Sunday, July 12, 2009

Korea Trip Day 11 – I’ve been workin’ on the railroad

I’m writing this from car 15 of the KTX 5:45 train from Busan to Seoul. Excluding the Acela, this is my first ever ride on a “bullet train”. The Acela doesn’t really count as far as I’m concerned, since the track between Boston and New York has so many turns the Acela can only hit it’s top speed of 150 MPH for about 15 minutes of the trip. The KTX train hits a top speed of 300KPH (around 190 MPH) for a significant percentage of the trip, especially once we get north of Daegu. The entire trip of 204 miles from Busan to Seoul is only going to take about 2 hours and 45 minutes.

The train itself is clean and comfortable, with plenty of legroom and a tray table, which is currently holding my iBook. It’s as nice as a typical Amtrak train, and don’t even get me started on how it compares to the MBTA commuter rail.

Of course, if the US had invested what Korea has in it’s rail system, we’d have trains like this, too.

Today started with a light breakfast, since we had eaten quite a bit yesterday. After that, we headed out into the pouring rain. A monsoon had hit Korea, and we experienced a downpour most of the day. Not a fun way to tour the city!

Our first stop today was the Sung Ae Won Orphanage. This is a place for very young children (6 and under) to live because their families are unable to take care of them for one reason or another. We entered and sat down in one of the rooms that is typically a playroom for the kids and were welcomed by the man who runs the place. There are currently 72 children staying with them. The patience it must take to deal with that many kids every day is truly inspiring.

After the talk, we were able to go play with the kids! These kids were hungry for affection: one little girl just ran into my arms and wanted to be picked up. J. and his friends were giving a couple of them piggyback rides. R. had one little boy run into her so fast that he knocked her down (nobody was hurt, and R. seemed pretty happy about it). A. was holding and playing with a little toddler. Everybody had a great time.

All too soon, we had to leave. To be honest, I would have rather spent another hour playing with the kids versus the shopping trip we took later in the day. I think the kids (both ours and those at the orphanage) and the adults all enjoyed themselves.

Lunch was at another Korean buffet (I think I’m going to be buffet’ed out for quite a while after this trip). After that we went to the Pusan fish market, the largest in Korea and saw a wide variety of fish. According to our guide, a delicacy in Korea is live octopus. There were plenty of them in the fish market. We then did some more shopping in an underground mall near the fish market. The kids both bought Korea style fans, since none of us will be using the ones we were given at the midwife clinic yesterday. J. also bought this great hat – kind of a scali cap. One of the older kids wears one and I think J. is emulating him a bit. He looks pretty good in it. I’ll have a picture up on the Flickr site.

Dinner was at Burger King at the train station. It was nice to eat American food that actually tasted like American food.

Tomorrow we visit a girl’s middle school in Seoul and then we have dinner with a local host family. Only two more full days in Korea until we go home.


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