Orientation Trip!

2 09 2008

So there was a weekend orientation trip, where everyone in the CIEE program left Seoul for the weekend and went to the country. For those that lack an attention span here is a brief list of things that happened:

1. Sat in a bus for many hours

2. Made paper, in a traditional style

3. Laughed as people came back to the traditional hotel really drunk, and did ghetto norebang

4. Climbed a mountain

5. Did a lot of shopping in the Family Mart at weird hours of the night

6. Ate eggs at 1AM

7. Picked tea leaves

8. Sat on the bus for waaaay too long

For those of you that have the ability to concentrate and actually read I shall explain these items a bit more. So the first day basically encompassed going to a huge land reclamation project where they are making a wall to block the ocean which will give the Koreans land about five times the size of Manhattan, which they will then change into various things like farmland and a space center… It is kind of a useless project. We then drove on to another city, which I don’t remember the name of, and there we made traditional paper. I can’t think of anything more to describe that. After that was over a group of us went to a really ghetto norebang (or karaoke room), and when we returned to the traditional-style inn that we were staying at for the night there were many drunk people running about. It was a very amusing and fun night filled with talking.

The next day we woke up to discomfort as we had slept on the floor (though I was fine as I slept on about ten pillows). If my memory serves me right we then drove to a mountain that we then proceeded to hike up. This was a fairly annoying hike as much of the path was just small boulders which were not very easy to traverse. The view, however, was quite spectacular and the whole experience was well worth it. After that we went to a Buddhist temple where we had dinner and watched an evening prayer, which actually was quite cool to me. The monks were reciting the Heart Sutra, which I forget what exactly it is but it is important. I thought that was pretty interesting. After that we went to our hotel which was a modern facility, and conveniently had a convenience store in the basement. We went there quite late and bought some eggs to have at about 1AM. That was great.

The next day, which was the last day, we spent the morning at a tea plantation and traditional village, where we actually were able to pick some tea leaves and keep them. I currently have my tea sitting on the counter drying out before I roast it to make some black tea. I just hope it doesn’t suck. We then proceeded to spend about eight hours on the bus…. it was boring. Mostly people just took pictures of other people sleeping.

Overall, orientation was pretty good. Nothing super exciting, but it was cool to get out of Seoul and things some other sides of Korea that I do not think I would have necessarily seen. So I guess you could say that it was good. Here are the pictures:

This is just a toll gate, but I thought it was pretty cool.

This is that land reclamation project, it goes really far into the Yellow Sea as you can see.

This is a cool Hyundai sign.

These are some Kimchee pots at the traditional inn we stayed at.

The same Kimchee pots and the building we stayed in.

This is apparently the prefered method of growing squash in the countryside.

The Buddhist temple we stopped at to watch the monks at work.

Here is the traditional village, with some rice fields in the background.

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The Ol’ DMZ

31 08 2008

So this is the beginning post of my orientation things, I didn’t really have much time during them so I will try to write all about orientation, starting with going to the DMZ, between North and South Korea (it’s a strange place).

The DMZ is the “border” between South and North Korea, which are actually still at a state of war, and only have a cease fire to stop the fighting that started with the Korean War. So while I was at the DMZ it would have been possible for the war to resume, which would have been dangerous. There have been several incidents where fighting between the ROK army (Republic of Korea/South) and the KPA (Korean People’s Army/North) has actually occured. These were explained to us by the soldiers that guided us around the DMZ. I won’t go into those, but I will say that being at the DMZ was a very strange experience.

For many years it seems like North Korea has been such a dire enemy and it was a bit odd to see some of the KPA soldiers in person. Wasn’t so much frightening as just unsettling. I even went onto North Korean soil, in the conference room where the UN flag is flown. We also saw ‘Propaganda Village’, where the world’s biggest flag is. It is called ‘Propaganda Village’ because no one actually lives there, even though there are buildings and every night propaganda is played over speakers to tell the South Koreans to defect to the North. Soldier of Fortune magazine also put a $1,000,000 bounty on a square meter piece of that flag, which the American soldier guiding us told us, and we all laughed and tried to figure how to do it, but unfortunately it is pretty difficult.

Anyways, I think this is a good time to show off the pictures as they are pretty interesting themselves.

The large building in the back is the main North Korean building and the blue ones are conference rooms

A KPA soldier watching us (we weren’t allowed to point or make any gestures towards them)

The cement thing going across in the middle is the exact location of the border, and those are two ROK soldiers

That is our American soldier that guided us around the DMZ… he was pretty cool

This is the main conference table and a U.N. flag on the right. All the soldiers there are actually working for the U.N. but the Americans are in charge of them. I was also technically in North Korea when I took this picture.

All the ROK/US soldiers at the DMZ wear these armbands. I just thought they looked pretty cool and thats the only real significance of that.

Here is ‘Propaganda Village’. That is the big flag, and the nice looking town that nobody lives in.

These now rusty signs mark the border between the countries, and they are positioned about every 50 meters along the entire border.

Here is a picture of North Korea, taken from a vantage point.