DMZ Tour- Last Day in Korea

Our last day in Seoul began with a tour of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). We headed off to the USO, just a short trek from our hotel, signed in with our passports, and then hopped on a bus to take us to the DMZ. It’s about an hour-long ride, and our wonderful tour guide Clara “briefed” us on our DMZ tour, as well as handed out prizes for guessing the number of bridges in Seoul (31) and the name of the US general (MacArthur) integral to the US involvement in the Korean War (congrats to Karina and Dr. Campbell.) As we got closer to the first stop on our tour the barbed wire fences and pillboxes with young, armed Korean soldiers became more frequent reminding us that although the tour buses outnumbered the camouflaged jeeps we were heading to an area closely watched by the world’s military leaders.

The first stop on our began tour with a  visit to Imjingak Park (the last point where civilians can travel without permission) and the “Unification Bridge”. The park was built to console Koreans from both sides of the DMZ who are unable to return to their homelands. While a very moving place many of us were surprised at just how many tourists were there (hundreds and mostly Chinese), and how commercialized the area seemed to be – Viking boat ride anyone? Next, the bus took us to the 3rd infiltration tunnel – a tunnel built by the North Koreans in order to infiltrate South Korea and stage a possible attack on Seoul – no photo’s allowed, sorry! Maneuvering the tunnel was no walk in the park, especially for the taller members of the group. It runs about 1.7 km long, 2 m high and 2 m wide, and sits approximately 73 m below ground. Also, in order to get to the tunnel, we had to walk down (and back up!) the entry tunnel, which is 500m long and is on a downward slope of 11°. After some of Fiacre’s bootcamp workouts though, it seemed like a breeze.

The Dora observatory was next. This site sits on the South Korean side of the 38th parallel and provides visitors a direct look into North Korea, including views of the statue of Kim-Il Sung built to entice South Koreans north, the two peace villages of Kijong-Dong (North) and Daeseong-dong (South), and the Kaesong Industrial Complex. Some of us even saw North Koreans riding bicycles! All of us were honored at the opportunity to get views of the most closed off country in the world and were surprised at how pretty and peaceful it seemed. Lastly, we visited Dorasan train station, the last station in South Korea.

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After the DMZ tour, we went back to the hotel, and most of us packed to be ready to leave in the morning. We then attended a cooking class to learn how to make traditional Korean dishes. We split between making bulgogi (beef in soy sauce) and japchae (rice noodles in sesame oil), and we all got to make our own bibimbap. It was absolutely delicious, and all of us left with a certificate that officially shows off our new skills!

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The rest of the night was free time- some of us enjoyed the nightlife in Seoul while others had a quiet evening at the hotel, packing and getting ready to leave. What a fantastic last day!!!

This trip has been such an experience for all of us, and we have made some (hopefully) life long friends here. There are already plans to see each other again in the works!

Alex and Hilary

Goodbye Chuncheon, hello Seoul

(Post from August 12th)

It was with great sadness that we said goodbye again to all our friends from Chuncheon as we took a train to Seoul in the morning – we all became very good friends so it was hard to say goodbye. The students were nice enough to help us bring our bags all the way to the train platform and we were able to take some goodbye photos and wave goodbye for the last time from the train.Image

We were lucky enough to have a clear, sunny day with no humidity, although very hot, because when we arrived in Seoul we had some time to do a little shopping in Insa-Dong for some more souvenirs, as well as to eat some funny-looking ice cream. Then some people went to tour the US Embassy and others did more shopping at Nandaemun Market.Image

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At night we agreed to meet at the Seoul Tower; to get there we rode on cable cars to get to the top of the mountain. Then, we hopped on the elevator to go to the top of the tower, which is one of the fastest elevators we had been on – it got us all the way to the top in less than 30 seconds 🙂 From there we had a great view of the whole city at night, which was really beautiful!

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We had a relatively uneventful night as we got back to the hotel because we had to wake up early to go to the USO for a tour of the DMZ in the morning 🙂

Nearby mountain walk and free time!

This morning a group of us climbed Bongui mountain. It was quite a hike but we walked all the way to the top!
The view was beautiful from the top of the mountain:

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When we finally reached the top, we explored the outdoor gym on the summit.

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After mountain climbing, Alex, Karina, Hilary, and I (Heather) played a non competitive game of soccer. Hilary showed us her skills!

<-We rinsed off after getting really sweaty!

After the hike, we were all very tired. Our group went back to the dorms for lots of packing and resting..

We leave for another two full days in Seoul tomorrow morning and then we are heading home! We will truly miss the students and faculty at Hallym University. We are all so grateful for this unforgettable experience. 🙂

Cheongpyeong Temple and a visit to Sam’s!

Our trusty guides, Hyojoo and Nayoung, led the way to Cheonpyeong Temple in Chuncheon. It’s not an easy task to navigate a group of 14 people on any bus system, particularly in blistering heat and steamy humid air, somehow, they were able to wrangle all of us without a hitch.  Transportation in South Korea is typically good and inexpensive – today’s 40 minute trip was a steal at just $1.50 each!

At Soyangkangho Dam we enjoyed glorious mountain scenery under ominous low-hanging clouds and growling thunder before boarding the the ferry for a short ride to Cheongpyeong, whereupon the skies opened and rain ensued.  What a perfect opportunity for this bunch of starving adventurers to seek out food and shelter while waiting for the rain to subside.

Note to self:  the adage that states “never order food on an empty stomach” is sage advice indeed, however, today it was ignored completely.  We dined on potato cakes,  spicy vegetable mix, kimchi(of course!), a whole chicken crock pot (x4) boiled with a variety of herbs and spices (Nayoung referred to it as “herbal medicine- good for your health”) – it’s a dish that goes by the very sensible name of “White Chicken”.   As if that were not enough to feed an army of men, we were then presented with enormous bowls of a vegetable rice soup dish that received rave reviews by many and a few choice words by some.

The steep, long, and winding mountainside road to the temple was scenic to say the least.  Our thirty minute journey was accompanied by the incessant hum of cicadas and grasshoppers, and the cacophony of children at play in the adjacent waterfalls and natural pools. Cheongpyeong Temple itself was founded  in 973 AD and down through the centuries it has housed many scholars, monks, and poets. Its peaceful setting is well preserved despite the huge numbers of visitors each year.  Today it is the home for many relics of ancient monks, and is considered a ritual site for rain.

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After returning to the dorms from the temple, we quickly changed and headed to Dr. Ko’s apartment for a potluck dinner.  The dinner featured traditional Korean food prepared by Dr. Ko  and the faculty of Hallym University speech department.  Dishes included kimchi and soup as well as tons of fresh fruits and cookies for dessert.  Sam even took me (Marissa) out for cookies in the middle of the party because I enjoyed them so much.   During the dinner, we presented Sam with a signed photo from all of us thanking him for all his hard work he had done for the trip.   Everyone then took a turn saying what was their most memorable experience throughout our time in South Korea.  Even though we still have a few days before we come home, this portion of dinner made everyone realize just how difficult it is going to be to say bye to all of the wonderful friends we have made as well as the wonderful hospitality we have received on this trip!  So many amazing memories have been made in the past 11 days, so it will be difficult to leave Chuncheon on Monday!

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Fiacre and Marissa

Highway Star.

We got word late last night that our scheduled clinical practicum for today was cancelled because the families we were supposed to meet were unavailable. This meant we had the first half of the day to ourselves-quite exciting to say the least. Some had planned on attending a 7AM bootcamp session (led by Fiacre, of course) but an early morning rainstorm had other plans for us. Luckily it had passed by about 8:30am and left the air feeling nice and cool. A few of us hiked up to the top of a nearby mountain while others took some time to catch up on sleep and relaxation. We reached the top of Mount Bong Ui in about half an hour and found a little gym in the forest at the top. After hiking back down and showering at the dorms, several of us had coffee with Dr. Ko in his office before departing for the bowling alley at 3pm. We divided everyone into 2 teams one led by Sam and one by Rob, and the team with the best score after the first 2 games agreed to pay the winner’s shoe rental fee (about $1 per person). After bowling we had another fabulous meal with all the Korean grad students, Dr. Ko, and Dr. Pae, courtesy of our professors. Thanks professor Comer and professor Campbell!! As for the post-dinner madness that ensued, we decided that there really are no words, so here are some pictures and videos to help you understand.

P.S. “Highway Star” is Dr. Ko’s nickname.

-Rob and Amelia

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Real life Grey’s Anatomy (Aug 8th)

After the amazing day and night we had yesterday, it was hard to believe that today’s agenda would surpass our expectations. Everyone was up bright and early for some coffee and toast at our cute, traditional lodging in Jeonju.ImageThe heat was just as oppressing as yesterday, but at this point we might as well admit we are used to it. We were all ready to go by 8AM- some of us more than others- but hopped on the bus and headed back to the hospital for our most exciting scheduled activity yet.

Image  We all had the opportunity (thanks to Dr. Ko, Dr. Shin, and all of the other faculty at Chonbuk Dental Hospital) to scrub in and observe a surgery- inside the OR. The 12 of us were split into three groups so that we would not overcrowd the operating room- I (Amelia) was lucky enough to be in the first group to see all of the tedious (yet necessary) preparatory steps, as well as the beginning steps of the surgery. I (Hilary) was even luckier to be in the second group- because I got to see the surgeons sewing the lips together, as well as the finished product. The patient was a 4 month old baby girl with a cleft lip/cleft palate. It was incredible-and a bit hard- to see her little body on the operating table.Image  The surgery, performed by Dr. Shin, (who we all had the pleasure of meeting yesterday) was the first step in a long process of surgeries in order to repair/reconstruct the cleft lip/palate.  It was amazing to be standing amongst some of the best surgeons/surgical teams in Korea, especially because we were treated like one of the staff- they provided us with stepping stools so that we could observe the entire surgery (especially us short ones), and encouraged us to take pictures throughout the entire procedure. Additionally, Dr. Yong Soo Kim was incredible- he was in the O.R. with us and didn’t hesitate to explain each step of the process. He also informed us that this entire surgery and hospital stay (5 days) would only cost the parents the equivalent of $300 USD. Here, families with financial means pay 30% of the medical bill and poor families only pay 1%.

I think it is safe to say that upon leaving the O.R. we were all besides ourselves with emotions; amazed, impressed, and mostly grateful beyond words for what we just had the opportunity to observe.

ImageAfter the surgery, we had some free time to explore the area around Chonbuk National University. We were due back at the hospital at 1:30pm, so most of us found a spot for lunch and headed back. We all gathered in a lecture hall on the bottom level in the Hospital for a presentation by Dr. Shin. It was very informative, and he covered topics ranging from methods and techniques for Cleft Palate surgery/repair, to VPI (Velopharyngeal Port Insufficiency). What was most impressive were the pictures included at the end of the lecture- the before and after shots of the 4 month old we had observed earlier in the day.ImageImageImageImageKeep in mind the surgery lasted less than 2 hours- what an incredible job. After taking a few group pictures, we (the GWU crew) had a bus to catch- 3 hour drive back to Chuncheon. Although relatively uneventful, we were pleasantly surprised with a beautiful sunset…even though we had about 3 seconds to catch a glimpse of the sun before it hid behind one of the many, many mountains. ImageImageImageImageWe are now all <catching up on posting our blogs>…errr, enjoying the warm breeze back at the dormitory deck area, and ready for a fun day tomorrow with our Hallym graduate students/faculty best friends!! In the words of Dr. Ko, everything is “just splendid”.

Happy reading 🙂  Amelia/Hilary

Gangnam Style (Aug 7th)

This morning began with a delicious toast and jam breakfast, made by our lovely Korean innkeeper. We headed off to the Cheonbuk National University Dental Hospital for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and there were only a few times when we feared for our lives during the bus ride this time. We had an introduction by Dr. Yongsoo Kim and a lecture on cleft palate by Dr. Seung-O Ko. After the lectures, we got a tour of the hospital and the speech therapy rooms, and they are certainly more lenient about observation than we are in the States. We got to walk around, take pictures (although we cannot post pictures that identify the patients), and ask questions. Karina had the opportunity to try out the CPAP device, which is used to strengthen the muscles for the velopharyngeal port closure.Image

Also, Fiacre had a 360 degree panoramic x-ray taken of his mouth, and then we got to analyze the films with the orthodontist. Then, we observed Dr. Shin with a few of his patients: a 7-month old baby with Van der Woude syndrome (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_der_Woude_syndrome) who was 3 months post-op for lip closure, a 13-year old with mental retardation and hypernasality who was assessed using the nasometer, and a little girl with mental retardation who was seen by Dr. Shin and then given some speech assessments (a VPI assessment much like the PPVT).

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Dr. Shin and his colleagues then took us out to lunch for traditional Jeonju bibimbap, which is said to be the best in the country.

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I think we all agreed that this is not an exaggeration. After lunch, we visited Kijeon College, and we ended up at a coffee shop while we waited to meet the president of the college. While this may not sound blog worthy, we assure you that it was. It turned into a Gangnam style dance party! Dr. Ko asked a student who walked in to teach us the dance- this poor student just wanted to grab some coffee! But she was a trooper and helped us out.

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We then met with the president Dr. Jung Sook Seo and the dean Dr. Han. This meet and greet also turned into a dance party, as we had to show off our newly learned skills.

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A short bus ride took us to the Kijeon riding center where we got to watch hippotherapy sessions (horses, not hippos guys). This type of therapy can be used for a variety of disorders, and from what we saw, the clients really enjoyed it.Image

After the hippotherapy sessions, we headed back to the Hanokmaul Village where we had a whole hour of free time (so rare!!). We then headed to a party hosted by Dr. Seo and the Kijeon faculty. It began with a traditional singing performance, followed by traditional food and fun conversation outside in the gardens.

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Unfortunately, the temperature was still in the 90s (we have been told that Jeonju is the hottest city in the nation and that they’ve had record breaking high temperatures this summer) so we went inside the traditional structures. This, yet again, became a singing and dance party. Yes, Gangnam style made an appearance, as well as some Korean Pop songs, Row Row Row your boat sung in a three-part round, and some Beatles songs. Although there is a language barrier, Koreans and Americans (Filipino, British, Irish, and Venezuelan) danced and sang the night away!

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Hilary and Karina