Monday, June 28, 2010

Block Party

Many people pass by our church and admire this New-England-style building with its stain glass and high bell tower.  But how do we move people from admiration to entrance?  How do we let our neighbors know that a lively group of Christians worships inside this quaint old church?   On June 25th, from 5 to 8 p.m., we welcomed our neighbors by inviting them to a block party.

Our head deacon Al drove the Block Party trailer to the church parking lot at 2 p.m.  We were eager to see what was inside.  We found a popcorn machine, snow-cone machine, a sound system, canopies, tables, a BBQ grill, bouncers, games, and much more.  Our church parking lot turned into a carnival within an hour.  We were in business. 

Soon country-western Gospel music was playing; a Korean BBQ lured in hungry visitors; a  puppeteer entertained children; nurses were taking blood pressure; door prizes were passed out; and we were even visited by a city fire truck.  We all had a fun!

 And the best part is this: more than half of the congregation came out to reach our neighborhood for Christ.  After the event, I heard words like, “successful”, “fun”, “hard work”.   Justin, a youth  in charge of the sound system said, “if we do this again, I want to do sound again”. Then Alex who was in charge of the games chimed in, “Yea, I want to do games again.  I had a blast!”  Kids who were jumping on the bouncer, shouted out “This is fun!”  So I know the block party was a successful event for both workers and attendees.  Everybody had fun!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Jeju Island

I can’t believe it is already the 4th day of my travel.  Now I am in Jeju Island.  We were separated from our tour group due to the airline schedule changes.  We arrived at Jeju airport at 3 p.m, and the tour guide took us to Goblin road, according to a folklore, the car drives on its own.  The folklore tells a story about a taxi driver who dropped a passenger at a remote village on a late night.  On his way back home, he stopped to take care of a nature’s call at a spot on this road.  In the corner of his eyes, he saw his car was driven away.  He was convinced that he saw a ghost drove his car.  Since then this road is called Goblin Road.  Our tour driver demonstrates it to us, the car moved for a few yards on its own.  The road seemed to me slightly uphill, and yet our car was moving forward toward uphill on its own.  I don’t know what this is all about, but Jeju tour companies need to have tourist spots like this to bring more tourists from the mainland Korea

On the second in the Island, we went to ride a submarine.  I never rode one before.  I got on a boat to get to the place where a submarine was waiting for us.  A young man who was dressed as a pirate greeted us and took picture of us before we walked down to a tiny hole to the submarine.  

We sat in a row facing the windows, and looked outside.  A man wearing his gear was luring fish with food, and all kind of tiny fish was following him around.  The guide told us that the big fish are scared of people, but little ones are not afraid of.  They are like humans.  We learn helplessness and fearfulness, as we get older.  Then we went to the deeper place and saw all kinds of underworld plants and corals.  I saw flowers, trees, and vegetations under the water.

We visited Sam Bul Sa.  Sam means three in Korean, Bul means Buddha, and Sa means temple.   At the temple, we saw thousands of paper lanterns hung around the temple area, preparing for Buddha’s Birthday celebration.

We walked up a winding, steep hill that leads to a cave.  Water drops were falling from the ceiling of the cave into a small well, people were lined up to drink water from a common cup.  Again, a story tells us that this water is considered to be special.  If a woman drinks this water, she will be able to conceive a child.  I don’t know what happens if a man drinks this water, or a woman who passed her time to conceive a baby.  I was afraid that I would be pregnant at my age, so I didn’t drink it. 

There is lots of folklore about woman in this island.  One particularly interesting story was about Halla Mountain, which Korean considers it as "Jeju Island is Hallasan; and Hallasan is Jeju." The mountain can be seen from all places on the island, but its peak is often covered in clouds.  Any way, a really big old woman lived in this island; she was so big that she used Hallasan as her pillow.  When she lay down at night, she used Hallasan as her pillow, and her feet reached to the ocean.  She had five hundred sons.  One day, she made red bean stew for her sons for supper.  As she stirs the stew, she fell into the huge pot, and she died. When her children came back from the field working all day, they ate mom’s delicious stew.  When they were full, they start looking for mother.  Where is she?  Oh, No, they found her at the bottom of the pot.  They moan for their mother for so long and hard that they turned into rocks.  People can see five hundred human figure rocks lined up in this mountain.  

Monday, June 07, 2010

Korea Prospering

I left Korea in 1974.  At that time, a family can take out $1000 from the country when they immigrate.  The country needed dollars.  My first month paycheck as a middle school teacher in 1973 was $100.  Now I was told that the first year teacher makes 40 times more than I was making.

It is wonderful to come home and see my friends are prospering.  I noticed my friends prefer “made in Korea”.  They also claimed that Korea is the most convenient place to live  in the world.  I believe them.  Things are done fast, and even a bowl of soup from a restaurant can be delivered to your home within 10 minutes.  Korea was not like this always.

Young people in 70’s wanted to get out of the country, seeking political freedom and economical prosperity.  We were afraid of speaking out our minds.  Some of my friends went to prison because they participated in student demonstrations against the government.  But now people are free to speak, democracy is prospering.  

A few months ago, Korea became a member of G20 nations.  I thought cost of living is high, and price a home is more expensive than USA.  I had to pay a modest hotel room for $120 a night.  My friends reminded me that if I want to buy a three-bedroom apartment in Seoul, I need about a million dollar.  My goodness, price of a home is more than San Francisco!  I found the following chart while I was touring Seoul, it was posted in a Seoul City Museum at KwangwhaMun Plaza.  It says income per capita in 1962 was about $300 and in 2007 was about $18,000.  It is increased 627 times.   I figure that it should be higher in 2010.  

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Chris and I are here in Korea.  We just finished our working part of this travel, and began the tour part. It was a gratifying experience to come back to my alma mater, Kyung Hee University after 36 years.  It has changed a lot, and yet many things stayed the same.  

As soon as I walked through the front gate, I saw the same tower with the same logo greeted me.  You can not avoid the logo even if you try not to ignore it, "문화세계창조", it can be translated into "Creating the Cultured World".   I couldn't find another logo that was a part of the campus at that time. "세계는 경희로경희는 세계로", it can be translated into "Kyunghee leads to the World and the World leads to Kyunghee".   

Some of the students snickered at this audacious logo. This was the time when few people could be on an airplane and go to abroad.  Come to think of it Koreans at that time didnt' travel much even within Korea.  We didn't have good roads and also decent transportation to get around the country.  The person who created that logo is a dreamer, and that person was Dr. Cho who was the founder of the university.

The education I got from Kyunghee wasn't about learning the content,   Although, it gave me a qualification to teach English at a middle school, I even taught ESL in America for 3 years in 1970's.  More importantly, I think I learned to dream.  I loved to strolled the campus and dream about what I wanted to become.   Since the University was pretty new,  construction was a part of the campus landscape and different academic disciplines were created all the time.  Something was in the air.

Dr. Cho Young Shik was the President and he was also  the founder of the University.  I never personally met the President of the University at the time, but his presence was everywhere on the campus.  He spoke to students once a month at the main building (see the picture above). We complained at the time as we stood under the hot sun, but even then I sensed that he is a dream catcher.

Dr. Cho was definitely trying to teach us more than academics. He often talked to the students at an assembly which we loathed, and we had to attend in order to get PE credits.  I didn't like it at the time, standing under the scorching sun and listening to him talking about utopia.  He talked about being a global citizen, contributing to humanity, living a worthy life, creating a great society through education,  and asking us to serve the nation and the world.

As I look around the campus, I am marveled at Dr. Cho's accomplishment.  One man's dream that is realized can changed lives of so many, and even changed the nation.  Anyone who has an interest in Kyunghee University's history, they can see Dr. Cho Young Shik's  hand prints everywhere.  I was sad to hear that this great man is very sick and he is hospitalized