“He who does not travel does not know the value of men.” – Moorish proverb
10.7.12 - 10.9.12
I was able to find an English speaking church in Seoul and I communicated via e-mail with the preacher and he was super nice and came to pick me up from Ilsan last Sunday. It isn't too far because thankfully the church is in the northern tip of Seoul, pretty near Ilsan, so I didn't feel too bad for him having to drive forever. Just slightly bad. But he was really nice and it worked out because he stopped and bought a couple Costco pizza's before picking me up. I had had a very late night before because I was stressing over lesson planning so I was tired Sunday morning but it was definitely an experience.
The preacher's name is Sang and he is one year younger than my dad and he totally took the role of surrogate father. He is super nice, and common to my experience with Korean people in general, very hospitable and accommodating. He kept making sure I knew that there was wifi I could connect to and he offered me his phone so I could skype my family back home if I wanted to. It was a nice gesture but I would have felt really weird talking on the phone while everyone was just standing around so I had to decline. It's a small church, I think there were maybe 12 people in all but they were mostly foreigners. There were a few from Nepal, some from South Africa, Koreans, me, and some that I don't remember were, but the common language was English and Korean. So Sang was switching from English to Korean. It was pretty fascinating actually because the songs were sung as one but some of us were using English and others Korean. It will definitely help me learn Korean faster. And throughout his talk he would stop every so often and say "ok, now I will say this in Korean" or "Now I explain in English." I'm sure it was not meant to be amusing but I found it so. Afterwards we ate a lunch of pizza, spaghetti, some traditional Korean meat/crab/vegetable/egg things (that I cannot even begin to explain but are delicious) as well as a lot of fruit. While we were all eating Sang wanted to show us pictures he had taken of Korea. He fancies himself an amateur photographer, I say there is nothing amateur about his photos at all, but I digress. As I was delving into my lunch (I skipped breakfast don't judge me) my eyes were astounded at the beautiful pictures of Korea.
Sang had hundreds of shots of different sunsets, quite a few aerial views of the coast and where he grew up. It pretty much solidified my need to see these places up close and personal. He then started showing us photos he had from just after the Korean war. Those were pretty horrific actually. It wasn't like he was showing up dead bodies or anything but you could see the people's faces as they walked around and looked for food and all the destruction. He had pictures of downtown Seoul and it is amazing what time has done to the place. He was a wealth of information from the past.
After the meal and everyone was dispersing he asked me if I had to go home or if I had time to see a little of Korea before he took me back home. Despite the mountain of lesson planning I had back home I took him up on his offer because really it was one I couldn't refuse. He asked me where I wanted to go. I said I could make it to the city by myself and asked if he wouldn't mind showing me a bit of the country. He was really excited about that. He said he would take me to the DMZ and a special military camp. During his military service he was in the special forces so he could get special permission to go into one of the military camps near the border and we could look over into one of the many propaganda villages. The drive there was beautiful and he kept pointing out all the different things we were passing. The crops, rivers, towns, cattle farms... he is a great tour guide.
It was definitely worth every minute of lost planning time.
We drove into this camp and up a little bit to a little convenience store to park the car. To make it up to the observation point we had to walk. Mind you I was not dressed in the best shoes for this but I did it nonetheless. After walking up a gazillion stairs we made it to where all the binoculars are. Sang, of course, had his trusty camera out and was snapping away. He then put 500 won in the binoculars so I could look over into the village. This is when his amazing wealth of knowledge and history totally made my day.
He started telling me about how when he was in the special forces his job was a spy, or messenger, but really spy sounds so much cooler. He would take messages to North Korea and back. He said he had crossed the borders too many times to count. "Each time was life and death" he said. He had that job because his parents were from North Korea and so he was fluent in the North Korean dialect so he could pass fairly easily. I'm sure I lost him for a few minutes as he stared over into the North Korea because he kept shaking his head and saying how sad it was and how he hoped it wasn't reality. You could feel his despair over how North Koreans were treated. He told me about the industry that South Korea has in North Korea. They built factories just beyond one of the hills near the DMZ and use North Korean labor. It's part of a unification effort. I don't know how helpful it is going to be though. He wanted me to guess how much the workers got paid and I couldn't even begin to tell him. He said the average worker in the factory is paid sixty dollars a month. Sixty dollars. For one month. He then made the story even worse, yes it's possible, he said the South Korean government wanted to pay the employees directly but the North Korean government said no they would pay them the money South Korea just had to send it to them, so they did, and they later found out the government was only giving the employees 20%. Twenty percent of $60?? I don't even know what that is but it is beyond ridiculous. He didn't tell me what happened after and I don't really know if I want to know.
While we were looking out over the river that divides the two countries Sang pointed out how different the two landscapes are, the south side has a plethora of trees whereas the north side is pretty barren. He said right after the war there was a huge push among the civilians to replant all the trees. He said it was a lot of work, hard work, but it was worth it. They just kept telling themselves it was not for us but for all the next generations. It was for all the generations to come. He got emotional again when he looked at the barren landscape of the north and at all the propaganda skeleton buildings. Look closely and you cannot see any power lines. There are no power lines. That is what he told me and it is true. He kept repeating. They don't need those buildings. If the government wanted to help its people they wouldn't have built those building. They would have built farms. Oh how right you are Sang... how unfortunately right you are.
We walked around the hill a little bit and went inside the building set up with chairs and pictures. When we went back outside he pointed to a large stone with Chinese characters on it and said "this is her mountain" and told me the name written on it but I cannot for the life of me remember what it is. Anyways, you'll just have to be forever in the dark, sorry. Back to the story. He said around 600 years ago when the Chinese were invading a man and a woman were fleeing and they needed to cross the river. The man was captured but he yelled to his wife to keep going and he would meet her on the other side of the river. She made it safely across and waited for her husband to come find her. She waited day and night but he never came. Years later she died but she would always wait for her husband on the mountain so the people buried her there so she could keep waiting. They then named the mountain after her and put up a little shrine/memorial for her.
It was just a day full of heartbreaking stories that you wish had better endings. But, really, is there any other kind of story I like more? In case you are wondering- the answer is no.
It wasn't all depressing though. He was full of little jokes (my favorite being that his wife calls speed bumps 'sleeping policemen') and he kept pointing out all the great "honeymoon" spots I can go with my future husband. Yeah, in case you didn't know, Koreans are obsessed with getting married. If they find out you are not married they kind of make it their mission to find you a husband.
It was definitely a day to remember.
But then the weekend ended and I had to go back to work. Monday was not a good day. Let's just leave it with a few bullet points to some up the day.
~ My co-teacher was very tired and getting sick so she was very irritable.
~ Midterms are coming up and my managing teacher is a bit of a Nazi when it comes to the perfection level of the tests (case and point my poor co-teacher had to rewrite her last midterm four times).
~ It was Monday. Really, need I elaborate?
~ Communication barriers are really annoying when you co-teacher says one thing but really wanted you to do something completely different.
~ All the printers decided they were going to take a sick day.
~ There was a massive teaching competition (I'm assuming the point was recognition and money) so everyone was really stressed about that.
~ Open classes are starting. (Ok this one needs a bit more elaboration if you are unfamiliar with the concept. So open classes are when teachers literally have open classes. Parents, principals, members of the board of education, and other teachers from the same subject come into your classroom and watch you teach in order to gain insight, pointers, see how others teach, see what you are teaching the kids, how, how well the students are learning etc. It is crazy. The stress put on teachers to make a good impression is a lot. *side note* I was informed our open class will be next Tuesday. Yay...I'm so excited...)
So yeah... Monday sucked. Thankfully Tuesday wasn't too bad. Actually it was pretty good considering. But now I am finishing laundry and trying to load some videos off the internet before I head back upstairs. I cannot wait until I finally get Internet in my apartment! People on the outside may not see me for a few days when that happens... haha well.
Until the next time!