Sunday, December 26, 2010

Upcoming Pakistan trip details

Hisashiburi! Long time no blog! Since December 23rd I've been having a wonderful time hanging out in the good 'ol US of A with my family for Christmas. As much as I love Japan, it is so good to be HOME! I've been kept busy catching up with family and friends, Christmas Eve service, Christmas, church on Sunday, and lots of fun stuff. Before that, I was up to my ears preparing for the trip, including putting together the volunteer packet for the mission trip I'm leading to Pakistan in March. I haven't talked about that much, have I? Here, let me paste in a letter that I wrote my church to explain what's up:

Dear John Knox family,

Thanks so much for your prayers and encouragement while I serve God in Japan! God has given me a passionate heart for missions, and I'd like to tell you about a new opportunity He's presented me to serve in Pakistan. I feel strongly that missions and outreach should go hand and hand. We can tell people about Jesus and his love, but if we do not demonstrate that love through our actions, as the Bible says, our faith is dead and the seeds of faith can not be planted in others. Likewise, if we only serve people's physical needs and fail to address their spiritual needs and their ultimate need to know God's love, best displayed by the sacrifice of His son Jesus, we fail to serve the whole person. But when we preach the good news of Jesus Christ and work to fulfill the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of those who do not yet know him, they can see the results and be drawn into his loving arms.

This March, I’m leading a mission team to Gujranwala, a city in the Punjab province of Northeastern Pakistan, to volunteer with Pakistan Evangelical and Healing Ministry. Their primary purpose is to provide for the educational, medical, and spiritual hunger of orphans, widows, and the rural poor through a medical dispensary, primary school, food for poor children and orphans, women’s education and empowerment programs, and evangelism.

Rev. Shafiq founded Pakistan Evangelical and Healing Ministry in July 1997. There are no paid staff members, and most of the work and administration is carried out by Rev. Shafiq, his wife, three friends, and two ladies on a solely volunteer basis. They currently receive no funding outside their community, including no government sponsorship. (Being a Christian organization, they can never hope for government funding.) The entire ministry is run out of Rev. Shafiq’s home and church. This is the purest form of a grass roots and non-profit organization you could ever hope to find! And unlike many Christian organizations, Pakistan Evangelical and Healing Ministry serves both Muslims and Christians in their physical needs. Bible study is offered but not required, and Bible classes are included in the primary school curriculum, but students are not required to convert in order to receive food, books, or other help.

Many interesting “coincidences” led to the making of this trip, which tells me it could only be God`s providence. Way back in 2008 when I visited Malawi, I noticed a striking difference between the Christian and Muslim communities. The Christian communities had orphanages, feeding programs, hospitals, and many other benefits that the Muslim communities lacked. One could tell what areas belonged to which religious group simply by the level of poverty. This was not usually the fault of the Christian communities; often help was offered to Muslims but for whatever reasons they simply refused to take it. But still, I realized just how underdeveloped and underfunded the Muslim communities were, and this seemed extremely unfair to me. Christians were called to love all people, no matter how hard that might be. Because of this, I felt for a long time that God was calling me to lead an evangelism/humanitarian trip to a predominately Muslim country. Last year (March 2010) I volunteered with the dalits or "untouchables" in India, but I didn't get everything I wanted out of the experience, it being a secular organization. I was considering returning to India with my the Japanese Exchange Teacher Christian Fellowship (JCF) when I spoke to my leader of last year`s India trip, and he said that if I really wanted to make a difference, I should go to Pakistan. Several weeks later, I received an email from a Japanese Christian friend about a minister in Pakistan in desperate need of help and funding. My friend simply asked me to pray for him, but everything fell into place. I contacted Rev. Shafiq and he enthusiastically accepted my offer to send a mission team. Our God is awesome!

Together with Rev. Shafiq, JCF and I will be teaching English, sharing the gospel, and building much needed concrete housing to protect from floods and monsoons, which have recently reeked havoc throughout Pakistan. But none of this could be possible without money. Some of the immediate needs of the Ministry are:

1. A projector so they can show movies to children

2. Christian material for children in Urdu

3. Primary school books and children's books in Urdu and basic English

4. Furniture for a primary school for 200 children.

5.Basic English Bible and history DVDs, CDs, textbooks and teaching guides/materials.

6. Everyday food support for poor children during school.

7. Materials for construction projects.

8. A safe vehicle for Rev. Shafiq to travel from village to village doing his ministry work.

Our group's goal is $10,000, which will cover all of the above items. A contribution of any amount will help spread the gospel to some of the most lost people in the world, as well as provide for their basic physical needs: shelter, food, and education. To donate, you can make out a check to the ministry's account listed below and give it directly to Laura or Judith Popp on or before Sunday, January 2nd, or send money directly to the ministry’s account anytime with the following information:

1-Bank Name ---- Habib Bank (HBL) Rahwali G.T. Road Gujranwala Pakistan.

2-Bank account No ---- 05180010124801.

3-Name of Account holder ---- Shafiq Masih S/o Khushi Masih.

4-Bank Swift Code ------ (H.A.B.B.P.K.K.A)

5-Contact Phone ------------ 0092-300-6478564

Some banks do not allow you to send money to Pakistan. If this is the case, you can send money at any Western Union location worldwide to another Western Union location in Gujranwala, Pakistan. Visit http://www.westernunion.com to find the location nearest you, or use their online service. If you have any questions about the project or how to donate, please email me at laurajanepopp@gmail.com.

Many thanks for your commitment to serving the rural poor and spreading the gospel in one of the most unreached countries in the world. In the Urdu language or the people you will be helping: Bahut Shukriya!



That's what I wrote to them. Pastor Dino interviewed me at John Knox church on Sunday, December 26th (today) in front of the congregation to ask about my mission activities. It's really awesome to have their encouragement.

To give you a visual, here's a picture of me with some village kids from India in front of a house we built. Pakistan used to be united with India, so the people there will probably look similar.



And here's a picture Rev. Shafiq sent me of their Bible class:



And a prayer meeting:



And serving food:





Christmas morning at 5:00am, Rev. Shafiq called from Pakistan. I picked up just as he was wishing me and my family a Merry Christmas. Then he told me about their Christmas program for the orphans and widows and some more needs of the ministry, like the vehicle. He travels to the three villages he serves by motorbike, which is really dangerous because it isn't uncommon for Christian pastors to get shot when they travel like that. He really needs a car, and I told him I'd see what I could do to get him the finances he needs. We also had a really nice talk about what God is doing in our lives. Sometime later, one of my Chinese friends called to ask if I wanted to hang out. Mom woke up and found both of the messages on the machine and thought that rather strange. What can I say, I have friends all over the world! I count it as one of my greatest blessings.

Anyway, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Laura Jane Popp (L. J. Popp)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Kyoto monkies

After my trip to Korea, things were still so crazy! I got back Tuesday night, Wednesday had work, a business trip to the capital of my prefecture, Tsu, for a seminar planning meeting, a writers` meeting in the afternoon, and taught my adult English class in the evening. Thursday I had work all day and taught my church class in the evening. Friday work all day and in the evening cooking like crazy until midnight for the Thanksgiving party on Saturday! Saturday I went to akame taki forty-eight waterfalls with my friend Kayoko. First, I took these pictures Friday at work at a park near the school where I often walk at lunch break:









And here are some pictures of the waterfalls with fall colors:












In the evening, I got to church at 6:45 for the 7:00 Thanksgiving party. I made five pies (one of which burned so I have to eat it myself, oh darn), stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans. Took me six hours to make it all! Unfortunately, only nine people showed up including myself despite many of my students and foreign friends saying they would, and Japanese people are not terribly fond of American cooking. I ended up eating stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans for the next week. Well, at least my peach, pineapple, and sweet potato pies went over well, and I didn`t have to cook from Saturday to Friday!

After eating, my friends Ashley and Mathew performed and taught some Irish dances. They told us some of the stories behind the dances too, how they “hold history in their feet.” I was planning on doing a little Thanksgiving skit and talking about God`s ultimate gift to us, Jesus, but the only non-Christian Japanese had to leave early. But everyone had a really good time.

The next morning, Sunday, was my student Miwa`s baptism. That was really exciting for the church, especially for me, and nearly everyone cried as she gave her testimony. The service lasted almost all day.

The following Saturday, I left Nabari at 6:40 so Kayoko and I could take our long-awaited trip to Arashiyama in Kyoto. We`d been planning to go a month ago, but I`d been sick with bronchitis for two weeks, and we both had other plans for the next two weekends. I arrived at Arashiyama for the first 9:07 “Sagano romantic train,” but Kayoko was running a little late, so I checked out the train and music museum. Here`s the chandelier and old-style trains in the main hall:



Kayoko arrived about half an hour later so we took the 10:07 old-fashioned scenic train, which turned out to be much better (less crowded). Here`s a view of the river from the train:



And an empty river valley:



We got to Torokko Kameoka Station around 10:40, to the bus, and were just in time to catch the 11:15 boat down the Hozu River. The water was low, making for a slow, pleasant two-hour ride with only a few rapids. The Japanese screamed each time, but compared to the rapids I rode in Colorado, that was nothing, not even class one. There were three men piloting the Japanese old-style wooden boat, one at the rudder, one with a pole, and another with an oar. They told funny stories the whole way, most of which I didn`t understand, and the forests of maple trees were past their prime, but it was still beautiful.

Here`s a bridge:



And the scenic train going past. They wanted us to wave and look like we were having a really good time so the people on the train would want to buy the boat tickets. Of course, who needs to pretend when you actually are having fun?



Near the end of the boat trip, a floating store came alongside us to sell hot sake and other Japanese winter foods. Kayoko and I shared some oden, or Japanese boiled hotpot foods: egg, fish, devil’s tongue, and tofu.

We landed near the famous Togetsukyo Bridge where there are lots of traditional shops selling everything from fans to silk purses and giving out free samples of Kyoto sweets (rice cake with chocolate was my favorite), and salty seaweed tea. For lunch we enjoyed some of the specialty street foods: rice flour buns stuffed with sukiyaki and strawberry/Oreo gelato. Here`s a view from Togetsukyo Bridge:



Then we climbed up a mountain for the local treasure, Arashiyama monkey park. I hardly expected the leaves on the mountain to be so beautiful, or for the monkeys to be roaming free. There were about 130 of them, them pamphlet said. I learned why you should never stare a wild monkey in the eyes. I tried to take one`s picture, and he ran at me!

“Did you see that?” I asked Kayoko. “That monkey charged me!”

“Really?” she asked. “How much? He`s got a cute face, so if he`s a smart monkey he should have charged you five dollars for a picture. Or better, he should have charged you in yen, because it`s stronger than the dollar now.”

We both got a good laugh at of that one. That`s one reason I like Kayoko. She`s one of my few Japanese friends who is fluent enough to make and understand English puns.

And here's some of the beautiful leaves:



At the top, there was an indoor place with a fence where you could feed the monkeys. We asked the attendant what there favorite food was, and she said it changed everyday, but today it was peanuts. So we bought some peanuts and took turns feeding them.

Here`s me:



Here`s Kayoko:



One monkey just sat there with its arms outstretched the whole time, apparently board by the whole arrangement:



There were lots of baby monkeys. They looked really cold and were constantly hugging and cuddling with each other.



And here`s a video of them cuddling:

video

There were also great views of the leaves and the city of Kyoto from the top of the mountain:



After the monkey park, we walked to Tenryuji Temple, a World Cultural Heritage site, famous for its landscape garden. It`s a gorgeous temple and well worth the trip, but there are some things that the staff are careful not to tell tourists that would be beneficial to know beforehand. The garden tour gate comes first, but it`s not worth the 500 yen. The garden is beautiful, to be sure, but a little further up the hill there`s the temple tour for only 100 yen, and you can see most of the garden clearly from the inside of the temple. We made the mistake of buying the garden tour first and then the temple tour, going out to see the bamboo grove and trying to get back in when we realized we`d gone the wrong way. They wouldn`t let us. Fortunately, Kayoko argued with them long enough until they finally gave in and let us back inside. How ridiculous! If you pay for a ticket and accidentally leave, why should you have to pay again to get back inside? Such are Japanese temples. Also there`s a painting of a dragon you can see for 600 yen. One painting for 600 yen, when you can see a replica of it for free outside? Neither of us did that. What a rip off.

Here`s a picture of the garden:



And Kyoko and me in front of the garden. I include this picture to show my mother than I am not “turning Japanese.” She insists every time she sees me that I look more Japanese. The Japanese certainly don’t think so. You can see very distinctly in this picture that Kayoko is very pretty but I don’t look anything like her:



Here's the garden leaves up close:



Here is a very famous picture composition, the garden seen through the sliding doors of the temple. You often find this style in advertisements:



And last, the “inner shrine” of the temple, depicting one of the ancient Emperors.



The Temple was built in his honor, proving the close, if not inseparable, connection between Buddhism and Shinto in Japanese culture. You often find Shinto gods (such as the Emperor) worshiped in Buddhist temples, and Buddhist art in Shinto shrines. Most Japanese people who call themselves religious adhere to both, even though they contain many contradictions of each other. Very few actually read the Shinto and Buddhist texts.

We left the temple about 5:00 to visit the famous bamboo grove behind it. This was the best picture I managed to get in the strange light, with a rickshaw in the background:



About that time it was getting dark. Kyoto is famous for its various “koyo illuminations” or lighting up of the fall leaves. If you ever get a chance to go in November or early December, it’s one of the best sights in Japan. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen anything so mystical and magical. Words can’t really describe it. I’ll just have to show you the pictures:







Unfortunately, the pictures aren’t nearly as beautiful of as the real thing. It made me think of the Balara forest in my books, a place of gold and silver leaves, of enchantment and seduction where one can easily get lost and never wish to be found.

For dinner we ate the fried street food, then I headed back to Nabari and got home around 10:00. What a day; we did so much! And the next day was the big revival at church!

It was a little disappointing; we had spent months planning and publicizing. The famous guest speaker Arthur Hollands drove his motorcycle all the way down from Tokyo, and a local news station even came. But only twenty people showed up. And ten of those were church members. Poor Pastor Toshi and Kumi had been expecting 100! A lot of people who said they would come didn’t, like at least five of my students. The first session lasted from 10:30 to 12:30, then we had lunch until 2:00. There were so many sandwiches and so much soup left over! They must have spent a lot of money on it. The second session lasted from 2:00 to 5:00. I think some people were really moved. Reverend Hollands must have been funny, because a lot of people were laughing. I couldn’t really understand, because the woman who graciously interprets for me most Sundays had a fever and had to go home after lunch, and even for the first part she had a hard time because he spoke so quickly. My host mother from Komono came. I’m not sure whether she got anything or not. She seemed in an awfully big hurry to leave the church and kept asking when it would be over. Maybe five hours is a bit long for non-believers to sit through, even if it’s broken up into two sessions. I say this not as a criticism, but as a future note for those who might be planning this sort of event. Two sessions is a good idea I think, because people can leave after lunch if they want, but maybe each one should only last an hour. Perhaps combining the sessions with worship is not so effective for non-believers. But I think the believers got a lot out of it.

Prayer requests for this week: Prayer that the revival will have many positive, unforeseen consequences. Also prayer for my students, particularly some who have stopped coming to my Thursday night class. Also prayer for the Pakistan mission trip I’m planning for March. Things seem to be coming together, but I still have a lot of preparation and difficult decisions to make. Speaking of difficult decisions, I have to decide whether to renew my contract in Japan by February 4th. What a tough choice! I love Japan, but I really miss home and two years feels about right. Perhaps it’s time to move on. There’s also the issue of publishing my books, which seems hard to do from here, with most traditional publishers and agents preferring to work only with domestic clients (that’s what they keep telling me, anyway). Hopefully my visit home for Christmas will help me decide.

Until next time, keep praying and keep loving, no matter what the cost,

L. J. Popp

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Sunday morning, Casey and I woke early to see the two most famous ancient palaces in Seoul, Changdeokgung and Gyeongbokgung. We got to the first at 9:30, and again it was a matter of simply not knowing. We had just missed the first English tour, and the next wasn`t until 11:30, and you couldn`t see the secret garden, the most famous part of the palace, without one.

“Well,” I said, “there`s supposed to be a folk village or cultural center around here. Let`s check that out.”

So we wandered for the next hour trying to find it, and when we finally did, it was nothing but a bunch of plaques in Korean depicting now non-existent buildings. And honestly, they all looked exactly like old Japanese houses.

“What, no performances, no displays of real ancient relics, nothing authentically Korean?” I asked.

Casey explained that most of South Korea`s unique cultural assets were destroyed during World War II, and those left over were demolished during the revolution, and most of the ancient artifacts and buildings that remain are in the Chinese/Japanese occupation styles. Pretty sad.

Here was one traditional wood shop along the road:



By then we didn`t have time for anything else, so we just went back to the palace. The gift shop had a few traditional items on display, like these dolls:



They are wearing the traditional female Hanbok, a lot like a European dress except without the corset. Very smart. I`ve worn one before, and they`re quite comfortable.

I`m reminded of the time my dad came home from the Airforce Reserves after spending some time in Korea. I was about four years old and he brought us all presents. Mine was a little white doll with blond curls and long blond eyelashes. I remember feeling very disapointed and telling him so, because I wanted a Korean doll. He told me that this was the doll all the little girls in Korea played with. At the time I didn`t believe him, but now I understand. Just like me, they wanted to play with the doll that looked different, not the same. Unfortunately, it goes a little deeper for them, but I`ll talk about that in a later post.

I also bought some traditional Korean rice cake sweets, but sadly they were not as good as the sticky, gooey Japanese versions I`m used to. If there`s one thing the Japanese do right when it comes to food, it`s sweets. It`s the tea culture! The best sweets in the world are from England, Scotland, France, India, Japan, China, and Tailand (though this last probably has more to do with the fresh coconut than tea).

We finally got on the tour, and that was amazing. Originally completed in 1412, Changdeokgung palace served as the primary residence of the Joseon Dynasty and seat of government until 1872, and the last Emperor died there in 1926. Unfortunately, most of it was destroyed in various Japanese invasions and fires, but large portions have been rebuilt. Here`s me standing in front of Donhwamun Gate, the main entrance to the palace grounds. You can see Chinese characters at the top. Even though Hangul, the unique Korean script of twenty-six letters, had already been invented by the great Emperor Sejong as a means of educating the common people, it was not yet in wide use, and was generally looked down upon by the nobles:



All the doorways and passages in the front part, used only by the officials, were very low. You had to stoop to get through them. This was to remind the nobles that they had to pay proper respect to the emperor. They have the same structures and reasoning in Japan`s Imperial palaces. The major difference is that in Japan, hardly anything is painted, let alone decorated. You`d hardly know you were in a castle or palace if not for the sign. That`s due to ancient Japan`s minimalist/ultra simplistic take on Buddhism. (And one reason why they destroyed anything fancy in their conquered territories; they thought it really gaudy and bad taste.) Don`t go to Japan expecting to see gorgeous sculpted buildings with lots of gold and artistry. Go to China, or better, India for that.

This is Injeongjeon Hall, where major ceremonies took place. I think it`s the most beautiful of all the buildings I saw in Korea:



Take a closer look at the slanted roof:



And an even closer look at the beautiful designs on the eaves. Very reminiscent of Chinese style. In fact, I would almost call it a miniature, less decorated version of the summer palace in Beijing.



Further in we saw this room, though I forget what it was called. Perhaps Huijeongdang Hall, official residence and office of the emperor. Anyway, it`s got a throne in the middle:



That about sums it up for the palace. After that, we went on a tour of the secret garden, so named because it was originally meant only for the royal family. At this point, I should probably note that the English tours were not mostly made up of Americans, Canadians, British and such. The vast majority looked to be other Asians who simply didn`t speak Korean: Indian, Chinese, even a few Japanese. These later mostly tagged behind with their own interpreter. Actually, I kept running into Japanese tourists all day; they seemed to follow us wherever we went, and I even played translator a few times between English (which the Koreans appear to generally be superior at) and Japanese. It`s interesting how English has become such an international language, since nearly every country teaches it as a second language now. I can get a job anywhere! I hung out with the Japanese for awhile, and I noticed their interpreter didn`t appear to be listening to the English at all. She was always one step ahead, as if she had memorized the facts beforehand, and really emphasized what I like to call “Japanese points,” things that the rest of the world doesn`t find too interesting, but the Japanese go bonkers over. Stuff like, “this glass window used to be made out of colored waxed paper. It was very cool in the summer time.” Yeah, and freezing in the winter, I bet. Why do the Japanese think paper is such a great insulator anyway? Most cultures have had the common sense to move on to things far superior to rice paper.

During the secret garden tour, we met a girl from Malaysia with very good English (like a native speaker), and she chatted with us throughout the tour. It`s quite fortunate we ran into her, because she was headed for Japan to live for a long time and didn`t know anything about the country or language. I gave her a crash course and some resources. You never know who you`ll meet in places like that. It`s a small world…in a really big way.

Here`s some pictures of the garden. A pretty path:



Casey and me in front of the koi pavilion:



The pavilion ceiling, notice the dragon:



And the old library (at the back of the picture). It used to hold all the books and government offices, but after only a few years it was too small so they had to build another one in the main palace area. They say the little gate leading to the old library/offices has a fish on it, to remind the Emperor and nobles that just like a fish without water, a lord can not rule without the support of his people.



All the red leaves you see are Japanese maples. I`ve only seen small ones in the U.S, but these were tall as oaks! Of course, they`re much older, perhaps by a good 400 years.

After the tour, we stopped in for lunch with the Malaysian girl at a Korean hot pot restaurant. I got to say, Korean hot pots are really lacking in comparison to the Chinese and Japanese hot pots. It`s just rice and chili pepper. I`m sure there was more stuff in there, but that`s all I could taste. If you don`t like your food on fire, be sure to ask for it mild. But the chijimi (pancakes with kimchi) were amazing!

We dawdled for a short Irish (of all things) concert near the restaurant, then headed on for Gyeongbokgung palace a couples miles away, the biggest and grandest of the five Seoul palaces. You can`t do it justice in two hours. You probably need a whole day. For starters, it`s got the Korean National Folk museum, which one could easily spend half a day in. We had about an hour. But what we saw was really amazing. We were just in time for the changing of the guards. Here they are:

video

Here`s a picture of the most famous building, Gyeonghoeru, used for special social events like feasts during the Joseon dynasty. I call it the “floating palace.” Though you can get there via a bridge, it was closed off to tourists:



There were twelve statues in front of the museum depicting the twelve Chinese zodiac signs. Here`s me beside mine, the tiger, obviously a modern statue.



I don`t think there is anything special or truthful about them anymore than the Greek zodiacs, though one of the first lessons in my Japanese/English textbook that I have to use is “what`s your sign” and teaches them about the Greek zodiac. It took me awhile to explain to the teachers that this was completely pointless information that the kids will NEVER use. Hardly anyone in America even knows their “sign.” So I just skipped that lesson and opted for a Christmas one instead. But on a side note, this is my year, the year of the tiger, the white tiger, to be exact. That`s particularly special for Korea, because their national animal is the white tiger. Why? Beats me. They certainly aren`t native to Korea.

The museum was very interesting too, with information in English about Korean history, art, and culture. Again, nearly everything was a replica, since so much was destroyed during the wars. No pictures allowed, of course.

After the museum, we headed for Yoido Full Gospel Church, the largest church in the world with 750,000 members and five services every Sunday. It took us about two hours to get there, but upon arrival we discovered that English interpretation stopped all together at 2:00. There wasn`t a single English interpreter in the whole church, not even one who could sit next to us and whisper in our ears like they do at my church in Japan. And apparently the service started at 7:00, not 7:30 as the website said. We sat beside another terribly confused and misinformed foreigner for about fifteen minutes, then left. Casey`s Korean is pure survival phrases, so she couldn`t understand any better than I. We did manage to get an English bulletin from an earlier service, and it looked like the format was exactly the same as my Presbyterian church back in the states, though this was Assemblies of God.

I also got a sermon outline, and that was perhaps the most discouraging of all. It confirmed the fears spoken by my Japanese pastor that this might be a “health and wealth gospel” church, meaning that they claim that if you love Jesus, you will be showered with financial and physical blessings. The outline stated such terrible falsehoods as “people in poor countries praise God less” (anyone who`s ever been to an African or South American church knows this is simply not so; they tend to praise God MORE because they have fewer distractions), and that Jesus promises to bless us materially as well as spiritually, and that material blessings are a sign of God`s favor. While these things are sometimes true, they are not part of the “Christian package.” If anything, Jesus called us to a life of suffering, of giving sacrificially, and a deep, trusting faith that compels us to praise God even in the worst of times. Jesus was homeless, after all, and many of his disciples did and still do suffer greatly for their faith. It was a huge disappointment to see that the largest church in the world had only attracted so many people because of lies that trample on the true message of Jesus Christ.

I`m tempted to say that ruined the whole trip, as it was my main reason for going to Korea in the first place. But I think that in itself would be a foolish oversimplification. The night wasn`t over, and Casey and I went to 63 building, one of the tallest high rises in Asia. We got a view of all Seoul lit up, including the Han river, and saw a special art exhibit displaying much of Picasso’s pottery and print art. I`m definitely not a Picasso fan, but it`s nice to be able to say I`ve seen some of his original pieces. We also saw the aquarium, which offered a few species of fish I had never seen before, and the ever cute penguins. But I shall save my adorable animal pictures for tomorrow, because on Monday I went to Everland! That turned out to be a much, much better day, the highlight of the entire trip.