Back at last. Four days in Seoul, with three of them fully scheduled and busy as hell, takes a lot out of you. But I did quite a lot. Except replace my damn battery. All the following pictures were taken by others.

One of my life-long dreams was accomplished, for starters – I set foot in North Korea. Technically. At the Joint Security Area there are a number of conference rooms housed in small blue buildings that span the Military Demarcation Line separating the peninsula  (the DMZ itself is a four kilometer wide buffer zone, with two kilometers on either side of the MDL). Within the conference rooms you can step over into North Korea – as long as you stay inside the small building. So I did. Repeatedly.

Within the conference room are two of these guys. They’re Republic of Korea special forces. The US soldiers who led us on the tour of the JSA call them “Rocks” and damn if they aren’t scary. They don’t speak or move, but you can’t be within two feet of one or they’ll take you down. Don’t touch them, don’t talk to them. They’re there to ensure that no one tries to run out the door to the other side of the MDL (or run from the other side into South Korea). Even the US soldiers didn’t want to fuck with them. The table above is set right on the MDL.

We also saw the famous North Korean looking-through-binoculars-at-you man. The US soldiers have nicknamed him Bob. He looked at us quite a bit.

We later had lunch at the US embassy. I sat with some other program members and ate with Ambassador Stevens. I didn’t say much, just listened. As with the previous reception I attended with the State Department Public Relations head honcho in Korea, most of the other program members treated it like an interview more than a lunch. Questions were lobbed. Answers were given. Not much of a conversation per se, but it was very interesting. Here’s a couple pictures.

I’ve looked better. More pictures from the US Embassy [program that shall not be mentioned] Pool Party can be found here.

There were also workshops aplenty, with a briefing on medical safety and another talk that went line by line over our contract. The nights were spent around Seoul on our own. I went to Itaewon, Myeong-dong and Hongdae, all popular areas for bars, restaurants, shopping, and night life. We also rode the Seoul subway, natch (spacious as fuck; makes Shanghai’s subway look like a derelict tin can), and stopped by City Hall. Sunday was Korean Independence Day, so a lot of stores closed early. Unfortunately, that was the day I opted to go to Myeong-dong and buy some new pants. That night did not end with new pants.

All in all, despite how much we did in Seoul, I can’t form an opinion of it. It’s just too huge and I didn’t see nearly enough. There was an upper-crust clubbing area a lot of program members went to that I abstained from; perhaps it would have sold the city to me. But probably not. I’m sure I’ll have ample opportunities to visit Seoul again and form a more complete opinion. Till then, it’s back in Goesan with the fresh sent of fertilizer.

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