DMZ, et cetera…

August 13, 2009

I haven’t updated in a while, so this will be a succinct summary of recent events, starting with the DMZ. We got into buses and drove for a few hours on winding mountain roads to the Hwacheon Demilatarized Zone observation point–not the famous “DMZ” that you’ll see on television. But because it is so remote, it felt more legitimate. There were no other tourists there. There were no photographs allowed. When we arrived, there was about a twenty-minute presentation given by the platoon leader (I’m not exactly sure of his rank). We sat in a room facing a glass wall, and spread in front of us was North Korea, the most isolated country in the world. The soldier gave us a basic debriefing of the region and the geography as he pointed to different locations on a geographical map in the middle of the room with one of those stubby military pointer things. I have no idea what they are called, but you know what I’m talking about. Whatever is in George C. Scott’s left hand:

Then our commanding officer / tour guide played a funny little slide show with pictures of the soldiers performing their daily operations. Also, there were some pictures of the North Korean guards on the other side sleeping, and a video clip of a North Korean man trying to fish in the nearby river; of course, he couldn’t catch anything. After the presentation we had five to ten minutes to look at North Korea. North Korea looks exactly like South Korea; the two sides are only separated by multiple layers of fences and razor wire that wind up and down and around the mountains, studded every so often with a watchtower. Here is a video of me on my 1961 Triumph TR6 Trophy Bird having a little fun with the North Korean army…

Just kidding! I’m not Steve McQueen! And those are Nazis, not North Koreans! How ridiculous!

Even though were there for probably no longer than half an hour before we had to get back on the bus and drive the long, windy hours back to Chuncheon, it was a very worth-while trip. The landscape seems singular and seamless except for the man-made barrier that snakes violently through the mountains, cutting the land into two zones of radical anthropological disparity. And yet, the grasshoppers and the birds don’t care about the border. They pass from one side to the other freely while men hold their ground, watching each other through rifle sights.

In other news, and on a completely different note, I received some information on my school in Busan. Here are some excerpts from the information page I received:

Functionality of Classroom Resources

Overhead Projector: Not Available

DVD Player: Not Available

VHS Player: Not Available (luckily I didn’t lug my VHS collection halfway across the Earth for nothing)

CD Player: Usually Functional (?)

Powerpoint PC: Not Available

Internet-capable Computer: Not Available

Great. No technology. Unless you count the “usually functional” CD player, for which I have exactly zero CDs. Oh, and there’s this: “Students often ignore teachers, talk during class, or fight with other students (emphasis mine).”

I am skeptical of all this information, though, as I have contacted the individual whom I will be replacing, and he had very nice things to say about the school and the students. And somehow, even though my school is in Busan, I have to climb up a mountain to get there. That is not a joke. Well, it is shaping up to a very interesting year. I’m heading for Seoul in the early morning, and to the Ambassador’s residence in the evening for a pool party / barbecue (also not a joke). Expect an update from the capitol.

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