Monday, July 06, 2009

Korea trip – Day 9: Busan or bust

This morning we got an early start with breakfast at the hotel buffet and an 8:00 departure for Busan. Busan is on the southern coast of South Korea and is a major port. Most importantly, both of our kids come from this area. R. was born in Busan itself, while J. was born a bit north of here in a place called Miryang City.

You may have seen Busan called “Pusan” in the past. According to our tour guide, the Korean government changed a lot of the English spellings of Korean words about 5 years ago in order to soften the sound. I’m not sure it makes a big difference to my ear, but it is their city so I guess they can spell it however they want.

The drive from the Sorak Park to Busan took about 8 hours, with a rest stop and a 45 minute stop for lunch. Since it’s Sunday we made pretty good time and didn’t hit much traffic. We also got to see a lot of the countryside. We saw everything from large cities to rice paddies and farms on our journey.

A. and R. also ran into one of the legendary “squatty potties” at one of the rest areas. A squatty potty is pretty much what it sounds like: a hole in the floor where you squat to do your business. Fortunately, they had some Western style toilets as well. One thing I will say about the facilities at the Korean rest areas we visited: they are spotlessly clean.

We finally arrived in Busan just as we were all starting to get a little stir crazy. Busan is a beautiful city. Seoul, which has over 10 million inhabitants, has that New York-type feeling of putting too many people into too small a space. Busan has around four million people and doesn’t have that overcrowded feel to it. Our hotel, the Novotel Ambassador, is very modern and well located. In fact, the beach is right outside our back door. We took a walk on the beach after we arrived and it was occupied by Koreans and others from all over the world. We’re hoping to spend more time there tomorrow once we are done with the day’s activities.

There was one thing I saw on the beach that completely surprised me: a girl wearing a T-shirt that said “Moses Brown Hockey”. Moses Brown is a private school located in Providence, probably 2 miles from where I grew up. I knew plenty of kids at the synagogue my family attended who went there. Certainly the last thing I expected to see on a beach 7,000 miles away was a T-shirt from a Rhode Island school.

Dinner tonight was with the group at the hotel’s buffet. The food was excellent, probably the best meal we have had in Korea. Best of all, it came with free, unlimited wine! Personally, I would have preferred free, unlimited beer, but I’ll take what I can get.

The last event of the evening was another parent’s talk, which was enlightening as we discussed why we took this trip. For me, the answer is pretty easy: we wanted to give the kids a chance to be immersed in their Korean culture and heritage and we wanted to share that experience with them. J. told me tonight as he was going to sleep that he wanted to stay a couple of more days so that we could see more things. I told him that we had to go home on Friday, but maybe we would come back some day. The fact that I’m even considering it after swearing never to take another 13 hour plane ride tells you how important this trip has been to all of us.

Tomorrow is another huge day: a driver and translator pick us up and take us on a tour of various places in the region important to the kids early lives. More later!


Post a Comment

<< Home

eXTReMe Tracker