Thursday, October 30, 2008

Answer me...

As the weather turns very much colder here, and the first falls of snow being reported around the country, memories of warm Autumn days in Korea and China begin to fade very quickly.
Thankfully the hundreds of photographs I took confirm to me that it wasn't just a dream. I did actually return to Korea a couple of weeks ago.
While visiting the Korean Folk Village near Yongin, south of Seoul, we stumbled upon a film shoot for some Korean costume drama. The picture above shows some of the actors waiting on the call to go on set. If you look closely, you'll see that at least three of them are busy with their mobile phones while they wait.
I wonder if any of them have had their phones ring in the middle of a take?
These days there seems to be no place to escape the cell-phone.
During a service of worship in Korea, where I was preaching, a cell-phone started ringing very loudly. It wasn't too difficult to see who was the owner of the phone was as a red-faced member of the choir struggled to get into her handbag to switch it off!
It's a wonderful invention, and one I use myself from time to time, but maybe the mobile phone has made many of us even less patient than before. We expect to be able to reach people at any time and we get disappointed, frustrated, and even annoyed if they don't answer. (Well that is certainly how I have felt when trying to get hold of someone recently.)
How different from the old days when missionaries, or other travellers, went to far off lands are were never heard of for years at a time.
Maybe it also affects the attitude of some of us Christians to the business of prayer. If we don't get the answer we want straight away then we give up all too easily, forgetting that the primary point and purpose of prayer is not about getting what we want but about building a relationship of trust with God.
If I was God I think there would be times when I would put my phone to 'silent' or even switch it off altogether... there's always the answering machine, after all. (Now there's another device with an ironic name, since it never gives you an answer to your question!)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Watching me watching you

I have finally managed to work my way through the many hundreds of photographs I took during my recent trip to South Korea and China. All I can say is 'thank goodness for digital photography!' Otherwise I would have gone through something like 4 dozen rolls of 35mm film (the 36 exposures size) and I would have needed the GDP of a small country to pay for the developing of the prints!
Of course, with digital photography most of the pictures don't get printed at all. And many of them are never looked at again.
The one obvious advantage of the digital photograph is the fact that you can see the picture immediately after you've taken it. (Which also means you can delete it straight away too.)
However, no matter how good the preview window in your camera (and mine is pretty good) you don't see all the details of the shot you've taken until after you view it full size on the computer screen.
Then, occasionally, you get a surprise.
Take a look at the photograph above, for example. Clearly it is a picture of part of the Great Wall of China- a truly awe-inspiring sight I have to admit. You'll see many people walking on that section of the wall.
But take a closer look (click on the picture to enlarge it if necessary) and you may notice someone who wasn't satisfied with taking the same photographs as everyone else but was determined to view things from his own perspective. Do you see him? Just behind the bushes?
I really didn't notice him when I took the picture.
But, then, even though we try to train ourselves to be attentive to the world around us there is still so much that we miss all the time, is there not?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

On top of the world

One of many photographs taken at the summit of Seoraksan (Mt. Seorak.)
Clear air, brilliant blue sky... and a Korean poser! [I'm pretty sure he came up most of the mountain in the cable car just as we did!]
But he does look pretty impressive, don't you think?
I wonder if "Visit Korea" would be interested in using the photo?

Across the great divide

I've never been hugged by a General before... but a few days ago that was my experience as we stood on the northern border of South Korea looking across the demilitarized zone and into North Korea. The General himself was our host for lunch, and our guide, as we visited an observation post on the border. That certainly made getting through checkpoints pretty easy. We were treated once more as VIPs.
It was part of a three-day tour around the area including Seoraksan National Park which provided us with some stunning scenery and many unforgettable experiences, as well as hundreds of photographs. But having returned to Seoul a few days ago and being able to reflect on the whole trip it was perhaps that visit to the border which has left the strongest impression on me. Of course, I knew that Korea was a divided country, technically still at war, but I had not really grasped the heartache that this brings to many Koreans whose families have been torn apart for more than a generation.
Not everyone in Korea wants re-unification, though, and there are certainly fierce disagreements about how to go about trying to achieve it, even if it were possible (which it is not at the moment.) But it is as if the Korean people have been caught on a geopolitical fault line where the 'tectonic plates' of opposing ideologies and values are being pushed up against each other.
There are a number of such spots around the world; the most obvious one being in Israel/Palestine.
With the advent of nuclear weapons the fear is that any 'volcanic' eruption in any of these fault zones will prove to be catastrophic for the whole planet.
Our South Korean guests urged us to pray for their divided nation. Our visit to the border has made such urging unnecessary as I could not help but be deeply moved by the whole situation and, as there is little of practical value that I can do in that situation, prayer seems the only option left.
Returning to my encounter with the General, I have to say no one could have been more courteous, gracious, friendly or welcoming... but I wouldn't ever want to be his enemy!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

In a pause between meals...

This time I have a good reason for not being able to blog! I've been in South Korea since Wednesday heading a delegation from the Presbytery of Lanark (Church of Scotland) to East Seoul Presbytery (Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea) and we have been very busy since we have arrived. Also I have not had much opportunity to get online.
The picture above is meant to back up this claim as it shows us standing outside the national Headquarters of the PROK with two of our Korean hosts.
To be honest, the trip so far has been like one long meal interrupted by occasional activity!!
We are certainly not going to starve, physically or spiritually.
Last night on top of the feast of food we were given a feast of culture as various churches and individuals from East Seoul Presbytery put on a spectacular concert for us in Dongkwang Church. Our hosts preferred to call it a cultural exchange as it gave them the excuse to insist that we had to sing something Scottish. (In the end we gave in and sang something Scottish followed by something Korean - but with English words) However, there was no way we could compete with the Korean Drumming group, the Korean fan dancing group, the duo playing traditional Korean intruments, the fabulous young opera singer, the dancers, the accordion band (complete with the former Moderator of the East Seoul Presbytery on the harmonica) OR the ten-piece saxophone band made up of Korean policemen!! There will be photographs to follow to show I am not making all of this up.
I'm not sure if there is a TV programme of this name yet but let me tell you KOREA'S GOT TALENT!
But most of all it has a warm-hearted and generous people who know how to offer hospitality in a big, BIG way... especially when it comes to food! (I'm glad the weight restrictions set by the airlines apply only to the baggage and not the passengers.)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Party's Over

Well it didn't last long!! Final Score = Motherwell 0 Nancy 2.
Less than 18 minutes of the game gone and it was more or less over. Even though in my opinion there should not even have been a free kick awarded (which is what led to the first goal) as there was no foul committed that I could see [and I was right in the front row a few yards from it!] we were outplayed on the night by a far better footballing side. And they weren't brilliant. Motherwell were just very amateurish throughout.
The only thing Nancy lacked was a little bit of compassion! They might have let us enjoy the party for longer than 17 minutes!

Getting stuck in

The full picture. And the right way up!
Tess, our cat, in cat-heaven with her head stuck in an ice-cream tub.
(It was more or less empty, I should say... before I get angry messages from cat owners telling me that the ice cream would have been bad for her.)
Sticking your head in a tub and hiding from the world can often seem like an attractive proposition, especially in a hectic week like this one.
Two funerals, a wedding, an elders training evening, all age youth service to plan, among other things... and I'm trying to get ready for an overseas trip.
AND...not forgetting... Motherwell v Nancy tomorrow night!!!
Let's hope the 'Well team get well and truly stuck in and get a result.