Wednesday, September 17, 2008

10th GOAL Anniversary in Seoul

GOA'L is a non-government organisation based in Seoul that helps Korean adoptees who return to Korea. They'll help you out with everything from general living advice to finding you a job.

I've been involved with the organisation since arriving in 2006, but living in Busan has meant that I haven't attended as many of their events. I decided to go up to Seoul for their 10th anniversary celebration. As always, the KTX ride up was enjoyable. I'm still impressed with how green the Korean countryside is all year round.

The venue was the Olympic Parktel, which was financed by Koreans who were living in Japan at the time of the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul.

Next to the hotel is Olympic Park, which was set aside by the government. There are a few large stadiums inside and a lot of walking trails. I can remember being in Australia during the Olympics in Seoul, and at the time I didn't really understand the milestone it represented for the country. Busan City is bidding for the 2020 Summer Olympics.

I wonder if I'll still be in Korea then?

The rooms were cosy enough. One gripe I have though, is that they didn't replace my little mini-bottles of shampoo in the bathroom as I used them. I wrote that on their feedback form, so let's hope that they've learned the error of their ways.

This is a view of Olympic Park from my hotel window. Korea doesn't really have any botanic gardens, so this is probably the next best thing.

The opening ceremony was in the grand ballroom. Every year there are new faces in the community.

There were adoptees from all over the world including countries like Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, the USA, Australia and the Netherlands. They're just the ones I can think of from the top of my head. I'm camouflaged in the middle there somewhere.

The wonderful food, which has become a staple of such gatherings. It's always a buffet with lots of different options. I've started getting into the habit of stopping short of becoming extremely full. This is partly because I heard a documentary on NPR, saying that if you overeat at buffets to save money, you're actually costing yourself extra in the long run. That's because you don't digest any of the food efficiently enough, and the medical costs associated with overeating will aggregate over time.

The other reason I stopped overeating is because then I have more room for beer.

Some old friends and some newer ones. In the last picture on the left is Eric, who some of you may remember from the old days in Koroot. Eric and I have quite different backgrounds but we get along well. I like his combination of not caring and being nice at the same time.

This is Kevin Shea, an adoptee who is a rising star in stand-up comedy in the US. He was in a Mcdonald's TV advertisement here and has worked alongside actors from MadTV. Kevin gave us a 30 minute stand-up show, but unfortunately the subtleties of some of his jokes were not well-understood by the rather culturally diverse audience he had.

Another part of the entertainment that night was this girl, who is an American adoptee and celebrity B-girl. She travels with a Korean B-boy team and performs internationally.

The events for the weekend included a photographic exhibition by adoptee artists and various workshops.

Tammy Chu, an American adoptee, is in the process of making a documentary about a reunion of mother and son. We saw a preview of it and had a question and answer session. It's looking very professional at the moment, and will be showing at next year's Pusan International Film Festival.

Dae-won Wenger is the Secretary General of GOA'L and a prominent figure in the adoptee community. He speaks around 5 different languages and has all the hallmarks of someone who could oversee such an organisation. The first hallmark being patience. In these photos he was trying to explain the location of the next venue to Eric, who is sometimes a little slower than your average audience, especially after lots of free wine.

The next venue was Club Air, which we booked out for the first part of the night.

Around this time last year I was in exactly the same spot and took a very similar set of photos for the blog. How's that for nostalgia?

Suddenly a few of the boys had their shirts pulled off. This was part of an amazing idea that was thought up by a particular French adoptee, who we'll refer to by the code name of 'Erix'. Erix soon had my shirt off too, which would have been a humbling experience if I hadn't had so many drinks.

And I also had a photo taken with Kevin Shea. Now if Kevin gets really famous, I have proof that we met. Or maybe if I get really famous, the reverse will be true.


This is Nick Leschly, a poker playing adoptee whose birthday it was. Nick organises fundraising events for GOA'L and says friendly things when he's tipsy.

Here's a video of Robyn Shultz attempting to complete a challenge. The challenge is to eat six crackers in sixty seconds and then whistle. Apparently it's a lot more difficult than it sounds.

Here's the aftermath of the whistle. Morgan was actually sitting on the chair at the time.

While I was in Seoul, I had also arranged to visit my new professor at Seoul National University. This was my first time to the campus, which was a lot larger than I had thought.

Here's the front of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, where I'll be doing my PhD. The venue is nice enough, but it was the professor who impressed me most. He has a very well rounded personality and is the kind of person you want as a supervisor. My PhD will be in agricultural biotechnology and for my project I'll be working on a specific rice pathogen.

This is the 'Sha' gate, which is the iconic entrance to Seoul National University. I'll be starting a new chapter of my life here in the first week of January 2009 and have mixed feelings about it all. Busan is a great city and I love my current job, but I also have unfinished business in the biotech field and this is an opportunity I shouldn't really ignore. I'm pretty lucky to have been given the luxury of choice between two fulfilling career paths.

Anyway, that's all for me this time. See you soon!