It's been a long time since I last posted. I've been terribly busy, so I'm sorry about the spotty updating, but faithful readers will be rewarded with what I hope is a good post today.
It turns out I had learned the name of the "mystery woman" from Episode 50. Her name is April, I had just forgotten. Today (Sunday) she invited me to her church with her and her family. Her father was a former member of the Korean Navy and worked for many years as an Engineer for the Korean Air Force. He spoke very good English, and is still an avid table tennis player. DFM loves to hear of people remaining active after they retire.
April's father is one of the church's elders and, like April, seems to know just about everyone. We had a long chat with the pastor, in his office, before the start of church and almost made him late. The pastor was very friendly and asked many questions about me. He also gave me some mushroom juice (it comes in a bottle here), which tastes a lot better than it sounds.
After the sermon, the pastor had me introduce myself to the congregation. April came up to translate my introduction, but I surprised everyone by introducing myself entirely in Korean instead. I got a large ovation from the entire congregation who then gave me a rose and sang a song of welcome to me. (The congregation has at least 125 members I'd reckon.)
After church I was a mini celebrity and it seemed like everyone wanted to come and shake my hand. I got a lot of practice saying "nice to meet you" in Korean.
After church April and I went to meet "One Piece," Pyeong-hwa, at Gyeongbokgung - another palace in Seoul. However, it was quite busy when we got there, so we decided to walk around the outside of the wall and see the Blue House (where the President lives). (To see a picture of the Blue House, click here.) You're only allowed to view the Blue House from that one angle, so every shot any tourist has ever taken looks exactly the same.
At the Blue House site we ran into an interesting family from France. From left to right is Sophie Cremezi, PR and Events Manager for the French Korean Chamber of Commerce and Industry, her mother and father, and finally, her husband Guilhem Cremezi. Guilhem works for a company that supplies parts to Hyundai/Kia. He told me that he took the job so that he could travel. Smart man. Speaking of smart, the Cremezis know French, English, and a fair bit of Korean.
After the Cremezis departed to have lunch, April, Pyeong-hwa and I went to Insadong.
Budha's Birthday is not for another week or two, but since Budha's Birthday is on par with Christmas over in Korea, there were all sorts of opportunities to "catch the spirit." Here we were taught how to properly drink tea, the Korean way.
I had to leave April and Pyeong-hwa for a while as I rushed over to Jamsil Stadium to watch a baseball game. The Doosan Bears (Thom's favourite team) were hosting the Hanwa Eagles in their rather beautiful stadium. Unfortunately, I showed up slightly late and so the tickets to the "good section" by the team's rabble rouser were all sold out. Instead I found a seat in the equally packed right field bleachers for less than $4.
Much like the soccer game I went to, if you want to cheer loudly you need to be sitting in the right spot. There were pockets of cheering going on in my section, but it was nothing compared to where the "real fans," as I call them, were sitting.
I went to the game by myself, so I had no one to communicate with, but this boy in the Doosan hat and I would exchange smiles and fist pumps every time Doosan did something positive.
Sorry about the poor quality on the video. The transfer from an .avi to .wmv file is less than perfect it must be said.
There were definitely a lot more people at this game than at my Woori Heroes game, but the cheering somehow felt less passionate than when the Heroes fans and I screamed our lungs out for a rare base hit by our really bad team.
To see real cheering though you have to witness Busan's Lotte Giants fans, who Yi Woojin assures me are the best fans in the league. I'll let you judge for yourself though (click the earlier link if you haven't already, and also try this one too).
After about two hours at the baseball game I left early and rushed back down town to catch the final hour and a half of the great Budha's Birthday Parade. A parade is a parade is a parade, but this one lasted over four hours. There's not much new I can really say since most people have seen a parade before, but never-the-less I have included a few of my favourite images for your viewing pleasure.
After the parade ended at 9:30 PM, a concert started. It seemed to be a blend of Korean folk music and Korean pop music. One of the singers was a big celebrity in Korea, and this seemed to get a great many cheers from the younger members of the audience.
The concert carried on until at least 11 PM, and at one point a mass group dance broke out in the middle of the street. Some rather drunk old men started getting a little too vigorous in their dancing, so I decided that it was best for my safety to head home at this time and go to bed.