Friday was our last full day of the Korea trip. The morning’s activity occurred at the Seoul History Museum, where we had musical and dramatic performances by youth volunteers (mostly precocious 12 year olds). We also had a buffet lunch (ribs!) and then free time in the afternoon. Which would have been great for last minute touring or shopping, except that it was pouring rain. So I used the time to pack and relax. We had a debriefing, and then it was time to get ready for our “formal” farewell celebration.
This was held at the Seoul Marina and Yacht Club, a beautiful facility on Yoido Island (near the National Assembly building). I was fortunate to be included at the head table, and had a chance to speak with our host, the President of the Korea Foundation, the agency responsible for implementing these Peace Corps revisit trips. I’m glad I had a chance to express my thanks directly to President Kim.
The dinner was wonderful and so was the conversation, but there were three highlights to the event: First, a slide show presented photographs from the event, including many of our revisit photographs. Second, at the very end of the evening we all launched our “wish” lanterns — large paper lanterns with paraffin candles on which we wrote our wishes (most had to do with peace) and then the rain paused long enough for us to launch our lanterns into the sky. It was a fun and beautiful way to end the evening and the week. But before we did that, we had a concert by a trio of amazing performers: a cellist, a pianist, and a saenghwang player. The instrument is pictured at left and I had never heard it before it. The woman who played it produced these mesmerizing, other-worldly sounds. It seems to be sort of a harmonica, but it produces tones like an oboe. Just amazing.
When we got back to the hotel, several people came to my room to work on the bottle of soju I had been given. We had a great conversations and took care of about half the bottle. That was lots of fun.
This morning, at our final breakfast, I was able to give the remainder away, and then it was time to head for the airport–in more heavy rain. But we trudged over to the bus stop, got wet, and missed the bus–but the driver saw us and stopped! So I’m now in the airport lounge, preparing for the long (and I do mean long) flight home, after a wonderful visit.