June 13th, 2020

Our final week in Chuncheon included a number of “farewell” activities.  Things were just beginning to open up and people felt more comfortable inviting us to join them.

One day Yoon Shik Lee invited us to visit his home.  He and his family had lived in our house in Goshen in 2005-6 when we spent the year in Papua, Indonesia.  He and his wife live about 45 minutes from Chuncheon in a lovely spot in the mountains only 12 miles from the DMZ.  They are developing a retreat center – Abba Shalom Koinonia.  We took a short walk in the woods/hill behind the house and then walked down to the river below their house.  Beautiful and peaceful.  They also own a thermotherapy center (which we visited) in the small town near them.

Songdo Cha, his wife and another couple (important in the beginnings of Anabaptists in Korea) from the Jesus Village Church invited us to a good Italian restaurant.  We first met Songdo Cha when he was a visiting professor at Goshen College.  Because of Covid, we had been able to visit the Jesus Village Church only once.

The Jesus Heart Church is located in the same space as our office.  We had worshipped with them three Sundays and then they were closed because of Covid-19.  They still had not opened when we left but some of them wanted to give us a farewell and to hear a little of our story.  On our last Sunday afternoon a few first met in a French tea room where we had good black tea and delicious desserts (baked custard, cheesecake, and oranges).  We then went back to the church where Boki (one of the church members) made a great meal of sushi.  He is a trained chef and the meal was absolutely delicious.

Our MCC staff had lunch together at SeongHan’s house one last time.  This time they made Japanese Shabu-shabu which is a hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in broth and served with dipping sauces.  It is always good to visit SeongHan’s house.  In the mountains, peaceful, beautiful, and always something new.  He had laid out a labyrinth since the last time we were there.

On our last day in Chuncheon we took our final walk along the lake and drove around the lake one last time.  It is a beautiful area!

Looking Back

June 2nd, 2020

We have left South Korea but before we blog about that final week, we want to look back to the beginning of our time in Korea.  During our first week there, we traveled to Seoul for some orientation sightseeing.  We did not post much about it because we always thought we would return.  Little did we know the future.

When we visited Seoul that Saturday (middle of January), it was very cold and we were still very much in jet-lag mode.  We had other things to blog about at the time and just assumed we would return to Seoul and then combine our activities into one post.  It didn’t happen.

We rode the train to Seoul that day – about 1 hour ride.  Our MCC service worker met us at the station and showed us how to get to the subway which we rode.  We ate lunch at an Indian restaurant.

We walked to Gyeongbok Palace, the main royal palace of the Joseon dynasty.  It was built in 1395, reduced to ashes during the Japanese invasion of 1592, rebuilt in 1867, and again extensively damaged during the Japanese occupation of the early 20th century.  Restoration efforts have been ongoing since 1990.  We took a tour and visited a number of the buildings on the nearly 100-acre piece of land.  It is a beautiful place with beautiful/ornate buildings.  We did not write down the name of the places we visited so we can’t tell you.  Just know that is was a remarkably interesting area.

We had wanted to see various other places in the vicinity, but the main street was packed.  Apparently, it is a custom in recent years to hold huge rallies/protests on Saturday on this street.  Some groups were wanting a former president released from prison; another group were demanding that the government investigate the Sewol Ferry tragedy; another group were advocating for recognition of the “Comfort Women” from the war.  And many other issues.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this was our only significant time spent in Seoul.

House of Sharing

May 9th, 2020

On May 8, which is “Parents Day” in Korea, the MCC NEA “family” had their first and last team outing with all of the team together.  Because of Covid-19 it has been difficult to all be together at one time.

The time was both celebratory but also disturbing as we visited House of Sharing in Seoul. This is a shelter for victims of Japanese military sexual slavery in World War II commonly referred to as “comfort women.”  The collection of buildings includes “The Museum of Sexual Slavery by Japanese Military” which tries to tell the truth about the Japanese military’s brutal abuse of women during the War.  The present buildings were opened in 1998.  The victims continue their struggle for a formal apology and legal compensation from the Japanese government.  Every Wednesday they participate in a protest in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul.

As of December 2016, 239 women have registered as victims of Japanese military sexual slavery to South Korean government.  As of 2001, there were 211 registered survivors in North Korea.  It is estimated that there were 50,000 to 200,000 in 13 Asian-Pacific countries.  This dark history was hidden for decades until the 1990’s when some women began to speak out. 

The museum tells many of their stories. Maps are shown as to where they were recruited, taken, and returned. We could listen to some of their stories. We read of their histories and what they want from the Japanese government.

The residents here at House of Sharing each have their own rooms but share time in a common living area.  They often meet visitors and give their stories but because of Covid-19 they were not able to do so with us.

The House of Sharing offers art therapy programs for its residents. In 2017, a memorial and exhibition hall opened on the grounds of the House of Sharing. It includes a space to showcase the artwork surviving comfort women have made. There is a replica of a room in a comfort station where women lived.

We have some photos but more of their stories can be seen on their official website. “We must record these things that were forced upon us.”


May 8th, 2020

We recently visited a possible SALT/YAMEN placement.  It is located about 170 miles south of us and was an all-day adventure by car with our MCC Connecting Peoples person.  Bonacom (“bon”=good; com=community) is a religious intentional community located in a small village.  There are 5 families in this location, each having their own home but sharing things in common. 

They are located in a very rural beautiful mountainous region and focus on organic farming.  They raise chickens on organic feed which they make themselves, using rice bran as its base.  They raise rice so have much bran available.  (We were sad to see the chickens kept in pens, however.)  They get about 1000 eggs a day!

They are raising vegetables by hydroponic methods.  Interesting to see all the delicious-looking greens.  They send their produce all over the country.

The community was 12 families but recently 7 have moved to a different area so there are many empty buildings.  They hope that others will join them.  They have improved the village since they started, planting many flowers, building a community building.

We had lunch in a local restaurant – tofu in a chili broth with condiments.

April 30 & May 1

May 6th, 2020

We celebrated Buddha’s birthday April 30 and Labor Day on May 1.  On Buddha’s birthday, we hiked up our nearby hill where we had discovered a small Buddhist temple.  The temple was colorfully decorated with lanterns which had wishes/hopes attached.  Since the temple was open, we were able to go inside the temple and look around the grounds.

On May 1 SeongHan (MCC staff) took us to Seoraksan Mountain National Park and the coast. 

Seoraksan is the highest mountain in our province in eastern South Korea.  It is the third highest mountain in South Korea. We hiked about 4.5 miles round trip – down and then up.  The scenery was stunning.  Our local meal in the middle of the hike was delicious.

From there we went to Yangyang, located on the coast and visited Naksansa Temple which is a Korean Buddhist temple complex.  It also had the lanterns strung for Buddha’s birthday.  Naksansa was founded in 671. The temple mount is crowned by the Buddhist statue of Haesugwaneumsang ( Bodhisattva of Mercy), standing 49 feet high on a 9.2 ft high pedestal and  was dedicated in 1977. It is the largest Buddhist statue of its kind in the Asia


May 3rd, 2020

The last week of April we made our first venture outside of Chuncheon by ourselves by car.  (about 50 miles round trip)  One of our staff members had recommended a rural area where the cherry blossoms would be beautiful.  We had planned to go the previous weekend, when the trees would be at their fullest, but it rained.  The trees were still lovely but we could see they were past their prime. 

We stopped at a small road, parked and walk down the road a mile or so.  It was wonderful to be out in the rural area.  It happened to be a Mountain Eco Village but was incredibly quiet, except for bird songs.  We had some beautiful views of the hills and lakes/rivers.  Enjoyable!

Various activities

May 2nd, 2020

We have explored more of the city on foot.  (Photos are in no particular order.)

We have a sculpture park that we often walk through on our way to the lake.  Interesting sculptures! We also find it interesting that people here like to bring a tent to the park (supposedly not allowed) for a picnic and afternoon.

We have eaten out several times, having a variety of food.

During the two weeks in March that we were all in the office, we did have a wonderful meal at SeongHan’s (MCC staff) house with all staff and family.  On Easter those of us in Chuncheon also gathered at his house for a lovely Easter dinner.

We have had a couple of office visitors.  And when more than one of us is in the office, we try to have 3:00 tea together.

And at home we have played games and put puzzles together. At one point we kept getting colder and colder. We realized that there seemed to be no heat. (We cannot control the heat; the heat is by hot water through the floor.) We finally asked one of our staff to contact our landlord, and yes, there had been no heat since April 1. (Outside temperatures were in the low 40’s at night.) There is no heat because the water pipes are corroded and there is a plan to redo them–but not this spring!

Our Environment

April 30th, 2020

We realize that we have not posted any blog since we returned from Chiang Mai, Thailand at the end of February—and this is the end of April!  What has happened during those two months?  Sure not what we expected.  Looking back at that blog, feels like years ago!

At the end of that trip, we noted that the MCC team had decided, in the best interests of health, to work from home for two weeks.  We did so.  We all returned to the office for about 2 weeks.  Then the South Korean government called for more “social distancing” and the cancellation of large group gatherings, including closing schools and church services.  Two of our MCC staff live in Seoul, about a 1-hour train ride from Chuncheon.  They also both travel on crowded subways in Seoul in order to get to the train.  So, it was decided that it was an individual choice as to whether to come to the office or to work from home.  We would follow this until schools were open.  It now seems that most things will open after May 5—though not the schools.

Thus, our March and April have been quite different.  We have both worked at home but also gone to the office some days.  We have spent lots of time exploring the various trails along the rivers and lakes and the hill near us.  (Photos are in no particular order.)

The photos above are along the rivers and lake. We also have a hill near us that we sometimes hike.

As the weather became warmer, our walks became longer.  The bikes were finally tuned and we did several bike rides—one around the lake, about 20 miles.

Since non-essential travel is discouraged, we have only been out of the city once – to attend a meeting in Seoul.  We have not been able to see many of the historical and beautiful sites we had hoped.  But we have seen Spring arrive in Chuncheon – with all the beautiful color of spring flowers.  cherry tree blossoms, forsythia, magnolia, lilacs, azaleas, tulips, hyacinth, spiraea, red bud, plum tree blossoms, dandelions, violets, and others we cannot identify.

Chiang Mai (2)

March 1st, 2020

Saturday morning was spent at Seven Fountains Jesuit Spirituality Center for a silent retreat.  One of the Fathers introduced us to the practice of meditation and explained the various areas around the center.  We then spent 2 ½ hours in silence and our own thoughts.  There was a labyrinth, several chapels, open gardens with birds chirping, water.  It was a welcomed time by all of us.  We ended our time there with a silent lunch.

We were then thrust out into the “real/loud” world!  We went to Wat Umong built in 1297.  It is famous for its tunnels and large stupa.  The tunnels have many Buddhist images in carved nooks of the walls.  There also are larger statues.  The “naga” represents rebirth, death, and mortality. There is an area of broken statues. There are “talking trees” which have words of wisdom in Thai and English.  These proverbs hang from trees on footpaths leading to the small lake where we fed the fish and saw many pigeons and turtles.

We were joined in our afternoon activities by Min, the administrative assistant for the MCC office, and the Area Directors for Southeastern Asia.  We went to a craft market for a cold Thai milk tea and for shopping.

In the evening we went to the Night Market, stopping on the way to see a championship game of Sepak Takraw, or kick volleyball. a sport native to southeast asia. A rattan ball is used and players are only allowed to use their feet, knee, chest and head to touch the ball. It also happened to be the night for a gay pride parade in Chiang Mai.

Sunday we had a short worship and sharing time in the morning followed by a relaxing afternoon.  We all went out for one last meal of khao soi gai – and it was the best!  Also cold Thai milk tea was refreshing. We began our travels back to Chuncheon, leaving Chiang Mai at 11 p.m. and arriving at our apartment 1 p.m. the next day! Because of coronavirus and because our travels included being in close proximity with many people (planes and buses), the MCC team has chosen to work from home for two weeks.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

February 28th, 2020

MCC NEA Retreat

The NEA (Northeast Asia) MCC Retreat was scheduled in Chiang Mai last fall before we arrived in Korea.  The office wanted it during February when MCC work is slower and Chuncheon is grey and cold. They asked to go to some place sunny and warm.  This happened.  We left and returned to Chuncheon with temps in the 30s and 40s and spent the retreat in temps of 80s and 90s!  What was not predicted was the outbreak of the Coronavirus.  Two members of our MCC team were not able to go with us.  (One had medical issues and the doctor said she could not risk the possibility and the other had a sick mother and did not want to take any risks.)  We missed them.

It seemed like a lot of travelling but once we got there, we could relax.  From Chuncheon we took a 2-hour bus ride to airport, 6-hour air flight, 2-hour layover in Bangkok, 1-hour air flight to Chiang Mai, and finally a 30-minute car ride to Juniper Tree, a retreat center where we stayed.  We, personally, had previously been here for a meeting three years before.  It is a lovely spot of shade, and relaxing conditions.  See http://rsjwaltzing.com/?cat=49 for more photos from that visit in 2016.  And we also visited Chiang Mai in 2015:

After a rest, we visited the MCC office.  The Area Directors for both Central & NEA Asia program and the Southeast Asia program live in Chiang Mai and have a joint office.  Our directors live next to the office and we had a nice welcome supper with them.  Khao Soi Gai was served and became a favorite of all of us.  We had it four times during our time.  Khao Soi Gai is a classic Northern Thailand speciality – a creamy soup of braised chicken in a coconut-y curry broth with boiled and fried noodles.  We ended with another favorite – mango sticky rice. Fresh mango with sticky rice and sweet coconut milk and salt over.  Yum!

The next morning we had a “working” session followed by a fun afternoon.  We went to Taweechol Botanical Gardens.  It is a beautiful area with orchids, ferns, anthurium, palm trees, man-made waterfalls, and topiaries crafted into many shapes (dinosaurs, giraffe, camels, birds, elephant, etc.).  We rented bikes and rode around for about 2 hours. 

We then went to Sankampaeng Hot Springs.  Two of our team went swimming and the rest of us dangled our feet in the hot stream.  We boiled eggs in the hot springs and ate them with soy sauce.  Quite good.  We ended with a nice supper of Khao Soi Gai.