set in a kitchen and the ‘chefs’ make music with kitchen items as they prepare for a wedding. Truly extraordinary. I want to go again!!!!!

Since I mentioned food, here is a picture of the menu for week 1. Yes there is spam, cold jellyfish salad and many other delicacies. But they tried hard to include western food like pancakes. No knives though – chopsticks, forks, spoons and that is it.

Saturday brought a day of relaxation. I walked too far from the University and relied on the kindness of strangers to help me catch the bus home. In the evening was the International Entertainment night where students performed in groups. Too fun

Korea – The Start of the Adventure

VIU Faculty, Students, & Soon-to-be Exchange Students

I am in South Korea as part of the Bahrom International Program. Every year faculty and students come to the Seoul Women’s University to participate in learning about Korea. Korean students from the university participate and then will spend a year abroad. There are students from all over the world (Canada, U.S., Russia, & Germany are the ones that I can remember).


DatelineLeaving Canada & my family was tough. It was beautiful in Nanaimo, not so much in Vancouver. The flight was long (11 hours). I watched 3 movies and could have seen four! At least I knew other people on the flight, 3 other faculty and 3 students. I arrived soooo tired!

my room
My room. Yup, I have bunk beds…


I have my own room (with 4 bunk beds & 4 desks) that leads out to a common area that four rooms share – I am sharing with the three other women from VIU: Claire Marshall, Sharon Kelly, & Heather Sanrud. There is one other professor here, Andrew Markley from Grove City College. To be honest, the first night is a bit of a blur.


faculty taking notes


We will be attending lectures & learning about Korean culture and visiting sites of cultural interest. I cannot wait!