Tuesday July 20 to Friday, July 23, 2004

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Go to: Busan Journal Part Two


Hello, everyone, very warm (in fact, hot) greetings from Kathy and Rick
from Busan, South Korea! (It is very hot and humid here.) If you are in California you are 15 hours 'behind the times'. We are way ahead of you!

Here are some (alphabetical) observations, that will give you a taste of our experience so far.

Our first entry was written on
Tuesday, July 20, 2004.
This was the first time we were able to connect to the internet.

A...........Our ARRIVAL in Korea was an exciting experience...seeing land after such a long journey over the ocean was amazing. We felt right at home when we got off the plane. The first thing we saw in the beautiful airport in Seoul, was this California cactus garden!

Our flights on Korean AIR were perfect. Gracious, and on time, with our first taste of Korean food, which was delicious. "Bibimbop" was the meal, rice with great vegetables and pickled salmon. (The combinations always vary.) It was served with a large tube of Korean hot paste (which of course we found delightful) and instructions as to how to eat the meal. By the way our plane took off at 12:30 am Los Angeles time, and we were served dinner at about 3 am. (They were starting to change our body-clocks!)

B...........BREAKFAST (Everyone wants to know what we have for breakfast!) Our hotel has a nice restaurant. (That is one of the only nice things about the hotel, you'll hear more later!) The restaurant, in the 'Sangnam International House', is called, 'Charlie's.' There is a choice of Korean or American breakfast, We always choose Korean. Our favorite so far is Beef Broth with Dried Cabbage Leaves with Rice (see above), which is much better and more elegant than it sounds. Even breakfast is accompanied by many small pickeled vegetable dishes, and sometimes the Korean version of tofu, and this breakfast is very spicy, the way we like it.

C..........COFFEE is our favorite morning drink, and luckily CHARLIE's has it. We say luckily, because we can't find it anywhere else. Our conference center has a 'breakfast' available to participants and we finally found some teabags that we like, but the coffee (even though we have 'coffee breaks' during the day) is packets that include sugar, to mix with water. We were happy to tell friends that one can enjoy a very acceptable cup at the hotel, and even accompanied by a slice of light CHEESECAKE. Another delightful C word is CONVENIENCE store, which is just down the block from our hotel. We go there each night to get drinks and snacks. The name, displayed on its sign, in brightly colored letters is 'Always For Your Joyful'

D..........DRINKS There is good bottled water available everywhere. Our favorite drink in the Orient (we discovered this on our trips to Kyoto and Shanghai) is beer! We don't drink this a lot at home, but during the very hot, exhausting days here, there is nothing more refreshing than cold oriental beer. The Korean brews are good, and they love beer themselves. To get ourselves on the right schedule we drank lots of beer and had a very good night's sleep our first night here, which really started us off well.

E..........The EXCHANGE of foreign (USA) money for Korean 'won' is easy. There is a bank on campus, and it is easy to compute the cost of things, because if (for example) something costs 6,000 won, it is equivlent to about $6 U.S. When we exchanged a hundred dollar bill at the campus bank, we got the equivalent of $114. At the airport the cost is higher to exchange, of course.

F..........FRIENDS from afar are gathered here. It is a special delight to see one of our Iranian hosts, Reza Khosrovshahi, from IPM. It is a sweet reunion. Also Hadi Kharaghani, from Tehran who was at IPM when we were there. This morning we heard a talk by our friend Joseph Thas, from Ghent, Belgium, who was a companion of our at the conference we attended in Shanghai two years ago. Vera Pless, from the University of Illinois, in Chicago is here. Rick has known her for years, and Kathy was happy to meet her for the first time. Ada Chan, who just finished a Bateman Instructorship at Caltech is in attendance. We enjoy her smiling familiar presence. Paul-Hermann Zieschang, from the University of Texas, is another familiar friend. Not long ago we met at a seminar in Delaware. He accompanied us to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and shared a Chinese meal afterwards with us and Qing Xiang and family, along with Michelle-Nicole Endress, Kathy's New York sibling, and nephew Sean Endress and friend Jamie.

G..........Let's GO on a Tour! Sunday afternoon our hosts gathered about 25 of us and put is in cars to travel across the bustling Busan city freeways to the seaport area, for which Busan is known. Ships crowd the busy port. We parked the cars, and climbed down thousands of rocky stairs to the East Sea with hundreds of others, in the sun and wind, to be greeted by a small boat waiting for passengers. We climbed rocky cliffs, amidst crowds of fish sellers... more about that later. (This was definitely the most exciting and memorable experience so far. Photos to come.) We boarded quickly for a wild ride in the churning waves for almost an an hour to a further spot along the shore where our host picked us up and took us to more unusual sights...(see the letter M!) We needed a big nap after this excursion!

H...........Our HOTEL is behind the times, and is the source of many apologies by our gracious hosts. The conference was originally planned to take place in Puhang, where the facilities were known to be excellent. But at the last minute it was necessary to change the location, and this International House is just off-campus and is very convenient to the talks, just a short walk up the hill to the University. That is its greatest virtue. Otherwise the facilities are barely acceptable. There is hot water, and a hand-held shower, and that is good too. We have gotten used to the fact that the shower is the whole bathroom area, and the water flows throughout the room to a drain on the other side of the room. In the hot humid days the air conditioning is beginning to function....

I............ INTERNET access is so far not easy. We are told that broadband intenet "blankets South Korea". All except our hotel, it seems! As a result, it has taken us four days to get to get to check our email. We are always busy, as often happens when we are away at a conference, and we have to go out of our way to figure it out. When we checked the mail a few hours ago, letters from Michelle-Nicole in New York, and Harry Bower in San Francisco were a delight to receive. We have our laptop, and we were able to connect to the internet in a room adjacent to the conference room, thanks to the efforts of our hosts, but it is available only during conference hours when we are busy. Rick has used the laptop to prepare and present his talk.

J........... JANGSEUNG are wooden spirit posts we met on our tour on Sunday! For centuries these statues have been made to guard the entrance to many Korean villages, and were believed to guard residents from natural disasters and invasion. They are found in pairs. One is male, 'the greatest general under the heaven', and the other female, 'the greatest general under earth'. We found them guarding a lovely park and pavilion where we had tea after our wild ride in the sea.

K.............. KIMCHI is served at every meal here in Korea, including breakfast. It is a special Korean side-dish, a very spicy, salted and fermented Korean cabbage, served cold. It has a great crunchy texture and wonderful taste, and we have easily adopted it.

Kathy and Rick at the Port of Busan.

See us tomorrow in more 'Alphabet Soup'!


Second Entry
Wednesday, July 21, 2004 Serves you more ALPHABET SOUP from Busan, South Korea

L.............We arrived in Busan last Saturday, just in time for LUNCH. On arriving at the University we walked to a small restaurant nearby for a traditional Korean meal with organizer Sung Yell Song, his wife, and a small group of mathematicians.

A Korean meal always consists of many small portions of interesting treats. This lunch included fried squid, pickled cucumber and sprouts, seaweed soup, beef with vegetables, yellow Corpina fish, kimchi. radish leaf, fish cakes, sesame leaves, spicy miso soup, a tiny plate of mashed potato, roasted Joggi Kuyi Fish, and our favorite, Korean 'pancake' with chives. See more at the letter P!

Our usual lunches since then have been at the University faculty restaurant, which are more informal and served 'family style'... a cafeteria line for a main soup dish, long tables, lots of kimchi and pickled vegetables on tables to be passed around. The first day we had fish soup and the second day, chicken soup.

Water is served, and outside is a softdrink and coffee machine where we can get tiny cups of something that nicely approaches coffee for 20 cents each.

M...........As if our Sunday afternoon wild sea cruise was not enough, we had iced green tea at the pavillion where we met the Janseung (see above), and then our host drove us to one of the largest fish MARKETS in the world! We saw acres of freshly caught (and many still lively) sea creatures of all kinds, presented by the colorful fish sellers. Water was streaming in and out of tubs, and everywhere. In one of these you can see what our friend Paul called "living Vienna sausages." Actually they are large worms that live inder the sea bottom surface. Appetizing?

sea worms

N..........Here is Kathy's Busan NOTEBOOK:

You'll find more (illustrated) details on our experience here, as well as miniature portraits of each mathematician done quickly during each lecture. Here are a few samples:

Left to right: Reza Khosrvovshahi, two views of Rick, Joseph Thas, Paul-Hermann Zieschang

O...........The ORGANIZERS of the conference are mathematicians from Korea and the United States. Our closest contact is Sung Yel Song, of the University of Iowa. He and his sweet wife have been our companians on our adventures here, from the first wonderful luncheon to our wild sea ride, and climb along the cliffs.

Jack Koolen, on the faculty in Kaist, Korea, kindly met us at the airport, and helped us feel at home.

This is truly an international experience, and there are speakers and participants gathered from the Korea, China, Japan, the Netherlands, Great Britain, the Phillipines, Belgium, Israel, Iran, Russia, Denmark, Canada and the U.S.A.

P...........Traditional Korean 'PAJEON' (pancakes) are one of our favorite new foods.

This version, which was part of our first traditional meal, is a simple one, made from rice flour, egg, spring onion and chives, We are told that they can vary greatly, and the most famous 'pancake restaurant' uses a very small amount of rice flour, and then egg, spring onion, seafood, beef and Japanese parsley are added.

Q...........We have gotten lots of QUESTIONS about our trip! Let's see if we can answer a few we've extracted from a family email! 1. "Are you having fun out there?"...... Yes, yes, we think you can tell from this story. We always have fun traveling together, and learning about new places.
2. "What are you up to?"..... Ah, that is another we are attempting to answer for you here. Hope you are getting a good idea of our trip.
"How is your hotel?"....Not too good, but tolerable, and with some advantages.
"What do you have for breakfast?"....Ah, the classic question....hope you noticed we handled that question immediately. (We're eating the Korean way.)
"Have you had any popcorn?".....Now, that is an important question.

We did not expect this, but when we ordered a beer at our hotel restaurant before lunch, it came with (Korean) popcorn! Perfect for us, and a nice surprise!

"In twenty words or less what is the prettiest thing you saw from the plane?"......The prettiest thing was the sight of land for the first time after flying across the ocean. It always seems magical.

"Do you sit by the window?" We love sitting by the window, and Rick being so generous, always lets me sit closest. But on this trip we could not get window seats, except on the last flight, (from Seoul to Busan) but it was dark a lot anyway, since we left at midnight.

"In twenty words or less tell me what you were thinking about when you landed." I was thinking...I am so glad we're here! (Rick says that's just what he was thinking.)Also I thought...how did we get here so fast? I didn't finish my book yet!

Now everyone can tell, we have a very inquisitive, demanding family!! Another implied question in the emails seems to be "Now, where did you say you were going???" ....I think you have figured out by now, we are in Busan, South Korea. On Sunday we will fly to Nogoya, Japan, and after a few days we will take a train to Kyoto, Japan. Then we will fly, on August 2, to Los Angeles...(with a stop in the airport in Seoul, South Korea!)

Well, as they say at the end of the lectures, 'Does anyone have any questions?'


Third Entry
Thursday, July 22, 2004

More Korean alphabet soup from Busan!

R................We had a great time at a RESTAURANT last night. Our hosts took us on another bus tour (more about that later) and the last stop was a great restaurant where we had a choice of shabu-shabu (hot soup with meat and vegetables you cook yourself in the boiling broth on the table) or bulgogi. We chose bulgogi, which means literally, 'fire beef', sometimes translated as Korean barbecue.

Strips of thin, tender beef are marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and chili on a grill right on the table.

The waitresses showed us how to take a lettuce leaf or sesame leaf, put the beef with various condiments, like mild onion pieces, pickled sprouts and hot sauce on top. Everyone sat on the floor, and wore a bib.

S..............The SCULPTURES at Yonggungsa Temple

are a mixture of old and new. Built in 1376, some of the old forms and statues remain and others are between 30 and one year old. Some things are still being renovated, and put in place while we watched!.

This temple is unusual in that it was built into the cliffs, facing the sea, rather than in the mountains, which is more common.

As usual, there was a lot of climbing involved...up and down the temple stairs, as this little monk is directing us!

T...............There are about 50 twenty-five minute TALKS, and a dozen fifty minute talks during this conference, scheduled from from Monday to Friday. None are simultaneous, so everyone can be present for each one. The longer talks are by the 'plenary' invited speakers, of which Rick is one. His talk, 'More on Decompositions of Edge-Colored Complete Graphs' was given Tuesday afternoon.

This was the first time Rick prepared his talk as a computer-projected presentation, and was able to project not only his work and hand-drawn illustrations, but a photo he took of the mathematics building, Sloan Lab, at Caltech, and some "guys he met on Sunday," who he "hoped would protect the conference". You've met them already too:

There are a couple of free afternoons when tours are arranged, and this leaves a very strenuous schedule of about 6 talks before lunch, with a ten minute 'coffee break', and hour and a half for lunch and then 8 talks in the aftenoon with two ten minute breaks. During the talks, Kathy can 'listen poetically', sketch each speaker, and type this journal on our laptop, to keep you up-to-date. That is what is going on right now!

U.................Just for fun we tried an 'UN-KOREAN' breakfast yesterday at our hotel, to see what it would be like.

They call it an 'American Breakfast' on the menu. The eggs were soft and delicious, with a Korean touch, and the ham was very thin and unfamiliar. This morning we went we went happily back to our favorite Korean breakfast, Beef Broth with Dried Cabbage Leaves. (We always get one breakfast, and share.) This morning the Korean breakfast came with two small delicious shrimp.

V............One of the good things about our room at the hotel (fourth floor, room 401) is the VIEW:

You can see that the city is nestled at the foot of the mountains, (and extends to the seashore, much like at home in Santa Barbara). Its geography has been compared to San Francisco's, as it is quite hilly. (It is a short walk to the university from our room, but it is up a steep hill.) It is also very fishy.

W...........On the day after we arrived (Sunday) we went on a WILD WALK down the cliffs. We thought we'd tell you about that when the letter S for SASHIMI (raw, sliced fish), but the sculptures we saw yesterday got in the way! What does it have to do with 'sashimi' you might ask. Well, we climbed down a thousand rocky steep stairs, without railings, over boulders, with construction workers balancing more rocks on ledges above, along the steep cliffs towards the sea below. We were told we could take the boat waiting below, or climb back up the stairs. (We need not say what we chose.) But what was under those 'tents' along the rocks?

On a plateaus of boulders, amidst high winds, large floor boards were balanced, with pretty rugs thrown on top. Colorful plastic tarps attached to steel poles flapped wildly above.

A cluster of colorfully dressed women, sashimi chefs, worked steadily, slicing raw fish. Trays were arranged quickly (even in this wild situation, little extra bowls of condiments rapidly assembled) and then a server climbed over, carrying a tray, to other tarp and rug covered platforms where customers, including large families, waited to be served the freshest sashimi in the world!!

(We didn't get to have any. We had to catch a boat.)

X...........It has been eXXXXtra hot here!! And humid too! The temperature has been about 32. (Don't be misled. That means it is about 90 degrees in our usual way of speaking!) And the humidity is over 80%) People walk around with wet towels on their heads. They carry sun umbrellas. And they use fans a lot. We try to keep our hats on at all times outdoors.

Y...........YESTERDAY we went by bus to the temple, beach area, and restaurant.

We were cared for by our friend (on the left) Segeong Bang, a post doc from POSTECH at Pohang University, and a member of the steering committee for the conference. We were accompanied by our helpful English speaking guide (center).


Friday, July 23, 2004

Z..........There is a distinct BuZZZZZZZZZ in the air, as soon as we walk outside of our hotel. It is the season of ciccadas...we recognize that sound from our trip to Kyoto three summers ago. It begins now, and lasts through the month of August, It is very, very loud, and one imagines that large scale construction equipment is being run from all day and through the night!
There is, by the way, an enormous amount of construction going on here, everywhere we go. We have been told many times, that during the Korean war (1950-1953), when North Korea invaded the South, most of this country was destroyed. Busan was the ONLY city that was not taken during the war, and as a result, millions of refugees flocked here to swell the population, which now stands at near 4 million. Since 1953 an amazing reconstruction has taken place throughout the country. There is a great deal of good will toward the United States for 'saving' South Korea, and also to the 16 nations that made up the UN forces that came to their aid. The only United Nations cemetery in the world exists in South Korea, where the bodies of fallen soldiers from 16 nations are buried.

ZZZeeeewizzzz, did we finish all our soup???Please can I have another serving?

Go to: Busan Journal Part II
Go to Busan Journal Part III
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