Sunday, November 28, 2010

Seoul, South Korea

Craig has also been doing professional development but in a more exotic location... Seoul, South Korea! He left on Wednesday and returned early this morning.

ICEC Asia (International Christian Educators Conference) is held every two years, and this time it was hosted by Dr Joseph Kim and Central Christian Academy (CCA). 

This is the lower of their two main buildings on campus.

There were many highlights at the conference, many great addresses were given, but it was particularly special to hear Dr. Wess Stafford. He is the President of Compassion International and Alumni of International Christian Academy, Renee's former boarding school in West Africa. Craig also enjoyed the testimony of Dr. Billy Kim, who during the Korean War as a non-English speaking village boy was taken under the wing of an empathetic American soldier. He went to the USA to study and has been instrumental in seeing Christian ministries in South Korea (including Christian schools) planted and flourish.

Away from the conference, one of the noticeable differences from Seoul to Hong Kong is the view from the hotel window. The buildings are noticeably shorter in Seoul.

Craig thinks the road traffic is also worse in Korea than Hong Kong, due no doubt to less public transport and a wider spread population.

Craig had the pleasure of reuniting with four colleagues from Pacific Hills Christian School during the conference and enjoyed several restaurant meals and lengthy conversations with them.

From the back left - Paul Campey, Stephen Fyson, Dr. Ted Boyce and David Bartlett (seated)

Back to the conference, a lower cost alternative for breakfasts each day was the US$5 buffet at the school's cafeteria.  With the diverse menu options on offer, each course had an English label/sign.  This one reminded Craig of confusion in translations. It should read, "plain yoghurt".

Craig and a colleague from Hong Kong, John Lok, spent yesterday afternoon exploring the centre of Seoul.

Another noticeable difference to Hong Kong is the lack of ticket turnstiles on the train lines. At the entrance and exits of the station platforms is just the following sign: "We Trust You! Only paid customers past this point".

Transport on Seoul's subway system does require a ticket to enter the platform. Having to wait ten minutes  in a congested ticket booth area made Craig thankful again for Hong Kong's great Octopus Card system.

Another noticeable difference  on the Korean subway was the wider carriage, higher ceiling, and very long handles that swing and sway from above when no one is holding onto them.

This square-shaped KFC hamburger bun got Craig's attention.

Korea has a system where once you reach your destination, you put your ticket in a machine and get a refund of fifty cents.

Craig felt like he was on the Amazing Race again...trying to store his bulky luggage near the subway station, dealing with an electronic machine in another language, facing -1 degree temperature conditions, trying to finish off some family shopping, having limited local currency, exploring as many parts of the city as possible, finding a transport option to the airport, and getting their in time.

Just like The Amazing Race (except Craig didn't notice any camera crews following them) a kind lady  suggested (via non-verbal communication only) they go somewhere close by that did have adequate luggage storage. It's possible she was a savvy sales agent as she escorted them to a three level store on a side street with storage facilities, an expensive cosmetic department on the ground floor, men's and ladies wear on the second floor, and a Korean restaurant on the third. After their luggage was secure, John and Craig were ready for a warm meal on a such a freezing cold day. They could have eaten like locals on the floor...

...but instead, John and Craig found seats with legs on the far side of the restaurant  and enjoyed a Korean meal together.

After filling their stomachs, they headed outside to the many blocks of retail shops to find some souvenirs.

It seemed like 90% of the shops in the city streets were either restaurants, electrical goods, or adult winter clothing...none of which they needed.While waiting for their airport bus, Craig noticed this modified road bike And is that a miner's helmet?

Craig finally returned home after midnight, so the kids had to wait until morning to see their presents.

And I was thrilled with my white chocolate.

Perhaps you heard the news reports on Tuesday night that things weren't looking very good in Seoul. North Korea shelled a community just over the border (only 80kms from Seoul), leaving four people dead. The press reported that hundreds of shells were fired and the two countries were on the brink of physical war in the most hostile action since the 1950's.
No government agencies posted travel warnings, nor were any flights cancelled, and the conference went ahead as planned. Thank you, God, that no further hostility has taken place and Craig has returned home to us safely.


  1. Amen to that, thanks for the great photos and update.

  2. I seemed to have forgotten that Wess Stafford went to ICA (if I ever did know).