One of the big things that I've been helping to set up is a Spanish conversation group. About a month ago, four of us (Nate, Colleen, Sarah, and myself) all put our heads together and started putting together ideas for making this group a reality. After several planning meetings and some creative brainstorming sessions, it finally happened!
We had our first official meeting Friday, April 13th. Held at a local Krispy Kreme (classy, I know!), 10 Spanish enthusiast got together to enjoy each others company and talk some Español! It was a great two hours. One of the attendees, Mauricio, is from Guatemala. It was fantastic to have a native speaker to help us with our questions, but most importantly, to be exposed to that native dialect. It took a while to adjust to his speaking style, but after about 5 minutes, I was right there, taking in every (or every other) word that he was saying. It was super exciting and reminded me why I want to hopefully eventually end up in South or Central America for an extended period of time.
10KM Walk in Their Shoes
The next day (Saturday, April 14th), a huge event was held at Seoul Grand Park. The 10KM Walk in Their Shoes is an event that is held throughout Korea as a way to raise awareness for countries that have been devastated by natural disasters in the past couple of years. Countries represented included Japan, Turkey, Haiti, and Pakistan, among others. A total of about 250-300 people participated in the walk, which took walkers around the zoo.
I was able to participate in this event in two different ways - through the volunteer committee and with my running club, MIRC. For the volunteer committee, we used this event as our last big push to get volunteers for our massive Earth Day event that was going to be held the following week. We were able to corral about 60-70 additional people for our efforts, which was fantastic!
|Some of the promotion team for the day! (Thanks for the photo, Emma!)|
So not only did we help lead warm-ups, we also ran the 10K instead of participating in the walk. Seemed easy enough (and a good warm up for the 10K race I was signed up for the following weekend). We get going and about a kilometer into the course, we are met with an unexpected twist - a mountain! That's right, the course we were running included scaling one of the nearby mountains and traversing through the rough terrain for a good 2 kilometers or so. To say that we were all unprepared for this would be a major understatement! Following the conquering of the mountain, the rest of the course was a piece of cake. All in all, it was a great day, great weather, spent with amazing people!
|And we're off!!|
|The banner for the event|
|Group shot! I'm in the back somewhere...|
For the past month, my life has been consumed by getting ready for this event. Between planning meetings, Mannam club promotions, public promotions, and the event itself, I feel as if I have been living and breathing Bukhansan day in and day out. Here was our original plan for the event:
1. Recruit 500 expats/foreigners
2. Head to Bukhansan, one of the largest and more revered national parks in all of Seoul
3. With the help of the National Park Service, wrap between 600 and 800 trees with biodegradable paper made out of sweet potatoes to help stop the spread of a virus known as oak wilt disease.
4. Do our part for Earth Day, and help preserve a popular hiking destination for local Seoulites
Sounds like a great plan right? We were already to go - materials bought, almost 500 volunteers signed up, wraps purchased, just waiting to be adhered to the deserving trees. Only one problem - no one talked to Mother Nature about bring lovely, sunny weather.
The day of the event (this past Saturday, April 21st) it rained. And it rained some more. And then for good measure, it continued to rain and rain and rain...and rain. So we had to enact Plan B at the last minute and try to pull this event off.
Plan B was to do some root recovery by covering up exposed roots with soil. So with the volunteers that did show up, we would form an assembly line and pass bags of dirt up the mountain to the areas that needed this extra soil the most. As 1:00 neared, we were all skeptical how many people would actually show up. Some had bets on 50; the more optimistic in the group guessed 100. Boy were we all wrong!
Despite the rain and downright horrendous conditions, close to 300 people showed up to help us out! It was such an amazing turnout and absolutely surpassed our expectations considering the conditions. I was in charge of briefing the volunteers as they arrived at the national park. After informing the groups of the change in plans and the safety requirements for the day, they moved out to the parking lot area, where they were once again briefed about the actual process for the day. Then they were guided up the mountain, placed either in the assembly line, top of the mountain, or bottom filling bags and got under way. Despite some chaotic times and miscommunications along the way, it ended up being an amazing event.
As people were coming back down the mountain at the end of the day, I heard nothing but positive comments. It seemed that the rain actually ENHANCED the day and made it more memorable for all of our volunteers. Turns out that nothing can stop Mannam from pushing through and completing what we set out to do and accomplish!
(All photos courtesy of Mannam International)
|Small portion of the group|
To finish out this busy and hectic month, I'll be getting an awesome visit from some very friendly faces - my parents! They fly into Seoul Friday afternoon and will be here until May 7th! I'm beyond excited to have them here and show them around the city that I've called home for the past 8 months! But we won't be spending all of our time in Seoul. The last four days of the trip will be spent on the beautiful island of Jeju, just south of the Korean peninsula! Should be an amazing 10 days!
Finally - would like to wish my brother, Matt, a very happy 22nd birthday! Hope you had a great time celebrating your GOLDEN birthday bro!