Finally, got the pictures from my coworker... we went to Seoul a few weeks ago for work and stayed over for a couple of days, and we were able to meet up with those teachers in Korea!
Overall, the cost of living is very high! I guess it caught me by surprise because the locations where we go for work (China, Manila) is usually much cheaper than Hong Kong. But overall, I'd say Korea seems to be even more expensive than Japan (for normal items, such as shopping for clothes.) However, domestic cosmetic products are very inexpensive!
Here are some pictures:
This is a "national treasure" -- an old gate from the historic capital which was right behind our (really nice) hotel. [Probably the best hotel I've stayed at... of course, the price is up there too.] I was seriously on the phone with Melody for a bit. =p
This is the sign outside one of the malls in the "Dongdaemon" shopping district. Can you say, crazy shopping culture?? It is definitely a city that does not sleep.. and even more so than Hong Kong because they actually stay open through the night!
Erika (small group last year!) and I at one of the biggest palace parks in Seoul. The weather was TERRIBLE... cold and raining... and we were not equipped (sigh, we were caught with no umbrella). In the end, we couldn't wait to find some hot soup or bibimbap.
Kammie, another teacher, Erika, my coworker Armin (who is from Philippines and therefore is not accustomed to the cold weather... nor was really equipped for it... but she survived!) and at hot pot in Myeongdong district (another shopping district).
These two are at the Yoido Full Gospel Church, the biggest church congregation in the world with about 850,000 members. We were fortunate to attend service where the Senior Pastor, Dr. Yonggi Cho, spoke. I had actually heard him speak at Missionfest in Toronto... and I believe we heard exactly the same message this Sunday (!!)...
It is a charismatic church, and as in his visit to Toronto, he prayed a prayer of healing where he prayed at the pulpit. Throughout the prayer, he announced when he knew people were healed from various ailments. Listening to a "Korean-style prayer" (where everyone prays out loud, all at once) with so many people was interesting too. The amusing thing to me was when they did that, there was actually a small bell (or perhaps a musical triangle) to signify the end of the prayer. I find that amusing because when we did it for fellowship, I felt it was awkward to pray and not know when to end, but then once one person stops, the rate of ending the prayer follows an exponential curve. Haha..
In the second picture, all of the people dressed in blue and white are lining up to take offering.
What impressed Erika and me the most was their orchestra and choir. Amazing! And Erika and I are both have pretty "picky" ears =p... I was blown away. Enthusiastic and passionate conductors always make me smile... I had to take a video! The quality of music was unbelievable.
Overall, the Full Gospel Church experience was a positive one. However, when we arrived, we were ushered off into the foreigner section which was slightly intimidating (and the sanctuary was packed so originally we had to sit in the "foreigner overflow" watching a screen). In the end, we wanted to see the pulpit so ended up sitting on some steps, until others left and we got seats. They were also quite pushy in getting us to attend the post-service debrief. Needless to say, with a congregation of this size, they run like a machine... (the headsets in the foreigner section are multi-language simultaneous translations). May they continue to win souls for Christ.
Last stop, the Korean War Memorial which not only includes exhibits on the Korean War but also Korea's entire history of war, e.g., since the Korean dynasties were first formed. It was an information-packed tour. I found it very interesting to learn about this nation which fought with and against the Chinese and Japanese throughout history... sort of like understanding the other side (not that my knowledge of Chinese history is extensive). It also gives some background understanding to the isolation of North Korea now.
Overall, a great trip! I also got my dose of "cold weather" -- though a couple days were enough for me. =p The cold rain and wind was not pleasant at all... though I suppose I can't really complain about the weather this year!!
Until next time, this is Gladys Yam.