Friday, August 11

trip to the border

The day after Laura and John Mark got here, we took a day trip to Tumen, a city on the border of North Korea. We took a tuna sandwich picnic lunch and ate at the river. Laura and JM were overly fascinated by the way men keep themselves cool here in the summer. Didn't get a lot of good shots, but you can get the idea from this guy who's giving his input to a game of Chinese chess.

Laura and I took a raft ride across the river border. You can touch the leaves of North Korea, but not go across. There are no guards visible. Actually, there is no real activity at all visible, but it's an experience anyhow.

We finished off the day by going to the bridge where you can pay more money to cross halfway (decided it wasn't worth it), looked at some tourist shops, then a bike taxi back to the train station. We bought our train tickets and went into the station to wait to board. Once we sat down, a guy sat down one seat away from John Mark and just stared at him. (He's the guy in the right corner of this picture.) Soon, we had another guy come up and start speaking to us in Chinese. I couldn't understand anything past "Where are you from?" ( I answer that question a lot.) So, I asked him if he spoke Korean. He didn't, but he wasted no time in finding someone who did. So, he proceeded to interview us through this Korean-Chinese translator. Once this began, we drew a crowd of about 20 people to watch the show. John Mark got a few of them in this picture. JM and Laura were quite entertained at how much attention we got while I was busy listening to what this guy wanted to know. (It wasn't anything difficult - just how long I've been here, what I do, what my sister and brother in law are doing visiting, etc.) He wanted my address and phone number, but the Korean Chinese gentleman gave me a look that said it wasn't the best idea and I declined. The crowd soon dissipated, but the smiley staring guy next to JM didn't lose interest one bit until it was time to board.
Once on the train, we found out that we were seated just across from our friendly translator (in the picture) and his wife and grandson! The curious guy found us again and tried to get us to come do some sort of language/culture exchange at his business in Beijing, but again, we declined. We talked a little on the way home and found out that they live just next to my university. I'm still amazed every time I meet an older person who likely doesn't have a lot of educational background, but can still speak two languages fluently. Of course, he sort of has to, since he's of Korean descent but was probably born in China. Still, I think it's great.

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