The short span of Raymond’s life in Korea…

After only two weeks in Seoul I think I’ve become well used to Korean life. It has been great to be somewhere new and not know how to communicate or get by. I think that such a type of environment change is just what one needs to feel alive and in survival mode gear. I’ve been doing some interesting things here. I started to volunteer at the Korea UN AIDS Information Support Centre in Itaewon which provides information to foreign residents in Korea. Mostly I just help them with their newsletter. In Korea there are 4341 cases of reported HIV/AIDS. It doesn’t seem so high for a country with such a large population but the number is increasing rapidly. People must start to be informed about the epidemic at this stage before the virus spreads more and more.

I’m also volunteering sometimes at the Hwasung Baby Orphanage through Y-heesun Volunteer Support Group. It’s in a pretty poor area of Seoul but I was quite surprised to see how nice the orphanage was. I really like going there and spending a few hours with the kids. They are pretty young but so affectionate and sweet. You can just sit on the floor and in no time a baby or toddler will come up to you and jump in your lap with a book or something to play with. Some of them really take to me and some of them want to beat me. On Saturday I had a super energetic boy in a swing and suddenly he just passed out on me. Either he was coming off his sugar rush or I completely bored him with my conversation. Anyway, the kids are kids and want the same things that all other kids want. Despite my usual lack of patience for children, I think that knowing that these kids really have no families to go home to at the end of the day makes me really appreciate them more and admire them in their big and little struggles.

 As far as the Korean touring is concerned, last week we went up north to a small village called Heyri which is famous for art. It was a little place quickly developing in Asian style with strange buildings and architecture going up so fast you could probably see the change in a day. Giant animation characters like mysterious poo poo head, theme park inverted mirrors and enormous bookstores outlined the dusty roads of Heyri. The strangest thing we did was visit the English Village. The Korean fascination of learning English has created a sort of warped world on the hilltop looking over Heyri. When you enter this bizarre theme park, you are given a passport which needs to be stamped upon arrival at the immigration centre. From there on, English is the language in this new and strange make-believe country we are travelling to. At the city hall, a smiley lady will offer you a map and tell you to enjoy your day. Buying a blizzard at Dairy Queen, you are served by Russian women who speak a bit awkward English but are forgiven for their caucasion looks and big blue eyes. Very strange but most probably the English Village residents are former Russian strippers that have become a bit dated to hang around the Seoul circut. These girls must have to take a lot of drugs to cope with daily life of residing in the English zoo! HA!

On the way we drove along the border to North Korea and could see it in the distance. It looked so mysterious as the sun went down. The military presence was strong and it was obvious that in some ways, this is still an on-going war. I think it would be so fascinating to visit North Korea during these times. However, the only way to get on that side of the border is to be part of a government organised tour that is very restrictive and controlled completely by the government of North Korea. I think that type of trip could almost equate with a visit to Disney Land so I’ll hold off on that until somthing a bit more appealing comes.  

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