As I sit here at 15 minutes past midnight there are so many things I would like to write about. I feel like so much has happened since my Korean journey began two weeks ago. Has two weeks passed by already? Ridiculous. If there is one thing I can say that has been most interesting about our experience here at Hannam University, it would be the amount of camera time we have gotten! I’m talking local newspapers, national newspaper, national television broadcasts, and pretty much any Korean news source that runs via the internet. Paparazzi has been everywhere. Its strange now because our school group as a whole has become so accustomed to the “photaugs” following us around, that we barely flinch when a camera lense is 4 inches away from your face during any and all activities!
Aside from the humour that goes along with regular country bumpkins from the states all of a sudden being treated as some sort of accidental celebrities, there is something so special about this place and these people. The best word I can use to somehow sum up the total of our adventures would be “detailed”. That’s not to say that everything has been completely organized or went exactly according to plan every time, but the amount of detail that went in to planning our arrival and destinations while in Korea has shown just how much they care about us. For example, when our group visited the 20th Mechanized Infantry Division of the Korean Army last week, we were welcomed with a military band set to play in our honour. They then had their generals come speak to our group, the United States ambassador to Korea’s “stand-in” man spoke, and then proceeded to give us the grand tour. (Oh and the national news followed us the whole time). Then they sat down and ate lunch with us in their mess hall, allowed us to crawl in/mess with/photograph to death their tanks and basically every armoured battle ready vehicle the division had at their disposal. If that wasn’t enough detailing, they took us out to one of the most beautiful valley’s I had ever seen and proceeded to act out a “mock battle” in the valley we overlooked-complete with about 8-10 participating tanks, legit soldiers running to “take the hill”, REAL mortar fire blasting out the mountain side (that is no joke), and f.y.i the loudness of a tank firing cannot be measured in words alone.
It cost the army $3,000 per shell that was fired from each tank, and they easily shot over 20, not to mention all the bullets fired off in the M-16’s the soldiers were using. How honoured I felt! The army said that the demonstration we witnessed was the first of its kind, and most assuredly the last. They spent a pretty penny putting that together, and did it all for us. How privileged. Suffice it to say that it meant the world to the Korean Army that we were there. It gave them a chance to show what they are capable of and how proud they are of their country. Especially since our visit was just one day before the 60th Anniversary of the Korean War. You can imagine what sort of pride and sense of nationalism they had when getting to show what they have become since that horrible war began 60 years ago. More sappy talk about how impressed I am with the Koreans to come later….
Did I mention they chose 3 people to each individually shoot a round out of a tank at the end of the day?? Yeah they did. Let me just tell you (since we were standing 15 feet from the tank per each explosion), the sonic boom from a tank is so much better than what you get in the movies. The air from the SOUND of the explosion knocks you backwards. I mean c’mon. BEST DAY EVER.