Our Trip So Far
Bob is teaching this fall semester at Sahmyook University, the current name of the small school we came to exactly 50 years ago. He's teaching 2 theology courses in the seminary. He's here Aug. 24-Dec. 24. I decided to come for a few weeks, not needing a visa for that, and not wanting to leave the house and yard and various tasks at home that long. I'm using his laptop, but tedious SquirrelMail for e-mail, and we don't have a lot of time to just sit and use the computer, but I'll now try to send you a report.
Bob is enjoying very much being back in Korea. He's always felt the years spent here were the best in his life and career, and he always feels deeply appreciated and respected here.
I had worried about getting here, as my sciatica got much worse after driving to TN and back in May for James's graduation (though I wanted to be there and would do it again). Three days before leaving, a friend who is a pain specialist, took me in and gave me an epidural steroid injection. The pain left, the moment he removed the needle. I was so happy, but then it came back as a result of the travel. When I left from South Beth, my checked suitacse was 62 pounds, and they said I'd need to remove 12 pounds and put them in my tote bag, or pay $50. I put 12 pounds of books and magazines into my tote bag, but also had my somewhat heavy camera bag to carry. And on a United flight one walks from one end of one O'Hare terminal to the other end of another. Then sitting on the flight and carrying it off in LAX didn't help, but Lyndon met me at baggage claim and took the suitcase. Again when we flew to Seoul, it was a long spell of sitting. I've continued to have some pain, though not quite as bad as before, and most days Celebrex and Tylenol will ease it.
Lyndon was in L.A. for a final concert weekend with the Phil, and the church member housing him in Glendale graciously took me in too. Lyndon and I tooled around southern CA the next day, doing a bunch of errands and eating in a nice Mexican restaurant. The next day we went to church in Glendale, and he had to get back to the orchestra, but I went with friends who ate at another Mexican restaurant, hoping to give him a nice farewell, but he couldn't join them. One of them then drove me to the home of friends from childhood, whose daughter from the Sacto area was visiting, and we had a great visit till Lyndon picked me up. That evening I went to a Phil concert in Disney Hall, the first I'd attend one there, and it was great--also L's last weekend there.
With more errands, and an afternoon concert for Lyndon, Sunday went quickly, and that evening our hostess and I met Lyndon at Disney and attended a wonderful concert by the L.A. Master Chorale, which friends on their board had told us about and urged us to attend. They insisted we meet them during intermission in the elite Founders Room, where a greeter had to find a coat for Lyndon before he could be admitted! It was fun, with some juice and nuts and cookies, and visiting with a few friends.
Monday Lyndon and I flew to SF and then on to Korea, where Bob and a driver met us. Beth and the girls had arrived from Wellington a few hours earlier and braved the subway out to the college. They stayed in a guestroom there 2 nights, and we did things together, and then they moved to a downtown hotel when the rest of the orchestra arrived. We still joined them there on Friday and all went to the Korean Folk Village, sort of a theme park to show what Korean life was like in the past--actually, how it was when we lived here, but no more. They came out here by subway for services the next day, and Lyndon played for the foreigners' SS here. Lyndon had to get back downtown, but the rest of us ate with some other guests from America and some school leaders (former students of ours) in the VIP room of the cafeteria. That evening Bob and I attended the Phil concert, with Sarah Chang, as soloist, in the Sejong Performing Arts Center downtown, after all 5 of us meeting Lyndon there and eating at a nearby Italian restaurant. On Sunday we joined them and some Korean friends who immigrated to Glendale years ago (and whose daughter, a former student of Lyndon's is subbing on violin on this Phil tour. They treated us to a wonderful buffet breakfast, with everything imaginable, at the hotel. The kids and the orchestra left Monday morning for Japan, then Singapore, then Hong Kong; and when the tour ends, his resignation is effective Nov. 1, after 17 years with them, and they fly back to NZ.
Bob and I have an apartment on campus, with all new appliances, though instructions are in Korean, and we haven't used the rice cooker, or the stove much (no pans or can opener), and the front-loading washer across the hall is hard to figure out. We've missed a few times, but have figured out how to get cold water and gentle spin, but it also dries, and one setting seems to end with damp clothes not dried (though we have a rack in the apartment), and the next one up seems to leave them quite hot and wrinkled. We generally eat dinner in the cafeteria, where we get a fair variety besides the brown rice with beans in it and the white rice. Breakfasts and suppers are easy in our room, with fruit, toast, dry cereal, and soymilk. The latter is very good, made at the SDA food factory. Dry cereal is available from a Costco not far away and from a HomePlus (another big warehouse store but with single items). These things were all unavailable, as was any bread we didn't make ourselves, 40-50 years ago. Now we can buy just about anything here.
It also has become the most wired country--Internet access, wireless, almost anywhere; cell phones, more per capita than any other country, just about everyone on the subway wearing ear buds. Growth is unbelievable. Our house and the neighbors' have been replaced by big apartment buildings for foreign faculty. Many large buildings are on campus. The gym has an Olympic pool, a bowling alley (which Rilla and Lynn enjoyed and introduced us to), a huge gym floor, exercise equipment of all kinds in several rooms, a pingpong room, and much more. The student center has a cafe, bookstore, etc. The Horticulture building has a greenhouse and more. They are now building the largest building, their third science building. A huge ad building was built since our last visit 4 years ago
Where only missionaries had cars before, now parking space is a problem, as many students and most faculty members have cars. The road from town to the entrance was a one-lane dirt road that washed out every summer in the rainy season; now it is a 6-lane highway, filled with traffic. The road used to take us past rice paddies and thatch-roofed houses into Seoul; now it is surrounded by high-rise apartments and businesses of all kinds. Bob has visited a number of the churches he helped found, with students; they then built small cement-block buildings about the size of Jeanette's living room; now some of those are on their 4th building since then, and are in huge churches with a sanctuary, large fellowship hall and kitchen, rooms for young people, and more. We actually don't get our bearings anywhere because we can't find any familiar landmarks. There was no subway when we were here, but now 7 lines crisscross Seoul and extend out from there quite a way. Ten buses owned by the university shuttle people continuously from campus to the stations just a few miles away, or public buses run also. One magnetic card works for all public transportation, swiping it when entering and exiting, and renewing it as needed at ticket offices (or by machine if we could figure them out).
When we came, the college was a 2-year ministerial training school with about 150 students. It is now a university with several majors, graduate degrees, even doctorates, and almost 6,000 students.
Monday we took the subway out of Seoul to another city where the food factory is. It has grown tremendously, too--begun as a small dairy here on campus, but now a large factory producing 300,000 liters of soymilk a day, plus other fake meat products. After the tour they gave us a nice gift bag of various flavors of soymilk--regular, high-calcium, tropical, strawberry, chocolate, sesame, black bean, etc. All are packaged in little boxes with attached straws, like juice boxes in the States.
We've spent some days just walking around downtown, taking pictures of the high-rise buildings and other interesting spots. (I think most days here I've walked 5-8 miles or so.) We've tried some of the restaurants--many available now, with various ethnic ones too. And there are the ubiquitous chains: Macdonald's, Burger King, KFC, Baskin-Robbins, Coldstone Creamery, and more.
One day last week 3 former students took us and a Korean couple visiting from the States (former students also) to Soeraksang NP in the northeast. I'd always wanted to see it, and Bob was there just once with students many years ago. It is beautiful, with rugged peaks, fall colors, etc. We hiked about 6 miles, I figured, up and down trails. We took a cable car up one high peak. We ate at a very nice park restaurant with a vegetarian buffet. On the way home we stopped for supper about an hour from campus, again with a buffet with a lot of vegetarian food. The men brought a breakfast that we ate in the car after they picked us up at 6:30. Driving was about 3 hours each way. These fellows rented an SUV, paid the gas, arranged for a driver, paid the entrance fees and cable-car tickets, paid for the meals. I'm sure it was all costly.
Last night a retired minister, who studied in the Philippines the year we were there, with his wife took us to dinner. The night before, a pastor who studied under Bob at AU for his doctorate, with his wife took us to another restaurant, and gave us a dress shirt and a silk scarf before we ate; they will also pick us up tomorrow for Bob to preach at their church, and we'll be fed there too. Others have done the same. We actually don't have many suppers in our room.
Last Sabbath we attended an interesting report on conditions in N. Korea.
Today a South African teacher of English here, who has been very friendly and helpful, went downtown with me. She'd taken me last week to a tailor she could recommend as fitting people well (I've had some bad experiences), so I ordered a black cashmere coat and a red alpaca/wool jacket. I went for a fitting today and will pick them up on Monday. She went to have him adjust a coat he'd made her 4 years ago, before she lost quite a bit of weight. Then we shopped for a few gift souvenirs and such, and we ended up at HomePlus, where we got a few food items and I bought a nice washable-wool sweater for about $15 (turtleneck, ribbed knitting, long-sleeved, very soft).
I will be leaving for home next Tuesday. I almost wish I'd planned to stay another week, as there is much more I'd like to see and do. A neighbor wrote that he'd gone into our house and watered the plants and inspected bathrooms and all, and all is fine, no leaks or anything.
Well, that may be more of a report than you wanted to wade through. But it really just scratches the surface.