After having left Los Angeles at 11:30 pm on Saturday, September 26, we arrived in Seoul at 4:35 am on Monday, September 28. Bleary eyed, the first of the Los Angeles folks arrived for the Episcopal Asiamerica Ministry Convocation which will begin on Wednesday, September 30. Ken Chow, Barbara Stewart, my husband Steve and me -- followed shortly by Aidan Koh. Also on our flight was Kate Cullinane -- a matriarch of EAM! Soon Brother Ambrose will be joining us, and as the next few days continue to unfold, over 40 of us will gather from the Diocese of Los Angeles alone -- there are just over 200 registered for this event.
We were picked up at the airport by the Rev. Silverio Hyoung-ho Roh and the Rev. Jinse Kim. When we emerged from customs and immigration at a little after 5 this morning, there they were! In their collars at 5 am on a Holiday -- it is the Moon Festival here, and most people are home with their families. I felt horrible that they came to get us -- I was happy to take the bus!
We arrived at the hotel and by 6:30 am we were checked into our rooms. At 6:45 Barbara, Kate and I headed over to the Cathedral to catch the 7 am Eucharist in the chapel. Of course, as we were heading there Silverio was walking towards us in order to make sure we didn't get lost.
It was wonderful to spend my first few hours in Seoul having Eucharist in the Chapel -- it was a blessed way to begin this trip. Although the service was done entirely in Korean, we all knew where we were in the service. It felt natural and "at home" to be in that space, praying and sharing Eucharist and the peace with each other.
We ate breakfast together with Archbishop Kim and some members of his staff. It was great to see Kyrie Kim -- someone I have long admired.
Finally we got our showers done and regrouped after a short rest just in time for -- LUNCH! Aidan remembered that I love ginseng chicken soup, so he asked the Archbishop's staff where to go. We went to a small place close to the hotel. We were seated upstairs -- Aidan's sister and her son joined us. The soup was delicious! I was served my soup, which contained a whole baby chicken in it as well. Here is a picture of the soup, still bubbling as it always does when it is served. I especially liked my spoon -- depicting a deer and ginseng -- it was the only spoon I saw in the box of utensils on the table that was like that, and somehow it ended up in my bowl. It symbolizes gaining strength. A special tea and a small amount (very small, actually) of ginseng wine rounded out the meal and gave us a small burst of energy. So, we were off again.
Steve forgot his sports coat, so we were on the lookout for one. We went "underground" but found most of the shops closed because of the holiday. We did, however, find the Lotte department store with the enormous food court in the bottom (the underground level). It was packed, and happy shoppers and people who were just hungry were feasting on everythning from bibimbap to sushito different noodle dishes, breads, etc. I don't know what you COULDN'T find there! We made a mental note to save that for a potential dinner stop.
We never did find a jacket, but Aidan promised to take us shopping in an area in which he thought we might be able to find a good deal. Well, we didn't find a jacket there either, but we DID see a gazillion people out shopping, and street carts with all kinds of different foods to eat -- from fried octopus tentacles to baked cheese to baked eggs on bread to ice cream stuffed in large, curved, churro sized cones to cotton candy colored and shaped like a lotus flower -- and more! Here is a picture of the area were were walking around. Pictures of the food will follow at the end of this blob post today.
We then walked to a folk village (I remember visiting that when I was here the first time). It was PACKED! The city is filled with Chinese tourists and others who were visiting over the long weekend. The folk village was also packed with people -- but it was good to see the beautiful trees and the village still being visited -- women and men were dressed up in traditional wear -- small children too! It was beautiful.
We took a cab back to across the street from the hotel to the small palace. We walked thorugh those grounds as well. I remember doing this on my own early in the morning the day I arrived in Seoul for the first time four years ago. It is a beautiful palace -- and when we went into one area we could clearly see over the wall and realized that what we were looking at was actually the Archbishop's office!
We had tea with the Archbishop around 4:15 and went to our rooms to rest a bit. After a quick consultation with the group we headed over to the food court for dinner -- we weren't disappointed! I had pork cutlet with rice and vegetable. We all enjoyed it, and we each had a little bit of dessert (I had pistachio almond ice cream -- I know, it's not on my diet!
Well, I walked over 21,000 steps today and I'm feeling it (and a bit of being overtired at the moment due to lack of sleep and the time difference.) Enjoy the pictures that follow -- and I will try to post tomorrow as well.