|Journey 2013 Essay|
Journey 2013 exceeded my expectations. Before even landing in Korea, the Journey staff helped to make the trip go as smoothly as possible. We were given plenty of information about what to expect on the Journey trip from the participants to the itinerary to suggestions on items to bring. A Journey communication line was also set up through Facebook to help the participants get to know each other before the trip and share each other's angsts as well as good news such as birth families found. I was impressed with the care shown by the Jinheung Hwa Moon staff and Journey staff. My flight was scheduled to arrive late in the evening, around 9 pm. Since I booked my flight a few days early to visit my daughter waiting to be adopted in Korea before Journey started, I assumed I would be responsible for my own transportation from the hotel to the Holt guesthouse at which I was staying. I was worried about using public transportation so late at night and finding my own way to the guesthouse. In fact, I spent several days worrying about it. To my relief and pleasant surprise, I received a warm welcome by 6 company/staff members and fellow Journey participant at the welcome and given a personal escort to the guesthouse. That is just one example of the generosity, warmth, and care shown by the JinHeungMoonHwa staff, the Journey staff, the home stay families, and the Korean people I met during my trip. The Journey itinerary was well planned. Each day had interesting and varied cultural activities. One of the highlights for me was visiting areas outside of Seoul such as hiking Seoraksan, visiting tombs and temples in Geongju and the beautiful beaches in Jejudo. Another highlight was Andy's funny stories at the microphone on the bus. Of course, I also enjoyed the delicious Korean food and the local specialties of the areas we visited. This trip was very important to me not only to connect to my Korean roots but also to pass the knowledge I have gained and the pride of being Korean to my three children. Thank you JinHeungMoonHwa company, Journey staff, and host families for giving me this once in a lifetime opportunity.
Including the secret garden tour with the visit to Changdeokyung Palace. During the palace tour, the guide told us the secret garden was what made Changdeokyung so special. Therefore, it was disappointing not to be able to go.
When I got the message that I was one of the participants of Journey 2013, I couldn't hold my tears back. I sat in the kitchen in my parents house and opened an email that changed my life. Immediately I began to prepare for the trip. I understood very fast, that I was in good hands. All the help from the staff and all the good information made me feel very safe and secure.
When I finally went to the airport to go to Korea for the first time since I left almost 21 years ago, I felt so calm. I felt like I already knew the people I was going to meet. After following everyone on Facebook for several months, it really felt like we already were friends.
When I finally arrived in Korea, I felt more Swedish than ever, even though I was visiting my motherland and the country I was born in. I didn't walk like them, talk like them or looked like them. I had this imagination in my head, where I finally would be able to fit in, in a large group of people. But I didn't fit in, not at all. I was just a foreigner standing in line to visit a random country. But then Journey begun. And some wonderful people of the group met me on the airport with their big smiles. And then everything just felt so natural. Being a part of that wonderful group, where we shared eveything for two weeks, made me into a new person. Even though I felt a little bit like a stranger in my own motherland, I felt more home than ever with all the wonderful people that I met during Journey 2013. We cried, laughed, slept, ate, climed and travelled together. And they are all a part of my memory of Journey and my first time back to Korea. Without them, and especially the wonderful staff, I had never had such a lovely experience.
I will never forget us climbing Mt Seoraksan together, all the bus trips when Andy guided us through the country, when we arrived together in beautiful breathtaking Jeju Island, holding each others hands while visiting our adoption agencys, living together with our homestay families, etc. We have made memories that will last in my heart forever.
When I after two weeks went to Incheon airport to go back to Sweden, I still felt more swedish than ever. But I also felt so very proud of my roots and my motherland. I felt like I finally had began to get to know the country I was born in. And I liked what I had seen. I had never met more generous and kind people then the korean people. And I had never seen such a breathtaking view than the one from Mt Seoraksan.
Korea made me really proud of being who I am. And I can't wait to go back. These two weeks may have been the most important weeks of my life. And they will stay with me in my heart forever.
Johanna from Sweden.
It's hard to believe that just two short weeks ago I hardly gave much thought to my Korean heritage. I felt like my outward appearance was misleading as I had no understanding of my Korean background. Now, I realize how much I have missed out on before. Prior to coming here I unfortunately had no knowledge of dopoki or makgeolli, had never succesfully eaten an entire meal with chopsticks (I am working on it), and would have looked at you cross-eyed if you'd said so much as annyeong haseyo.
In addition to learning about my Korean culture as a whole, I am also grateful to have had the opportunity to visit my adoption agency. I was able to find out the current location of my birth parents and that I have four sisters, an interesting concept after growing up with two older brothers.
The days were very busy and sometimes tiring but I know I will never forget the climb up Mt Seorak and the breathtaking view of the Jeju cliffs. The trips to the folk village and tea ceremomy introduced me to the past Korean traditions I never knew existed.
Yet, I think I learned the most about Korean culture just by listening to and being around Andy and the staff and my amazing host family the Parks. It was great to be able to connect to other adoptees from around the world and I am so thankful to have had this opportunity.
Without this program I doubt I would have been able to come to Korea and I am amazed by the generosity and hospitality I have found here. I hope to return soon.
Hi Andy, here is my essay (I wasn't getting consistent wifi on my last day in Korea). Thank you again for everything. I will always remember this Journey.
Prior to this Journey, I had no idea what to expect from it. But over the past two weeks I've been given many valuable opportunities to learn about the culture and history of my birth country, to see the beauty of the country's natural areas as well as the the bustle of the big city, and most of all to experience the great kindness of the Korean people.
It means a great deal to me to see and experience the country where my birth parents lived and probably still live. I now know a tiny bit more about their lives and the lives of other family members I may have. I have a little more context for understanding the place where I came from.
I also feel very fortunate to have met and spent time with so many wonderful people--other adoptees from different parts of the world, the Journey staff, and the wonderful homestay families.
I feel particularly thankful for getting to stay with the incredibly kind and generous Shin family, and for having Hyunji to translate for me during my agency visit, in addition to her sharing her beautiful spirit and warmth with all of us along the way.
I'm still not sure I fully understand why Chairman Park, Andy, the Jinheung Moonhwa staff, the translators, and the homestay families put so much of their personal time, financial resources, love, and very hard work into this program. They know nothing about us other than that we were born in Korea and raised in other countries. The only reasons I can think of for their immense generosity are the tremendous pride that the Korean people must feel for their country, culture, and history, and a simple, hard to believe kindness in their hearts.
At times it must have seemed as though the Journey participants took the efforts and care of the staff for granted. Perhaps one reason is that we experience so many things in such a short amount of time that it can be difficult to process everything as it happens. But I know I'll always look back with nothing less than awe at the work and love, from so many people, that make this Journey possible.
Though I don't know when my next trip to Korea will be, I do know that I'll have many wonderful people to visit whenever I return.
As I sit on the beach in beautiful jeju I am able to happily reflect on the past two weeks of a journey that I will never forget. For me, this trip has been long anticipated. I was fortunate enough to join a Korean culture camp at a young age, finding a family of adoptees and wonderful members of the local Korean community. Through these years, I learned about my Korean heritage, culture, and identity. I have been proud of my heritage and was ready to jump in and really experience it on Journey 2013.
During the past two weeks, Korea has exceeded my expectations. It was an amazing experience to be greeted at the airport with smiling faces of adoptees and staff from around the world. For me, hearing the different accents is a small yet very special part of this experience. It has been so wonderful to get to know these other people, learn more about them, and share in this journey together. I will cherish each person and the memories we have made together.
This was the first time I have been abroad from the first time and while walking through the streets of Seoul, I felt a new sense of home and belonging. I loved each day of the tour, learning and experiencing Korea through the museums, folk villages, beautiful Jeju sights, and even while struggling up the mountains. However, I especially loved all of the food and shopping!
The visit to the adoption agency and the visit with the families that have adopted domestically were very special to me. I celebrated my 25th birthday with this new Journey family in the place of my birth and despite Andy smushing my face into my delicious blueberry cake I was so thankful and grateful for this experience. I was able to see the beauty and culture of my homeland that one can only fully experience firsthand.
Throughout this trip i was fully surrounded by the love, compassion, and generosity of the Korean people. Although I still have a few more days in Seoul, I am already homesick for my motherland and am planning to return again as soon as possible.
I am so thankful for the staff because without their generosity and hospitality, I would not have been able to come to Korea and have this amazing experience.
More time with domestic adoption families in a bigger location.
More time as a group after Jeju in Seoul.
Simone Soon Kamph Ibsen|
Journey 2013 has been very special to me since it has introduced me to a lot of korean culture. The schedule has been very tight and therefore we have seen so many things compared to the only two weeks that we have been on the journey. The journey was a very good way to get to know Korea in a short amount of time. I have met some people who I definitely hope i will stay in contact with. The journey has also been very special since I had the chance to meet my birth family when we went to visit our adoption agencies. This was a very big experience for me and I was very happy to have Anora, the translater provided by the Journey, by my side.
Even though I am glad that we have seen so many things during the two weeks, I would suggest for a future journey to not fill up the schedule as much. I think that with a little less things to see per day, you could get more interested in the things that you actually see. Or a couple of days start a little later so you have time to sleep longer and that way regain some energy. Don't overkill it!
Thank you so much for a great experience that I will never forget
I honestly didn¡¯t know what to expect when coming to Korea. I felt scared, excited, conflicted, and confused. I will never forget my first steps onto Korean Soil. As cliche as is sounds, I felt as if, from that point on, my life would be forever changed and that I couldn¡¯t read any of the signs. Although Facebook stalking can only help so much, I got to meet an extraordinary group of individuals that I shared a common connection with. All the long nights, bus rides, conversations over meals, and LONG walks will forever remain in my memory.
Despite the fact we come from different parts of the world, cultures, and backgrounds, I am privileged and honored that I got the opportunity to meet and share this amazing experience with all of you. I think of you as family and hope that no matter the distance or circumstances, that we will always remember this time shared and stay connected.
I am overwhelmed with the generosity, time, and effort of the JinHeungMoonHwa Company, President Park, Andy, Heidi, Josh, Mara, HyunJi, Sunny, Hyo, The Park Family, and all those who helped to make this possible. You have given me something I will never be able to repay. You have not just fattened me up with Korean food, but have helped me to realize where I come from and how truly beautiful the Korean culture and people are. I have often though of how lucky Koreans are for knowing who they are and where they come from, but now I can share in the pride of being Korean.
I will look back on this journey with fondness and tears of joy: representing the love for new friends, countless memories of fun and laughter, Korea, and my new family. I love you all and will never forget you. You will always have a special place in my heart.