PK Round Korea travel blog

One of the gates of Seoul

Sang and Diane couldn't quite decide if this was a river or...


Chicken Soup place

Korean Sauna



End of the day at Starbucks


I remember nothing from my flight from Narita to Seoul. I got on board, sat down, and went to sleep. I woke up once, asked for a drink of water, then went right back to sleep. There was a bit of a line at immigration, but my bag was waiting after I got my passport stamped. Just outside the door, Sang and Pastor Chung were waiting for me. Chung doesn't speak much English, but was really kind. We loaded into his car and started out.

It was so good to see Sang. He is encouraging and committed, a fast friend. He misses America, but is becoming a significant part of the Oryun Church. His heart for discipleship is affecting the way people view church.

Sang tried to get me a room at the Oryun mission house. I stayed there for a few days last time. It is very comfortable. Unfortunately, the guest house was full. I had known I might be on my own for lodging, but assumed Sang would have a plan. Was prepared to pay for several nights of hotel. However, when we reached the hotel, I found out that Pastor Chung had arranged for the church to pay for it. I protested, as this was not part of the agreement. After all, I am only speaking for 70 minutes. It is hardly worth 5 nights of hotel. But Chung insisted the church wanted to bless me in this way. So, I accepted.

As soon as I got upstairs, I fell into bed and slept until 9 a.m. the next morning. Sunday! Sang had suggested I attend a service at noon. I could sleep in. He could take care of his responsibilities. Diane, Sang's wife, could meet me after it was over. I got a series of text messages from Sang letting me know what trains to take and what building the service met in. I know, big church. I scanned through the texts. The trek didn't sound too hard, though I could tell Sang was a little concerned about me being set loose on Seoul on my own. Not sure if he was worried about me or about Seoul. :)

When I got to the location, it was a little before noon. I was a little confused. There was an adult Sunday School class meeting in the foyer and a children's program in the little auditorium. I wondered if Sang had thought it would be fun for me to sit in on the children's worship, but it seemed like it was unlike Sang to surprise me with something like that. I waited to see if something else was happening. The adult class disbanded, so I asked someone nearby--mostly with sign language--if I could watch. They quickly agreed and got me a chair.

The class was actually pretty intriguing. About 100 kids were divided into groups from about 5 to about 8 with a teacher leading each group. They took off their shoes and sat on mats on the floor. They were working from little workbooks. I saw the familiar humor and love from the teachers that you would expect to see in any children's ministry. A kind tough here. An easy laugh there. And comforting nod. After about half an our, a girl came to the front and started some worship music. One of the teachers who spoke English came by to explain things to me and ask if I had questions. When people found out I was a friend of Pastor Paik Sangwon, they were duly impressed.

After the session, I went looking for Diane. When I didn't see her, I decided to find a nearby coffee shop for some Java and wifi. Thought I might find out where I was supposed to meet Diane. About 2:30, I got a message from Sang asking if I was ok. He asked why I didn't go to the English language service. Um. I went to the children's service. Sang was surprised. In his text, he had first suggested I attend a 2 p.m. English language service instead of the 12 noon Korean service. I had overlooked that little bit of information in my rush to figure out how to get to the church. Sang laughed and laughed at me going to the children's service.

Sang met me after he finished up. Diane caught up with us a little later. We took a shuttle to the Olympic village and went to a Western style restaurant. Food was good, though hardly American. I guess it was hardly Korean either. But, they had a pizza with walnuts and cranberries I liked, some friend chicken, ham, and kimchi. They had this apple drink that I couldn't quite figure out. Made with vinegar, Diane explained. Interesting.

After dinner, I boarded the subway and headed back to the hotel. Sang really wanted a worksheet to put in the conference notebook, so I promised him I would write something that night. When I got back, I was so tired. It was only about 8 p.m., but I went to bed and figured I could do my homework early in the morning.

I woke up on Monday at about 3:30 a.m. I tried to back to sleep, but finally got up and took a shower, headed downstairs to see if I could get breakfast at 5 a.m. Unbelievably, they were ready for me, so I sipped coffee, ate steamed egg and rice, and worked on my worksheet. Somehow the 2 pages turned into 7, but I emailed it to Sang anyway.

Sang and Diane asked me to meet them at a nearby subway stop. I donned my coat and caught my breath as I stepped outside. It was sooo cold. It hurt to walk the quarter mile to the subway stop. When I got to the stop, I walked outside, but quickly went back in to wait for Sang and Diane.

They had decided inside was better than outside. I did concur. We were going to see this design museum, though, to be honest, I'm not quite sure what the designs were for. It was a cool building, but, alas, closed.

I had told Sang my sad story of scarfs. I few years ago, I was in Peru. I'm not sure why, but I decided to buy a alpaca fur scarf. I knew it would never be cold enough to wear it in Southern Cal. I mean, who needs a sweaty neck. But I bought it and leave it in my office, in case we get a freak snowstorm. Then, I was in Abu Dhabi last year. We went to this local craft mall, except they don't actually make anything in the UAE. Most of the stalls were run by Pakistanis selling cool stuff from Pashmire. So, I bought a really cool scarf made of the hair of the little Cashmir goats, knowing that it would never be cold enough to wear it in Southern California. So, that scarf was in a drawer that was put in storage. So, despite owning two rather extravagantly warm scarfs, I was in Korea scarf-less. Sang decided I needed a scarf. Ah, so I can have another scarf I can't use in Southern California.

We walked over to a mall that had tons of little shops and was so tall, it might have taken Superman two bounds. The first shape we went to had some rather bulky scarfs. One was the eternity scarf that you just wrap around your neck as many times as you can. Just not me. In another shop a little grandmother picked out a nice grey scarf to go with my black coat. When I like it, she expertly wrapped it around my neck and stuck out her hand for the $10. Well, actually 10,000 Korean won. Not quite $10. I obediently paid. Later, when I was trying to put the scarf on again, I asked Sang if we could go back to the mall so Granny could put it on me again. Long ago, Nick Lee told Sang that if he ever suspected I was joking, I probably was, so just laugh. He laughed.

We had this amazing chicken soup cooked at the table in front of us for lunch. Nice leisurely lunch. Then, Sang asked if I wanted to go to a spot that was hot for young people, or a spot that was hot for foreigners. I told him any place hot would do. He laughed.

He decided it was time for me to try a Korean sauna. I think I must have moved past my tourist stage to being a visitor now. The Korean sauna is more of a social experience than anything. We arrived and they gave us a set of pajamas to wear. Mine were a little tight, but I made it work. Changing rooms were separate, but the sauna itself was for everyone. There are actually five or six different saunas of different temperatures. Most of the time, you spend sitting on a pad in a big lounge, socializing and trying to decide when you will be ready for a bit more heat. Oh, and you eat boiled eggs. Not kidding. They have this tea that is supposed to re-hydrate you. It is made out of rice and some other stuff. Diane said they make the tea out of the leftover rice that is burned on the bottom of the wok. It was pretty tasty, but a little weird to chew on rice as you are drinking tea. I guess it's like Korean boba.

There is an On the Border Mexican place right across from the sauna. We talked about eating there, but it didnt' seem right somehow. Diane suggested this pork cutlet thing they do here that is amazing. I quickly agreed. So, we were off in search of donkasue--or something like that. Diane had seen a place as we passed...we walked in the cold and it didn't have anything but noodles. What? Sang found another place on his phone. We walked in the cold was closed. Yikes! So, we asked and found another place. We walked in the cold and...closed again. And the next one was closed. So, we caught a cab back to my hotel. The cabbie knew a place a few blocks from my hotel. Great meal.

We walked back to the hotel and I dumped everything except what I absolutely had to have for the next few days into my suitcase. Sang was going to take it to his house while I travel a bit. We drug my suitcase to Starbucks for a cup of coffee before they headed home. As I was walking back to the hotel, snow was lightly falling. Diane told me this is the coldest day she remembers ever having in Seoul. "I'm glad I could share it with you," I said.

Camera still won't clear the error message. Into the shop when I get home. Meanwhile, here are a few pictures from my phone and a few that I stole from Sang's Facebook page.

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