Tag Archives: Seoul

Seoul Searching and Other Adventures

17 May

What a great last week! Once upon a Saturday Yunju, my seemingly always-laughing roomie invited me to explore Seoul with her. We hit shopping center Myeongdong, climbed Namsan mountain (where Seoul tower lives), and then hit up Itaewon for some…drum roll, please…TACO BELL. It was a gloriously sunny day and so lovely to spend outside of Chuncheon.

EMU students and add-ons.

EMU students and add-ons. Sorry, my beautiful face isn’t in this one.


This past week, a group of students from Eastern Mennonite University (EMU) came to Chuncheon for the first week of their 3-week cross-cultural studies. We hosted two of them in our home, and it ended up being a really fun experience.

During the week (which was busy for me, as all of my work and class times were still in place), we had enough time to squeeze in some 노래방 (karaoke) and a “family” dinner. Come Friday, Jiwon, Yunju and I were given the go-ahead to skip work and attend a Sorak mountain getaway with the students. Two hours of driving got us to a DMZ lookout point which I’d sadly already been to. Thus, my highlight was finding a little green frog to ooh and aww over with some other girls practicing varying degrees of shriekability.

I call him Spike.

I call him Spike.

Once we’d reached our hotel, which was nice, we set to some serious R&R. I opted out of a hike on Saturday, instead accompanying some of the girls to the beach, Lotteria for hamburgers, and then the nearby water park, Waterpia! There we ran into some of the guys and enjoyed the “maelstrom” slide…3 times in a row. (The video doesn’t do it justice. We rode it when the funnel was covered, meaning there was no light at all, and we couldn’t see where we were headed…way scarier!)

A side-note on bathing suit culture in Korea: you hardly see ’em! There was one point at the beach when I looked around and, despite its being crowded, realized NAPAMAs were the only ones in actual swimsuits (points if you remember what that acronym means!). The water park offered a different display: full on nudity every which way you turned in the locker room…followed by almost completely-covered bodies in the actual park. Yes, people wear swimsuits. But they also make sure to wear some sort of t-shirt or sheer hoodie on top of it. I witnessed one couple wearing full-on shorts, zip-up mesh hoodies, and baseball caps. On water-slides! No kidding! Such a modest culture, really. (I found this fun list of Korean quirks, if you’re curious for more. I’ve witnessed every single one of them, but my fave has to be matching couples.)

The weekend ended with puzzlement over the abrupt ending of I am Legend, the Saturday night movie showing on the only English channel at the hotel. We were upset, but it was a good bonding moment. Sunday we all attended JVC, had lunch there together, then said our goodbyes. It was a little bittersweet! I truly enjoyed our short time with that group.

This past week was a short interlude between fun and games. I taught my classes, and finished some actual work at the office. A damper was put on the week when I found out my sister Heather, who is currently in Uganda, has malaria. Naturally my worries, thoughts and prayers have been directed at her, and that’s somewhat exhausting (though definitely not as much as the disease itself). The good news is they caught it early, and she’s being properly treated. It sounds like she’s on the mend.

Anyways, this is to say I need a vacation. And thankfully I have one coming! It sort of started tonight, when I and three friends watched The Great Gatsby in theatres. Tomorrow (May 17) is a national holiday, and I plan to spend it with Connexus friends, shopping and eating summertime favourite 팥빙수 (an ice cream and shaved ice dessert). Then on Sunday I’ll jet off to Korea’s honeymoon destination, Jeju island. It’s well-known for its beaches and curious geological formations. I’ll be there alone for one day, after which Jess (fellow SALTer) will join me for the rest of it. I’m sure I’ll come back with lots of stories and pictures, so hold your breath.


Road Trip!

3 May
Let's get our road trip on!

Let’s get our road trip on!

Alternatively titled: Actually, strange-person-I’ve-never-met, Stuart Murray is not my father.

Many moons ago (actually, only about 2) Kyong Jung put a bug in my head, promising that if he could find accommodations for me, I would be coming along on the ’round-Korea road trip planned for April 22-26. Stuart Murray, the Briton who wrote The Naked Anabaptist, was here for two weeks, on a tour that took place in three major cities. This was my chance to see more of Seoul, Daejeon, and Busan! And on the KAC’s dime! I would be there primarily as book-sales-girl (so not totally off-duty), but I still REALLY wanted to go. Long boring story short, I obviously got to.


We visited a mega-church (Samil) and the Seoul Theological University during our two days in Seoul. Stuart used this time to talk about   Post-Modernity, and how this affects our views of church and the gospel. I found his discussion about what makes a church attractive quite interesting – especially since our most reliable info about this seems to come from what church-leavers are saying! (Sad, but true.) The second day focused more on Anabaptism, which is then basically what was discussed for the rest of the week (for the sake of brevity I’ll just recommend you pick up Stuart’s book if you’re interested).


My experience was not very romantic.

We only slept in Seoul on Monday night, and I’m sorry to say it wasn’t for very long. We were put up in a fabulous guesthouse that a pastor and his wife use for returning Korean missionaries’ debriefing. It was a great place because (unlike the usually decoration-void Korean home), it had books, wall hangings and knick-knacks from all over the globe. Plus, my bed was SUPER comfy (as in, it had an actual mattress on top of the box-spring! Wonder of wonders!). Unfortunately that night I battled a mysterious illness, which was accompanied by alternating mental images of Beth March and Gilbert Blythe on their sweaty deathbeds.  Temporary scarlet fever plus over-active imagination did not make for a good night’s rest, even despite a proper mattress. What a waste. Continue reading

February is the Shortest Month

17 Feb

I just spent three hours composing a long new post, only to decide not to publish it. I realized the last few have all been more on the introspective side, and I didn’t want to do that to you again. Still, if you’d like to read it, ask me and I’ll send it to you (deborah dot wiens at gmail dot com). Now for a few short updates and some lurvely photos!

The last few weeks have been a fun mix of regular activities. We welcomed Jiwon into our home and, even though she’ll still go home on most weekends, I think she fits in nicely here. Her first week here, three of us watched the documentary “Babies”, because it’s got barely any talking and therefore language barriers, and it’s cute. And there’s a Mongolian baby in that film! We oohed and ahhed over all the Mongolian landscape shots, and it pretty much settled the deal that I’ll visit Doogii one day.

Last week was Lunar New Year – the other big Korean holiday beside Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to witness much “authentic” celebration, but no, I’m not that upset about it. I took advantage of the long weekend, visited my Connexus friends once again (watched Argo, highly recommend), and then visited Seoul on a whim of independence. Quite honestly,  I needed to get out of Chuncheon for a while. I meandered around the big shopping area called Myeongdong, realized it was all cosmetics stores, and then decided to hit up the National Museum of Korea. The weather was crisp but sunny, so I got a coffee and walked around the little park there. Remember how happy that made me in Shanghai? Nothing’s changed. I felt a much-needed resurgence of “I love Korea” feelings, and I was happy to go back to Chuncheon that evening. (This video sums it up nicely!)

Yesterday Doogii and I went on a looong walk toward the Lady of Chuncheon statue which I’ve passed a number of times but never got a picture of till now. It took us 2 hours to get to her from home, and then we decided to walk towards Chuncheon’s Myeongdong for a dinner  of coffee and baked goods at the Paris Baguette bakery. A Saturday afternoon well-spent!

This coming week promises a few new and exciting events. First off, I’m starting a new English class, with two ladies. It will be Bible-based English study, so probably a little different from my other classes. I’m also leading my second cell group! Last week I led the study on Esther, this week I’ll do Job. Next weekend is another YALT reunion. Are they happening more often than usual, or is time flying? I’m excited to visit Chuncheon’s Nami island with those girls and both my roommates.

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Thanks again for reading, and have a good one!


I Got Seoul, but I’m Not a Seouldier.

24 Sep

Somehow another week has passed. Time has a way of feeling fast and slow, simultaneously. On the one hand I can’t believe I’ve been in Korea for a whole month and a week – on the other, I can’t believe that’s all it’s been! Does that make sense?

This past weekend was eventful. Our friends at the Frontiers were a part of a peace rally/concert in Seoul, so we decided to check it out on Saturday. Yes, folks, I may have been here for over a month, but this was my first time in Seoul! I was prepared for a big city and different atmosphere, but I found myself surprised nonetheless. When they say Seoul is a “big city”; a “metropolis”, rather, they are not joking. Is Vancouver a big city? -Yes. Compared to Seoul? -It’s the podunkiest little hick town yuh ever did see! Vancouver doesn’t even have a million people. Seoul has ten million and counting. So basically what I’m saying here is, even a city girl at heart felt a little overwhelmed there this past Saturday!

But I digress…I’ll get back on track by telling you that the whole long day trip started with a 2+ hours subway ride (with 4 transfers) into the belly of Korea. Sufficiently exhausted from doing nothing, we arrived in Myeongdong at lunchtime. (Myeongdong is the trendy shopping neighbourhood, matched in name to Chuncheon’s shopping centre.) By this time I was experiencing significant cognitive dissonance regarding where I was in the world. Foreigners, foreigners, everywhere! That felt more like home – no longer was I the lone mousy-brown head in a sea of black. I kept forgetting I wasn’t in Canada, and had to constantly remind myself to use my Korean words and manners. So confusing!

We quickly found a restaurant specializing in naengmyeon and bibimbap. Bibimbap is a delicious mix of rice, greens and vegetables – a pretty good “beginner’s Korean cuisine”, if you ask me (I, for the record, am far past beginner’s level, but certainly did enjoy this “tamer” new-to-me dish.) Naengmyeon is a noodle soup that has a hard-boiled egg and some vegetables arranged on top, and it is served alongside this delicious grilled beef that you mix in yourself. Oh yes – and the broth is cold, sour, and filled with chunks of ice. I can easily say I love Korean food, but I’m not won over in the soup department yet. (Even hot soups are not made with bouillon as we picky Canadians like, so they’re a little on the bland side.)

After lunch we walked around a bit and window shopped (My advice: don’t go to Seoul with only $7!). I enjoyed the hustle and bustle and different approach to getting customers in the stores (namely screaming at them through a microphone). After a while of this, “Deborah’s tired mode” hit, and I quickly made the transformation from excited tourist to almost-incohesive slow-poke. I soon found Coke and a bench and, after a while, perked up a bit. From there we went to Dunkin’ Donuts (very popular here) and met Jin Ju’s friend Hyunsil. She treated us to iced coffee (yay! more caffeine!) and donuts (I had a delicious mocha almond one, but there are more “Korean-style” types available). Hyunsil is also a former IVEPer who served at Peace Mennonite Church in Richmond, so we had a lot to talk about. I told her I live (lived?) five minutes from Metrotown and she actually understood what that meant. Awesome.

After a looong sit (which is what my feet needed at that point, already), we moseyed over to the peace rally/concert/shindig. I didn’t understand any of the signs or speeches, and only one of our Frontier friends was there, so we left pretty soon. Still, I’d never seen a tank made of balloons, so at least I got to cross that off my bucket list.

After the rally we travelled to the Hongik University neighbourhood which, in my limited world travels, reminded me the most of St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan (and if I have to compare it to something in Vancouver, then I guess it was most like Commercial Drive). It was pretty cool, with art installments everywhere, and people in better clothes than me, and lots of graffiti (the pointless kind, not the cool kind). To my chagrin, zombie walks happen all over the world, and we just happened to land in the middle of one on my first day in Seoul. But things looked up when we found a book sale and then when we decided on dinner at a “Mexican” restaurant! I’ve never had a burrito with potatoes and without rice or beans, but it was delicious and I didn’t care. The day wrapped up with a zoomy ITX fast train back home, which only took an hour this time.

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The next day was Sunday, so I went to JVC once again. Afterwards, Jin Ju, Doogii and I took a detour to the river, where the duck boats live (paddle boats, disguised as swans/ducks). It was an impromptu little excursion onto the water, but it was perfect. The weather was warm and summery, and once we’d paddled to the middle of the river, I counted 17 other ducks afloat! Lots of laughing ensued between the three of us, which it always does, and that put us in a good mood to walk home. After getting some groceries on the way home, we snuggled into a microwave chocolate cake and the first two episodes of The Office. (The cake was confusing and weird, but it satisfied my chocolate craving – the sitcom was also confusing and weird for the non-native English speakers, but it satisfied my comedy craving.)

That’s about all I have to report on for now. Thanks again for reading another garrulous post. I apologize if I sounded too irreverent in the first half. I really enjoyed Seoul, but it was such a whirlwind day that I just think back on it with exhaustion! I’ll end now with prayer requests, and thanks to everyone who has been praying thus far!

  • I met the university students I’ll be hanging out with once a week! They’re all sweet and funny and I think we’ll have fun exchanging language and culture. Please pray for them to be brave about using English around me, and pray that I can be a good example of God’s love to them.
  • Speaking of being brave…pray that I would be bold enough to use what I know! Today I learned past tense! Wow, moving up in the world!
  • Pray for me to be humble and servant-like. I have this not-so-nice tendency to be snippy when I feel tired/sore/annoyed/nostalgic about how it is at home. I don’t think I’ve hurt/offended anyone yet – heck, I don’t think anyone’s noticed it, I’ve worked so hard to curb it! – but pray nonetheless. It’d be awesome if I could win the battle in my mind and not have to constantly bite my tongue or worry that my slight niglings and annoyances come out the wrong way. AH!
  • Pray for the IVEPer from Zambia, who is supposed to be living with my family. She STILL doesn’t have her visa, and is missing out on valuable service time! I believe God will have her where He will, but pray in the meantime, that her heart would understand this, too.
  • Pray for my family, because I love them and they deserve it.