Thursday, November 08, 2007

Flat Michael Visits NIS

Hi everyone. I hope all is well in Iowa. Kristin, Sean, and their journalist friends are SO busy that I barely have time to write about my various adventures. Kristin is really busy on her computer tonight, but I have time to share one small story.

On Tuesday morning a special bus came to our hotel to pick up the group. After a half-an-hour drive, we arrived at a building that had lots of policemen guarding it. Kristin told me it was the home of Korea's National Intelligence Service or NIS. I asked Kristin if we were going to visit smart people. She smiled and told me that we would get to see some very smart people. But she also told me the NIS is like the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) in the US. Kristin says the CIA does lots of secret stuff that most people in the United States don't know about.

I'd love to tell you all of the interesting things I saw and learned during our visit but I can't. The meeting was "off-the-record." The guards even took Kristin's camera and cell phone before she could enter the building.

But NIS does have a gift shop and Kristin bought me a few things with the NIS logo so I can remember my visit. Thanks Kristin!

Doesn't is seem strange that I can't tell you about my visit to NIS, but Kristin can buy items with the NIS logo? Oh well, at least I can say I was there!

That's all for now...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Officially Off-the-Record

Hi everyone. I hope all is well. I am tired, but I'm learning a lot about Korea.

For the past two days, Kristin and her journalist friends have been attending meetings with very important people. They visited the United States Ambassador to South Korea on Monday morning. His name is Alexander Vershbow. Ambassador Vershbow and his wife also hosted Kristin's group for dinner on Monday night at his home here in Seoul. His house, which is the official residence for the American ambassador, is very nice. The house is in downtown Seoul and it looks like some of the wooden houses and temples I have seen on my other visits to Asia. Kristin couldn't take pictures for security reasons, so you are going to have to trust me on this!

I wish I could tell you more about the meetings Kristin and her friends have attended since we arrived in Seoul, but I can't. Kristin says that's because the meetings are something called, "off-the-record." She says this means that she and the other journalists can't quote the people they meet. Kristin says in some ways "off-the-record" is like keeping a BIG secret. It is SO hard to keep secrets! But Kristin says she and the other journalists will be in BIG trouble if I give you specific details of the "off-the-record" meetings. I don't want Kristin to get into trouble, so I won't tell you what I heard (but I can tell you that most of the people were talking about politics...and politics is always very confusing to me!).

Kristin says this week we are going to have more special and "off-the-record" meetings. I'll keep you posted when I can, but Kristin says I may not have time to work on the computer for another couple of days.

Until next time....

Gospel Soul in Seoul

Hi everyone! I've been sleeping or SO busy going to meetings with Kristin and her journalist friends that I haven't had time to write until now.

As I mentioned earlier, we are staying in South Korea's capital, Seoul. Seoul sounds like "soul." So I guess it makes sense that one of the first places we visited Sunday was a church.

But this church, the Yoido Full Gospel Church, sure doesn't look like my church at home. It is the biggest church I have ever seen!

Kristin says a growing number of people in South Korea follow the Christian faith and the Yoido Free Gospel Church claims to be one of the largest churches in the world. Church leaders told us there are more than 750,000 members. There are so many people that want to attend Full Gospel that the church has to hold many different services on Sunday. Church leaders say that as many as 30,000 people attend the 11am Sunday service. That's more people than the entire population of Muscatine. Can you believe it?!

The main church building only holds about 12,000 people, but there are many buildings near the church and throughout Seoul where people can watch services on video.

Kristin's group visited an afternoon youth ceremony. We didn't stay for the entire service, but I can tell you that they really like singing. I couldn't understand the words of the song. Kristin says that's because they were singing in the Korean language. Who knew?

There were hundreds, maybe even thousands of people at the service. There were so many people that I decided to stay in Kristin's bag so I wouldn't get lost.

My visit to the church must have made me really tired because I fell asleep on my way back to the hotel.

That's all for now....