Saturday, October 24, 2009

Back in Korea

Sorry it's taken me so long to update. It seemed easier to write about Japan while I was there - perhaps because I could just duck-out of my dorm room and find an available computer while my parents were sleeping.

We are back. After an afternoon and evening of organizing and laundry, we settled down to a cozy dinner at my place with Sung Sook and checked-out our photos - LOTS of them. We will definitely have to whittle things down.

Yesterday, a trip to Namdaemun market, then dinner at Casa Maya with friends, and the great "Parent-Off" of 2009 as Lexi's parents joined us too. We finished our evening in Hongdae with a quick trip to Oi - a familiar favourite and just a cool place to show our folks. It was good - 10 of us, two generations, and my dad trying out the tree sink in the restroom: "This is cool!"

Today, we are off for breakfast at Butterfingers with Johnny, a picnic at Olympic Park, and a private concert with Sung Sook and her musical friends at Yonsei University, only that is a secret for my parents.

I can't believe I have to teach tomorrow...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hiroshima - Day 2

Leaving Japan in the morning. The trip here lived up to my expectations, and they were high. As I did with my parents in Seoul, I did a lot of returning to familiar places. It was fun. Innocent World is still there, as is The Wonder Cafe, but of course they are populated with new people and new experiences. Lots of good things to remember. Wacky stuff, beautiful stuff, harrowing stuff, and peaceful stuff.

We spent our last night here with a walk through the covered arcade, bought some weird Japanese shite for myself and some people back home, but not nearly as much as I wanted to. There is something about obscure Japanese characters that makes me want to shop for stuff I do not need. The bear and the chicken are cute, but I was strong. Miyajima this morning. The weather has been perfect - blue skies, and cool enough for sweaters, but warm in the sun. The gate was floating this time - high tide. Good to see.

Walked by the river tonight and had an Asahi by the A-bomb dome with my dad. A school group was passing-by and they stopped to sing-along with a random musician below the bridge. Miyajima, deer, good food and music, my parents telling stories about their youth, and thinking of the people I met here last year, wondering where exactly Shannon and Andrews apartment was - it all made for a better condition. Hiroshima is a good place.

I want to come back to Japan. This trip confirmed that which was once just a second thought. It is a very cool place, but there is so much more to explore. I need to get back to Tokyo - perhaps by myself, and back to Kyoto with a lady who has never been. For now though, I am just glad that I got the chance to do this with my parents. It means a lot to me and I feel pretty lucky to have had the time and opportunity to see this through. My parents world got a little bit smaller and a whole lot bigger on this trip. I guess I could say the same about my own, even though it is my second time around. Some things are worth another shot.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hiroshima - Day 1

Today was a travel day, and a day of melancholy. I suppose melancholy is not the most accurate word to describe what one feels while walking around Hiroshima after having visited the Peace Park and Atomic Bomb Museum. It is not in my nature to attempt something vague, poetic, or both, since this place sucks the value out of clever sound bites. So, I will just say that it felt the same as it did last year. The power of that place never really goes away - even on repeated visits. Greater minds convey the meaning in a greater way than I could possibly offer.

Certainly there is lots to say about the place and the things memorialized there, but here I will just say that I am not sure if I feel the same way others feel upon visiting this city. It was just over 64 years ago that the bomb was dropped, and I suppose the fact that Hiroshima is now a thriving city gives people hope.

I think I would have to stay here longer than two or three days - maybe even live here - before I could share the same feelings about the place. It is just too much for me to walk by the river the night after visiting the museum, seeing the A-bomb dome lit-up as it is. It is just too easy to imagine what was happening by the river all those years ago. I cannot decide if I am proud or somewhat ashamed that I dont immediately sense the hope that others seem to feel when they come here. So, I suppose it is a bit of both. Wishing to take ownership of one feeling or another, I sit firmly on the fence.

Still, this was a place I wanted to take my parents. I feel that anyone who can, should come here and see the things the museum wants to show us. Regardless of how it might make you immediately feel, or feel after a day or two, I humbly suggest that the city is worth your time.

One person who agrees is Tadatoshi Akiba, Hiroshima's mayor. Akiba dedicated his 2009 memorial speech to a new term coined after Barack Obama's proposal in Prague this year to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Yes, they are just words - they even feel like a sound bit,I suppose - but it should be noted that no previous US president has spoken so clearly or pointedly about such a contentious topic as this - the turn away from a nuclear deterrent policy. Hiroshima's mayor is taking and looking to make these words a reality by taking them at face value. Good move.

People are pissy about Obama receiving a Nobel Peace Prize so early in the game. Surely though, such a stance is an important one. No sitting US president has ever visited Hiroshima in an official capacity. Perhaps that is about to change. This is what the mayor of Hiroshima since 1999 has to say on August 6th of this year - the 64th anniversary of the dropping of the bomb:

That weapon of human extinction, the atomic bomb, was dropped on the people of Hiroshima sixty-four years ago. Yet the hibakusha's suffering, a hell no words can convey, continues. Radiation absorbed 64 years earlier continues to eat at their bodies, and memories of 64 years ago flash back as if they had happened yesterday.

Fortunately, the grave implications of the hibakusha experience are granted legal support. A good example of this support is the courageous court decision humbly accepting the fact that the effects of radiation on the human body have yet to be fully elucidated. The Japanese national government should make its assistance measures fully appropriate to the situations of the aging hibakusha, including those exposed in "black rain areas" and those living overseas. Then, tearing down the walls between its ministries and agencies, it should lead the world as standard-bearer for the movement to abolish nuclear weapons by 2020 to actualize the fervent desire of hibakusha that "No one else should ever suffer as we did."

In April this year, US President Obama speaking in Prague said, " the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act." And "...take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons." Nuclear weapons abolition is the will not only of the hibakusha but also of the vast majority of people and nations on this planet. The fact that President Obama is listening to those voices has solidified our conviction that "the only role for nuclear weapons is to be abolished.

In response, we support President Obama and have a moral responsibility to act to abolish nuclear weapons. To emphasize this point, we refer to ourselves, the great global majority, as the "Obamajority," and we call on the rest of the world to join forces with us to eliminate all nuclear weapons by 2020. The essence of this idea is embodied in the Japanese Constitution, which is ever more highly esteemed around the world.

Now, with more than 3,000 member cities worldwide, Mayors for Peace has given concrete substance to our "2020 Vision" through the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol, and we are doing everything in our power to promote its adoption at the NPT Review Conference next year. Once the Protocol is adopted, our scenario calls for an immediate halt to all efforts to acquire or deploy nuclear weapons by all countries, including the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which has so recently conducted defiant nuclear tests; visits by leaders of nuclear-weapon states and suspect states to the A-bombed cities; early convening of a UN Special Session devoted to Disarmament; an immediate start to negotiations with the goal of concluding a nuclear weapons convention by 2015; and finally, to eliminate all nuclear weapons by 2020. We will adopt a more detailed plan at the Mayors for Peace General Conference that begins tomorrow in Nagasaki.

The year 2020 is important because we wish to enter a world without nuclear weapons with as many hibakusha as possible. Furthermore, if our generation fails to eliminate nuclear weapons, we will have failed to fulfill our minimum responsibility to those that follow.

Global Zero, the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament and others of influence throughout the world have initiated positive programs that seek the abolition of nuclear weapons. We sincerely hope that they will all join the circle of those pressing for 2020.

As seen in the anti-personnel landmine ban, liberation from poverty through the Grameen Bank, the prevention of global warming and other such movements, global democracy that respects the majority will of the world and solves problems through the power of the people has truly begun to grow. To nurture this growth and go on to solve other major problems, we must create a mechanism by which the voices of the people can be delivered directly into the UN. One idea would be to create a "Lower House" of the United Nations made up of 100 cities that have suffered major tragedies due to war and other disasters, plus another 100 cities with large populations, totaling 200 cities. The current UN General Assembly would then become the "Upper House."

On the occasion of the Peace Memorial Ceremony commemorating the 64th anniversary of the atomic bombing, we offer our solemn, heartfelt condolence to the souls of the A-bomb victims, and, together with the city of Nagasaki and the majority of Earth's people and nations, we pledge to strive with all our strength for a world free from nuclear weapons.

We have the power. We have the responsibility. And we are the Obamajority. Together, we can abolish nuclear weapons. Yes, we can.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Kyoto - Day 3

This post will need to be a short one - new guesthouse and only two computers for a lot of people.

We are lucky to be staying at Nagomi Ryokan - a small but pretty converted guesthouse just north of Kyoto Station. The alleys are as narrow and well-kept with plants, flowers, and clean little stones as the alleys in Gion district. The only thing lacking are the Geisha girls.

Went to the Inari shrine south of the city this morning after moving into our place. This is the place where over 5000 red tori gates line the mountain side and you can walk through the tori tunnels towards the top of the mountain. Didn't make it all the way but didn't need to. It was good to see another new thing.

But I need some familiar too. Back to Merry Island for dinner tonight. Its strange the things I'm able to remember - just a little further down that road... and yes, there it is. Candle-lit table in the back and good Thai food in a Japanese restaurant.

Today I was able to exorcise the Astro Boy ghosts from last year as well. August 2008 saw me pleading at a closed glass door in Kyoto station, begging with the morning clerk to open the door and let me buy my over-priced Astro Boy shirt from the studio store. No avail, and I had to catch a train.

This year, I found the Neo Mart store downtown in the shopping arcade - perhaps the coolest store in the world - they have Barbapapa merchandise for the love of Pete! Well, the open everyday sign was lying as October 20th is apparently inventory day and they wouldn't open their doors. Sadness. So, it was back top flight to Kyoto station to the studio store. I can wear the Mighty Atom with pride this year.

Bullet train tomorrow. My dad loves trains. I love maps. I believe there is a map on the train which I intend to look at as we race by the towns between Kyoto and Hiroshima. Only a handful of days left on this journey with my parents and we are making the best out of each one.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Kyoto - day 2

...our second full day in Kyoto has been as grand as the first. Began our morning early - waking up with the sun and getting to Kiyamizu-dera temple before almost anyone else. It was empty - perhaps the most popular site in Kyoto. Walked the love stone walk, just caught the edge of it to the delight of a horde of Japanese school children who cheered my victory. Saw a rabbit - rabbits everywhere, or perhaps I am just better able to see them this time around. Rabbits on the brain. Drank from the healing waters below the temple and filled our bottles for the day.

A walk through old cobblestone streets lined with old wooden houses, and saw 5 geisha girls - the real deal, not the weekenders: full face paint and garb, hair done perfectly. They were on their way somewhere important, but after the batteries in the camera ran out, mom and dad staked-out a corner and I ran like a man on my own mission, keeping a giant pagoda in my sites for a point of reference and trying to find a store that sold batteries amid all of the stores that sold the finest finery. Where is a Family Mart when you need it? Got the batteries just in time. Looking forward to posting photos here.

Last year, saw a giant Buddha on a hill, but that was one stop too many, so we didn't make it. The three of us decided to go all the way this time and were rewarded with a moving experience. The shrine is dedicated to all soldiers who died in Japanese related conflict in World War II. The Memorial Hall contains sand, soil, and drawers full of names of the dead from all of the countries that were affected by Japanese colonial oppression leading up to and including the war. The flags are faded and the bottles of soil have lost their shine and clarity through the years, but it is a moving site. Close to the hall is a series of shelters housing thousands of small Buddhas representing the Japanese who lost their lives in the conflict. Like Hiroshima, there is a very respectful level of atonement at these places. It is humbling to see.

From there, lunch at a noodle house and then to Chionin Temple, maybe my favourite in Kyoto - huge, nightingale floors to warn of intruders, massive inner temple where monks were chanting and praying, incense everywhere. Relaxing and peaceful. Another good day.

I could make a long, long list of the things that mom and dad cannot get over, but today I will add this: they cant get over the size of the main gate of Chionin. Truly, an impressive sight. Philosophers walk tonight, and then to our new guesthouse tomorrow. Things are going as planned. It is nice to know that a trip you have though about for so long, can be filled with so many perfect little moments. We are fortunate folk, but we wish others close to us could be here to see the things we are seeing. Today, in particular, I really miss my sister. Wish you were here, Sandy - erase the cliche of that postcard phrase and you have the truth. I really wish you were here, Spankylosaurus.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A near-perfect day in Kyoto

For our first full day in Japan, we couldn't have asked for better weather. Blue skies for nearly the whole day, and anything gray just blew over us.

We started with a walk up the Philosophers Path to Ginkaguji Temple - about a 15 minute walk from us. I hadn't been to this temple before, so it was a great choice for us to start at. Its called the Silver Pavilion, though it never actually became covered in silver as its golden counterpart did. The silver can really refer however to the sand gardens on the temple grounds. Its raked and smoothed out into huge mounds, and the gardens surrounding the sand are exquisite. There is moss everywhere on the ground, small creeks and brooks flowing through the trees, and every inch of the grounds looks both natural and manicured. Beautiful and peaceful stuff.

We then took a bus towards Kinkaguji - the Golden Pavilion, which actually is completely gilded in gold leaf. Its as stunning as it was last year. We finished our afternoon with a familiar walk through the rock garden at Ryoan-ji temple, and then through the Torin-in temple complex. We didn't quite make it to Koroyuji temple on time to see the collection of Buddha statues which is worth a visit, but we had a pretty full day without it.

Mom and dad are doing well with all of the walking were doing. Food has been good - lunch at the Wonder Cafe, dinner dowtown along Ponto-cho - a narrow alley-way near the Kamo River. Sounds like a busy day, but we took our time. Early morning tomorrow - to see the sunrise at Kiyamizudera Temple.

Kyoto is a great city for walking with people who want to see it all, but want to take their time on the way. Being here last year, I wondered every place we went what my parents might feel like seeing the things I was seeing and having the experiences I was having. Now I know. They love it. The three of us are having fun, giggling like idiots at times, and zenning-out when our surroundings allow us to. I love maps - LOVE maps. There is no better city than Kyoto to walk around with a map and feel like you are doing it justice. The buses here are great, and the cafes are perfect for stopping for a tea or Suntory Boss coffee - hot and in a can - sometimes to chat about what we are seeing, and sometimes just to consult a map and wonder where we are going to wander to next. I will say it again - I could live here and live well... if a little less wealthy.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Back in Kyoto

I really like this city. Last time was rushed, but that was mostly my doing. It's nice to be back here with my parents who will, by necessity, make me slow down and enjoy the peaceful things here.

We are staying in the Northeastern district this time - a great little guesthouse. My parents have their own private room with a shower etc. and I will be staying in a 6 person dorm room. Its all good - except for the fact that I cant find proper punctuation on this Japanese keyboard.

Tomorrow, we will begin in the northwest area Im familiar with form last year - Kin-Kaguji, the Zen rock garden etc. But the following two days, we will go over ground that I didn't cover last summer. That's easy to do here - such a huge place with so much to see. The guide books are really right about Kyoto - every narrow street seems to end in a beautiful temple, palace, or garden.

The philosopher's walk is five minutes from where we are staying. I'm sure we'll be making a trek down there to close each day. Lots of photos to take of things I have not seen and familiar places I'm happy to revisit. I already made peace with Astro Boy and I am looking forward to finding the Wonder Cafe if I can. I'm glad to be back here. Kyoto is just cool. Makes me want to live here for a while.

I will try to post as much as I can, but there are only two computers here and lots of people. Ill write again when I can. All is well.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Off to Kyoto in the morning

Can;t keep up with all we're doing. I'm going to make an executive decision that it's best to write about things after the fact - I'll want to go through these memories after anyway. Too much time writing about the things we do = not enough time to actually do things.

New photos of Mom and Dad's trip (Wed - Sat) are up on flickr in case you're curious. More to go. Japan tomorrow. Nice.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Quotes of the day...

"They're highly advanced here, you know..."
- Gerald A. Gagnier

"In some ways..."
- Beverly E. Gagnier

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Too tired to think of a title...

Since my parents arrived on Tuesday:

River walks, visiting the school, Myeong-dong, Cheonggyecheon, meeting Douglas, Changdeok-gung and the Secret Garden, dinners on the floor at home, dinner with the Dragon Family, Insadong, Gyungbuk-gung with Ki Yun, Deok-bokki and ice cream in Sam-Cheong-dong with Sung-Sook and Ed, and Folk Village tomorrow with Ian, Bonnie and Conor. All of this in four days. Ma and Pa are tired, and I have no time to write about it all. Surprise, surprise. I lack the time to just kick-back and get it all out here. That's cool - I need to soak-up the parentals while I can. It's just too much fun showing them around this city. I am collecting classic reaction shots from mom, and great one liners from dad: "Well, those lights... I just thought to myself 'by golly!'"

So far, so good. My parents were both in tears from laughter tonight over dinner and dessert with my friends. Makes me proud of both my friends and my parents - and grateful for this opportunity for them to meet. My life feels pretty real here - no more so than when these worlds merge. Good times.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Update tonight

Sorry, guys - with working during the day and having a full schedule at night, it's tough to find time to update properly. We're off to Insadong, Gyungbukgung (Seoul's biggest palace) and Sam-Cheong-Dong - perhaps my favourite roaming place in Seoul. I'll do my darndest to update this evening when we get home, but only after cleaning my turtle house. The life of a parent is a busy one.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I found my parents

Apparently the phone was ringing, but since the ringer on it was not a traditional phone sound, they thought it was just the phone "making funny sounds again." No, mom - it was your phone doing what it's designed to do - notify you when someone's trying to get in touch with you. Nice.

It's sleepy time, but tomorrow, I'll be writing about my parents' today - a successful journey through Seoul subways to the palace and secret garden that their maps pointed to. Good job! Now, they are feeling more bold and ready to explore Seoul on their own. Lots to look forward to, but first - much-needed rest. Just wanted to let you know that they are alive and well. I'll tell you what they did on day 3 tomorrow.

The Parentals: Episode 2 - "I just can't get over..."

Day 2 Agenda:
A visit to my school
A trip to Home Plus
A walk by the river
Cheonggycheon Stream

*As a throw-back to my first time in Korea, and to acknowledge that the only people likely left reading this are family and friends of my parents, this “parental blog” will be, for the next three weeks, for the most part, a fairly simple travelogue. People back home are curious about what they are up to. If you see an underlined link, click on it to learn more about that particular place. For those of you who want to know what my parents are up to while they are here, read on! For those who aren’t curious, hit “favorites” on your toolbar and see what Brad and Angelina are up to.

It is now Thursday afternoon and I sit here at school with a break. I’m a tad worried, and here’s why…

Mom and dad decided to see one of the best sights in Seoul today – Changdeokgung – one of the two largest palaces in Seoul. To do this, they will be getting on the subway and bus system on their own for the first time. We did take the bus and subway a couple of times yesterday, but it can all be a bit confusing – especially in a city this big, and this different from the one my parents left three days ago.

The reason for my concern is that I believe they have left their cell-phone at the apartment. I did write down specific instructions of how to get to the palace and back, but you know how things can go wrong. The cell phone was their link to me, or my co-teachers, or Ian, or Bonnie, or someone who might be able to help get them pointed in the right direction should they get lost. Oh, man. I truly feel like a worried parent. I have nightmare scenarios running through my head of parents lost in the middle of downtown Seoul, not knowing where to go or even of who to ask for help. Curses.

I expect to see them when I get back, if not, I’ll see the windex and loose change in the driveway and assume that they got attacked by a pit-bull, and call the police… or something like that. They would understand. Anyway, not much I can do but hope they didn’t end-up climbing a certain hill in Itaewon. We shall see.

So – what about day 2? Well, as you can see from the agenda above, it was a busy one. I’ve been letting my parents hear suggestions and choose from a long list. They will be here for 3 weeks, but it will go fast and one of those weeks will be spent in Japan. Still, it’s important for them to remember, and for me to remind myself that they need to be eased into this thing. I don’t know that I’ve ever really experienced “culture shock” as it’s been described to me, but I do understand how odd it can all be when you travel somewhere so seemingly strange.

The school visit went well. We moved through the Middle School grade 1 (grade 7) hallway before homeroom and pandemonium ensued - kids surrounding them with cries of “I love you” and a hand or arm sign to match, and then showering my dad with praise about how handsome he is. Classic. The Principle and Vice Principal gave us a proper tea in the Principal’s office, and then it was home time.

Mom and Dad spent the rest of the day doing some grocery shopping at Home Plus, walking by the stream close to my place, and napping before we headed out for dinner.

I had been envisioning my parents entering Myeong-dong from exit 6 since the first time I did the same back in the fall of 2007. It’s madness. I suppose that cities bigger than Calgary have areas comparable, but I would imagine that it’s impossible to duplicate the collective zaniness that comes from Myeong-dong’s particular blend of commercialism run amok, strange street food, narrow alleyways, and lots and lots of money. Anyone who knows my mom, imagine her face at this moment and you are probably doing so accurately.

They loved Myong-dong – certainly not as a place to go back to for any length, but it’s an experience. It’s a piece of Asia that most of us Westerners have in our imaginations – all the neon and people moving frantically through thoroughfares much to small to accommodate the crowds. It was fun.

Sung Sook met up with us after dinner for a walk down Cheonggycheon stream – a very cool part of downtown Seoul and a place with a great deal of history. It’s a huge symbol of modern Seoul – urban renewal, honoring the past, and gentrification on a level likely similar to what’s happening in East Hastings to prepare for Vancouver 2010. There was a display at the beginning of the stream recognizing breast cancer awareness and a handful of musicians on our way down the stream towards Jongno-3-Ga station where we boarded a train for home.

That does sound like a lot to accomplish for two Canadian seniors on their first full day in Asia. In retrospect, they did well.

Still, I need to remind myself that so much of this will be new to them. Thinking that I wanted to get them some Korean food to get them started on the local cuisine, we opted for jim-dak, which is a lot like a spicy chicken stew. I ordered it to be not spicy, though it still packed a bit of a kick. It’s full of potatoes, chicken, onions, carrots, peppers, and flat glass noodles, and it comes with a side-dish of rice and a cold kimchi soup. It is not something I have often, but for people who haven’t tried it, Jim-Dak often becomes a favourite.

Turns out that mom had a bit of a tough time with it. Foreign food can have its foreignness increase simply because you are eating it in a foreign land. I have a strong feeling that had my mom been trying this meal in the comfort of her home, or my Canadian one, it would have been just fine, but here in Korea, food is understandably suspect to those who have just crossed the ocean. It’s good to know now that this will be a bit of a challenge for us – introducing Korean food slowly and falling back on the familiar when we just need to take a break. Western food is crazy pricey here though, and we’ll have to just pick our spots when trying to explore Korean cuisine further. It’s a tough balance – diving into the culture, but being sensitive to jet-lag, culture shock, and unfamiliar tastes and textures.

Oterwise, mom and dad enjoyed their first full day here very much. They were charmed by the school (though we’ll see what happens when they actually attend class next week ;), they really enjoyed the wackiness of one of the busiest parts of Seoul, and they were just generally impressed by the city. It’s what you likely imagine it is – two Calgarian seniors with necks craned, holding hands, smiles on faces and multiple cases of fill-in-the-blank: “I just can’t get over _________________!”

So, that was yesterday. School ends soon, and I’ll be heading home to see if my parents survived their first day in Seoul without me. If they did, they’ll have a big reason to be proud, and I’ll have less reason to worry in the coming weeks. I can’t wait to hear all about their time in the secret garden… finger crossed.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Parentals: Episode 1 - the arrival

Well, here they are - sleeping and snorfling upstairs in my little loft. As expected, they are tired and wired, but the former is winning out hands-down. A long flight - 3 meals on the plane, Benjamin Button for mom and "Hockey Legends" for dad.

I was grateful to be let out of work one hour early - long story - and to get there on time to see my mom and dad come through the gates. They had been expecting to have to wait for me for a couple of hours, but we worked it out. 성숙 surprised them and me by showing-up to the airport after her doctor's appointment to welcome my parents with me with a bouquet of flowers and a hug. Then home to find that she had already planted balloons and a big sign - not to mention a box of Jeju oranges. Golden.

So, there they snooze, while I'm thinking how strange and normal it all is to have my parents here. They brought some goodies. I now have a 3 years supply of Neo Citran (can't wait for those winter colds), some Tim Horton's coffee (to remember where it is I come from), some Christmas baking (into the freezer until December), and my Nintendo 64 - so that I can Goldeneye it up with my neighbours. Best of all - I have my parents here with me. Tomorrow, they get to wake-up in Asia, which is a first.

I'm going to do my best to update each day - a travelogue, since my parents likely aren't keeping one on their own. Don't worry, folks - they are here, safe and sound, and ready as you can be to wake up in Korea for the first time.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Autumn's Here

I'm still a little taken-aback to know that this time tomorrow, my mom and dad will be here in Korea - in my wee little apartment, all jet-lagged and stuff. Really hard to believe.

Since coming here back in August of 2007, I've thought about how my family would respond to coming here - being in Asia for the first time with all of its differences. I got a chance to feel something approximating that when our friend, Dee came to stay the following Winter and Spring. It was a welcome, but odd feeling to have those worlds blend. I'm expecting a bit of the same for the rest of this month - starting tomorrow. In a world of Skype, you feel less far away, but having my parents here in person will be something else.

My folks will be here from the 6th until the 28th (my sister's birthday) when they head home. In that time, we'll be spending 6 days in Japan (Kyoto and Hiroshima) and the rest of it will be spent in and around Seoul. There's so much to show them, but I'm going to break them in slowly and let them rest as we go.

I'm really fortunate this year to be in the apartment I'm in. I've got a little loft that could technically sleep 4 (I've done it before), but is perfect for two parents. I've got the place stocked with familiar foods and drinks - as well as a few strange ones. Like I said - break them in slowly. I remember how strange something as simple as kimbap tasted way back when I tried it for the first time. This should serve as a comfy home base for the next few weeks as I know that every step outside will be like walking on an alien terrain for my parents. Fair enough - it was for me too.

I'm going to try to write as often as I can - little updates for the folks back home - so that I can let you all know how mom and dad are doing and what they're seeing as we go along. Wish us luck - so much to see and do, lots of people to introduce them to, and lots of family being together time - at least the family that could be here.

They are coming at the perfect time, too. Autumn in Korea is grand - the weather is just right, and things begin to look more clear. I've been lucky to have a five day weekend over Chuseok - a Korean harvest festival and the biggest holiday of the year for most Korean families. This meant that Seoul emptied of nearly half of its residents over this past weekend. It's the perfect time to explore neighborhoods that are usually so crowded with strangers, but for these five days anyway, have a welcome calm descend upon them.

It's a great time for the following: slosh-ball with the party people, bad wax depictions of Leonardo DiCaprio, lunch with old friends, baseball, picnics in a park, pot-lucks between the palaces, wine and blankets on a Sam Cheong-dong rooftop, a cruise on the Han River and bike ride down the same route days later, "Super Mario Bros." on the viola, Korean celebrity sightings, and a freaky moon-lit climb to the top of a hill over-looking old Seoul with good old "Douglas from the 13th Floor." I hope to show my parents some of these things too. I like Autumn, and I have a feeling that it's going to lead into a pretty decent winter.

See you soon, Ma and Pa.