Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Seoul Day Three -- and the Beginning of the Meeting

It seemed as though I had just fallen asleep when it was time to wake up -- perhaps because I slept long and soundly!

We met the group for breakfast at 7:00 am (no early morning Eucharist for me today). Other friends are beginning to show up as well. I invited Scott Hayashi to join us on our adventure today. The only one from our group who couldn't make it was Anna Olson -- she was meeting our friend Francis today. 

We set out at 8:30 and we walked along the main boulevard towards the Big Palace (Gyeongbokgung Palace). Along the way we stopped at my favorite "water feature" which is the lower level river right off the main boulevard. I always know where it is by the shell-like structure at the boulevard entrance to
the water.  We walked along the water's edge, admiring the umbrellas and other beautiful things to see -- such as the umbrellas hanging with some kind of message on them. 

We then crossed to the middle of the boulevard to admire the statues of Admiral Yi Sunshin and King Sejong the Great, two very important men in Korean history (you can look up their stories if you'd like -- I'm not writing it all out here). The statues are ginormous, as I am fond of saying. The air was cool this
morning and the large crowds we encountered the last few days were much fewer in number.

We finally made it to the Palace! I'm not quite sure why, but today it was free admission for not only the Palace but for the Folk Art Museum as well. We walked around the palace grounds and admired the workmanship of the buildings. It wasn't very crowded so it was easy to take pictures and spend a bit
of time looking around. We did make it over to the folk museum -- I hadn't been there in 4 years! Right outside there was the Chinese zodiac statues -- I found the monkey (my sign for my year). Too cute!

Anna reminded me that at the entrance to Insadong (at least one of the entrances) is a giant paint brush. It's more the a mouhbat -- a brush pen for calligraphy. We turned in there and waked up into Insadong. We were along the same road we were on yesterday. Another stop at the scarf store for one
for my twin to match the one I got for myself (it is a good color for us). We also went to an art store that featured silks and hand embroidery. I found some beautiful mirrors for gifts that were hand embroidered on one side! We then went on to look for a specific kind of pillow in the shape of a cube for Kate (she saw one in the Folk Museum I believe). Steve finally was able to get his fried donut (there was a LONG line there yesterday and he couldn't get one - bummer! It has some kind of beans in it -- I would describe it as sweet and savory!

While the group was helping Kate search for the pillow she was looking for, I went over to the information booth. I asked the woman there if she could help me find the restaurant and the tea house I was looking for yesterday with Fr. Columba. I described the sign outside the Shabu Shabu restaurant: "there is a sign with a short man on it -- cartoon like -- and he has crazy hair." She immediately knew what I was talking about, called it up on her computer, turned the monitor around and let me see it -- yes, that was it! Shabu Shabu was in my future! I felt confident in her abilities so I asked her to look up the tea house -- it was only one street over from the Shabu Shabu restaurant. So off our group went. 

We got to the restaurant and our "little" group of 8 ordered shabu shabu -- Scott Hayashi took care of the cooking on one side of the table, and Ken Chow took control of the other pot on the other side of
the table. Within a few minutes, the food was cooking in a delicious broth and we were enjoying each other's company and the wonderful shabu shabu! This is on road 8 in Insadong.

After our lunch we found the tea house -- yes, it was the one I was looking for! It is on road 10 of Insadong -- like road 8 it is really a narrow alleyway. At the end of a museum is the part open/part enclosed tea house. Four of us had jujube tea -- delicious! Two had green tea (one with milk). One had Chrysanthemum tea, and one had ginger tea. Delicious! It was packed outside so we sat inside. It was a delightful, refreshing experience, and I was so happy to find those two places. Everyone seemed to enjoy the food and the tea.

We then got into cabs and headed over to the hotel. The rest of the group moved over to the hotels they were staying at (with the rest of the EAM group). There are a few of us staying at the hotel we checked into just a few days ago. At 3:30 we met up (some but not all of us) and walked over to Namdemun. It was pretty packed, and chock full of vendors and "more stuff than anyone needs" per Steve. It was a fruitful experience (Barbara found an outfit for her granddaughter, I found a table runner, as did Kate. Barbara found a knitting bag.) A detour suggested by one of the shop keepers sent us to a "mall" with hundreds of stalls -- looking for Kate's pillow. No luck.

We said our goodbyes at the hotel and went to our rooms to shower and change for dinner. Steve and I waslked over to the Cathedral where we were greeted by old friends from all across the US and Taiwan. We registered and sat to have some water. 

The program began at 7 pm with introductions by Fred Vergara, Bayani Rico, Peter Ng, Archbishop Kim and the blessing of the food by the Senior Warden of the Cathedral. We then headed to the sub basement for dinner -- a big spread with all different kinds of food. 

We sat and ate with the Shin's and the Lai's -- good friends. Donald Rominek from ECF joined us.

We were done by about 8:30 and headed back to the hotel, which is a good thing -- I'm pooped!

I wonder what our first FULL day (and it is scheduled as a very full day) will be like tomorrow! 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Seoul Day Two

We went to sleep at about 8:30 last night, both thinking it may take us a while to fall asleep -- well, that wasn't true! We did both wake up about 1:00 am, but that was just a short "where am I?" moment. Back to sleep and up again at about 4:30 am. A great night's sleep! It is very quiet in the room, very conducive to good sleeping.

At 7:00 I was back in the Cathedral with Barbara and Kate -- it was much more crowded than yesterday, with the Archbishop celebrating the Eucharist -- it was the beginning of the 125th anniversary celebration. The nuns from the convent along with many of the clergy were in the chapel --
it was packed! As I turned around in my chair I spotted Brother Ambrose next to a member of the clergy who had been at our CPE program at Good Samaritan Hospital -- it is a small world! 

Brother Ambrose had his fan, which I had to borrow at one point during the service! Of course one of my favorite moments was when Sister Catherine Oh came in -- what a blessing she is! She wrote a
quick synopsis of the sermon for me as it was coming to an end. While I did not understand a word that was being said by the preacher, I told him afterwards that I particularly enjoyed his delivery. He was very relaxed and people responded to his warmth. 

Sometimes we meet angels in our lives. That was part of the sermon, as you can see on the top of the page. I feel as though I have met many angels in my life here in the Diocese of Seoul and in the Province of Korea. The Rev. Kyrie Kim also whispered in my ear about what the Archbishop was saying as he addressed the group during the announcements. It was a very special start of a very beautiful day!

We headed back to the hotel to find Ken and Steve already eating breakfast. As there were three of us and they were at a table for four, we were directed to our own table. We waited for the Rev. Nancy Frausto and the Rev. Anna Olson to get to the hotel for breakfast from the airport -- the arrived shortly after us, and Nancy joined our table and Anna joined Steve and Ken's table. It was good to see them and to catch up a little before our day started to unfold -- and in some ways unravel -- before us. You see we were supposed to head out with Fred Vegara and his wife and their friend to the Big Palace (Gyeongbokgung Palace). However because Nancy and Anna arrived later than expected from the airport, I negotiated a different "start" time 45 minutes later to enable them to eat and take a shower before we headed out. That gave some of us time to take a walk before we went touring.

Steve, Barbara, Kate and I headed for a walk down "embassy row" as I like to call it. That small street that runs along one side of the small palace (Deoksugung Palace). It is a beautiful, small windy street that has a number of embassies/consulates along it, as well as a church and a museum. There is also lovely artwork along the way. As we set out we saw a beautiful, large drum outside the small palace
and stopped to take a picture. As we did, a woman approached me and as she began to ask me, "do you remember me" -- I immediately realized it was Ella Goo -- the wonderful young woman who we met one year ago and who took us shopping before our dinner with the Archbishop last time we were in Seoul. It was so wonderful to see her -- I invited her to dinner with us, and she accepted.

As we walked along the street we say lots of beautiful art. I particularly love the "squashed" family -- it looks as though they were flattened, or as one member of our group noted, it looked as though we were looking at them in one of those carnival distorting mirrors. We also passed by the Franciscan
Friary and saw the lovely statue of St. Francis out front. When I took the photo it looked as though there was a rainbow of light coming across St. Francis -- it was the effect of the light on my iPhone camera, and I thought of deleting the picture. Seeing the result the refracted light made caused me to change my mind. I thought about all the pictures I see on Facebook with people changing their profile pictures to include a rainbow of light across them -- I had to smile as I thought about St. Francis with that same welcoming rainbow.

When we finally took off we headed to the Big Palace with Fr. Columba Lee driving us -- only to find that it was so crowded there we couldn't park! I asked if we should just head on to Insadong to do some shopping and eat lunch. He agreed -- we will go to the Big Palace tomorrow before the Convocation begins. At any rate, when we got to Insadong we parked in a small lot that had an interesting display in the back -- the pagoda like statues with stone people in between. After I took the picture we began shopping immediately and walking down the street -- beautiful! I love this area of Seoul. 

We went to Well Being restuarant and had a wonderful lunch of "wrapped rice"-- beautiful green leaves of lettuce and other green leafed veggies with red rice, bulgogi and smoked duck. All the trimmings too! It was delicious. Nancy Frausto who historically has been the queen of "don't worry about feeding me, I can go out and get tacos" has become quite an adventurous eater! I was so proud of her. She loved the bulgogi!

We then got back in the van and headed to the Leeum -- the Samsung museum. It had traditional art including celadon, other ceramics, caligraphy, etc. on one side, and modern art on the other. It was very well laid out and was definitely worth the drive to Itaewon, an area I hadn't been in before. LOVED the streets there -- lots of young people out and about, and definitely an international feel in the area by virture of the number of different kinds of restaurants we saw -- Turkish, Vietnamese, Indian, Mexican, Soul Food, etc. I didn't take pictures in the museum (it wasn't allowed) but I did take one of an Itaewon shop and of the Tourist Police van that I saw. I wondered about what the Tourist Police do -- arrest tourists that aren't following rules? 

The next and (almost) last stop of the day was at the Convent next to the Cathedral. I had asked Sister Catherine if she could give us a tour of the convent and she did. She greeted us warmly as we entered the side gate that leads to the beautiful garden -- it is definitely an oasis in Seoul! We took pictures and then went inside to have juice and tea before continuing our tour. Her hospitality was warm as always. She is such a joy to be with! We visited the chapel, and then before leaving her she should us the prayer room in the traditional Korean style area of the convent. 

We said goodbye to Columba and Nancy and Anna - Nancy and Anna were exhausted and headed back to the hotel. Columba went to join Aidan for dinner. We went pack and dropped off out packages and headed to Luii for dinner -- a chinese restaurant that is one of the Archbishop's favorite places to eat. We each ordered a dish and shared it. Ella joined us for dinner -- lovely! 

As we were walking back a band was planning at the City Hall across from the hotel -- it was wonderful to listen to live music on the cool night-air stroll back to the hotel. I leave you with various photos from the day. Until tomorrow.....I wonder what I'll see as I wander around Seoul .......