Today is my last day of almost 4 months in Asia. I am feeling sentimental about it….so many special moments, beauty, pathos, fun, learning, unbearable heat and food I didn’t like. Here are a few photos that I haven’t posted previously .
After a month in South Korea, we are aware of some distinct themes in our conversations. One is how much I don’t like the food. HAH! Ok I will shut up now because everyone is tired of hearing it. (Diane loves it) The more important theme is the country’s many ways of telling you that you are honored. Not you the tourist, or you the powerful or rich person, but you whoever you are.
Imagine traveling through a country where you see things like this everywhere:
I treasure my life on the road and I remind myself every day that it must be more than an extended vacation. I am in it to learn and connect. The pyramids are breathtaking but slaves built them and climate change could destroy them. And worse and more. Fortunately, for every tragedy, there seems to be people pushing back on tragedy. Yesterday, I learned a little about both on the Island of Jeju, “South Korea’s Hawaii.”
From the standpoint of South Korea’s niceness, this week has been pretty typical. Monday stands out because it began with an 80-year old man walking us ten blocks toward our destination to a police station — where two police officers took us the rest of the way in their police car. (Really, that was so cool). Our coffee house hostesses took photos of us and then thanked us profusely while giggling. On my subway ride back to our hotel, a young man gave me his seat next to a group of women who shared their popcorn with me.
I am in love with Korea’s alphabet. And Koreans love it so much, “Hangeul” has its own fabulous museum in Seoul and its own national holiday on October 9. Why all the fuss? Koreans treasure their alphabet because it was created to promote what we today call democracy.
We are standing in the dark at the base of a giant golden Buddha at 4:30am. The Buddha is framed by mountains and a wooden pagoda. I’m wearing six layers of lightweight cotton, unprepared for the near-freezing temperatures we will endure for the coming hour. Shaking, I find myself trying not to wonder why I thought staying at a temple in the mountains was a good idea.
So far, I sure do love Seoul, South Korea, a city of 10 million people that feels more like a small town. It’s friendly and clean and calm. People talk to us like they will meet us again somewhere, like the grocery store or a PTA meeting.