Thursday, September 24, 2009

Week #1 Korea

Sunday, September 20, 2009 
This moring we enjoyed another breakfast of Isaac Toast before John picked us up to attend church service at his church, Tree planted by the Water Church of the Nazarene (www,, several stories of a building in a business neighborhood. We were taken downstairs and were introduced to some of the people in the congregation, including John's father and John's wife, Kathy. John's niece, Esther, wanted to sit with us and she was able to translate some of the service to us, although John had already been very sensitive to our needs, having printed out an outline of his sermon so we wouldn't be totally clueless as to the topic preached in Korean. Even a couple of verses of a hymn sung by their worship team were in English! (We weren't sure if this was done on a regular basis or for our benefit; we were impressed anyway!)
This small congregation has lunch together after Sunday's service (the women take turns preparing food) before a Bible study. So we went upstairs 2 flights and enjoyed rice, Korean beef, kim chee, salad, and soup, along with conversation with Kathy and her brother Hong-seok Koo (Esther's father) who is a diplomat. While the church members attended Bible study, we spent some time in another room – they knew we needed to rest and would not understand the discussion.

With the Bible study finished, we went downstairs to the van, along with Kathy and 2 other young ladies to travel to the location of Dan's first training session, Hillside Church. We were ushered to the Senior Pastor's office and enjoyed some fruit with Kathy. Koreans are very hospitable – everywhere we went, we were invited to sit and talk and enjoy a snack before the work. We had our first taste of Korean Naju pears and their dark purple grapes. (The pears are round with indented ends and very white flesh that is sweet and crisp.) After that, Dan's training was ready to begin in their sanctuary – with his presentation project on a screen and with John translating to the zone youth leaders in attendance.....

We went to a Korean restaurant for dinner. At our table, we took off our shoes, climbed up 2 steps, then sat on that platform at a table equipped with a cooker for thinly sliced beef, along with kim chee and sauces for the meat – delicious! Kathy kept the meat moving with tongs (it cooked very quickly)

Monday, September 21, 2009
The guest room was a nice room with a bed, table and chairs, wardrobe/closets, TV and little fridge, and a bathroom just big enough.  Interestingly, in almost all places we went to (even offices), you walk in and leave your shoes in a level tiled area at the door, then step up (often with slippers provided) onto a raised floor.  The bathroom is lower and tiled, with drains in the floor, as you don't always have a closed shower area.  We enjoyed our cereal and milk and grapes and got ready for our day.

John and Chung picked us up (Chung got us some much-needed “Korean-style” coffee) and we began our array of transportation options!  It was funny later – we drove around in the van for a time while John and Chung decided which way to go and which options we should use to get us to Korea Nazarene University (KNU), where Dan was slated to speak to graduate ministry students during their regular class time under Dr. Oh.  There was a point when the timing was going to be too tight, so we transferred to a taxi with John (while Chung drove on in the van with the printed handout materials) to get to the train station.  The train was quite comfortable and we got to KNU in time to have a quick lunch in the cafeteria before meeting Dr Oh in his office for a time to get acquainted before the class.  Dr Oh is a soft-spoken man with much experience in other cultures, having settled back in his native Korea.  We had to laugh when we asked him if he knew of some place particular in Argentina and he answered, “No se.” (I don't know, in Spanish!)

We met back in his office afterwards and enjoyed more juice and he gave Dan an honorarium, something we certainly didn't expect!  Then met up with the Chaplain (who Dan had met before, as a  Korean quizzer in Indianapolis in 2005) and were treated to some green tea there before heading back with John and Chung in the van.  Spending time with people and being hospitable is extremely important here.

On the ride back to Seoul, there is a very nice travel plaza where you can get fuel and use a restroom but, more importantly, there are many choices of snacks and/or meals.  They wanted us to have a treat to tide us over and got us each a McDonald's version of a blizzard...  It was a lo-o-o-ong drive back, so the joke was that “maybe we should have taken the train!”

We had calculated that we needed just a few more groceries to get us through the time based in this guest room, so we went to a HomePlus complex.  It's a large shopping center (John compared it to Wal-Mart, but it's even much more than that).  To begin with, just to get into the parking deck underground, a smartly dressed young woman (red business suit and pillbox hat) was stationed at the ticket machine. She pulled the parking ticket out of the machine and bowed as she formally handed it to Chung, who was driving.  We parked and headed up an escalator to the huge grocery store floor, but went on past many clothing departments to the food court for dinner before we went back for groceries later.  The food court is unique too, in that you pay at one place for any of the restaurants, then watch any of several boards for your order number to show up under the name of the restaurant…

Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Since this morning could be more leisurely, we had our breakfast, then got directions (from another John Kim, one of the associate pastors at SangAmDong) and walked a few blocks to a Dunkin Donuts shop for coffee.  School girls had congregated there for juice and donuts.  There seems to be quite an affinity for donuts in Korea!  (We also saw other world-wide chains like Krispy Kremes, as well as KFC, McDonald's, Pizza Hut.)

John's plan this day was a boat ride on the Hangang River.  It was a charming ride of about an hour, narrated for the first hour in Korean (for a large group of school children on a field trip) and in English. John and Chung also pointed out other interesting places along the shores and in the business districts.  There's also a fabulous sprayer; river water sprays straight up, building up to a height of 202 meters, in honor of the 2002 World Cup (soccer) held in Seoul.  This lasts for about an hour, twice a day, and is quite impressive, spraying our large tour boat too!

In spite of us insisting that we didn't need a large lunch, we were treated to sabu-sabu (say “shaboo-shaboo”) - Korean fondue.  We each had our own pot of boiling broth in which to cook a huge plateful of thin white mushrooms, greens, pot stickers, and thin-sliced beef.  It was great!  After that small (not) lunch, we took a short walk in a nearby park to wear off a couple of calories!
Then it was time to drive to the Anjung Church of the Nazarene for the evening's Bible Quiz training session.  We spent some time with the senior pastor; his secretary brought in a couple of large plates with pear slices, pineapple chunks and traditional rice-based treats of many colors.

After an hour or so, we went downstairs to watch the set-up by the local pastors and were charmed to see a large banner with our names that advertised the Bible Quiz training.  Neat!  The first room didn't work out for the computer set-up, so we moved to another meeting room (with no time to eat the dinner prepared for us by the church ladies until afterwards).  The training was well-received and was videotaped so they can use the training again for some who couldn't come this time. There were probably 45-50 attendees.  After a late meal of rice, mushrooms, greens, and kim chee, we finished so the church ladies could clean up and headed back to SangAmDong for the night.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009
We'd been actually enjoying watching the construction across the street each morning as we ate our breakfast – the whole choreographed process of getting a large lot ready for creating an office building. The workers met in another lot for warm-up exercises and their instructions, then they crossed the street, each to his power shovel tractor or dump truck or supervisory spot and the “dance of the heavy equipment” began.  We put out our laundry too, having arranged for some to be done.  We learned later a lady in the congregation did it for free and we had it back that evening!

John needed to get some work done that day, so we met Peter, a young pastor who had also been a Korean quizzer at General Convention in 2005), for coffee and were joined by Chung for a day of tourism.  We also were introduced to Andy (Adrian Tambongco), a friend of Peter's who is a Filipino pastor-missionary  leading an English-speaking congregation at SangAmDong with his wife Lilian.  We've got plans to meet up with them for dinner in the 5th floor staff dining area to get an idea of what to expect the next week in the Philippines.

The guys took us first to a missionary cemetery, a beautiful and peaceful place where we saw many American names on headstones – people who gave their lives to God's work in Korea.  The small museum held more interesting information and quite creative and meaningful wall/floor projections.

The next place on the tour was the Gyeongbokgung Palace with beautiful ancient buildings (some recreated after Japan had ruled and destroyed many buildings in the past).  The guys got maps and headsets (a recorded guide in English) for us and we walked around the grounds, just soaking in the history through the painted eaves, costumed soldiers, king's quarters and government meeting rooms with sliding doors and shutters, cushions on the floor by the low tables and incredible painted screens and ceilings.  We also enjoyed some costumed drummers outside the Korean Folk History Museum – they drew quite a crowd with their display of talent!

Again, we were treated to a late and not-small lunch!  A cute little restaurant on a small side street seated us in a small room of our own, on the floor with cushions and the guys began to order a variety of Korean dishes.  We told them afterwards that it should have been named the Restaurant of 50 Plates, as there were at least that many on our table with all the soup and sauces and samples – incredible!

Shopping was next, as we wanted to get just a few small, typical Korean items to take home.  We really enjoyed this street of small shops and stands with a wide variety of hand-made things, from trinkets to jewelry to art.

Back at SangAmDong, we took the elevator to the 5th floor lunch room to join the pastors and the school's teachers, including Andy and Lilian, for noodle soup and kim chee.  It was great to get to know them and we promised to keep in touch on Facebook.  Soon it was time for the 7:30 service, which was very well attended!  The senior pastor asked us to stand (his English is very good).  For a few sentences, we could tell he was describing why we were there and a little bit about quizzing, but the rest of the service was in Korean
Back in our room upstairs, Dan caught Derrick online (it was early Wednesday morning for him) and they got to Skype for a while!

Thursday, September 24, 2009
After finishing our breakfast, we packed our suitcases, then had the rest of the morning to do some walking in search of batteries and a Starbucks for coffee.  We were successful and, when John Kim came, we all enjoyed another meal in the 5th floor dining room before driving to our next destination – back to AnJung.  One of the associate pastors, a long-time friend of John Kim, was our host this day.  We enjoyed some fruit, then got to ride around AnJung to see a number of Nazarene churches there.  They especially wanted to show off the Nazarene church that had a waterfall and a coffee shop.  It was in a beautiful country setting with lots of trees.  We walked around a bit until the pastor and his wife came home. They invited us into the coffee shop (like a chalet, really!) for coffee and huge Korean pear slices.  They have a photo, taken there, of Howard Shore, the Australian composer who wrote the music for the movie “Lord of the Rings.”  This warm couple described their plans for a new sanctuary and wanted to treat us to a meal, but the associate pastor already had plans for where to take us for dinner, so we drove away after admiring the facilities and more of the wooded grounds.

Our dinner was yet another wonderful Korean “barbecue” (bulgogi) with lots of thin meat to cook over a gas cook-top on our table.  The AP had already secured a room for us, at the Bellagio Hotel, as Dan was scheduled for follow-up training at the church in the morning. The room was quite luxurious and included a huge red bathtub in the shape of a heart! ;)

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