The week after our rafting excursion flew by in anticipation of the arrival of Anderson's parents. They actually got into Seoul Wednesday evening, however the combination of their inevitable jet lag (2.5 days of sleep was the result) and our work schedule meant we didn't show up until Saturday morning. We took the first KTX train from Busan, right at 5am, and arrived in Seoul just before 8. Marcia & Rod were staying, thanks to hotel "points," at the Millennium Seoul Hilton - a fabulous 5-star hotel!
So we arrived in the lap of luxury, had a spectacular breakfast buffet 2 mornings in a row, and took advantage of the top-notch fitness center (puts our home gym to shame) just before we left. While in Seoul we went to the Seoul National Museum, which was packed with all sorts of Korean artifacts, including quite a few of the nation's "National Treasures." The Korean government has compiled a list of the best of the best and we've seen quite a few of them during our time here. Although with a total of 307, we'll never really get close to seeing them all :-) The museum also featured some nice collections of other Asian art, although by that time in our museum visit we were moving quite speedily through the galleries!
Afterwards we headed to a little more action-packed cultural experience: a performance of Miso at the Chongdong Theater. Set up in traditional Korean style, the theater finds a nice balance between the ancient and modern. Thus, while deeply rooted in Korean drama of yesteryear, the intent is definitely to entertain the modern audience rather than bore them. So the performance, which combines music, dance, song, and acrobatics, is high-energy and highly entertaining. Having seen many a culture show elsewhere in Asia, what truly set this one apart was the genuine passion and joy of the participants. If you are ever in Seoul, this is definitely worth checking out, and at only $20 quite affordable.
From Seoul we took an afternoon bus to Jeonju, which ended up being literally direct, as opposed to the usual half-journey reststop. But given how close Jeonju is, at just over 2.5 hours, everything worked out well. Sunny had found us a nice hotel, The Riviera, right on the edge of the traditional village which, besides the wonderful food, is Jeonju's main touristic claim to fame. Over 900 traditional houses are still thriving in the center of the city, a combination of homes and shops. There are many stores selling hanji, traditional paper made from mulberry bark, as well as old-style tea houses. The city is constantly improving the area, and a waterway has been recently established that was under construction during our last visit to see Sunny. Jeonju's food of course did not disappoint, as we enjoyed many a tasty meal. Highlights included bibimbap (mixed vegetables and rice), gamjatang (potato/pork spine soup), and some cold noodle soups in bean sprout and black bean sauces. We spent our days meandering about the village, making ourselves hanji ties (think tye-died style), drinking tea, and window-shopping; our nights were spent recovering from dinner and chatting with Sunny & Zoe in our hotel room.
From Jeonju we returned home to Busan, with Anderson's parents staying only 2 blocks away in the same "love motel" that we stayed in when we first arrived in Korea. It was very nice and fun to finally show Rod & Marcia what our life is really like, from our apartment to our school, to our neighborhood and the highlights of Busan. We went to two of the most famous temples: the temple by the sea Haedong Yonggungsa, and Beomeosa which is set in a contrasting forest environment. We of course went to the aquarium (probably our last visit there, we're a bit aquariumed out by now), and foolishly took the nighttime city bus tour - not worth it at all as the only think worth seeing at all is the Gwangan Bridge...
The days definitely flew by, and soon enough our vacation was over and we had to return to work. Marcia & Rod did get to see COREM then, and they sat in on a couple of our kindergarten classes in the morning. Their two weeks in Korea had past, and so the next morning we set them up in a taxi around 4:30 am so they could get to the airport in time for their 7 am flight to Seoul. All went smoothly and they are back in America, sleeping to recover :-).
It was really wonderful to spend quality time with our parents after a two year hiatus. They can now relate to our life and experiences here much better and we are very thankful that they took the time to explore this culture. They were lucky enough to have many "Asian" things happen to them. For example, obliging requests for a photo with strangers, getting talked to and talking to people in languages neither can understand, and having people openly stare out of sheer curiosity. Even the mundane for Asians, like taking shoes off in restaurants, working the shower and using tiny towels, or bowing to people is hard to adapt to in such a short amount of time. It's these daily travel occurrences that are hardest to relate to people that have never experienced them, and it's our reactions to them that help us understand ourselves better. Rod and Marcia took it all in stride, and for that, we are very proud of them.
Since their departure we've worked one week, and this past weekend we went to Haeundae Beach both Saturday and Sunday. Anderson's a bit red from the sun, but it was quite relaxing, we got some quality reading and swimming in both days with Blaise and Joe. We also went to see Batman: The Dark Knight on Saturday night, which was certainly grandiose and epic, but didn't disappoint one bit.
This next weekend is 3 days long, no school on Friday, but we are working a voluntary-but-paid English Village weekend camp for upper-elementary students on Saturday and Sunday. So the bad news is our weekend is really only one day long, but the good news is the weekend should be fun enough and put some extra money in our pockets!
That's that from Busan, just cleaning the house up a bit today since it got a bit messy over the weekend!
Anderson & Liz