Friday, October 31, 2014

A Little Bit of History Never Hurt Anyone!

Those of us of a certain age will probably remember the television show MASH with a great deal of fondness. To this day I enjoy watching the reruns and laugh all over again. However, the historical details of the Korean War never really made an impact on  my psyche. The only city I remembered was Seoul.

En route to Daegu, which is where my son lives, we stopped about 45 minutes away in Waegwan. My daughter-in-law was born and lived there until she was married. Waegwan is on the Nakdong River, the longest in Korea. Historical the river at Waigwan was as far as Japanese tradesman were allowed to go in order to sell their wares at the market. In fact Waigwan means "Japanese Dwelling". During the Korean conflict part of the strategy was to destroy the bridge at Waegwan, including several hundred refugees trying to escape the North Koreans. The Americans believed they were North Korean soldiers in disguise.

Nakdong River at Waigwan
 In 1950 the North Korean Army threatened to overtake the Korean peninsula from the mountain
overlooking the town. From this vantage point, they would have been able to fire mortor on Daegu at the northern point of the Busan Perimeter and from this position cement their possession of the whole country. But for the UN troops entering the fray, the South Korean army would have been defeated. My daughter-in-law's father, a North Korean soldier, was wounded in the battle for Waigwan and may have been treated by an American MASH unit. He never returned to North Korea.

The American army under General MacArthur were able to turn back the North Koreans in Waigwan. all the way to the Chinese border. It was then that the Chinese army, with Russian help, were able to force back the UN forces to what is the present line of demarcation -- back and forth in what was really a war of attrition until 1953 when the demilitarized buffer zone was established -- and which remains to this day. The following link shows the above situation quite effectively ...

"Korean war 1950-1953" by Roke - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

From Fireworks to Silk Worms...

I have now traveled most of the length of South Korea -- from the airport on Incheon Island near Seoul to the second city of the country, Busan (pronounced Pusan). And in between I have visited two Buddhist temples. Today I visited a huge, but typical local market and took many wonderful pictures of the various wares on display. We were there looking for a round pumpkin for my son, who wishes to make a jack-o-lantern. Round pumpkins are more difficult to find -- most of the pumpkins are round and flat.

Once home, I was anxious to have a look at the pictures I had taken, only to find that my memory card was still in the computer and, therefore,  I had nothing to show for my constant snapping away!

Below is Busan waterfront. We were there last Saturday for the International Asian Fireworks Competition -- beautiful setting and hundreds of thousands of people. Unbelievably we were able to find a very good parking place not too far away and in a reasonable position to escape without to much difficulty. The streets immediately beyond our parking went through the market place and our drive was slow enough for me to be able to take more pictures.

The bridge above was the backdrop for the firework display. Underneath the bridge in the background are the lights of cruise ships that have come from Japan to witness the display.

The picture on the left is of a large indoor market and on the right Korean dumplings are bubbling away in huge pots. Korean people love these places and there are multitudes of fast food places offering enticing and not-so-enticing delights. I was completely turned off at the sight of one particular delicacy: silk worms -- piles of them waiting for the frying pan -- and the frying pan sizzling away -- silk worms a-plenty in a spicy sauce! 

Much more appetizing and delicious were the tempura shrimp I had in the market today -- The photos that never were!!

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Mystery of Ignorance

This is the first time in my life I have been in a place which is in every way unintelligible. The language is impossible to read, except for the occasional road sign in English. My sense of direction is non-existent and I have no idea how to communicate enough to even go into a store to buy something. It is very frustrating -- especially as there is so much exploring  I would love to be doing.

There is a great bakery called 'Paris Baguette' where I could get a coffee and pastry and probably manage to get what I want with sign language and pointing. And by taking out some money manage to pay -- but I don't think I could get home again even though home is but a short distance away.

I must admit I have a much greater appreciation of how over-whelming it must have been for Asian immigrants when they arrive for the first time in the West. I  have met several of Heejung's friends and relatives and have been very touched my how welcoming they have been -- even though perhaps no word of English is spoken. Yesterday, an old school friend of Heejung, who is the owner of a nearby Baskin Robbins franchise, gave me a large box of freshly packed ice cream -- with my choice of flavours! He didn't speak a word of English. We bowed to each other and when we shook hands he put his left hand on his arm -- which is a mark of respect when meeting someone who is older than you.

Tomorrow Heejung is going to walk me over to the bakery with Sam -- after that, there will be no stopping us!

In the meantime I have visited a Benedictine monastery and Buddhist temple complex. The monastery gift shop had the most bizarre crucifixes I have ever seen. Most bizarrely of all, is that the photographs I took of them were blank!  This has never happened before and all the pictures I have taken since, with the exception of the one which included a monk,were also blank ...

Tonight we are having Korean pancakes -- oh yum!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Mother, Sons and Brothers...
Tomorrow it will be a week since I left -- whatever 'time' means! The time difference between New York and South Korea is 11 hours and between here and London it's 7. We arrived in Incheon Airport on time at noon on Thursday the 9th of October -- having left from Manchester, England Wednesday, 9.05 a.m. It was 1 am my time when our final plane finally touched down.

One of the last through immigration, which did not take very long, I was surprised to discover the luggage was waiting for us and the carousel emptied! Impressive... Soon we were through and being greeted, hugged, and kissed and maybe even a tear or two!

Soon we were on our way -- 5 hours to our final destination: Daegu, South Korea -- a long way from home!
Leaving Incheon Island for the mainland and south...

On our way I discovered the rice fields were golden and ready for harvesting. And these golden fields were surrounded by mountains, very similar to the Appalachians -- old and worn, but tree covered. And all the towns we traveled by have tall white tower blocks of apartment buildings -- dozens of them towering into the skyline with mountainous backdrops. The Korean people prefer to live in these towers to having their own house. In fact there are very few private houses anywhere around.
Typical apartment towers. From my son's rooftop...

But first we stopped in Waegwan for Sam's brothers, Galen and Louis, who bounded out of the apartment building within seconds of our arrival! The picture above was taken about two minutes later. My abiding memory will be one of lots and lots of NOISE for the next several hours!

Below: Sam is over the moon to now be taller than his 4'10" Mom!