We were both truly excited to reach the last country on our itinerary, Korea. You see, Korea is Jacob's birth country. It's his big sister Sarah's birth country as well. Though I've visited Korea a few times, Jake hasn't been back since he was a baby. What we'd do during our visit had been the topic of much discussion. I decided to let Jake plan our Korean stay, other than our first day.
Fortunately for me and my family, I've been asked to do a good bit of writing both about Korea and for Koreans. My book, All About Korea, Stories, Songs, Crafts and More, was a truly gratifying project for all of us. It's being illustrated by Chris Soentpiet now and will be released by Periplus in 2011. More about this book soon!
I recently wrote four beginner readers for a Korean publisher, Unibooks. We spent our first day in Korea with their wonderful staff. We learned that thousands of Korean kids use books published by Unibooks to learn English. Unibooks not only publishes reading materials, they put every book on tape and create a song for each book, too. They even create plays based on some of their books! Jake and I had a great time touring their recording studio, theatre and offices. The best part, though, was getting to know their creative, thoughtful staff!
Jake didn't want to visit museums. He wanted to experience today's Korea, which turned out to be an awesome experience for us both. We walked the impressively modern downtown Seoul and played in its spectacular fountains. We shopped in some of Seoul's interesting traditional markets and visited modern art galleries. We biked along the Han River and walked the fun little stream that runs right through Seoul. Jake enjoyed Korea's high tech video arcades. We came across groups playing both traditional and modern music. We watched with interest a large group of police, who were protesting for freedom of their press. Thanks to numerous helpful Koreans, we mastered traveling by their amazingly efficient subway system. Jake agreed to tour one palace and its beautiful secret garden. I couldn't believe how much Seoul has grown since my last visit 9 years ago! The contrast of old and new was everywhere. A good example is this palace gate that's next to a thoroughly modern high rise.
I enjoyed our time in Seoul, especially spending time with its friendly people. But it warmed my heart to see Jake so comfortable in Korea. He took more than 1,000 pictures, trying to capture every bit of Seoul. He worked hard to speak the language. And, best of all, he wants to go back soon.
I learned so much while on this trip. I'll share some of what I learned in future blogs. But for now, it was time for us to head home!