Today was both physically and emotionally exhausting. In the morning we visited the DMZ, and I am still processing all of the things I saw, trying to make sense of it all. Korea possesses an exceptionally mountainous, forested topography, yet I noticed on our drive that the mountains across the border were entirely bare. As our tour guide explained, the body of water between North and South often freezes over during the winter, which would allow for someone to move between the countries; the North’s mountains are bare so that potential defectors are unable to hide there before making a run to the South.
Along many of the fences there are colored ribbons, inscribed with the names of separated family members. All throughout the area, there are monuments that depict a longing for unification, gratitude to American soldiers, regret at the loss of Korean lives. I was initially skeptical that so many Koreans supported unification until I began to empathize with the idea of being separated from those I love for seventy years. Regardless of how impossible a venture seems, regardless of how difficult a task might be, if it means getting to see the ones you love, it is worth taking up.
As for our Han River cruise, the city of Seoul is even more beautiful from the water than it is from the streets. The river itself is far cleaner than I would have expected, the air is crisp and clean. Seagulls flew along with the ferry in hopes of being fed by the tourists, and of course, we could not help ourselves. I continue to miss the states, as well as my small town, but I will admit that Seoul will be easy to miss. Tomorrow we depart for Gyeongju, and while it is by no means a small city, I am somewhat relieved to be away from a metropolitan area of twenty-five million people. Further, I am excited to see how Koreans live in places that are not so absurdly populous.