Tuesday, September 5, 2006

Wearing White Shoes

Posted in Foreign Service Life, Korea, Travels at 7:45 pm by graceandpoise

Today is the day after Labor Day. I wore white shoes today. So there.

My Labor Day weekend was a full one. On Saturday, I went along with more than half of the embassy community to the American Chamber of Commerce’s annual Labor Day picnic. On Sunday, I spent some time tackling the large insects living in my shed and inside my lawn mower and then mowed the lawn (no small thanks to my neighbor who was kind enough to lend me some gasoline). On Monday, I participated for the first time in one of the Korean national pastimes, going on a hike up a mountain on the outskirts of Seoul. Today, my muscles are sore and my sunburn is peeling, but I think it may all have been worth it.

The picnic was more than an hour’s drive southeast of the city, so it qualifies as the first time I’ve made it out of Seoul since the night I got off a plane. It was amazing, in an insane sort of way, and it was unlike any picnic I had ever been to or heard of before. The food was from a variety of restaurant and catering sponsors who all had booths set up and there were cafe-style tables with umbrellas so people didn’t have to sit on the ground, a stage with a giant television and speakers, a swimming pool, tennis courts, and a blow-up slide for the kids. And a lion dance performance. Oh, and there were several thousand people there, all brought in by a couple hundred buses from various meeting points in Seoul. Most notable: there were so many people hoarding things – some literally had giant boxes full of steak and pizza and yogurt and donuts and lasagna and whatever else they could find. I wonder who eventually ate it all. Some photos:

View of the AMCHAM picnic Lion Dance I Lion Dance II

Lion Dance III Rice Paddies I Rice Paddies II

Monday’s hike was full of beautiful scenery. I was with a bunch of embassy people, along with a man who is a former Korean ambassador to the U.S. and a couple of reporters for some of the larger Korean newspapers. We also had a guide who told us all about the history of the park we were in. The area we hiked is called Bukhansan, and it was used in the Chosun dynasty as a place that the kings and (some of) the people of Seoul could retreat to in times of unrest or attack. There was once a palace and a monastery and a variety of other buildings, but these have all been destroyed either by the Japanese or by flash floods in the early 20th century. Many are slated for reconstruction sometime in the next 20 years or so. Even without these sights, it was a very pretty (and often steep) journey up the mountain. Some more photos:

Entrance to the park This must mean something...

Vending machines, halfway up a mountain Remains of one of the inner defensive walls Final approach to Big East Gate (Daedongmun)

Daedongmun and the outer fortification wall Bits of Seoul barely visible through the haze - that's our destination

Daedongmun Part of the descent, at least, looks very civilized


  1. WJF said,

    Great photos, Marisa!

  2. Erik Wahlstrom said,


    I’m a would be FSO from Seattle. I’m loving your BLOG and hope to be writing one of my own from Seoul, Bishtek, Kampala or Montevideo soon.

    I’m taking the FSOA in January and would love any advice you can lend me.


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