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Monday, November 22, 2004

A life-changing trip

Fresh from my trip to Korea last week I'm still trying to process all the friendships, experiences and conversations I had. To say this was the trip of a lifetime is an understatement of the highest order. In the days and weeks to come, I'll do my best to share it with you. For now, I think I'll let the experience marinate a bit. Here are a few snippets that my jet-lagged brain can process.

• Though Asian journalists face challenges to their job (including threats to life and limb) that we American journalists cannot fathom, we all share a common belief that borders on the idealistic to do what is right and good and in the interest of freedom.

• That karaoke and boilermakers can promote peace among cultures. There's something about a roomful of people from Korea, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia and America all singing "Daydream Believer" at the top of their lungs that is singularly moving and unifying. There was a whole lotta love in the room.

• That we can all share a laugh. On a bus trip from Suwon City to Seoul (with all of us glowing from the after-effects of Suwon whiskey shooters), the jokes began. It all started with a delightful riff between the Australians and Americans, but quickly spread to include the Cambodians, Bengalis and Koreans.

• That I will never forget the generosity and beauty of my new friends at the Journalism Association of Korea. They taught us what it means to truly bring people together in the spirit of fellowship and learning and how to cross seemingly insurmountable cultural divides.

I am especially thankful to the many wonderful insights of Mr. Seong-Ho Park. He had a quiet manner, but never hesitated to share many cultural insights, whether we were discussing Buddhism, Korean food, our sons or the state of the press in Korea. And, admittedly, I'm a sucker for being serenaded. Move over Tony Bennett....

I am equally thankful to my family for enduring my absence so I could learn so much. And to my fellow SPJ travelers (Mac, Sonya, Ann, Susan, Terry, Robert, Irwin and Neil) who now feel more like family–my sisters and brothers in spirit if not in name-than mere colleagues.

Kamsahamnida. Thank you...

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