by Andrew Mahaffie
Starting from the first day, I knew the Korea trip was going to be great. After all, what better start to a trip is there than to find an empty ropes course in the middle of your mountain hike, and go on it? It was especially fun and exciting to see the birthplace of Taekwondo. Forms like Yoo-shin and Se-jong whose names had relatively little meaning before suddenly gained significance when we saw statues of the men they were named after.
Traveling with Mr. Kim made the trip even greater. Though we were still tourists, it didn’t feel as much like we were, we had a steady feed of inside knowledge on where to go, which places were the coolest or which places had the best deals. Mr. Kim’s uncle and cousin were also amazing. Starting from the moment we arrived at the airport in Seoul we were treated as close friends even family. They constantly aided us in our trip making it better than it ever could have been without them. We were treated to no less than three fabulous meals with their help and we got to experience the best of Korean barbecue and other new foods. Mr. Kim’s uncle was especially nice to me, the first night he lent me a jacket when I had forgotten mine. Another night, he convinced me to eat a huge variety of new foods, some of which were phenomenal like fish collar (even if some weren’t quite as appetizing, fish guts are bad). At the end of the trip he gave us a professional photograph that he had taken during the trip of all of us. The DMZ was also one of my favorite places. To see the divide between North Korea and South Korea and walk inside the infiltration tunnels dug underneath the area was extremely cool. Even though the tunnel was small and almost everyone had to duck the whole way it was a phenomenal experience.
Despite all of the great things in and around Seoul, probably the thing that made the trip all it was, were the wonderful people I traveled with. After the trip, I definitely feel that I am closer to the other black belts I went with. Hanging out with them allowed for me to transform experiences that would have otherwise been bland into new and exciting adventures. For instance in the DMZ infiltration tunnels there was a long a steep walkway leading underground. Walking would have been dull, so we raced up the entire tunnel. This friendly competition made the experience more memorable and fun (it did help that I won the race). Another such time was when we went to the Korean comedy act that featured acrobatics and martial arts; an audience member was brought up to the stage for part of the performance and who was picked out of the hundred or so people? None other than our very own Mr. H. Or the time we were trying to take a picture of Jehaan doing a sidekick in a fountain. She fell over during the kick, but we managed to all get hilarious pictures from the experience and since we were all such good friends she could laugh it off.
This trip is definitely one that I will be able to have fond memories of and I look forward to the day I can go back either with the same group of black belts, or new ones.